Last night, I stood in my small kitchen, back against the white wall, eyes squinting in the fluorescent lighting, hunched over and crying. I didn’t feel anything; but at the same time, I felt everything.
“You don’t know me,” I told my boyfriend, and I could see the pain on his face as he registered my words. “No one does. Not you. Not my family. Not my best friends. They don’t know what goes on in my mind. And if they did, they wouldn’t love me.”
He wrapped his arms around me, but I was numb. My body was limp, my mind elsewhere.
I can’t always explain my thoughts, so I often resort to telling people I’m okay. Nothing is bothering me. When really, there’s another world inside of me with issues no one in their right mind could even begin to process.
I’m never in my right mind. I’m not sure I have one. I dwell for hours on thoughts and feelings that aren’t my own. I barely recognize myself. I live in a fiction novel, and I’m writing these pages, but someone else is whispering in my ear, telling me what to do and say, how to act and feel. And when I reread the chapters, I want to tear them apart in shame.
Sometimes, I want to stop writing. But I don’t want the story to end. I don’t want my story to end. I just want to be in control of it. I want to take pride in it.
I think, for many people, the hardest part of living, much like writing, is the criticism that comes with it. I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me that people don’t understand the torment I experience and the notions I feed, or that I don’t care what others think about me. But that simply isn’t the truth. There’s a bully in my head I’ll never impress, and he thrives off societal standards and ignorant judgement. And I let him.
I’m loyal to my captor — the demon in my brain. All I want is to please him. But I can’t. I never will. And so, I turn to my environment. I turn to the people around me, and I search for acceptance. People who make me feel less alone. Proof I’m not a monster. Not a criminal or villain or cheater. Instead, I only end up feeling exposed and spent.
I crave sympathy, become addicted to it, to the people who give it to me — but it’s never sustainable. That warmth, that comfort, always fades, and I’m alone again. That’s just something I have to deal with. I have to learn to love myself more than my mind hates me. I think, maybe, we all do.
Not everyone will understand you, and that’s okay. When you struggle with an illness so intense it’s like being drugged and beaten, you can’t expect yourself to operate like everyone else.
You can break down to your parents without ever really revealing the truth. You can make jokes with your brother and know deep down he will never see the real you. You can fall asleep next to the love of your life and still feel like you’re miles away from him.
The truth is, no one knows what goes on in anyone’s head. No one can hear your thoughts or see the scenarios you act out in your subconscious. No one can feel your pain or experience your internal conflict. And, as a good friend recently told me, no one will ever fully understand who you are, why you are that way, or how you feel deep down. No amount of speaking or writing will ever do you justice.
As a writer, I hate to think words aren’t enough. But sometimes, even they fall short. We can’t put that pressure on an author, just as we can’t put that pressure on ourselves to describe our pain, or on others to empathize with it.
Why, then, do we let others’ thoughts influence our self-perception? Why do we trust their judgement over our own? And why are we so self-critical, when only we know the trauma we endure?
Life is not black and white. Sometimes, you’ll act or feel or think in ways someone else won’t understand. Sometimes, you’ll still make mistakes with the purest intentions. Sometimes, you’ll want to isolate yourself from humanity. And sometimes, you’ll want every person you’ve ever loved to be in the same room with you, reassuring you you aren’t alone. And that’s okay.
My dad once gave me advice on my writing, and little did I know, it applies to living just the same: Stick with what you originally intend. It might be different than what’s expected, so naturally, people are going to criticize it. Sometimes, different will get you ahead. Sometimes, it won’t.
But if it means living my truth, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I encourage you to do the same.