I was a very sensitive, tender-hearted child who had a lot of empathy and compassion, even at a very young age. I intuitively understood emotional pain, vulnerability, sadness. I hurt when others hurt. I was gentle and sweet. Loved animals, realizing they needed someone to look after them and to protect them. Sounds like I was an angel, right? Well, not quite. But I had some great qualities for a kid. I was actually a pretty good kid when I was small. Not a trouble-maker, not then. Not until high school. I wanted to please, longed to cuddle, wanted to be loved.
Then my parents got a hold of me.
They didn’t succeed in removing my compassionate and empathetic soul. But I pulled inside and built massive protective walls to keep them from utterly destroying me. I became very watchful. Even more sensitive…I had my antennas out in full force, always seeking to “hear” what wasn’t being said and to know and understand what was hidden. Yes, I became watchful…and silent. My goal was to be invisible. For protection.
Things touched me deeply. I believe I had that natural tendency anyway, but being abused and neglected dug deep canyons and I seemed to experience and feel things on a level that most people either don’t have or rarely access. I remember crying frequently. At night, in bed, trying to go to sleep, I would bury my head in a pillow and sob. I lived in a nightmare filled with darkness and pain. But I had to act like everything was totally fine and as if I was not a damaged person who was being damaged more by the second. I learned to mimic the behavior and speech of others in my attempt to fit in and go unnoticed. But at night, alone in my room, the tears often came. I tried to suppress the searing pain that drove deep into my heart. Pushed it down. Sealed it off. Until I could finally sleep.
Until HE would come into my room. Then I became stone again.
But as a child, even in this quagmire, I still felt. I still cried. I still had access to my emotions. They came out when there was no one around to notice.
Sometimes, I cried at silly things because they were more “acceptable.” I couldn’t, after all, cry about what my father was doing to me. Or my mother hitting me. That wasn’t allowed. But the commercial where the repairman was cleaning out his locker because he was retiring? My heart suddenly broke for him! It was safe to cry, even if it was a bit over the top. Bidding the old year goodbye and welcoming in the New Year? The old year was gone forever…and I couldn’t stop the tears! I also remember being late for school one day and getting in trouble for it. But when I had left the house that morning, intending to be my usual early self, I had stopped by to see my dog and pet her for a few minutes before I left. Her big chocolate eyes tugged at my heart. She longed for attention. Needed me. Needed to be held, petted, loved. I wept as I petted her…for over an hour. Even then, even that young, in grade school, I was learning to displace my emotions. But I was still able to let them out…though they were not attached to the events that caused the tears to fall.
My heart broke into a million pieces a million times. Eventually, I was unable to pick them all up and stuff them back in to my soul. All those pieces were like dust blowing in the wind. I mourned their loss. I became a little more detached. I kept walking.
Now, instead of trying to stuff the feelings inside of me, I’m trying to drag them out. I can’t cry. Even when I should be able to sob, the tears don’t often come. Those few degrees of displacement have widened to a canyon of incredible proportions. I can no longer reach across. Or even see across. The trip takes days. The connection, the bridge, is lost, destroyed. My heart feels hard. My eyes stay dry.
I still feel a spasm. So I’m aware that things hurt. But the sensations are instantly numbed, compartmentalized, boxed up and deployed to the nether regions. They are swiftly shoved down into the darkness and buried there. I know I still have emotions. But like creatures of the sea that never come into the shallower waters, so are my feelings. They swim in the deepest depths of my being. They no longer have pigment because they have been in the darkness for so long. It makes them nearly impossible to see. They live, but far, far down within me, deep in a place where nothing much else survives.
I wish I could restore the connection. I wish I could tell my younger self to stop the process of severing the nerves so the damage would never happen. Because trying to put those fragile connections back together is nearly, if not totally, impossible. I would tell her not to go that route. To find another way. Surely, there was a better way. One that would leave me alive.
You see, what I didn’t know, didn’t understand back then when I was a child, nerves, once severed, are not easily reconnected. Healing doesn’t just happen. If you’re lucky enough that it happens at all, it takes a massive amount of work. A boatload of energy. A century of time. And you will never be the same.
I want to feel. I want to be able to cry when tears are called for. I want to love and be loved. I want to live. I want to dance with joy and weep with despair. I want to laugh hysterically and sob uncontrollably. I want to be genuine, uncontrolled, uncontained, uncensored. I want to be healed, to cast off the darkness, the depression, the chains, the brokenness. I want to have hope and a future. I want the impossible to be possible. I don’t want to live my life with dry eyes and a frozen heart. Because for once, just for a bit, I want to really live my life.
I sit reading the words I have written as they play across my computer screen. I am, as always, alone. I find myself searching for some emotion, any feeling, to sweep through me, if only for a second. But I am a desert, arid, without moisture, without wind. And my eyes remain absolutely, resolutely, dry.
I have a lot of crying to do to catch up. I have many tears that need to be shed. Perhaps someday I will be able to weep. Then, maybe, at last, I will be able to dance in the sunshine…even if my heart is broken.