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The Invisible Void

JUNE 11 2022| 5 MINS  | BJS                      

By Brandie Janay Sanders

What’s wrong with you? That emptiness, high temperament, and sensitivity to fall entirely apart following a seemingly small negative event or sense of abandonment can leave many on the outside asking the question, what is wrong with you? That question becomes daunting because it is an immediate reminder that while my emotional instability is an obvious negative energy transfer to those around me, It is often a question I did not know how to answer at first, I didn’t know how to explain the reason for my sudden mood change or impulsive responses. I hated pinning things on childhood abandonment. I dreaded most social events because I did not have the desire to explain myself repeatedly or engage in meaningless small talk.

Dating became a trigger, and meeting new people was exhausting because I knew eventually I would push them away, either by being too clingy and expecting too much too soon or simply because I was “too emotional.” One late reply or lack of reassurance and I instantly felt rejected, so I would lash out because I felt I deserved more for my people-pleasing efforts.  It was like I would meet a new person and give so much of myself so quickly it seemed unfair to me to walk away with nothing. When I felt a person pulling away I would create a new personality just for them to love and for me to avoid abandonment. The problem with shifting yourself in personal relationships is that others may notice these inconsistencies and see intentional manipulation, which is the worst thing you can say to a person making a desperate attempt to gain your approval. The more I researched, studied, and sought help, the more defeated I became. I knew that it was relevant and important to discuss my childhood but it became a distressing process and made me feel more misunderstood.  All my life I’ve cycled through my environment unconsciously molding myself to fit my surroundings. It was not a lack of awareness as to the root cause of my emotional instability, it was a lack of a self-concept. Therapy is not the kind of environment where you are told who to be…

I had navigated through life with a check-box mentality… granted the checklist was provided to me. Do this… to get this, and I believed life was that simple. When I was younger my checklist was school. I did what I was told to do to be successful and I found a career I was passionate about. I believed I was going to save the world. And I wholeheartedly meant it at the time. But when my own emotions began to overwhelm me I started to second-guess everything. I would share my feelings and sometimes get the response “why don’t you just take your own advice?” As if delivering unbiased mental health services to others, while being inattentive to your own needs and struggles not possible? My personal relationships had always been inconsistent, I was constantly jumping from relationship to relationship to fill the invisible void, but I always had the professional aspect to keep me somewhat “happy” and content. Being guarded and maintaining boundaries worked to my advantage here, and no one needed to know the ‘real’ me.

It came to a point where things at work were falling apart and there was no checklist to fix it, it was beyond my control. In the same month, I suffered what I felt was one of the most devastating dating experiences of my life. Sure, it was for the best and yes I could do better anyways, but those words didn’t help me… I knew that already and I knew even in the midst of the situation. It was the realization that I was still so emotionally distraught despite this knowledge that bothered me and left me asking myself the same question: what in the hell is wrong with me? How can I know better and not do better…. Repeatedly?! I knew I had abandonment and attachment issues, but when things failed in my personal life, I had my professional success to fall back on which now, which was long from the case. For the first time in my life, It felt like I had nothing to keep me “happy”. I knew there were things that I SHOULD be happy about, but I didn’t know why the turmoil I felt inside was so incredibly extreme despite this. It was a constant battle of ruminating thoughts and negativity that I could not escape and I often hated myself for engaging in it. But more than anything else I lost, I felt disconnected from myself, because who am I without the things my identity has been so he’s okay tied to? I am not an integrated being that holds together — if you take the image of success from me, you take me away from me. I don’t know who I am, what I want, want I like, what to watch, read, think about, where to go, what to discuss — nothing. I am just here, existing. 

How do I explain to others that I can’t define myself, find myself or control myself? Just because they see a person standing in front of them that appears always so put together on the outside it doesn’t mean the person exists as anything more than a construct. Just because you’re reading words that came from my mind, or hearing me speak it doesn’t mean the mind that thought them into existence belongs to a coherent whole being. Sometimes they are contradictory and after they come out, I wonder why and where they came from. And that is the daunting cloud that keeps people like me in a cycle of defeat. Those of us who desperately lack ourselves aren’t being dramatic when we pin our existence on something or someone else — we are borrowing a life to keep us alive the best way we know how….

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