“Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?”
jrr tolkien, the two towers
inside our heads, i suppose all of us are alone. no one hears all our thoughts, no one can really know how we feel inside, how it feels to be us.
but i’ve always felt like i experienced this differently than the average person. ever since i was about 13 (coincidentally when my first serious clinical depression hit), i have felt that the inner me was somehow removed from the world around me, somehow distanced, and that the chasm could not be crossed by me or anyone else. (not that i felt like anyone ever wanted to cross it.)
i read once somewhere of a woman describing her mental illness as feeling as if she was at the bottom of a deep, deep well. she could look up and see light and see other people, but nothing of the above reached her there. she was utterly alone while the world moved on above her, and she could not escape. i thought it was when i read sylvia plath’s the bell jar at 16, but i’ve never been able to find the quote. looking back, the way i recognized and related to the bell jar should probably have been a clue to my mental illness.
anyway, i felt exactly like a woman trapped at the bottom of a well. i could see a circle of life going on above me, but none of it really reached me. i couldn’t escape, and no one else knew i was down there. how could they have known? externally, i played at being normal, and i played it very well. i secretly thought that if my drama teacher only knew how well i was acting every day, i’d have had many more parts in our plays.
i had lots of friends, lots of acquaintances, and they sought me out for advice, a shoulder to cry on, comfort. apparently, i was pretty good at it, because they kept coming. but even then i recognized the irony that people were willing to pour out their deepest selves to me, but none of them knew the deep parts of me at all. i just couldn’t let it out, and i couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to listen or know anyway.
and here i am, 20 years past 16, and i still feel the same way. i walk through my life pretending not to be stalked by a constant darkness. i “fake it ’til i make it” like a champ, but i never seem to make it. i get distracted, sure, but i never make it. i still believe that no one really wants to know what’s inside of me. it would be too much for them; they wouldn’t have the stomach or patience or desire for it. i feel like no one really likes me, they are just humoring me, because they are too nice to tell me to shove off.
and so here i am at the bottom of the well, with a chasm of darkness between the internal me and the external world. and it’s lonely as hell.
but even though it’s lonely, i don’t really want to bridge the chasm. i’ve been hurt too often, and i don’t know how much more of that i can survive. i’d so much rather lock myself away and never risk.
but even that is a trap. all that’s inside is silence–the heaviest silence of all.
“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar