The Loneliness of Always Feeling Too Much
I always feel too much.
I get so… ((sad)). No one ever wants to know. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong in trying to explain. Sometimes it seems okay, but at other times, it must be too much. How do I begin to address “how I’m feeling,” when that three letter word is the most I can force out of my constricted throat? The vocabulary of a child, overwhelmed. And people don’t want to hear about it. Not really. It gets so wearing. And it’s repetitive. I understand that. And ultimately, they leave. In the end, they always do.
You assure me that it’s connecting to reveal how I feel, but as far as I can see, to keep people, all anyone really wants is for me to be happy and cheerful. Or sad in a more conventional way. Cookie cutter. Break ups. Work stress. Enter own example here. How do I explain to anyone how terrible I feel, when nobody wants to know? Am I to gloss over it, to undercut it?
Or they want to know the reasons. They put it in such a practical light. And of course when we talk about it practically, I don’t even know how I can feel what I feel. It doesn’t make sense. It’s overemotional and irrational. I see that. They already think that. We reach an awkward question mark. I quickly add a positive reframe or an acknowledgement at least, that, well, I’m being a bit silly, aren’t I, or I’m so tired, or whatever else. Make it acceptable, within the realms of normal, quick, don’t blow your cover — too late of course, but with some semblance. I’m not different from you. I’m a reasonable person. Slip, slop, slap on the serenely benign normalcy. Safety within the flags of the usual emotional range.
And then I sit. The disconnect, the discomfort, worse than not trying at all.
This sadness happens so often for me; what’s the point? It’s assumed, right? If they are close, they have an idea of what I go through. And they don’t want to know. So it’s up to me. I am meant to use coping strategies, I know. I remember. But I am meant to feel it too. I think. I don’t know. The messages of therapy — the strategies to try and the brain retraining — get mixed in and mixed up sometimes with my own running commentary, heavily flavored with a good dose of the inner critic. The “push on, push through, distract, get on with it” approach has not worked all too well for me, in the long term. I promise I’ve tried. I still think this is the best way, although I know it is not. Can’t be too soft on myself. Can’t give in to the weakness. Chin up. Discipline. You encourage, despite my cringing, a gentler approach towards myself. It still feels disconcertingly foreign.
And after all, I am sad because I am alone. If I actually had someone to talk to about it (we do not count here the paid therapist); well then, I wouldn’t be sad. Problem solved. To be heard, to be connected.
How would I explain it, anyway? If I could find the words to speak? “Sadness” is my underwhelming, umbrella term, telling nothing of the rapidly expanding darkness that comes with it. Am I sinking into this suddenly never-ending pit, or is it a void growing exponentially around me, pushing everyone and everything further away, as I hang in the midst? Either image fits. Just. Emptiness.
I had always thought emptiness would feel… empty. But instead, it feels like a well of despair. I could choke on the thickness of it rising in my throat, filling my chest. I could drown in the depths of it. And how am I meant to put that into words? Who would want to know? Who would reach in and say, “let me help”? People catch a glimpse, and they leave. Or, they walk away from that part of you. Not for me. A healthy dose of ignoring the problem is bound to fix this for her. How then, can I ask for help? I don’t want to be a burden. And it is. It is such a burden. To try to tackle any of that, only for it to rise yet again. And again. No wonder they leave. No wonder I am alone. It might infect them too. And I am trapped. But I am the cause. Save me, I want to scream, but how selfish could I be? I must contain it. That is all I can do.
There is no cure. I enter the emptiness. I talk with certain friends now, and I feel nothing. I put in the effort that I feel I should. I sustain a facade of caring, but there is nothing there. Maybe a flicker, from time to time (a sign of humanity intact!?) but overwhelmingly, the feeling of vague obligation alone. Enough interaction to stave off the utter encroachment of the loneliness, but with no real meaning. Inane. I utter encouragement and concern where called for, automatically, but their interests and their worries incite no responding emotion within me. Insert appropriate sounding response here. I am a robot.
I feign interactions so continuously. I seek to make eye contact and smile as genuinely as I can at so many people, in the day to day, just in case. I must make sure they feel seen, even for a moment. Valid for a moment. Such compassion for others who might be struggling. And yet, when it comes to me, what am I? An automaton, drifting through the world. A simulacrum, nodding and speaking at all the right junctures, pleasing and innocuous. I am a ghost, with no real connection to the world. Nothing to ground me. No relationships to hold me. I am floating. Tied down only by the barest of threads, by asking about a cashier’s day, or taking the time to listen to a patient while at work. I am barely here. If I were loved enough, I could be real. But we both know that I will never be satisfied. Even though I have had glimpses of… belonging (painful to even remember the blissful safety of those moments now), I think my desperation gnaws it away. It could never be enough, even if I were to be loved. And I am fading so fast.
Sometimes I forget. Sometimes my mind is quick enough that it tricks me, and I get caught up in the vibrancy and the passion of a pursuit. I think about how my latest career goals and moving into this new field I am focused on will allow me to change the world, or play a hand, at least. I’m an idealist, but maintain some realism. We’ll be improving things, for so many people! And the world comes to life with the fervor and the conviction that courses through me, and for a moment or two, I am carried, and I feel that even if I am alone, I could create. And that could be enough. I could give, and I could give so much, and it could be enough, enough to sustain me, and I could live on that alone. But this, of course, is only a deception, and at the end of it all, I remember that I am just a little wooden Pinocchio. Never to be a real girl. And that even if I did do, and achieve, and succeed, in all of those big, wonderful things, I could save so many others, and yet would return at last, at the end, to myself, in my aloneness… and there is no escape from that.
So what must I do? To be more acceptable? What do I do? How do I bring it all in, or down, or whatever is required? I never thought I expected or wanted someone to swoop in and save me, but perhaps I have… Perhaps I have been avoiding responsibility despite my attempts so far, subconsciously hoping for salvation to come from others, from someone applying balm to my wounds and doing the healing work. It’s so hard, so disorientating to remember how differently my brain can think in its different states. Usually, I don’t think I expect anyone will save me, although the urge to beg for this is there, of course. I do think, sometimes, that enough people caring about me could save me. Could make me feel safe, wanted enough. Buoyed. I guess that I ask too much, throw myself upon people too much. But then, sometimes I shut it all down too much… We return again… I don’t know how to ask. Enough, but not too much? While remaining authentic and genuine? What does that mean?
How is there meant to be an okay way to “learn better ways,” to learn new patterns? To learn the right things to say and not say? I guess I just cannot bear to have these limits and boundaries placed upon me; it feels like being boxed in. And every part of me is so raw. Am I meant to pare away parts of me and still love and accept who I am? How do I hold those two in balance? I feel like a ghoul, a jigsaw puzzle put together wrong — pieces jammed to fit. I see no resolution. I see shards of resolution. Fragments of improvements. Never a full picture. Never enough.
I try to trust my therapist. One day, there will be enough, she says. She assures. Steadfast. And maybe she’s right. I hold to this, dragging myself through another day. One day, I might have enough. One day, I might have people who see me and hear me and know me. Who don’t run. Who don’t leave. And then, I will have enough to keep me here.
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash