themighty logo

How the Ocean Is Like My Borderline Personality Disorder

Sometimes, when people look at me, I feel like it must be like looking out at the ocean from their hotel balcony. Everything looks calm. Steady. Stable. There aren’t even any waves. They don’t think about what lurks beneath the surface. Under that facade of calm and serenity, there are bloodthirsty sharks. There’s a riptide that doesn’t know how to do anything except drag you under; an octopus that can’t wait to wrap all eight arms around you. There’s a trench so deep and so dark that no one’s ever been brave enough or had the tools to explore it. There are things, truly terrifying things, that have been discovered in the depths of that seemingly peaceful sea and there are even more terrifying unknowns in the darkness below, just waiting to surface.

But you can’t see any of that from your view. To you, the ocean looks beautiful in its way — the rolling waves, the sunlight making it sparkle like diamonds, the way the tide comes in and goes out. It calls to you like a siren song, like a seduction. It just looks so warm and inviting. How could you resist? Why would you want to?

So you grab your things and you go to it. You stand on the shore and let the water rush beneath your toes and carry the sand away, bits of broken sea shells littering the ocean floor. Some stay, some get carried back out to the sea, never to be seen again. Even then, you don’t think about the power it has — how even the biggest, heaviest, strongest rocks erode into nothing but fragments over the years. Not because the water is vicious and violent, but because it’s constant and relentless in its ways. You don’t think about how, when the tide rises, no one is safe. You’re not afraid, but then why would you be? The water feels nice and the current is calm. There’s no red flag telling you to stay away.

Not yet.

But the farther out you go, the deeper it gets. The harder it gets. The water doesn’t feel as gentle and friendly as it did on the shore, tickling your toes and splashing playfully against your legs. Now, it feels greedy. You try to fight against it, but it won’t let you go. It wants to keep you. It wants to drag you under, make you a part of it. There are multitudes beneath the ocean that once belonged on land. Remains of a long forgotten shipwreck, empty wine casks, old shoes and fishing poles and rusty soda cans, picture frames filled with photos of loved ones whose faces have long washed away. It’s a collection of sorts. A collection of things that couldn’t escape.

Maybe the ocean is lonely. Have you ever thought of that? Maybe it’s so vast and so dark and so open and empty that it holds on to whatever it can and thinks maybe, maybe if it fills the darkness with all of these things that it will feel less dark and vast and empty. So it grabs onto you and doesn’t let go. The current wraps around you like a pair of arms. It pulls you under and now, now you see.

It tried to warn you, but you don’t really get it until your head’s underwater and you’re choking on saltwater. You finally understand. And god, you’re terrified. You had no idea there could be so much darkness under such beauty and part of you feels betrayed. Manipulated. This is nothing like the serene, glittering waters you gazed at from your balcony. This is nothing like the teasing, playful waves that beckoned you from the shore.

Come play with me, it whispered, so you did. You wanted to. You thought it would be fun. And for a while, it was. You splashed, you swam. You collected sea shells and sand dollars that felt like the ocean crafted specifically for you. Then it called you out further and further and the fun became something else. Too rough, too intense. Too much. You wanted to go back, only just a little bit, but the ocean doesn’t understand half-ways and maybes. It’s all water, right? What does it matter which side of the sandbar you’re on?

The funny thing is, you think, with your head underwater and gasping for air, you can still see the beauty in it. There are things down here you’ve never seen, things no one’s ever seen, and in a weird way it makes you feel… special. Like the ocean could have chosen anyone to share its secrets with, but it picked you. You’re drowning, so far under you can’t even see the light from the surface anymore, but still, you find it hard to be upset about it.

Maybe it’s the wonder of it all, the glowing jellyfish and the colorful coral and the things you can’t even put a name to because they don’t have names for them yet. Maybe it’s because of how special you feel. Maybe it’s hard to think straight when you can’t get oxygen to your brain.

If you’d just let me breathe, you think. If you’d just let me catch my breath. I just need to a minute to breathe.

The current pulls you deeper. The water fills your lungs. You thought you understood, but you didn’t. Couldn’t.

The ocean doesn’t speak your language. It never did.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash