This is not a cry for help. This is not my convoluted way of revealing some ungodly secret. This is not anything of importance, just a letter. A letter discussing the things I carry, the things that wander, in my head. This is just a sort of way to purge my conscience. Things always seem to get more complicated the more I try to explain so let’s just start.
“What’s wrong?”, my brother had asked, turning to see me stopped, sitting on a lumpy rock, no longer walking next to him. “There’s something in my shoe,” I mumbled, as I stuck my hand down into my green Nikes, “I don’t what it is but it’s bugging the heck out of me.” My brother plopped down next to me to wait. Finally, I gave up my blind and fruitless search, yanking the shoe off completely; flipping it over and gave it a good hard shake. Out tumbled a single, pale pebble, not even half the size of my pinky nail. “That’s it?” my brother laughed, judging the puniness of my troubles. I, myself, was equally amazed and disappointed. Such size should not be equivalent to such annoyance. It’s a weird feeling, if you think about it, when you realize how our problems seem so overwhelmingly huge, so dastardly, so utterly incomprehensible, but then you empty your shoe to find that it was just the tiniest pebble. It’s not stabbing your foot. It doesn’t inhibit your walking. But it’s so much worse. It’s just that persistent and unwavering annoyance right where it hurts; that constant reminder that something isn’t right with your life. It supposed to just be some pebble in your shoe, but it feels more like a mountain in your head.
It usually happens late at night. When the buzz of the day has dimmed and darkness seeps into the sky and into my skin. Though the world is falling asleep, I am very awake. I curl deeper into the sheets, twisting myself into warmth and comfort, trying to ignore the noise in my head. But like death and taxes, the buzz, the sound of my mind clicking into hyperdrive-overthinking mode, was inevitable. I’m sinking into my thoughts, like quicksand, and I no longer fight it. You can’t run from your head. You can’t pretend it’s not there. So I let myself fall through, and I land at an end of a long, dim corridor. Walls are lined edge to edge with doors, each different in color and size and style. Light clawing out from beneath the frames. Behind each there lay hidden pieces of my life, miniature monsters I’ve chosen to lock up in hopes they’d wither away and disappear. But these demons, these blackened, dark memories, have resolutely remained fresh and alive no matter how hard I try. It’s a hallway of horrors. They lurk behind doors and in the deep shadows. Never into the light, but always there. For the sake of this letter, we’re going to open some doors, air out some rooms, and let some monsters run loose.
The door is small, barely four feet tall. Just big enough for a child. On it’s front are the peeling remnants of once bright and colorful paint. Open it and I’m back in the elementary school talent show, the gymnasium floor lines with rows of with bored kids, eyes trained on a girl seated before a piano that had traveled all the way fromt the music room down the hall to be there. Yet there was no music coming from the stage. The air was stale. The girl had froze. Completely. Her mind and hands were no longer in communication. The music book before her was written in a foreign language, the lights were blindingly bright, the temperature had leapt up thirty some degrees. Panic bubbled like boiling water in her throat. Her breathing shallow, her mind blank, her heart shattered.
Another door, it’s handle loose from being pulled on so often, hides a dream I had. I’m in the middle of a busy school hallway. Streams of teens rushing past me on my left and right. I’m stuck in the middle. People’s shoulders strike my own and I stumble back and back and back. I want to move my feet, to dodge the incoming people, but my feet are lead and my legs no longer in communication with my brain. I look around, desperate for help, but all I see is a never ending sea of eyes, pairs upon pairs of cold eyes, punching holes into my skull. I feel them ignoring my pleas, like my presence doesn’t even exist to them. I hear them shooting poisonous whispers of harsh judgement among open, eager ears. Critical glares are hurled at me, insults crash and collide with me, leaving dark bruises and wide gashes in their wake. I can do nothing to move out of the way. I see people distancing themselves from me. I see people pretending to like me simply out of pity. I see people laughing, teasing, making fun of the girl stuck in the middle of the hallway. I scream for help. I claw at the ground. I do everything in my power to escape the insecurity, the feeling of being judged and unliked by all, but I remain steadfastly stuck to the floor. I lurch awake, and it reminds me that it was all in my head, but the sickly feeling of the dream remains.
Pull open another, it’s surface completely blackened and burned but the doorknob is cold to the touch. It isn’t a memory. It’s the feeling of failure after failure after failure. Of always being behind; always trying to catch up; never being able to. Like your lungs have collapsed in and your body is shutting down. That you’re scrabbling for a foothold but the very floor has vanished and you’re falling, falling, falling. There’s the looks of utter disappointment from the people that matter the most. Excuses used to try and soften the blow of bad news. Faces hardened; shoulders cold. Angry, desperate interrogation. The hollow sensation of hopelessness. Tears scorching lines down a face. It’s so full of clear emotion, emotions so vivid and raw that I can still feel their echo in my hands, but the visual is a choppy, mismatched video. It’s all disconnected, the thoughts are jumbled and inconsistent, but the feeling, that searing pain right in the center of your chest, has left an irremovable mark.
There’s a huge steel door at the end of the hall, “DANGER. FEARS INSIDE. DO NOT OPEN. FEARS ARE CRIPPLING AND IRRATIONAL.” spray painted in yellow. You don’t need to open the door; you can feel what’s hiding behind it from three feet away. Like waves of smoke, the fears leak out from the edges. Contaminating the air, constricting your throat, making your stomach clench. Your body feels too hot and too cold and too numb. Your mind grows fuzzy and unsure. Everything sways. The fears come in all different sizes. From something as small as the papercuts that make you cringe all the way to the thought of lying on your deathbed, realizing that your entire life was a waste, your whole existence had nothing to show for it. The fears vary in depth. Shallow social anxiety sits right alongside the crippling lifetime fear of disappointing my family. They come in all different colors. Blue, somber fears of dying alone and loveless. Red hot fears of angry confrontation and broken dreams. White, blanketing, bleak fears of failure. They follow me around, like a massive parade of everything I dread in life. They’re tapping at my shoulders, reminding me they’re right on my heels. Taking buckets of panic and terror and filling me up to the very top. Snapping at my ankles, tripping me up, making me crash to the ground all for the sake of their enjoyment. I want them to leave. I don’t want their shadows on my back. I want them scared of me. But how do you scare away the things that scare you the most?
So what. Why am I telling you all this? Why am I reliving some of the worst moments of my life with you? Why am I telling you about these nasty, scary things that I carry around? The truth is that this letter is more therapeutic for myself than it will be informative to you. I wrote this letter to try and gain some semblance of control over my life. To try and get the pebble out of my shoe for good. However, there is a reason I sent this specifically to you. It’s because even though I’ve lived through tough times and moments of anguish and there were days where I felt like I’d never know what I was meant to do, you have been able to, miraculously, make it all fade. I’m with you and it’s like things make more sense. I can think more clearly. My head doesn’t feel so murky and the things I carry don’t seem so heavy. Maybe it’s because you give me much better things to think about; like the perfect distraction. It could just be that you carry as much darkness with you as myself and I find comfort in our universal baggage. Or maybe it makes me feel useful when you put your own burdens on me. Perhaps it’s because you make the pebble in my shoe seem so much smaller. Maybe you give me a chance. A purpose. Something that is more wonderful and bright than my past is dark and stormy. I don’t understand how you do it but you’ve lifted weight off me that I never thought could be moved. You took that awful pebble out of my shoe and tucked it into your pocket, far away from me and far away from my conscience. This letter probably makes no sense and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get my point across properly, but just know that the darkness of my life, past present and future, have been made better because of you. I’m no longer scared of the things I carry. I know you’ll help me carry them too.