A feeling of emptiness rules my life.
After going back to Uni, I’ve let the long train journeys that pass me back and forth as I switch between the careful gaze of my parents and the complete anonymity of University life, pass me slowly by. As these two hour long journeys drag painfully across my vision, they serve as a reminder that I am never heading towards where I want to be. Regardless of my destination, I never feel at home, I never feel satisfied. I trawl through life with a dissatisfied scowl on my face, bitter and resentful at how I have ended-up in this trap, resembling a pendulum swinging from one end of the country to the other. Yet, I have no idea how to resolve the situation…what is the cure, the solution that I am waiting for?
When I sit staring at the four walls of my room, I simply feel a gaping hollowness inside. This sounds dramatic and cliched but I have never felt anything so desperate and crushing before. It feels like my chest is constantly in danger of ripping open and the guttural scream that I suppress inside of me will finally unleash it’s wild frustration. The problem is, I don’t know how I will ever put myself back together if I let these emotions tear out of me.
I’m back at Uni and it feels like a completely alien space to me. After a six week break for Christmas and the exam period, it started to feel like that first semester had just been a bad dream, something that I had now woken-up from. I let myself fantasise about a different life, one where I didn’t feel trapped in a course which I mistakenly chose on a whim when I was mentally unwell. I thought about the possibilities of feeling ‘normal’, not like the outcast I have made myself at Uni. My creativity began to flow through my veins again and the unexpected pleasure of poetry popped back into my life again after years of absence.
Yet, I then found myself in my dad’s freezing cold car making the journey back to that dreaded place. Back to my room in halls where I had holed myself up a couple of months previously and torn my body apart. The walls of my room hold the memories of depression naps in the middle of the day in which I fell into impossibly deep sleeps because I felt so exhausted with the effort of getting up, washing myself and eating. Now, I have to face these memories again, shrink myself back down to the size I was when I was drained and hopeless wishing for a way out of education finally and desperate for a way to feel adequate again – not the sum of my grades and tutors’ comments.
Onwards I go into this new semester, scared of what is lurking around the corner for me and hoping that one day the sunlight will filter into my room and rather than feel ashamed of it’s touch, I will feel hopeful instead.
Sometimes it feels like sinking,
Like life is too heavy –
Denser than what the world can bear.
The tears that well-up in my eyes
Catch the back of my throat;
I can’t breathe.
I am enveloped in a cold embrace,
Eroded by salt, adding insult
To the injury of being torn apart
By waves that hit me from all sides.
Purpose is a spineless word,
An excuse for existence
Without any merit or substance,
A carrot dangled in front of noses
To keep them pleading until the end.
Purpose can be elusive, mysterious,
Mixing itself with necessity and desperation,
A trickster keeping us running
Like clockwork; pained, rhythmic, undeviating,
For some cruelty, for some a blessing.
Purpose is practical and pragmatic,
Rarely whimsical or creative,
Too conformist to reach those people
Who dream of radical upsets
Or the hope of ink on a page.
If I screamed
Would you even hear?
I may waste the air,
Lying restlessly in my lungs,
On you, pleading,
With every word
Scraped from my mouth,
Falling on deaf ears
That do not want to listen.
If I rearrange the words,
Form them into a pleasant landscape,
Then you will have to take notice.
Surely you cannot ignore
What is battering at your head
Insistently, for days on end?
If I take pains
To explain it perfectly,
Will you then turn your head,
Look into my eyes
Or will you tilt your head to the ceiling,
Bold and brash in your ignorance,
And hope you will never understand
The despair that I am feeling?
Gentle, insistent bleeps,
Hinges groan and creak,
My muscles tense.
This house is so full,
A time capsule of lives;
Moments lived and breathed,
Now immortalised and drifting away,
Garments of children
Long since gone
And changed from all recognition,
Shelves littered with ornaments
And old trophies mocking their winners.
We are tortured and plagued
By the memories which eye us
Eerily from every shelf and cupboard,
Poisoning the stifling air
Until a heavy hand comes down,
Pounds on stiff leather.
Occupants jump, hearts leap
The silence breaks – without release.
Those framed memories,
They take on a new sheen.
Frozen smiles now too stretched,
Casually slung arms;
Questionably stiff, formal, posed.
The happy group?
Now, almost comical,
Pale, fragile and holding their breaths,
Figures, now abandoned,
Suspended in time
Longing to be forgotten.
Trains roll past miserably,
Everyone is watching
Yet no-one is listening,
Numbed to their own voices,
Staring straight into the grey distance,
An abyss of high-rises
Invisible poison seeping through
The pores of the clockwork city,
The nameless, faceless God
Which rules all of our lives,
The paths of the young,
The routine of the adults,
The deaths of the old.
A number amongst thousands
Raising his face to the sky,
To feel some air
Wash across his face
A connection to his childhood –
The crowd of demure coats
And pristine shined shoes,
They are statistics,
Chewed-up pieces, mangled,
Designed for a broken puzzle.
Eyes glazed over,
Drifting through consciousness,
Forlorn, passive players,
In a game long since forgotten.
Taken for granted
And dying by the second.
Over the years, I have become a pro at avoidance.
Counsellors and therapists have been left exasperated with me because of the way I weave myself out of situations and wriggle out of any obligations which I know will make me feel anxious. At school, I used to make a concerted effort to avoid any teacher who took an interest in me, anyone who wanted to explore what lay behind my silent, passive exterior. For the most part, I have made my life an extensive game of hide and seek as I have consciously guarded myself against anything which could have the potential to brings things out of me that I would rather conceal. My sealed mouth and over-active mind act as an armour between me and the world, allowing me to pass through life with a minimum amount of confrontation.
Through time this has expanded to the way I dress and present myself. I make an active decision everyday to dress myself in a way that will act as the best disguise and which will reduce any individualism someone could associate with me. Essentially, I try my best to make myself invisible. I wear baggy black hoodies and jogging bottoms which cannot show my figure and cover as much skin as possible. That way I feel safe, for some reason. Protected.
The result of living my life behind a silent barrier is that I have left myself alone and without any interests that could draw me away from the confines of my room. My lifestyle is, by my own design, incredibly isolating. University was supposed to be a new start for me, a chance to re-create myself afresh but as I write this I have not been into any of my classes for the past three days because every time I think about entering a seminar room or a lecture hall I feel physically sick.
By trying to navigate through life as simply as possibly, I have made everything as far away from straight forward as I could have done. Many of the skills people have learnt during their time growing-up and experiencing new things, I have made sure that I have missed out on. I have made dead certain that I would always be on the outside looking in because I have always seen this as the safest place to be, looking at all situations from a distance in order to ascertain any ‘dangers’. Now I am finding nearly impossible to find my way back to a point where I can live without putting extreme restrictions in place between me and everyone else.
I have been told an obscene amount of times that I will ‘grow out of’ my mental health problems.
I find this one of the most annoying common phrases that counsellors, relatives and family friends tend to say to me when they find out about my mental health issues. They try to convince me that as I get older I will leave my depression, anxiety and OCD behind because to them it is obvious that no mature adult could still struggle with such immature issues.
Note to people who say this: you are being incredibly patronising. You are telling someone whose life is consumed by their struggles with mental health that their problems are childish and once they have seen more of the world and gotten older they will simply forget about their immature issues. However much you want to, you cannot dismiss someone else’s valid feelings out of hand because of your own ignorance and lack of understanding, telling someone that what they are going through is essentially just a phrase is extremely demeaning.
Other people have told me “Oh, when I was your age I was shy too but I soon grew out of it”. I appreciate that people who have said this to me were trying to show that they could empathise with me and give me a sense of comfort but it is so frustrating when people think that being shy is the same as suffering from anxiety (social anxiety and generalised anxiety in my case). Equating these two issues and taking them to mean the same thing means that you are dismissing the experience of panic and anxiety attacks, the daily struggle of leaving the house and the constant worry anxious people have to battle about what others think about them, as well as the isolating effect of having trouble travelling on public transport. People who say that having anxiety is essentially just being shy are telling people that they do not believe all of the serious effect which this mental illness can have as well as the incredibly varied experiences people with anxiety have, as it should be remembered that we cannot be all lumped together and told that the way we see and live life is exactly the same.
In essence, I wish people would take anxiety more seriously rather than just dismissing it as a phase to grow out of. How do you think that makes people who are older than my own 18 years of age feel about their own experiences with anxiety? Be sensitive to the overall effects that anxiety can have on our lives rather than just shrinking people who suffer with it to the image of your own slightly quiet self when you started secondary school; it is not the same thing.
If I stay in here forever
Will you come get me?
Do I want you to puncture the surface?
Rather, just float on the outside,
Shapeless and stretching.
Keep an eye on me
But don’t come in between,
I can’t guarantee what you will see,
I don’t want you to become like me,
Not a mild affliction or contamination
But a full-blown malady;
Cutting off your life
Pinching the blood flowing in your veins,
Blocking your sacred arteries,
Spilling guts out of your mouth.
If you see too much then it won’t stop,
No amount of purification-
Society’s flushing out power-
Will stop the epidemic in your head.
Instead, let me fall,
Crash through the grimy cracks
And find a dark hole at the other side.
Smothered in darkness,
I will no longer dirty the light.