Well, my picture isn’t loading, and when it does, I’m going to leave it where it sits just to help illustrate my point.
Imagine that you’re walking down a road you’re so familiar with, you can close your eyes and walk and not fear running into a single thing. And for years and years this road is predictable. One day, though, you feel a chill scuttle up your back, and you pause in the middle of the sidewalk and look around. The road looks familiar–or, at least, you know it should. You know it should look familiar. And it does, underneath your subconscious’ surface. But today the sky’s a little more grey than you noticed before. Rain drips in drizzly curtains, and you have no umbrella. The streetlamps flicker; no cars drive by; trees rattle more than usual; and the person you were walking with is up ahead of you, calling out like they can’t see what’s going on.
How did the houses suddenly have no lights in the windows? And when did that ivy grow along the doors like that? The birdsong died a while ago, and shouldn’t you have noticed it before this? Maybe you did, underneath, but you didn’t register the silence. And now your companion is calling out, head tilted, and you’re standing on the sidewalk unable to move or explain why things are so different, so intimidating, so big and grey and dead. And you have no possible way to logically describe the crawling agitation bubbling up under your skin, waiting to break out, to strike its nearest target. You want to cry. But you know if you start, the tears and the scuttling will only grow worse until you’re curled up in a ball and begging for everything to be returned to normal.
So you walk on. Your head swims in a feeling of unreality, which sets off another scuttle that says, “What if none of this is real?” Which makes you want to crawl into a shadowy pit and never come back out. And no one can understand the blank look on your face when you’re quieter than usual.
What they don’t understand is that you’re usually quiet, when you’re alone, but when you’re with other people you put up a shield. A front. A masque. So no one can look in and see the fractures in your logic, the cracks you try to avoid in your subconscious sidewalk, the adrenaline surging through your veins and heating your face and making the world ten times bigger than you know it is, underneath.
Unfortunately, everything that’s underneath–logic, good sense, the real you–has to battle to get out every day.
So you wear your masque that says, “I’m logical.” You put up the front telling the world, “I’m stable.” And you put up your shield so other people don’t eke their way in and make the introvert hiding behind extroverted tendencies intellectually dismember every single person you come into contact with.
Every ray of sunshine throws a cloud over your head. Every beam of bright light drives you back into your room where you can sit alone in the dark and feel safe. Every forced social interaction and fake smile chisels crack after crack in your sidewalk.
People tell you, “Be happy.” And you know you are, underneath. But everything underneath is battling.
People say, “It’s not that bad.” And you know that. Underneath. But logic has been slain by the manic principles driving you to hide.
People mutter, “You’re awfully grey today.” And you know it’s not true. Underneath. The world around you is sunny, but every ray of sunshine only feeds your thunderstorm. You’re not grey; your surface is.
Because underneath, the you that wants to come out can’t. Underneath, you’re fighting, and you want to run in the sunshine, dance in the grass barefoot, smile like you mean it and laugh from the sincere places in your chest and stomach and heart. You know there’s so much to do, and you know you can do it.
But climbing out from underneath is difficult.
Dispelling the grey thunderstorms of depression is arduous, every muscle aching in your lethargic hike up the Matterhorn, your blood molasses in your frozen veins.
Finding warmth in the cold scuttles of anxiety proves almost impossible, your nerves taut as violin strings and liable to snap at the slightest wrong pluck.
I know I can find sunshine. I know I’m logical. And I know I love to be with my family and friends more than anything else in the world. But sometimes I need help digging into the underneath. Sometimes I need help remembering the sunshine. A touch of golden light–be it sunbeam or someone to simply listen–can help more than a group of people trying to find the underneath.
Don’t say someone is grey today, or identify an illogical argument. Their hands are reaching up through the underneath, and they don’t need you to point that out. They need you to be the first to wield the shovel. Because underneath, when you’re compressed by depression and anxiety, you don’t have much arm room. And sometimes the first shovelful is the one that counts.