~ A Suppression of Expression ~
“But why can’t you just speak about how you feel?” she asked me. “Why can’t you just be open about it instead of keeping it all locked up inside your head? You don’t always have to be alone. Just open up and say how you feel. Please – just share something with me.”
The words came and hit me like a freight train. After a long day of motorbiking through the mountains, there I sat drunk in a home-stay in Northern Vietnam with a young Danish girl, once again unable to verbally communicate the thoughts that haunted the hallways of my mind, that scratched and clawed at the walls of my skull. Such a task was clearly not an issue for herself. After travelling together for only just a few days, already she had stared into my eyes and spilled the dark stories of her troubled past. She had told me in detail of her eating disorders and the beatings from her father – of the eight year therapy and depression. In the drunken haziness of smoky rooms in foreign lands, she had invited me into the unique wilderness of her mind and allowed me to see its rugged contents in all their scratched and scarred beauty.
It was always comforting to have such conversations out on the road; a stranger from another country pouring their heart out to you was for me one of the greatest experiences of travelling. It was a window into the human condition – something that was all too rare to experience in the everyday existence of life back home. So far on my travels I had stared into eyes and listened to the secrets of many damaged souls out there wandering the world. I had heard tales of death and destruction; of pain and desperation. On sunset beaches, mountain trails and in smoky bars, I had travelled into the worlds of other souls and got lost in their rugged expanses. This time the directness of her questions made me suddenly realise it was always me listening in to words but never opening up myself and expressing my own inner thoughts and secrets. Once again I sat tethered down by something, hesitating, puffing on a cigarette and sipping a beer to stop my mouth from spewing its mess and madness upon her. “It really helps to talk about” she said, spotting my stalling. “Speaking to someone about my problems really helped clear all the mess from my mind. You will feel better after I promise.”
It was true; it was true. Like her and the others, I also had a lot of chaos in my psyche that I needed to share and express in some way. At times I so desperately yearned for another to come and take a walk in the wilderness of my own skull and know what it was like not to be alone with all the thoughts swarming around inside of it. Often back home I stood frustrated before non-understanding eyes with every ounce of me aching for some form of genuine interaction, and now here with this girl was the perfect opportunity. But once again my tongue stuttered and flailed around in my mouth as something restrained me from sharing the things I had locked up inside of me. The thought hit me that I was a hypocrite; I always wanted my fellow species to throw away their masks and makeup and speak from the heart, yet here I was again not capable to do it myself. Staring down the barrel of the loaded eyes of another human-being, I could never find the words to express how I truly felt. Unlike her, there was no therapist out there for me; no chance to utter how I felt in totally clarity. It was hopeless. The conversation shifted as we went back to small talk with the other group of backpackers before we went to bed and sunk into the still silence of the night.
One day of biking later and we were once again drunk after sharing street drinks and karaoke with the locals. Now alone in the night under the light of the full moon, we sat entwined on a bridge in the center of town as the 3am silence enveloped us and the urban landscape that lay sprawled out around us. She continued to share some more things with me while asking again to share my problems with her. After a while I uttered a couple of vague things about past battles of depression and a personality disorder before retreating back to the beer and cigarette. The words came out jumbled and restrained; even here far away from home in the drunken company of this girl I trusted, I still couldn’t really let another fully into my own mind. She seemed pleased that I had opened up a little bit but we both knew I was still holding back – that I was alone with my thoughts and problems as I had always been. Together physically with another soul, I sat once again in the solitary fields of my mind, staring up into skies and wishing for another to come and join me completely in my wilderness.
Later on that evening when the beer cans lay empty and she had gone to bed, I went to get my backpack and reached for the pen and paper; in times when the storm inside my skull got too fierce, I always reached for the pen and the paper. With them in hand I walked out onto the balcony and sat down at the table. Back alone and safe from the eyes of another, finally I could write down and clearly communicate the thoughts inside my head. Like she had needed the therapist to vent her thoughts and secrets, I needed the pen and the solitude to finally express from the depths of my soul – to cut the tether and rise up freely from the mental tyranny that was the suppression of expression. As the words started raining down, I stared out at the buildings and houses across the river and wondered how many others out there were trying to summon the strength to voice the words and thoughts they had hidden away inside themselves for so long. The thought of that kept me scribbling away until the first embers of daylight crept over the horizon. The sky was gradually illuminated as I bled my brain dry onto the page. The existential pain. The desperation. The loneliness. The alienation. The fact I had fallen for a girl with a boyfriend. The fear that I would be alone on those balconies of isolation until the dying of my days. Finally it all flowed out freely and fearlessly. Like a dam that had finally been released, waterfalls of thought poured effortlessly onto the page, surging forward from the source of the soul. I looked down at what I had written and felt better; I felt my mind return to a calm state. Once again, I had found the release I needed via the pen and paper.
It is true what you told me girl. In this life we all need to find a way to finally express the things we have locked up deep inside of us. After a certain amount of time of being alone with our struggles, we need another soul to come and take a trip inside ourselves so that we aren’t suffocated by our own individual pain and madness. For me I could not find the way to face you so know that the words on this paper are my total therapy; know that they save me from complete self-destruction. This is the only gateway to the depths of myself I truly know. With these words I lead you into my wild, and show the solitary places my soul resides. With these words I throw away the mask, and show you what chaos really lurks beneath my skin. With these words I attempt to say what can’t be expressed in words, but only felt in that burning feeling in the gut, that ache in the heart – that existential pain in the soul that longs to liberate itself from being totally alone and lost in the great enveloping ether of existence. You saved yourself with therapy but know that these are the words that save me. These are the words that stop me from falling from those balconies of isolation. These are the fingertips fighting to save myself from the wild things that roam around inside of me. Come on in. Welcome to the haunted woods of my twisted mind.
Sorry for the mess, but it’s the only home I know.”