The Charade

There was a time when I could write entire worlds without an ounce of strain. I could convey my feelings in prose or weave words into scenes that would unfold in the reader’s mind like the soft petals of a rose in bloom. I took it all for granted. It was my gift and I used it to bide time instead of working to develop it. I wrapped myself up in other worlds because I’ve never been very good at living in this one.

I have always been waiting for a singular moment that promised to change the course of my life. My entire existence has been a waiting game; a prelude to a real life that was somehow always just outside of my reach. I was clinging onto the thinnest strand of hope in a future that never became real for me.

Mental illness is this elusive thing that so many people misrepresent, misunderstand, or misdiagnose. It’s gone from being stigmatized to being romanticized. It’s always the pretty girl whose mental illness lends an air of mystery to her character. She’s complicated but worth the effort. She may be crazy but she’s so beautiful inside and out that we can overlook the demons behind her big, lovely eyes.

Let me tell you the truth about mental illness.

There is nothing beautiful in it. There is nothing beautiful in me.

Mental illness has corroded my mind and stolen my ability to write or even have an attention span. Where once I spent hours in research, building worlds that were sturdy enough to send traveling strangers into, I now can’t even watch an episode of a television show without my racing thoughts preventing me from paying attention.

Mental illness has stripped me of every self-confidence. I can no longer decipher what is abusive or what is simply someone telling me the truth about myself. I am being ripped to shreds by someone who tells me they love me in one breath and then screams at me for crying in the next, tells me that mental illness isn’t an excuse to be who I am and that who I am is wrong. And I honestly lay in my bed for hours, unable to figure out if I’m really this selfish monster or if they are the monster. I don’t know, so I’m paralyzed. If I’m the monster, I can’t be angry at a loved one for telling me so.

Mental illness has left me feeling that my lot is merely to exist rather than to live. Where once I had dreams of traveling the world and experiencing beautiful things, I now feel that I am too grotesque to be a part of the world. I hide myself away, assured of how ugly I am – both inside and out. I am barely functioning day to day. Every small thing I have to do – shower, eat, walk – feels like the greatest trial.

Mental illness has convinced me that I am a burden. In my darkest moments, I can’t bear the thought of reaching out to a friend or family. No one ever knows what to say or do and it feels selfish to inconvenience them when I know nothing they say can soothe the suffering. I don’t want to infect them with my helplessness, because I know how horrible it feels. And in the times I have tried to reach out, it’s been so clear that they don’t want to deal with me in my darkness that I’ve recoiled even further into myself. It isn’t their fault. Being around someone who is broken is incredibly taxing. I don’t wish that on anyone.

Mental illness has prevented me from even being able to express what I’m feeling. Even when people urge me to talk about it, I can’t. I’m tongue-tied. I’m lost for words to explain the staggering emptiness inside of me. The inadequacies. The despair. The agony. I’ve lived a life of hiding my illness and now when even my therapist asks me to speak, I end up down-playing the depth of my suffering behind jokes and smiles.

Everything is an act. Every interaction is a carefully procured dance. I know that people can’t love me for who I really am. I am a harsh critic, a selfish attention-seeker, and a dark cloud on everyone’s sunny days. So, I put on a smile and I make a joke, and that is who people want around. But only for as long as I can keep up the charade.

I am so exhausted with this existence. I am so heavy and feel so broken. There’s no relief for it. I’m resigned to an existence of going through the motions necessary to keep my head just slightly above water, go to the events I’m obligated to and pretend to be normal, and know that I will never, ever be loved because I am a grotesque. I am unlovable. And if you think differently, it’s only because you haven’t really seen me. I’m locked up inside of myself, trapped with my own demons, and I have no where to go.

All of the dreams that I once clung to, the worlds I once loved and the future I once believed in – they are all dashed on the rocks of reality. The illusion falls away and I’m left with the truth.

This is all there is. And it isn’t enough. I am not enough.

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