There was no horrific event, no jarring trauma. But one day during her teenage years she woke up and discovered she was a totally different her. The new her was no longer full of light, or love. She no longer housed any cheer or warmth or joy. For a while, she thought her old self had been replaced and she had been filled with hate and gloom and darkness but eventually she realized that her old self had just disappeared and now she was actually just full of nothing. Her insides were empty. She was a void occupying the skin that the old her used to live in.
No one knew she wasn’t in there anymore. For a long time, she couldn’t believe nobody noticed. After all, almost all of her volume, her substance, was gone. She was hollow in the places where she used to be solid. I suppose she can’t blame them for not noticing. After all, people typically only notice each other’s outlines. Our innards beneath the surface are pretty well hidden.
She certainly noticed, even if no one else did. It’s pretty worrisome when your insides have disappeared. She kept patting herself, pressing gently to see if there was some resistance underneath. Some sign that herself had miraculously returned. But every time she pressed, her fingers just sank in. There was nothing of substance that pushed back. She was an empty shell. Every once in a while, she worried about someone poking her too hard, or tripping and tumbling onto something sharp, either of which could have ruptured her completely.
For the most part, though, she stopped caring if she ruptured completely since she knew there was nothing inside to save anyway. She wasn’t even in there. She was gone.
Sometimes she thought of just gashing her skin to bits, allowing any minuscule flecks of herself that were left inside to escape. Maybe there’d be a bit of release in that feeling, or if not release at least a reduction of strain. It was exhausting to stand up straight and walk and talk and give the general impression that she was still a whole person, when she didn’t even have any bones or muscles or thoughts or feelings.
Somehow, she existed like this for twenty years.
Every single day, for twenty years in a row, she thought about ending it all. And she used the word “all” lightly, because she knew she was nothing more than a sack of skin. It would mean nothing to this world to lose the nothing that she was.
Sometimes the Horrible Thought was a fleeting one that came after a thought about what to eat for dinner or before a thought about what was on her calendar the next day. Sometimes the thought was lengthier, and she contemplated the Horrible Thought as she sat in the garage with the car on, but the door still open.
Once she became a mother she knew she couldn’t be a good one with no insides. A good mama needs working parts. Or at least needs parts. Vacuous sacks of skin cannot raise children. Even though she hadn’t ever given up on finding the internal her that used to exist, she now searched for it harder than ever. She was able to locate a small fraction of herself through yoga and running and diet changes, but that still left mostly emptiness inside where her old self used to be.
Sometimes she felt confused and frustrated about this. To herself she asked, Why am I so empty? Where the hell did the rest of me go? Why can’t I find me? Am I gone forever? Mostly though, she figured that her confusion and frustrations weren’t really valid. She figured, I’m just being dramatic. I’m sure everyone feels like this, they just don’t admit it. I just need to suck it up.
Finally. Begrudgingly. She told a doctor how she felt. She didn’t think it would help, but she knew she owed it to her children to at least give it a shot. She initially resisted filling herself up with the meds that she had been prescribed. She wanted to fill herself up with her, after all, She belonged inside her skin, not some pharmaceutically manufactured impostor.
Truth be told, she was a bit afraid of taking the meds. She was afraid they’d turn her into more of a zombie than she already was, afraid they’d make her feel dizzy or sick. That’s what she told the doctor, anyway. Way deep down, she was afraid that they wouldn’t work. That maybe everything really was fine and she just really did just need to suck it up. She was also afraid that they would work, but then someday stop working. She’d read somewhere that meds for depression can lose their effect after taking them for a while. Then what would she do? After all of these years of lacking a substantive center, the thought of finding her core and then having it go missing again was almost too much to contemplate dealing with.
In the end, she decided that she had already been missing for quite a long time, so even if she only found herself for a short amount of time, it would be wise to take what she could get. She started filling herself up with her meds.
The other day she leaned over the kitchen counter to reach something and she noticed that the counter didn’t threaten to push through her skin and out the other side. She felt something inside her push back. She leaned back and then slowly leaned forward again, paying attention to the way the counter felt as she applied more pressure. She felt it again. Resistance.
She thought about it and realized that she hadn’t had the Horrible Thought in a long time. Long enough ago that she couldn’t remember when.
She thinks, after all this time, she might be back inside her old skin again.