Looking back now, last autumn was one of the hardest times I’ve had in my life.
For no particular reason, really.
I had just moved to a new place and returned from traveling. Despite everything being “okay,” my life just felt like a big, confusing mess. From the outside (or through an Instagram feed), it must have looked like the opposite.
But having everything okay doesn’t mean that we can’t fall through the cracks of our hearts. Because fall I did.
It didn’t happen like in the movies. It wasn’t what I thought depression would feel like. There was no breakdown or a “before and after” moment. No. The place was quiet, still, and empty.
Imagine a room with very little light, nothing to feed your senses—like being in a vacuum pack. Days felt like February rain. Endless emptiness, just that. I wanted to fill the void but I didn’t know how. Perhaps I needed a new boyfriend, a new job, new friends, something to fill or fix what I didn’t have to make me happy.
If I got glimpses of “happiness,” the moments were quickly met with deep feelings of loneliness and alienation. I felt like a failure, and the more I felt that way, the more isolated I became. My thoughts had short, self-destructive endings.
What frustrated me the most was that I didn’t understand why I was feeling that way. I wanted to scream from the top of my lungs, “What the f*ck is wrong with me?!” But instead, I stayed silent, I didn’t want to express my feelings to anyone. It’s so stupid, I thought.
I wanted “it” to go away. I went running to keep my endorphin levels high. I did yoga, partied, got drunk, and woke up in random places. I was clinging to the men I met. I wanted them to become my anchors, fill the missing parts, replace my insecurities with their presence. But “it” didn’t go anywhere—it was sitting in my throat like a big lump.
I started therapy. Because I could; because why not? I didn’t think anything was necessarily wrong with me. I just had to fix the missing parts.
On the comfortable chair at my therapist’s office, I cried. I cracked. Sometimes, I cried throughout the whole session (surely the most expensive cry of my life). At first, the sessions made me feel worse—a lot worse actually. Afterward, I wasn’t able to leave my house sometimes for days.
I also started writing. That was the only place where I felt like I didn’t have to filter myself. The words were heavy but they came out easily. No filter. No judgment. A safe space.
What surprised me was that even when I thought I was at my worst, my therapist told me repeatedly, “It’s okay, Sara.” But that okay wasn’t the “Nah, get over it” kind of okay; it was an acceptance I hadn’t allowed myself to feel or hear.
Slowly (very, very, very slowly) I started to sit with that emptiness instead of filling it with something else. I faced it.
I allowed myself to cry for as long as I needed. I listened to it. I stayed with it, in the dark, even though it scared me. Sometimes in the bath tub, sometimes in the traffic lights, sometimes at my desk while writing. Or when it took me over at night and when it didn’t want me to wake up.
If you are there, in the void right now, listen:
is your purity, your beauty.
You are a whole.
Your alone is not your fault;
your pounding heart
is a bleeding heart
and your bleeding heart
is a heart that breathes, that is alive.
But here is a hard one: You have to take care of yourself. No one else can fix you.
No, not your friends or lovers, who can distract you from that numb place. Not your lifelong partner or your family members. They can be there for you and listen to you and support you, but the work—the kindness, the acceptance—is ours alone to do.
If you are there, in the dark, please be kind to yourself. You are worth every minute of your own attention. It is not your responsibility to think about what others think about you. There is no shame; you are not a failure.
I am about to finish my therapy soon. And I’m scared—really, really scared.
At the same time, I’ve found a part of myself I didn’t know before. I found it during the time I had to sit alone in my scary place. I know I am not afraid to face those sore spots anymore. And I can write from that place of darkness—and hopefully, help others too. I’ve made friends with it.
May it be through therapy, writing, art, or sitting in silence. One day, your pain will make sense.
It’s part of who we are. It’s our strength; it’s my strength.
Author: Sara Kärpänen
Image: With the permission of @dasnapper
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron