I discovered this quote hiding in The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a book I lost myself in completely;
“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.” Francois De La Rouchefoucauld
In the middle of my twenties I had a complete breakdown. I say ‘the middle’ because the memory of it now is in montage. It broke me down so much that, at the time, I was just fragments of a person. Little tiny pieces struggling to survive. Often failing. And in order for me to even remember what it was like I have to reach out and grab those little pieces, often painfully, and pull them back. Some now feel familiar but others are still often so far out of reach, so apologies because this is not, and maybe never could be, the whole story.
But I remember the panic attacks. I remember them gripping hold of my heart and taking over my entire body; feeling sick, stiff legs, failing to breathe, head rushing as I screamed and cried uncontrollably. Uncontrollably. I also remember the near sense of relief when it was over. I could breathe. I could sleep.
And then the guilt. And the fear.
A cycle that I felt powerless to break. But that didn’t stop me trying. Smashing away at myself in whatever way I could. Self medication. Self criticism. Self loathing. Self punishment.
I learnt to survive by shutting down parts of me. I say survive but I wasn’t really. I played pretend. I learnt to be whoever you wanted to me to be. Whoever I thought you wanted me to be. Making the rules up as I went but sticking to them as if scripture, I became somebody else. Lots and lots of somebodies. So many that I lost myself in the crowd.
I listened to each one of those people. Some of their advice I followed. Some of their thoughts I lived by. Some of them I fought with. Some of them I struggled to silence. But I was never sure who to trust; who held my heart?
Silence. Silence helped. I stopped. I slept. I shut myself away. I slowed down. I listened. I forgave.
I have no solution. But this was the start …