by Jules Ochoa
I entered an emergency therapy session, lacking all sense of emotional modesty. Instead of articulating recent trauma, I delivered the heaviness of my internal experience between labored sobs. Bearing a sense of taint, a rot inside that I couldn’t contain. Feeling stunted, like I would never measure up. Wandering through a world my soul fled from a long time ago, only pretending to exist in the reality where others live. Combatting the sensation of soul deformity, through perfection of healthy routine. Prying myself out of bed feeling more tired than the night before, each day failing to meet my own expectations. Choking down my own existence, like a piece of badly cooked meat at a polite dinner party. The deeper my dedication, the deeper the stink of defectiveness sprawled. As my inner turmoil raged, I grew more complacent, disengaging from relationships, abandoning my groups and social media accounts, until I was left drowning in the deafening silence of my own hush. I found convalescence in the distraction of drunkenness, only to wake feeling more desolate than the night before. Each dance with booze bolstering my sense of failure and depravity.
Like an unweighted corpse, the thought of my mother’s recent actions rose to the surface. “How do you reach such emotional anguish that you are willing to douse yourself in gasoline and light yourself on fire?,” I asked. My therapist squared eyes with me and in solitude she said, “Through isolation… Just like any other act of suicide.” My breath was swept away. I stuttered to speak. Tears erupted from a space deep within me, as I began to grasp the seriousness of my own state of mind. With the intention of bypassing mental illness and addiction where my mother had firmly planted her feet, I had fastened myself into the same putrid landscape. Painted myself into the psychic cage of suffering and silence that my mother failed to escape. A merry-go-round of trauma, anxiety, depression, and self-deprecation.
I broke my silence that night. Leaving behind the need to fulfill the expectation of emotional monotony, as a measure of grounded-ness and spiritual strength. I leaked the staggering trend of calamity that seemed to plague my existence. I shared the elaborate façade of unshakable indifference that hid the iced over sting of rejection. The fictitious positivity deflecting the darkness of the casualties of a wedding, a job, the faith in a parent, and the life of a child held dear. The loss of trust in myself to be worthy of love, and the loss of trust in others, to accept me as I am. I shared my recognition that by exiling my own vulnerability, I had sacrificed my capacity to exist authentically. I was both validated and devastated, to learn just how many are grappling with the same feelings of abnormality. In my resolve, I was astounded to find myself not in desolation, but quietly sinking just an arm’s length from my neighbor. All I had to do was speak.