• Grace Hester

The Feeling No One Talks About.


"You're afraid to tell people how you feel because it will destroy them, so you bury it deep inside yourself where it destroys you."

NUMB.

A four-letter word that hides yet describes more emotions than anyone cares about.

I can't smile. I can't laugh. I can't yell or scream. I can't even cry.

I'm looking at my life and wondering the exact same thing as everyone else - how could I not be happy? The thing is, no one knows how unhappy I even am. No one knows how sad, lost, lonely, and hopeless I truly am.

From the outside, I appear to have everything together. I look happy, healthy, and lively, yet on the inside, I am so very lost and so very lonely.

No one seems to care about my sanity, my peace of mind, or my happiness. No one seems to care if I may be mentally holding on by a thread or completely lost from the search of light (much less even care if there is such a thing). For once, I just want someone to genuinely ask how I am doing, and I want to guiltlessly break down in their arms, describing every tortuous thought I'm being held captive by. I want them to see the brokenness that lies behind the fake smile or the eyes that have held back a waterfall of tears - real tears. Tears that encompass years of pain, loneliness, and sadness. Tears that exhibit yearning for some place nonexistent, and tears that hold the memories of oblivion, naivety, and youth. I want someone, for once, to look past the surface appearance and finally see how not okay I am.

I spend so much time making sure everyone else is okay that I fail to dwell on the realization that I am very far from that myself.

People say it's always the so-called "strong" ones who are able to feel the most deeply, and I can testify to that.

Although some days I may be sarcastically funny and rude or narcissistically throwing shade at others, I will always be the one at the end of the day asking how someone is doing. I will always be the one to give a hand to the needy. I will always be the one to send a quick message of encouragement or of sincerity or of concern. I will always be the one to hold the weight of others' burdens or struggles no matter how big or small, and I will always be the one at the end of the day to cry myself to sleep with the heaviness of thoughts at the forefront of my swooning mind.

Why is this?

Because it's the ones who feel the most deeply that are compelled to check up on others. It's a sense of comfort knowing that they are being the very person whom they've always needed. It's a sense of relief knowing that others have the outlet of understanding - an outlet they themselves have never had. And, it's a sense of empathy and concern knowing how badly it hurts to feel so deeply while wanting others to not feel the same.

This is why I go out of my way to talk to someone hurting or struggling. This is why I would expose my raw emotions to someone experiencing similar feelings. This is why I am the person to stare through someone else's surface appearance and ask them how they are... except genuinely and empathetically and sincerely.

I know what it's like to feel broken inside. I know what it's like to feel like a burden. I know what it's like to feel lonely and lost yet appear to have it "all together." I know how much it hurts to hide true emotions. I know how much it hurts to pretend everything is fine, and I know how much it hurts to bottle up your thoughts, feelings, and emotions not only for fear of being ostracized or exposed or shamed, but also for fear of always being misunderstood.

It's not the fear of stigmatism as much as it is the fear of misunderstanding. I am not afraid to express what I deal with; however, I am afraid of being misunderstood and in turn treated differently. The person I am does not change once I expose my true self, yet it's the fear of constantly being tip-toed around or treated differently, which stems from misunderstanding, that surrounds mental health.

Why would we want to share what we deal with to only feel worthless due to misunderstanding?

Living separate lives sucks, but living a life completely misunderstood is not living at all.

It's not the fear of being shamed that keeps us from sharing our struggles, rather the fear of never being understood and having to live a life in isolation that hinders chances for open communication. No one desires to live a life feeling utterly misunderstood, and no one desires to live a life apart from their true selves. Not only are those undesirable, but they are also not deserved. No one deserves to live a life feeling utterly misunderstood, and no one deserves to live a life apart from their true selves. However, these are the only two options for those of us living with mental illnesses. Neither one of them are desirable nor deserving, yet we choose to live separate lives because it is less consequential than constant misunderstanding.

Once exposed, there's no going back, so we must feel mentally ready to take on the world's lack of knowledge before we are able to share our stories - the stories that not only could inspire others but could also prevent another life from being lost to the hardships of mental disorders. This is why the process of destigmatization is so very slow. While I applaud the somewhat removal of shame that once encircled mental illnesses, it's now the lack of understanding that acts as a barricade between us and the real world.

Rather than us advocate awareness for what mental health is, let's highlight all that mental health is not.

It is not a name. It is not a brand, and it is not a label. It is not a disease. It is not a sickness, and it is not a contagious illness. Mental disorders are simply predisposed chemical imbalances. These imbalances do not take away from who we are; rather, they shape us into what makes us unique while reminding us of all that we are not.

We are not what the world wants us to be, and we never will be, but we are also not who we are supposed to be... because being stuck in the middle of choosing to either live two separate lives or one misunderstood life is painful. After a while, the pain is numbing. Numbing to the reality that we may actually be alone in the fight. Most of us remain numb for fear of experiencing that painful reality because, if endured unprepared, there's no escaping.

So it's through fear that we remain numb, and it's through numbness we remain alive because it's the numbness from those constant feelings we are forced to bury deep inside ourselves (so not to destroy others) that prevents them from destroying us.

Yes, numb is a feeling. Although temporary, it is painful. Yet, it is the protection that enables us to grow despite the darkness, and it is the protection that shields us - shields us only until we have recovered enough and are prepared to face this harsh reality:

The only ones who truly understand are the ones who have been completely misunderstood.

Find those people, and you will realize how NOT alone you are in the fight.