All of my Selves: How Mental Illness has Torn me Apart

I wanna be heard, but leave no trace
I wanna be seen, but take no space

In Flames

Certainly, we can all agree that being a recluse is “no way to live.”  We are supposed to be social creatures.  Happy creatures.  Creatures who trust each other, help each other, and protect each other. But what happens when there is nobody to trust, to help, or to protect you?

I need protection.  I need support.  I need stability.  There is too much going on inside of me.  At the same time, there is nothing going on inside of me.  It’s like I am the dust bowl.  Nothing lives, nothing grows, nothing survives.  It is silent and gray, except for those times that a twister may come crashing through, looking for something to destroy.  That twister will always be disappointed, because there is nothing to destroy.  Not anymore.

I feel like three different people. 

One part of me is an empty body, a zombie, who is perfectly content roaming the earth and eating something every once in a while.  No thoughts. No needs.  No feelings.  No pain.  Her needs only include what it takes to keep her body alive.  She groans every once in a while and she may notice you walk by, but if you can’t feed her, then you are useless.  She doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t have a husband. She doesn’t have a family.  She doesn’t need any of that.  She doesn’t need color, or light, or warmth.  But other people do- the living people. The normal people.

And the fact is, you just can’t be in a relationship with a zombie. You can bathe her, clothe her, shelter her, brush her hair, and even love her for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t change what she is.  And no matter how much she loves you, she will eat you alive. 

A second part of me is an actress.  She is functional, but doesn’t have anything real to offer. She does what she has to do to not only survive, but to appear “normal.”  She is a people-pleaser.  She cares about her appearance, but only because of cultural and social expectations.  She wants to appear to have a nice home, a happy marriage, an education, and many friends.  She will put on the student-wardrobe and go to school and get good grades. She puts on the wife-wardrobe and cooks, cleans, is attentive, and will have sex.  She puts on the religion-wardrobe and goes to church, teaches her class, visits her sisters, and participates.  She puts on the sister-and-daughter-wardrobe and supports her family when needed. But these are only masks and characters that she has mastered.  None of these things make her happy.  None of these things fill her cup.  She strives on the performance, but when you take away the costumes and the make-up, she is empty inside.

You can have a relationship with the actress, but a shallow one at best.  She tires of participating in the same acts over and over. She pretends that the scenes fill her up and give her meaning, but at the end of the night, when the lights go down and the applause dies, she is exhausted and just wants to be alone.

Then there is the third part of me. The part that sits back and watches these two people. Like I’m in a dream.  I want to feel. I want to connect with others.  I want to be filled with something positive and light and good.  But I am invisible.  I am dumb.  I want to be seen and I want to be heard, but I am trapped here. In limbo, somehow.  Not really alive, not really dead. Can’t commit to one or the other.
She is alone here.  She is paralyzed. 

The zombie terrifies her.  She is not sure that she would feel anything if she actually were to be eaten alive, but she doesn’t want to find out.  So, she hides, while the actress criticizes and ridicules her.  Why are you so ugly?  Why are you so lazy?  Why are you afraid?  Why are you so useless?  Why can’t you at least try to be functional and normal?  Can’t you even pretend? Can’t you even try? 

I am down here.  In this mess.  Somewhere.

This is my struggle.  I am exhausted.  I cannot get out of the rip-tide.  I could give up, stop breathing, stop fighting, and let myself sink into oblivion. But that darkness is terrifying.  So I hide.  From everyone and everything.

It is much safer here in this place.  Where I escape reality and hold on tight to the little pieces of me that I have left.


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