Apr 2, 2014
The world's loneliest whale
I think I may be the world's loneliest whale. Speaking a foreign language as I slowly navigate the globe, sending out words at a frequency no one can hear.
Having just reached the tender age of 28, I've hit the first wave of friends undergoing traditional rites of passages that frequently demand isolation from their friends upon completion (generally for practical purposes but hurtful none the less): the holy adulthood trinity of getting engaged/married, starting a family, and/or moving away.
And instead of saying "wave" I should probably say "tsunami." In December I had ONE pregnant friend. Fast forward three months later and I know five expectant mothers; just in the past past week three friends have announced engagements on facebook; and one of my last remaining close friends is moving away, solidifying the end of a growing rift adulthood had bestowed upon us. Not to mention brutally watching a close friend bury her 31 year-old husband.
As I grow older, the sense of wanting to connect with people and my world seems to increase in proportion to the amount of loss I incur. People are leaving me at the time I need them the most. They cannot hear my calls because they are now tuned to speak and listen on another frequency. And life doesn't just fill you up when you're lacking; it doesn't replace one friend with another.
Experiencing a great loss of connection consequently augments my existential loneliness. I swim faster through dark waters, shrieking out to the vast emptiness and unending depths of the ocean.
In conjunction with growing older is a growing understanding of myself. While this seems positive, it is ripe with danger if not navigated correctly. One slip and a beautiful view becomes a swan song. As I start to make more sense of my world and myself, I am not relieved from personal work but rather inundated with new aspects of my cognitive brain that need to regulated or altered. I find no relief in my diagnosis; I can only feel the albatross around my neck tighten its grip.
Much of this occurred to me today as I was thrust into the fluorescent lighting and lonely, barren walls radiating Emory's new psychiatric building. Previously housed in a quaint cozy house on a quiet side street, we are now herded like sheep into a clinical laboratory. I started to feel overwhelmed emotionally because it felt like a giant spot light was exposing all my deep-rooted insecurities.
I am very self-aware yet I have the same issues and insecurities that I did when I was a child; I just know how to define them now. For example, I've always had an unhealthy relationship to food and my body, but because I didn't fall into more traditional representations, I didn't realize I actually suffer from an eating disorder. I just realized that today but instead of feeling grateful for having been brave enough to admit that, I just am reminded of my current isolation as I deal with the adulthood manifestation of childhood illnesses alone.
I don't mean isolated in a romantic sense, but in a much more general way. I don't believe in that single rhetoric a lot of people talk about. I know I can be fulfilled and loved and happy without being in a relationship. But I do need that intimacy from somewhere, and the well I was drinking from has quickly turned into a desert.
Traditional, healthy-minded people should think of psychiatry like chemotherapy for depression. Sometimes you have good sessions, sometimes you have sessions where you can't move afterwards. But only one would you receive shame for. I have felt ashamed all day because I don't feel healthy enough to function. Normal days I would reach out, but I'm not sure who to reach out to anymore.
My fins now unevenly wade in the water; I circle the same spot again and again, still at a terribly isolating frequency. I barely whisper my calls for others now. Their sounds reach a wall, bounce off and come back to me, unchanged and untouched by another. Maybe there is a team out there tracking me, analyzing my sound waves and frequencies of echolocation, waiting to unite me with others who are similar. Until they find me, I can only continue to call out for anyone who can hear me.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention