Coming to Terms with Unreality
When I was 14 years old, I entered my freshman year of high school feeling nothing but a dull sense of disquietude. I was not happy to be starting the new school year. I was always “the quiet kid”, and that label only rang truer over time, as I retreated further into my shell with each passing school year. I had few friends, and the ones I had were fair-weather, frequently passing up hanging out with me in favor of others. I knew in the back of my mind that I should feel stressed or upset when the year began, but I just felt empty.
My late childhood and early adolescence, meant to be a time of growth and learning, instead left me emotionally stunted. My stepfather was dying from congestive heart failure, the organ covered in scar tissue from the multitude of heart attacks he had suffered over the previous several years. He had ignored the advice and warnings of several doctors along the way, worsening his condition. My home no longer felt like a safe haven with the presence of death constantly looming.
The lack of oxygen going to his brain and his constant feeling of general malaise cut his already short fuse down to nothing. You could not have a conversation with him for fear he would snap at you, and when he wasn’t in the hospital he barely left his bedroom. He was a husk of his former self, a bitter man consumed by sickness and regret. Every day my mother and I wondered if it was his last. As guilty as I felt for feeling this way, he was an unwelcome presence in my home. I do not think of sick people as intrusions and I know he was suffering greatly, but with the way he spoke to my mother sometimes, I could not help but feel resentment.
I was not comfortable at home, and school was certainly not an escape from stress. I had nowhere to turn, and no sense of reprieve.
You expect to feel a certain way in response to trauma. You expect to cry frequently and have difficulty with your everyday tasks. However, instead it felt like my brain was full of TV static.
I floated through my days in a dreamlike state, days blurring into one another. My life felt like an endless slog, each day as equally grating and unimportant as the previous one. I did not care about my subjects in school; I did my assignments on autopilot and would only speak when spoken to. Colors appeared less vibrant and my vision was hazy. The world around me and the body I was in felt foreign. Sometimes when I saw my own reflection I would barely recognize myself.
I didn’t know exactly when this detachment from reality had come to be, as I was slow to notice it happening at all. I knew that I used to feel things more deeply, and then one day, I no longer did. I didn’t give much thought to my surroundings, but over time I had a creeping realization that the ineffable connection between myself and the world around me had been severed.
I was easily confused, my memory was spotty, and some days I was barely able to form a coherent sentence. My trains of thought were frequently derailed. I felt as though my mind was buried in a dense fog, keeping me from finding the proper words for what I wanted to communicate, forming logical connections, and digging through memories. I simply could not concentrate on anything. I had unexplained headaches and hand tremors. Distantly, I wondered if I had a brain tumor, but did nothing to investigate, even though on some level I believed it was a distinct possibility.