Why do people choose to stay silent when they have so many and such important things to tell?
A child lowers her head, cries silently and goes back to the end of the class. He closes the door to his office and looks out the window at a patch of sky. She finishes her turn and delays for some more minutes staring blankly at the mirror. I cut myself and got lost into any other world I could get as long as it wasn’t real.
Why don’t we talk openly about the invisible scars that we all have? Why do we hide and pretend everything is okay?
It’s easy. Nobody is challenged. There is no confrontation. The power rules do not change. And the truth is kept away.
While the outside is preserved, the inside splits and parts of ourselves get disconnected and thrown into a cold and barren space.
I almost lost my voice. I considered it seriously, to stop talking forever. To let it die. It was pretty useless already. But I knew it wouldn’t help me. I kept on failing to stick to friendships; I couldn’t give them what a friendship was made of at the time anyway. I envied them and I tried to sell what I had, but that wasn’t worth it. I was very good, but not outstanding. I was always smiling, and the days I wasn’t, they told me to. I had what I most notably needed, but I didn’t have what I wished for.
The weight of my disappointments and of the few times I felt betrayed as a child is as accessible to me as it was when it took place – only that I can’t yet do anything about it. I don’t understand why, they, who could have seen things clearly and understood, didn’t. What I wanted was someone that cared to listen to whatever I had to say and that didn’t side by someone else’s opinion. It didn’t happen. I was just a child.
I don’t understand why it took me so long to reach a point when I would be able to stand to look back and be honest. I don’t understand why they would be so little sympathetic. Only that I know why. Because we are all human.
There’s a pretence that we are not, though.
I started to fear that things would only be worse. I realised my dreams would never become true, that I would never have what I wanted. And I was afraid they would find out that I was still capable of smiling to them only because I cried on my own. I built walls; if they knew about my sadness it would just make things worse. I didn’t want them to tell me that I didn’t have any reason to feel that way (I did) and that everything was okay (it wasn’t). I couldn’t formulate my problems to myself, I had no words to describe them to anybody else. I was trapped. Nobody would understand. In the end I thought that it didn’t matter, because they were my problems and it was up to me to solve them.
I put up an act and went on with it. It worked well enough to the outside. It didn’t work for me, but I found ways to keep things under control. My attempts to reach out didn’t succeed. I tried to escape, to take control of my life, I considered taking it away, and then I decided to change myself because it was the only sensible thing to do, and I still wanted to have hope.
To convince yourself in order not to see the bullshit that surrounds you while focusing only on beauty is hard. “I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.” “Be loving. Be loving.” Aiming for a restricted set of emotions, while wondering what it feels like to genuinely love someone. What is love? What is love when you don’t feel or are too afraid to take your feelings seriously? Numbness. Delusion. Failure. Retraction. Delusion and numbness. And years that pass by. And a continuous loss of the self, of confidence and sense of direction.
But you keep on going, and one day, you open your eyes and things are better. You are getting close, finally. But you are not quite there yet. And the scars burn and bother and some still bleed.
A look or a late reply or a joke and you are thrown out of balance again. Two hours to be ready to leave. The constant monitoring of your body, your words, your looks. Feeling fake because you are never at ease. Being afraid that they will accuse you of feeling superior, of pretending to be perfect, of being hypocritical and false. Preferring not to be seen. Fearing to be given reasons to raise your voice and then being accused to overreact. Shielding behind coldness and passivity, even if that feels constraining. Taking their words as simple politeness and fearing there won’t be a next time. Walking pass people while considering all the thoughts they might be having about yourself, about all the wrongs they might be able to notice. Do they realise how you hesitate when you walk? Do they notice the nervousness? Do they hate you already? I anticipate the disaster, although it is not as clear as those thoughts; I anticipate my loss, how I will feel when I fail. And I don’t want to expect things, to look forward to them, because I know that if they don’t turn up well my frustration will be exaggerated and no one will understand why I felt so bad about it. Maybe they won’t even notice and assume something else is wrong. I got so used to anticipating the worse hoping that if it was better than that I would be happy… but it didn’t work. Positive anticipation is necessary to enjoy. And it sucks, because it may not happen. And even though, it would be easier to face life if at least I had that, because I know it helps to keep the mood up.
Not seeing the point of living other than to finish what once started. And some people are actually excited about it! I could die today. “I want to die,” is my natural answer to stress, “nothing matters, it’s okay if I die. I don’t want to live.” That’s how it continues, and that way I can focus. And I have thought like this for as long as I can remember, which means since I was a teenager.
I need pain to act. I tense up because that way I can have control over myself. I can stop emotions from going wild and out on their own.
They don’t love me. They will change their mind. They don’t care and they never will. They hate me. They don’t want me in their lives or they would tell me. Why should they like me? They have their own problems.
I know it is not reasonable, but I can’t shake those feelings yet.
I’ve been obsessed with body asymmetries, spending hours for weeks analysing, fearing they would notice or that they knew, thinking about a way to change them. I’ve felt guilt and shame for being unhappy, for despising my life. I’ve been angry too, so much it still boils sometimes. I’ve punished myself and learnt discipline by imitation, using self-criticism. I know it’s wrong, but that is what I was taught. I could also see how unfair people can be and I didn’t want to be caught by surprise by that. I put myself through it so that I would be ready, just in case… Because it would be the worst not to, to add weakness to failure. To admit that it is not possible to do everything on one’s own and become hopeless.
But because I know better, I’ve tried to change and to avoid making the same mistakes, not to do what I was done/did to myself. Of course, I don’t always succeed. I hold back a lot; partly because I’d abhor to act automatically and do and say what I hate.
I’ve been able to see and learn a little from the kindness and good will of others. I found that what I wanted did exist in the world, though in different places from the ones I had been. I don’t need to be so self-centred and self-conscious. Nobody is after me. I don’t have to be alone anymore. And I can find the words.
Things change. You reach a place when you can, at last, talk without fear. And be listened to. You are understood. You are accepted. You are safe.
And suddenly, there are more colours in your heart, not just the lingering black, the permanent grey and the wished-for white.
Shut up and pretend that it never happened. That it is false. That there aren’t stories pulling the threats of every walking soul just because they would rather forget them. Fear is still stronger than kindness, than empathy and sympathy.
Absence is not real. It is just another delusion, a lie in plain sight.
We are human. We yearn for connection.
No matter the price.
(But it does matter.)