When I was a sophomore, a misunderstood incident* caused my parents to send me to a therapist for a short while. I barely remember those sessions, but one thing stands out. My counselor asked me what I enjoyed, what I liked to do, etc. She specified that this had to be things I enjoyed by myself, not related to hanging out with friends/boyfriend. I had no idea what to answer. I was a swimmer, but was already getting to a point where I didn’t really enjoy it anymore. I identified as a writer, but didn’t do much of that either. I listened to music, but much of what I listened to had gotten old and didn’t appeal anymore. Swimming took up so much of my time that between the pool, school, and chores, I didn’t have time for other things. My counselor identified my inability to respond as a sign of depression, and maybe it was, I don’t know. But that’s the one thing that stuck with me – without likes and interests, it was as if I didn’t exist as a fully formed person. I was hollow, going through my days doing the things I needed to do, my sense of identity fulfilled by people outside me.
Twenty-five years later, and I am back in the same place. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past – invisibility and identity and smothering/deleting the things that made me an individual human being over the last 5+ years. I made my original goals in 2019 in an attempt to find myself again, and then my revamped goals roughly the same. None of it has been any use. I try to reach inside…but there’s nothing there to grab anymore. I just…exist.
And I don’t want this.
Something deep inside me is trying to rebel. At night, I have these vivid dreams of who I want to be in ten years, of where I’d like to end up. Then I wake up, and feel trapped, and spend my days hiding so that I don’t have to think about the situation. “Hiding” doesn’t necessarily mean what it sounds like. “Hiding” means reading too much, and dressing up a lot, and doing lots of puzzles, and watching too much TV. It means turning my brain off while showing the world a face that looks happy – or at least put together. It means making myself invisible through visibility.**
And how do you work your way out of this place? I don’t have the answer to that, because everything I’ve tried these last five years has failed. And it’s REALLY hard to make decisions about the future (school, career, living situation…) when you have nothing solid to base those decisions on. Inner me – dream me – is trying very hard to claw its way to the surface, and I’m doing my best to let her. But I don’t know. Sometimes it seems that I left my personality, my SELF, behind for so long that maybe I just DON’T exist anymore, and that’s all there is left for me to discover.
*A friend of mine had used a razor to draw a line up the middle of his arm. I was very upset by this, naturally, and when my boyfriend asked why I was crying, I demonstrated what my friend had done with my fingernail. It left a mark, and my swim coach concluded between my crying and the line on my arm, I must be suicidal.
**Yes, I do need to find a good therapist. So far, I’ve had no luck, and each time an option fails, it gets harder to try again.