If you scream into the silence, and nobody hears you, then did you scream at all?
In my teenage years, like all teenagers do, I found my form of expression in music. Those poisonous, poisonous words that were so dangerous on my tongue could be safely repeated when they came from the mouth of another.
In hindsight, it was perhaps foolish of me to think that my smiles could fool everyone when the music I listened to was so dark. But then, there had been nobody willing to listen anyway.
My young self had cried for help in the only way I knew how, mouthing the words of others that spoke my heart, screaming my frustrations in the guise of singing along to music. If anyone had listened, perhaps they would’ve seen something was amiss. Perhaps someone would have offered a helping hand, that small flicker of light to lead me out of the darkness. Or perhaps they did hear, and thought it was merely a rebellious phase. Who knew? But there was no helping hand, no soothing words or empathy to draw me out of my downward spiral.
It wasn’t really anyone’s fault. It was simply a matter of circumstance. There’s not always a hero to save the day.
They say that those whose friends or family suffer from depression have a higher chance of succumbing to the same illness. It’s a reasonable assumption. Constantly surrounded by negativity would be draining on anyone’s spirit.
Still, I hesitate to say that I had the same problem as my mother. Children experience emotions so much more intensely, the smallest things become so important. Perhaps because we have not seen as much of reality, we have less to compare our problems to, and more reason to believe they should be as important to anyone as they are to us.
Looking back on that time, it’s hard to recall even one thing that was so big a deal. But back then, the weight of my smiles weighed down on my shoulders, and darkness blinded my vision. My ascent towards adulthood hung like a noose around my neck, and my past continually slipped away like water through my fingers, leaving me grasping for my own identity. I was sinking, and trying to call for help, and not knowing how.
At the same time, my mother was getting worse. There were less smiles, more medicine, more arguments. My father focussed on my mother, scared that at any moment she might decide death was better than life. I didn’t blame him; I watched her too. After all, promises are so easily broken.
Each day was like wading through a swamp: thick, heavy, making you wonder if it’s worth the struggle to push onwards, wondering which step will send you sinking down to the muddy depths.
My mother retreated into herself, struggling, I’m sure, to find reasons of her own to go on, to live, if not for herself, then for us.
There are times I wondered if it would’ve been easier on all of us if she’d let go. But even then, I was too selfish to let her go. I was – and still am – too much a coward, scared to be left by myself, terrified to face the world alone.
So I smiled, and I was good, and I reinforced those links that held my mother to life in the desperate hope that I would not be abandoned.
Looking back on it now, I wonder how heavy those shackles were for her, when she was already struggling with her own demons. Perhaps I wondered that even back then. But in the end, I was a selfish child.
I wonder, did she drag me down into the dark, or did I drag her?