I’m not sure if I was ever a real person. Maybe there was a time, a very long time ago, when I was fairly whole, real, integrated. But for most of my life, as far back as I can remember, I have been nothing more than a shell. Shells are interesting. They exist to protect whatever lives inside them. But when that being dies, the shell doesn’t disintegrate. It continues on, though void of life within. With no life force inside, it is washed helplessly by the tide and worn down by constant forces, no longer in control of its destiny. But it doesn’t cease to exist. It endures. I am a shell. When I was a child, I think I had a heartbeat. I think my soul had life. I seem to recall that my curiosity bloomed, my enthusiasm occasionally bubbled over and I experienced moments of spontaneity. I remember loving to run because I reveled in the wind I created. I pushed myself to go faster…ever faster…for the sheer joy of it. I jumped and climbed and played and laughed and explored endlessly. Well…endlessly until I died inside. Until all the life and joy and excitement was prematurely drained from me. Until the abuse began. When I became a shell. Since then, since that time when the life inside of me was sucked away, this outer husk has marched steadily onward through life with nary a hint of a pulse. I tried so hard to keep myself alive, but my efforts were unsuccessful. In part, my defense mechanisms probably contributed to my demise, even as they allowed this small, hard, casing to survive. The outer layer protected a very miniscule piece of me that managed to soldier on, in spite of the massive damage and mortal wounds. It now encases my bloody corpse. Unfortunately, life as a shell is truly not living life at all. It is existing. My soul does not dance. My heart does not expand or rejoice. I hunker down within myself fearfully, hoping to weather life’s storms, praying that the worst will pass me by. I feel pelted and pulled and pushed and crushed by the daily demands of life. I can’t manage additional damage. The destructive, painful disintegration of my being which I’ve already experienced is far too overwhelming. I haven’t begun to recover. Another wave of disastrous or stressful events will surely be my total undoing. Shells can only protect you from so much. They too have a breaking point. A shell hides the emptiness it contains. It protects, but it also masks. You can look at a shell and think all is well because the shell can be rather beautiful in appearance. It is created to deceive. To portray invincibility. Strength. But in reality, that which lives inside it is weak and vulnerable. And once it dies, the shell has no purpose. It continues, but without meaning. Going through life as a shell is not easy. You exist, but you are dead. Everything takes effort. You have no legs on which to stand. The forces of the world carry you where they may and you are relatively powerless to fight them. You are empty, alone, hollow. Even the smallest things that others take in stride are difficult. Being a shell is depressing. There is so much shame over not being whole, not being normal. Over being so deficient. The shell helps you hide your messy dead remains, but always hiding from others is tiring and hurtful. It is isolating. The emptiness within is devastating. I am an empty, lost, lonely shell. The tide washes me where it will. Bruised and bashed, I try to maneuver to safer, softer surroundings. I am fearful. It is very dark within my protective covering. It is suffocating. Always, always, I wonder, how much longer can I keep going? How much longer before I am smashed and ground into sand? When the shell fails, what little there is left of me will quietly cease to be. Perhaps, just perhaps, it may be that this would be a very…good…thing.