I have this thing inside me that screams a lot. I’ve spent years trying to shut it up, years living in a hole of shoulds, a life of fear. A small, safe life. And when I was self-medicating my hole became my comfort. I thought, at least I’m being responsible, other people should be like me as I peered sideways, green-eyeing everyone else. I would see people doing artistic, daring, unconventional things and wonder why I couldn’t live a life like that. Who was going to give me permission? Or I would see people living life the way I thought I should, and some of them actually seemed to like it. I wondered why I couldn’t like it, too. I wondered what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t read those books I swore I would, why I couldn’t dress like that or be that shiny. I wondered if I really cared about anything and I was so lost I didn’t even know what I liked. And I thought it was too late for me, so I stayed in my hole. It was the responsible thing to do, to die slowly, quietly.
But always there was this screaming thing. It was the reason I was so exhausted. It had been fighting for years trying to move my arms and my legs, find a foothold, climb out of the hole. It had been screaming and fighting this life I didn’t want, this life of shoulds, and not only had it been fighting alone, but it was fighting through all the bullshit I had been throwing at it to get it to shut up. It was painful to have something fighting inside me so I stuffed it down with food, with booze, tried to knock it out with pills, drown it out with gross attention-seeking behavior and constant stimulus. But it wouldn’t die. It kept screaming. I kept thinking I needed to drink because I kept feeling it, and how was I supposed to live happily in this hole of shoulds with a screaming thing inside me? Shut up shut up shut up I would tell it. I couldn’t trust myself because I couldn’t even hear myself. I hated myself because I was ruining myself.
How I quit drinking is a story for another time. (Mostly just white-knuckling and blind faith, to be honest.) But when I did, the screaming got louder and I had nowhere to run, I had to listen. It told me my life wasn’t my own, that I had thrown myself into this hole of shoulds. It showed me instead a life imagined in snapshots of inspiration, glimpses of color. It showed me pieces of myself and said here, now go play. I looked knowingly at the pieces with tears in my eyes, and then I looked up to see the world come rushing back to me, I breathed deeply and the universe filled my lungs.
I became one with the screaming thing.
We screamed as we climbed out of that fucking hole and we ran screaming into the daylight. Now we scream for joy and sometimes we scream just to feel it. We’re crazy and we’re wild and we don’t care anymore. Maybe someday we won’t need to scream so much, but right now we’re just happy to be making up for lost time. If this is what it means to love oneself then maybe I’ve finally figured it out…or at least figured out how to try. All I know is that self-medicating is self-mutilation. If you have something screaming inside of you, it’s screaming for a reason. Listen to it. Let it be weird, let it be crazy, and for God’s sake let yourself like it. It’s you, after all.