The Phantom Menace
For a while there, life seemed pretty perfect.
I say ‘seemed’ on purpose. Because in retrospect, I am not sure if it was and I hope to explain how.
But it was a good life- I had a cozy home, people I called family, independence, work I enjoyed… I had friends who I had lovingly, slowly and painstakingly adopted as my own. I remember all the times I wished the nights won’t end… or just sitting on my balcony, feeling really, really grateful for all that I had.
Until slowly, the shadow, it started to creep in.
Wherever I went, there I was. And my shadow. Making me feel increasingly lonely and hollow. That nagging feeling that something was missing, that I wasn’t home- that at every given point- I was meant to be somewhere else, started to creep in. Slowly but surely.
It got worse at parties. The noise, the people… the conversations that never scratched below the surface, began to tire me. Not in a way that I needed a yoga class, but in a way I couldn’t bear it. These were all lovely people. People I truly loved. People I had replaced my family with for almost 4 years now. Yet. Somehow even when I tried reaching out- it was almost like they couldn’t. The distances we all were at, in actuality, started to become unbearably clear.
I remember picking a friend from her office (easy to guess which one, only one girl did go to office) – in sheer panic, took her to a coffee shop and said, listen to me…
“I feel hollow. I feel empty. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. Can nobody see it? I don’t think I can survive it much longer.” She looked at me with the calm of the cappuccino in front of her and said, “its ok. You’ll be fine. It’s how we all feel.”
I believed her, even though it didn’t help me feel any better. Over the course of the next six months, I reached out to plenty of other people- near and far- from “it will be ok…”… or you just need to have an affair… or to I can’t help you… or no reply at all…. Needless to say- nothing seemed to help the dissonance.
I don’t blame any of them. They couldn’t help me if they tried- it wasn’t their disease to diagnose or heal. I know now, this was my fight- my journey and only I needed to hear the call and walk the path. Not to say mine is a hero story- but hey- we don’t know yet.
I decided to make the music louder- to drown the noise within. Buried myself in more work than I could handle (but obviously there is no such thing). I worked out- five times a week. I went and got my hair changed. I started doing yoga. I invited more people- went out more- but turns out I was really only accelerating my fall into the rabbit hole.
Everything made me feel worse. The hair- that I was now changing every 3 weeks- made me increasingly unhappy. Until one day I went and chopped it off (sorry some clichés are forever). No matter how much I worked out- I did not like the way my body looked. No matter how much I danced, I always felt sad the party was ending and I now had to go back to my room and be with the noise in my head. No matter how hard I worked, I wasn’t happy with where I was getting.
And then slowly it all began to crumble. I lost friendships I valued. I quit the work I had now invested two years in. I started turning down invites. I didn’t like watching the shows I loved or going to the cinema. I forgot how to put on makeup (sounds like a gross exaggeration, it’s not- I remember asking myself why I stopped wearing kajal. When did I stop caring about how I felt, and more about how I looked?). I no longer knew what kind of clothes defined me. I didn’t enjoy wearing or buying clothes anymore- like I used to. I stopped having desserts. I stopped visit my folks back home. I stopped cooking. I stopped looking forward to things. Slowly, every little joy crept out of my life. I no longer knew the person I had become.
(Let me reiterate at this point- I blame no one- only myself for this predicament I was in; an answer I have received after a long time- story for another time.)
Until one day, taking the popular elitist advice of going for a holiday to fix just about anything- I found myself in a beautiful place- far from where I was- hoping to catch a break but as soon as there was no noise, no distraction, my brain snapped. The shadow took over.
I remember standing on the balcony at night and contemplating jumping. Standing there for five minutes, crying, wondering if this is how I can shut out the noise within.
I scared myself that night.
I did not know what was wrong- I tried making one story or the other- for it to make sense to the world and me. Not all false- but not the entire truth either. Was it a disease? Did I need medication? Therapy? Was there something wrong with my marriage? Were my daddy issues slowly creeping in? What it was- I did not know. With certainty. I knew one thing only-
I will not jump down that balcony. I had to save myself. I had to do it for myself, by myself. At the cost of just about anything.
P.s. We come to Month 0