It is the night before my summer research internship (?)/program (?) and I’m terrified. I’ve been living alone in the city for four days and I think it is supposed to become easier at some point but all I keep thinking about is how cold this dorm room is. I keep thinking about someone holding me, feeling safe, feeling warm. And I keep thinking about how lonely I am, just sitting here — doing nothing productive with my life except fearing my loneliness. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know with whom or where I belong.
I think many people hold onto friendships, friend groups, boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others as a means to belong. But I feel myself drift away from that all too often. I feel like crying all the time. I feel like my soul is so so so empty. I am empty.
Let me rewind a bit.
Freshman year at Barnard was a flash flood of new experiences and struggles, as well as a complete culture shock. Adjusting to New York City meant adjusting to loud streets and homeless beggars, it meant paying more than $10 for a good meal, it meant strolling around the streets with friends laughing our asses off about lightbulbs and white men. It meant having a roommate with whom you could come home and gossip, or stay up until 2am talking about orgasms.
It meant having a schedule, and guaranteed contact with the outside world. The second I left college, I lost all of that. Suddenly I am no one with close to zero friends (except the two lovely girls I have met who are residents of the greater New York City area) and a life that consists of me thinking about where is socially acceptable to appear alone and whether it is worth it to even leave my dorm.
I hate that I am just a shell of a person who just sits around all day not knowing what my purpose is. I hate that it is only when I am around other people, even my therapist, that I suddenly am no longer hollow, but able to laugh and smile and joke [and feel like nothing is wrong]. Who am I really? If I am no one when I am with myself?
I feel empty. And lonely. Everything hurts, sometimes it is easiest to just make it all stop.
Dear Dr. ————*,
Ever since talking on Friday, I thought that things were getting better for me. I realize now that I was too quick to assume I was okay… Over the last few days I have experienced a number of really stressful panic attacks? anxiety attacks? I’m not sure how to describe them. But they have gotten to the point where I was so mentally paralyzed by fear and frustration and confusion I felt like my I didn’t have control over my own body. I did use the methods that you suggested to me, like breathing techniques and the cold pack for my face–and these did help but only temporarily. (Often, the only way I truly calm down is if I step away from my work and like…lie on the ground and shut out the world–which is really depressing sounding but it works.) These feelings have been coming to me in waves every hour or so over the course of this weekend.
I think it has a lot to do with the academic stress I am feeling…and it sometimes makes me want to just forget all of my responsibilities and run away (so to speak). Already, I have been negligent of quite a few things that I was supposed to do or should be doing currently. I feel like I have no excuse for feeling this way but when I consider what I’m feeling, it just feels like a huge cloud of negativity and emptiness. I can’t think or make decisions or rationalize anything other than lying in my bed and trying to escape myself.
I know how I seemed in our session on Friday…heck, even I thought I was doing pretty okay. But that night when I really reflected on myself and my mental state, I realized that I subconsciously delete moments when I am feeling really down from my memory, or somehow dissociate so much from those feelings it is unfathomable that I could even think them in the first place. When I am around my friends or even talking to people about my problems, I almost forget that side of me with all of its self-doubt and periodic panic exists. I haven’t been able to do anything productive in the last almost 48-hours because of suffocating thoughts like “I don’t know” and “I don’t want to think about anything.”
Even this email–I have been working on it since 6:30am this morning when I really began feeling the effects of my frantic anxiety and lack of sleep, (I had stayed up all night trying to finish an assignment I ended up not finishing) wondering whether or not any of this is even real or if I’m just blowing my stress out of proportion. I am scared because I can’t figure out what to do with myself. I can’t figure out what is wrong with me, or even if this is a real problem…and recently I have been thinking about how much I want to sleep.
All of that being said, I am not planning on taking any extreme measures to harm myself, so please do not worry. It has really just been a difficult weekend, and I needed to tell someone before I convince myself that none of this had happened and that I am completely fine.
* Dr’s real name has been removed for privacy reasons
i glance over
and catch your eye;
that one look.
your eyes softened
my lips curled
and i knew
the secret between us
would remain confined.
pressed like flowers
holding the weight of beauty
in our palms.
It’s been one hell of a ride. Four years of learning, suffering, surviving. Gearing up for another four? Hell to the yes you’re fucking ready. Ready to take on New York and New Life and New Everything. In one week you’re free of the restraints of adolescence. You’ve become bold and beautiful. Don’t let anything stop you now, fucking get ’em.
In reflection, I’ll remind you. Be soft, speak clearly. Know what you want, pursue everything passionately. Have fear, have humility. Let it guide you to strength and power and happiness. Success is in your grasp.
Much love, Emily
Here’s a reality check. It’s March 29, 00:33, and you’re about five assignments behinds schedule. You’re ready to take a break, from school, from people, from life. But.
You made it through the shittiest fucking months of your life. Made it through trips to California, Las Vegas, and New York (and Carnegie Hall?!). You also made it through five college acceptances. You fucking destroyed whatever shit misconception you had of your self-worth, your confidence. You’re a Barnard woman now.
Much love, Emily
I don’t laugh anymore.
I don’t love anymore.
It’s hard to do anything anymore when something closes so firmly around your chest that you can’t even breathe anymore.
old soul, they say
and yet, I feel so raw
so weak and so worthless
old soul, they say
I’ll retire now
autumn leaves fall,
dreaming for a day
where they may rest
on february ice,
and hold onto this love
I wear silent headphones to cancel the nothingness with silence. To shut up the chatter of my brain, the wandering of my ears. I place them over my ears to suffocate the spillage of composure. Almost as if, when I remove these silent headphones, my thoughts will dismember and float away.
These silent headphones hold me together. Perhaps the only things that keep me moving onward, forward. Progression has become so difficult these days.
Much love and apathy, Emily
she almost fools herself