Updated: Aug 5, 2018
As a person who has experienced both highs and lows, this post is meant to explore the lowest point in people’s lives where an individual battles between the hurt they feel and the fear of exposing their imperfections. Between the desire to be 'normal' and to truly bear their soul in the confidence of a friend. I have been exploring these emotions internally for the sake of creating an accurate interpretation of how people think and act when they’re anxious, isolated and depressed. It's not about how people get to that point nor not about when it ends, but acts as a personal illustration of the mixed feelings during dark times. I hope it is relatable and offers a glimmer of light to anyone who experiences a void in their life.
What will it take to make me honest?
Carmella thought as she told her concerned friends unconvincingly for the third time ‘I’m doing fine.’ She knew she wasn’t doing fine at all and she found it ironic that even when she hid her inexplicable negative feelings, they still caught on. Despite the emotional tug at her chest, she reasons away her feelings to her friends with excuses like:
‘I’m just working too hard.’
'I just need a good nights sleep'
'I'm so busy!'
and on and on.
Realizing her own dark emotions she reasons with herself, I needn’t tell them. After all, what kind of an impression would that make? I can’t lay out all my struggles to them. But these were her friends, people who cared about her. What a burden I would be on their positive lives! she thought. 'Just go about the day like nothing is wrong.'
Sighing, Carmella rolls her shoulders to shake off her burdens. It’s just a little feeling of insecurity, hurt or something anyway. Why worry? It will probably just go away after I’ve had a good cup of coffee. Enjoy this moment with your friends. It’s fine.
What a liar, Carmella tells herself, You know its something deeper.
Heading home after her girls night, she realizes, based on her own hidden emotions, how good people are at pretending. Everyone puts on a smile, gets dressed up and stays positive. She does the same when, really,
all she wants to do is cry.
But that wouldn’t be right would it? It would be too much of a risk to break down and let others see what’s going on inside. You’re the one that has it all together! Carmella tells herself, If you don’t brush it off then you’d have to let someone see that you’re not as perfect as you’d like to be. Besides, every one else has it all together too. They’ll think you’re irresponsible if you show how you really feel.
You’ll feel better tomorrow. You just need a good night’s sleep.
Carmella sleeps and wakes up late. She frantically undresses, jumps in the shower pushing away a little voice in the back of her mind that nags her saying ‘You’re not OK.’ She kicks herself for being late and as she shampoos her hair telling herself everyone makes that mistake every once in a while. Why should being late make my day worse?
Yet, she can’t deny how poor she feels. Somethings just not right. Those hidden feelings she kept from her friends are only more prominent now. The emotions, no matter how tightly she capped them always bubbled over when she was alone with herself. It’s the only time she has to really think and it’s the hardest time of day. In the quiet, the unbridled feelings of loss, loneliness, isolation, and disconnect breaks into her very core.
She shuts off the water and dries herself before the torrent inside her has a chance to boil over. Brushing her teeth, she looks in the mirror frustrated with her abnormal feelings and wonders loudly, WHY DO I FEEL LIKE THIS!? I should be happy like everyone else!! Gripping the edge of the porcelain sink, she stops and takes the time to really try and answer that question. Within that honest moment of silence, suddenly she sees for the first time,
In the middle of her chest is a hole, an empty cavern.
It’s dark and ominous and it’s surrounded by cracks in her skin that spread across her body. Even her towel can’t conceal it. Just like the emotions she buries, it won’t go away and grows every minute it's ignored. She dresses and heads to work hoping no one will notice it. In the back of her mind she scolds herself, But I’ve worked so hard to keep those emotional and negative thoughts in check, responding to every trigger with a new patch. She thinks hopelessly, I’ve tried it all! A new fix, new love, new food, new friends, new habits so why is this hole here?
Working through the day, she knows it’s there but just ignores it assuming it will disappear one day. It doesn’t heal.
It stays open, but no one else sees it. It’s uninviting space only visible to her alone. It devours the things she tries to fill it with. Even the activities that made her gleeful before are sucked into its vast darkness only to disappear. Despite knowing its infection is taking over her body she perseveres forward like nothing is wrong encouraging herself, Your fine, you just have a great big emptiness that can’t be filled by anything you’ve tried to fill it with. Don’t panic.
Carmella moves forward leaving it alone, hiding her true feelings and her emptiness. Until one day just before she leaves to meet her best friend, Nadia, she absentmindedly spills her cup of coffee all over her new white blouse and can’t bare it anymore. Spilled coffee, the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Her insatiable longing to only feel ‘normal’ instead of feeling empty causes her to break down right there in her kitchen. She’s crippled, broken by the overwhelming burden that she carries.
That stupid, empty hole.
She holds her chest slipping down to the floor and sobs uncontrollably. Will I ever be happy again? Will this wound ever heal? She wonders dimly.
Out of the blue, Nadia arrives at the doorstep and lets herself in when no one answers the door. She walks into the kitchen calling out to find her dear friend and does on the kitchen floor, weeping. Carmella's mascara streaks down her cheeks and her hands unsuccessfully attempt to hide the gaping hole in her heart shamefully.
“What happened?” Nadia asks, kneeling down and searching for a tissue from her purse to wipe away the gray lines on her friends face. Trying to find the words to respond, Carmella starts a sentence but trails off. Nothing could describe the way she feels, and instead of blubbering on about the complex emotions she’s been hiding she looks up at her friend, who lovingly dries her tears and admits out loud,
“I’m broken, and I can’t heal. I don’t know what to do!”
Nadia lets her cry, and hugs her tight reassuring her. “Whatever you’re feeling you’re not alone.” Nadia unbuttons her own flowery blouse revealing a similar empty hole in the center of her chest. Surprised, Carmella recognizes the desperate imperfection in Nadia's heart too. The only difference that Nadia’s void had was that it was partially filled with a sparkling gold substance that shimmered in the light. This precious gold flowed out from an unknown origin filling the spider web of cracks that spread across Nadia’s body. “I’ve been working on my hole for years." Nadia says tearfully. "Many people told me I had to get over the emptiness I felt and change, but I realize I have this hole for a reason, and I didn’t want to fill it with just anything.” Nadia surrounds Carmella in another hug, and assures her “it’s going to take time, but together I know we can fill your hole too.” As if Nadia’s hugs and words were a healing balm, a warm, tiny glint of gold appeared in Carmella's own void.
If you can relate to any part of this story, then my guess is you’ve experienced some sort of void in you’re life too. The ‘void in the story is really up to your own interpretation but generally is meant to encompass the indescribable feelings each of us have experiences in some part of our lives which include (but aren’t limited to):
The death of a spouse, child, or friend.
Loneliness, doubt, and anxiety.
Breakups and unhealthy relationships.
Experiencing depression, mental illness, or physical impairment.
Imperfections, bad habits, sins, addictions.
Each of these things can hurt us, creating the cracks and the void too. They make us each broken in our own way. As a result, part of having that void is trying to act ‘normal’ around other people even when we really aren’t feeling ok. We hide it, avoid it, and trick ourselves into believing that our emptiness is too great a burden for others, (or perhaps that hole makes us feel embarrassed). We bottle it up and then burst at some point leaving our emotions out in the open. What we forget sometimes is that being vulnerable about our weakened and damaged state is not a terrible thing. It can instead be a source of healing.
I’m not saying the pain and doubt and negative emotions will go away, but the hole can be filled. Notice that I never made the wounds disappear. Instead I filled them with something more radiant than skin. We fight all our lives to change the way we look, the way we act, and try so hard to make that broken emptiness go away. Finally, the world tell us too "just get over it." What the world forgets is that those struggles are part of who we are and when we accept how we have been uniquely made, they can make us beautiful! Like Nadia, we can heal the wounds slowly and work on filling our void for years allowing the 'gold' to accentuate our scars, rather than hide them.
Everyone struggles, suffers, and breaks.
But that brokenness, when we choose to fill it, is what can make us beautiful.