• Victoria Chwa

Reflection: The Dark Place

I am afraid of feeling.

Or, should I say, I am afraid of speaking about feeling. My mind churns inside itself and I get a sort of never-ending nausea that keeps me awake at night.

I admire those who have people in their lives with whom they can confide in. These are people they can tell everything and anything to, even their deepest, darkest feelings, because they need a moment away from reality and don’t have anyone else to go to.

Over the years, I have learnt to love the feeling of loneliness, perhaps simply because I don’t have any other choice. At least mentally, I am alone. I feel alone. And I have been reflecting on this love for loneliness I have been saying I have. I think maybe I don’t really have that preference for loneliness I thought I did. I’m just used to it, so bottling things up is second nature to me now. This is probably also why self-disclosure and commitment in relationships feel uncomfortable and unnatural to me.

When I say I have no one to talk to, I really have no one to talk to, and it isn’t because I’m an anti-social hermit crab (although part of that might be true). The people around me are wonderful and I am relatively certain that they are willing to support me. When I say I don’t have anyone to talk to, I mean that there is no one in my life that I feel comfortable opening up to. The problem lies in my self.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because every time I try to share my honest feelings with people close to me, they reply me with condescending statements or ‘apologies’ that make it sound like I am blaming them for my feelings. You know, things like “I’m sorry for trying”. It is like I am wrong for sharing what I feel and for feeling the way I do. I feel guilty every time. I realised that, because of this guilt, I have been convincing myself that it’s my fault for feeling the way I do. I feel like I wronged myself, wronged others and dragged them into the same dark place I am in.

I was brought up on two core values — honesty and respect. Now that I am reflecting, I feel I always have to treat others with those values but I don’t deserve to be treated the same way.

You know, maybe it’s true, and it makes logical sense too. It’s my feelings so it is my business to take care of. It is my fault.

Here’s the thing — It isn’t easy for me to share my feelings because I am deathly introverted. I don’t want to be predictable. My life isn’t an open book and I’d like to keep it that way. But every time I want to share my feelings, it is because the bottle inside me is overflowing, and I need to release some of its contents so that I have space to fit in new ones. That’s the best way I can describe it.

When we honestly and sincerely go into a heart to heart conversation about our personal feelings, our primary goal usually isn’t to seek sympathy, because when you’re in a dark place, sympathy doesn’t do anything for you. We do it to seek support; to hear things like “I’m here for you” so we know we don’t have to suffer in silence. To me personally, you don’t even have to really be there. It’s all in the moment. Think about it this way — I have just fallen into a sea. It’s the first few seconds of complete darkness and I am panicking. Your presence and your listening to me is like you’re throwing me a life buoy just before I drown. If anything, you’re keeping me afloat.

That’s all I really need.

I think maybe this keep-your-thoughts-and-feelings-to-yourself-even-though-our-elders-and-the-media-keep-encouraging-you-to-open-up culture is second nature to the people in my community generally. It’s society over individual no matter how big the society is. The society could even be your own family unit. The all-over-self logic will still apply.

Basically, if your self-disclosure isn’t going to benefit anyone else, it might be better for you to keep quiet because, if you do, no one is going to listen to you or accept you. If you do, they will label your self-disclosure as “attention seeking”, as “immature” or “childish”, as “whiny” or “making a mountain out of a molehill”. Why? Because they aren’t you. They did not experience what you have experienced so they don’t understand. They don’t see the issue so they will not feel the same way you do, so whatever you’re disclosing becomes sensitive content, becomes unchartered territory, and is uncomfortable. That’s why they will tend to turn it away. How? Out of a lack for better defence mechanisms, they can only say things like “suck it up” to tell you that they don’t see the issue you see.

What I mean to say is that I feel conflicted. I feel as though I am expected to be outspoken and cheerful all the time. I feel as though I am only allowed to speak, do and feel the things that will benefit the majority and that are accepted in my society.

I have spent many nights awake and in tears just thinking about this; about how I just have to wallow in my own sadness like an inept failure; about how some of my friends own their own companies. I mean, they are acing at life and I can’t even ace my Biopsychology class.

Its been years since this thought first came into my mind.

I still cry myself to sleep.

I still keep things to myself.

I still wallow in my own feelings.

So my posting this today firstly as a release for myself. I am also not writing this to tell you to stop keeping things to yourself. Because frankly, I don’t know if it’s really good or bad to open yourself up to others. And I’m in no position to tell you to do something I can’t even do myself.

But I do want to tell you this. If the bottle is overflowing, use its contents as an inspiration. Find a release before that bottle explodes because if it does explode, you’re going to hurt yourself piecing it back together. Trust me, I am still trying to keep mine in one piece. What I do is this — I write. I create content out of the bottle’s contents. Over the years, I have forgotten that I don’t have a confidant in my life. My writing is my confidant. It is one of the reasons why I am still here today. That’s not to say that I don’t want that sort of a relationship. I still do, but writing helps me keep the bottle together so it doesn’t break in desperation.

That bottle is your heart. Its contents are your thoughts and feelings. These internal battles are essentially the core of life itself. This dark place we’re in only looks dark because we’re looking at it from inside. What’s on the outside? Perhaps those who have been there can tell us. We know there are people out there who have seen the outside. But it’s like the secret of life, you know? We’re all straddling on this tightrope. Once we can get out of the dark place, we can look at it from the outside. I can’t say for sure, but I want to believe that life is beautiful, and so are all its challenges. I want to know that I am right. I want to see it for myself, and I want you to see it too.

Originally Published: 18 Dec 2018

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