Personal Essay, Ramey Ritchie
There is no certainty in life except that the void will follow you always. No matter how much better you think you are or how good you feel, that familiar emptiness will one day return to ruin everything you’ve worked so hard for. Feelings of elation and motivation will be followed not by sorrow, but by a raw eating emptiness. You feel nothing. You are nothing. All you want to do is go to sleep, to stop everything, but you aren’t tired. All there is to do is sit and wallow. No matter what you try, you can’t seem to do anything– anything but exist. Existence becomes a terrible prison this way, keeping you hostage as you pry at the bars begging to get out. Life has a way of ticking us into comfort only to turn things upside down again.
Sometimes pain makes things better. The void can be so powerfully consuming, making one believe that they might explode without an immediate outlet. I’ve found that gentle pain, a residual stinging, allows me to focus my mental energy. It allows me to feel. Instead of sitting, consumed by the abyss, I sit and feel my wrists throb. It’s actually very comforting, and I tend to feel better afterward. It’s recentering, transforming your pain into a physical thing. After all, physical pain is all psychological. You can choose to hurt or you can choose not to. Whatever you decide, you still feel. And so if you choose not to hurt, you feel better. You're free to browse Etsy for vintage furniture or shop for makeup on Dior.com. You’re free to sit and read, finally doing something productive, because you’ve bled out all that craziness in your head and can actually focus now.
You know that when you shower tonight it will be done sitting on the shower floor, and you will struggle to get up, to be without the constant ice-cold stream down your face. It feels like drowning. It feels good. You can't stay sitting there for too long, though, or else your roommate will think you're up to something. Why would she think you’re up to something, you’re taking a shower? What’s there to be suspicious about? No, she’d be suspicious. You know this as sure as you’ve ever known anything. Just enjoy the water while you can. Maybe you’ll turn the water hot, just to feel the cuts burn again. This technique is actually very effective because you can achieve that lingering tingling sensation without having to do the whole ordeal over again. This only works on the first day, of course, but days are of little importance here.
Maybe when you wake up you’ll be okay again. Well, okay by your standards, anyway. Should this be the case, you’ll wake up at 5:45 or 6:30 specifically, teeming with energy. You’ll get out of bed and curse your roommate for taking up space and sleeping peacefully so that you can’t blast music and dance around. Instead, you’ll wait until 7 and walk to Opus down the street, convinced you’ll have a productive morning and read outside. Of course, you get distracted and can’t sit still so you get up to walk around instead. It’s hot outside, but you don’t care because the activity is better than air conditioning right now. You walk in a square around the same four blocks for hours listening to All Too Well (10 minute version) (Taylor’s version) on repeat. Maybe you’ll throw in a little Lovergirl by Teena Marie for variety. Never on repeat, though, as the beat makes you want to jump up and down and skip and twirl around 4th Avenue and you don’t want to look like a crazy person. You’re not a crazy person! Crazy people live in facilities, receiving the help they need through medications and psychiatrists and therapists. You receive your medications from your psychiatrist monthly, and you’ve forgotten to schedule an appointment with your therapist for the past 3 months, so you’re obviously of a much different caliber than actual crazies. Your psychiatrist doesn’t even talk to you about diagnoses! This must mean he’s positive there’s no possibility of anything too terribly bad. Right?
When you get back from your walk, you decide everything in your dorm room is wrong, and, even though you’ve been out walking for hours, you’re still full of energy. You decide a fort would fit nicely with the ambiance of the space, and get to work building as best you can with your twin xl sheet. Of course, it’s too small. Of course! Why would you think you could build a fort with a twin xl sheet? You’d need a full, at least! There’s no use ordering one, it won’t come in for a few days and your fort needs assembling now. Damnit! Now you want to explode again. No, just breathe. That’s it, deep breath. Take a step back. Reassess fort. If you drape it from the ceiling over your bed it’ll work. Let’s do that, instead. You get to work with tacks attaching the sheet to the tip tops of the wall and fashioning it over the side. It’s very difficult to get in and out of, but it’s built! You did it! This is the best use of your time and energy to date, you’re completely convinced. You get down to gaze upon your creation. It looks good. What to do now? No, don’t think about that! What’s next always leads to bad things if you can’t come up with anything to do. Quick, think of something to do! But you already did everything, you walked and walked and spent an hour and a half making the coolest fort that ever was! There’s nothing to do now… don’t look, but your roommate is giving you weird looks from her bed as you pace all around the room. You should probably sit still to avoid arousing further suspicion.
You should talk to someone, you can’t be alone right now. Being alone means the bad things come out, you need an outlet. Maybe call a friend? And say what, that your brain is filled with electric worms that can’t escape and are driving you mad? Yeah right, some friend you’d be to tell another person something like that. Then they’d actually think you’re crazy! Just imagine you’re calling a friend instead, it’ll give you something to focus on without making people you care about think you’re a total loon. Ring… ring… ring…
“Hey [redacted], what’s up?”
“Hey, nothing much, just I’m convinced I’ve been filled with a malevolent dark energy while I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Oh? What do you mean by that?”
“Well, I feel like I'm filled with static or electric worms or that I’m a puddle of mud or a piece of chocolate melting on the sidewalk. You know what I mean?”
“No I don’t know what you mean, that sounds completely insane!”
Fuck! You knew you shouldn't have called a friend. Wait, that was all fake, you made it up. It’s okay. Well, now you know for sure you can never call a friend, the ones inside your head think you’re batty, too! God, now there really is nothing to do. I know! Why don’t you put on Tchaikovsky on max volume and close your eyes? That always makes you feel better.
Hey, thanks! You’re right, I do enjoy Tchaikovsky. I’ll lay on the floor and stare out the window while the music plays. It’s calming. I need to calm down. Just listen and absorb. Wow, it’s already dark out. I’m still not tired, though. That’s okay, I can just sit here and listen to the music. Focus on the music. The clouds sure are pretty tonight.
Ramey Ritchie is a nineteen-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is currently studying fine arts, focusing on studio art and art history, but she has always had a fascination with literature and writing. She has recently started writing about her experiences in college mental health as an outlet to straighten out her thoughts. Her art aims to capture moments from peoples’ lives, and she hopes to do the same with her writing.