Upon graduation, each senior must write and deliver a speech on a given topic. This year’s was growth. After many years of suffering in silence, I decided to share a piece of my pain- my story. I ended up being a finalist and delivering it to my entire community. When I got up there, I looked around the room, seeing all of the people from whom I had been hiding my true self. In that moment… I felt free.
Why is it so hard to say what I want to say? I have so much to say- constantly. And yet, here, now, I don’t really want to say anything. You see, I have trouble articulating what I am thinking. I can write it, but when it comes down to actually saying it, the words just don’t sound right. Maybe because I’m only used to saying it to myself. Maybe I should just talk to myself. Speak to me.
Well Racheli, when you were about 12 years old, you started to become very bored pretty often, and I guess that’s typical for a 12-year-old, but you had a pretty atypical imagination that could usually figure out what to do when you had nothing else going on. It was like a wildfire because once it started, it would grow and grow until it would be almost impossible to put out. But, all of a sudden, it just didn’t seem to light anymore. And this feeling, this emptiness, persisted for about a year without you really understanding it. It was nothing like you had experienced before. I mean, you had experienced boredom before, but this boredom- this lack of fire- began to consume your very existence. And being 12, you didn’t know what to make of it.
I remember your Bat-Mitzvah. How you looked around the room. How you realized that something was not quite right. Something was missing. I remember it being one of the loneliest moments of your life. Seeing everybody smile and laugh and you did too- except, not really. You weren’t actually smiling and laughing. It was just a mask. Well, one day you had this horrible epiphany that- till this day- you’re not so sure how you’d come about it. Your realization was that this was not boredom, well at least not all boredom. It was depression. You were suffering from depression. You felt lost and trapped and you didn’t know what to do.
So you wrote. You wrote your pain. You wrote your suffering. You wrote everything because you knew that this was going to be the only way- the only healthy way, that is- to cope with this feeling. And what was that feeling? Well, it was the feeling of nothing. The feeling of being numb to the point where the numbness hurt. Like a black hole centered in your heart. It doesn’t really make sense. But in those moments, it was the only thing that made sense to you.
But you had to move on–as impossible as that seemed. You had to do the things that were expected of you–as frustrating as that seemed. You had to go to school. And you did. Most of the time. And you smiled. And you laughed. Wow, how you laughed so much. If you were to ask anyone who interacted with you, they would have said you had a smile on your face. That everything made you laugh. Because it did. Because it had to… for you to survive.
But you really didn’t make anything of your writing. Because it was not for pleasure; it was for survival. You wrote words and sentences that you did not quite understand- but that didn’t matter because you knew how they felt. How they felt to you. And as you would finish writing, a part of your numbness, your emptiness, subsided.
Answering My Questions
You did something odd: you never looked back at what you wrote. Why Racheli? Why did you just move on? Why did you just ‘x’ out of the doc and close your computer? Tell me. Tell me why.
“Well, because I learned that looking back never did any good. Because I learned that things happen, and we must move on. Because I learned that there is no value in dwelling in the past and the future is the only thing that matters. Because-”
Stop! Racheli, why are you lying? That is not the truth, is it?
“I know. It’s not. It’s just- it’s just because I learned that it hurts to remember. Everything hurts. I learned to be afraid of my feelings- that they were wrong. I learned that acknowledging how I feel only leads to more pain. More shame.”
So? Is that it?
“No, I was afraid of my feelings because it meant that I had them. And that’s the scariest thing, isn’t it? Feeling.”
And it was. Feeling, for you, was scary.
Digging for Acceptance
Over time, it just got scarier. You didn’t think you could handle it. You weren’t sure you could make it. You were broken. And you didn’t know if you could be fixed.
But Racheli, the problem wasn’t about being broken or about being fixed. It was about understanding; it was about accepting yourself and the things that were happening to you. But you didn’t know that then- you were too consumed with trying to fix what was broken to realize that you weren’t broken. Sure, you had a few scratches and bruises, but you were not broken. You had just fallen and were struggling to stand up.
And you got up. No, you didn’t jump up right away, and it took everything you had and many helping hands-but you got up.
Not because everything was okay and nothing was wrong anymore. But because you had grown. You had mentally grown. You had finally come to the understanding that, unfortunately, no one is meant to be invincible and that it’s okay to suffer sometimes. Obviously, it’s not ideal, and depression is not fun, but it’s okay to not feel. And… it’s okay to feel.
A few months ago, the dreaded numbness resurfaced and all you wanted to do was feel. So you opened up all those poems-all those sentences-and drowned yourself in your own words. And you cried and you laughed because you realized that you had not been writing just to survive. You had been writing to live, to breathe. Your writings were oxygen to your lungs and you weren’t just writing to cope- you were writing because you loved to. It wasn’t an obligation- no, it was an opportunity– an opportunity to make your pain beautiful.
That’s what it was: beautified pain.
It was the most real thing you have ever felt. The most honest you had ever been was in your poetry and writings. You realized that you understood yourself more than anyone would ever understand you. And that was okay. The realization didn’t hurt. It didn’t trigger your depression. It was, in a way, comforting. Because you always have yourself. You would always be understood, no matter who entered or left your life.
Racheli, from all the things you have been through, you realized the most important thing, at least for you, is that you will trip. And you will fall. And… you will get up.
I will get up.