They warned me, so I proceeded with caution. But ultimately, I underestimated Its power, never foresaw Its tenacious grip on my soul. I soon realized that I was alone, and the echoes in the hollow chamber of my mind became loud and inescapable. There was no ray of sun at the end, only Its fluorescent bulb emitting false beams of light. Those fluorescent lights drive you crazy. I’ve learned that nurses took LSD to try to understand what it’s like to be schizophrenic and realized there’s nothing more terrifyingly unpleasant than spending your days in a place where all you have to light your way is those damn fluorescent lights.
A few things made my experiene particularly. First, I’m a girl. Its presence in my life became a burden when I had so few people who knew what it was like to carry something so heavy on narrow shoulders. Men fare better—their voices louder, their paths more worn, their expectations simpler. People tend to shun you when you’re a woman with a hardened smile. So even when It was digging into my bones as I carried It around I had to soften my face to keep people around me. And girls all know when one of us isn’t adjusting well, so most know better than to seek It out. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle, leaving the rest, the ones who are more daring, or simply unaware, to bear those burdens alone.
Second, I’ve always been a thinker. I used to keep myself up at night as a young girl thinking heavy thoughts. I was seven when I contemplated the end of the world. The idea of infinity terrified me. It still does. I would break into a cold sweat and take my pillow to my parents’ room and make up a lie about a stomachache and beg to sleep in their bed. Hearing their deep, slow breathing as they fell back asleep gave me something else to think about. I internalized all my inexplicable fears, until they festered and fermented and became the moldy mound that almost killed me not so long ago.
And when they call you “smart” you can’t help but believe that this is it. All that you think and do is correct, and the rest are blind. The ones plagued with this darkness are the ones with the impeccable vocabularies and above-average test scores. Anti-intellectual society knocked us down at the same time that it imbued us with our arrogance. So we go on for a while, thinking we have the truth. Some are so convinced in this darkness, so trusting of ourselves and distrusting of the rest that we leave. Violently, quietly, bloodlessly or dramatically. I was almost one of them.
Mine is a story with a relatively happy ending. Sometimes It comes back and Its darkness and fluorescent lighting blind me. But I think back to my seven-year-old anxious self and realize that so much of this darkness is biology, neurology, physiology. I can’t shake It off, but now I can put It in a bottle and watch It try to get out. These days I see beauty in almost everything and when I am occasionally terrorized by the fear that escapes words, I try to take solace in loneliness and acknowledge that sometime soon the darkness will subside.
But I must ascertain, even if for myself, that I am not lonely. Even if it seems like language escapes the Knowledge, some of us, the more fortunate ones who have kept our head above Its waters must not be afraid to try to paint with broad brush strokes and the few colors we have. I hope these words quietly resonate within the walls your own hollowed mind, that they cloak you so that can get by with the fluorescent lighting just long enough. There’s a secret to be revealed slowly, gradually, but certainly.
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