There was a time in my old apartment that I used to search up and recite riddles at the
buzzer when friends came to visit. It became a little game, although it was a phase that
I’m sure my friends will half-heartedly claim they’re glad I let go of. I would jump at the
sound, race to the talk button, and sagely pose all sorts of pithy lines with varying levels
of difficulty. They would answer it, or grapple with it, but I wouldn’t leave them standing there long before I let them in. I think riddles tickle that bone in me the same way that puns do. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorites:
I break as soon as my name is uttered. What am I? Silence.
Light creates me, but also destroys me. What am I? Shadow.
Bonus: two possible answers! What has eyes but cannot see? Potato or Needle.
Now I’m warning you, this next one takes a dark turn. It’s even darker still because I
believe I might have conceived it myself, or perhaps my subconscious is actually
recalling some cheesy pamphlet with a poorly designed graphic in a doctor’s office
somewhere. Are you ready? Buzz in.
What never leaves your side, but always makes you feel alone? Depression.
I did warn you. Now that I’ve let you in, do you wish I had never asked? A part of me
wishes I hadn’t, but I am slowly beginning to realize the importance of the action behind that line of communication. I have spent the majority of my life in a constant state of repression. The coincidence is not lost on me that the roots of those words are the same. In my narrative, the two always walked hand in hand. Well, to be fair, there was a virtual flash mob of psychological labels at play, but again, I was only just beginning to understand that firsthand. It’s worth pointing out that the difference between repression and suppression is key, because the former defines an unconscious mental process. I was repressing to such a degree that it took me over half my lifetime to gradually come to terms with the fact that my internal wiring wasn’t allowing me to function in a way that was sustainable. In addition to inadvertently distancing myself from my own sentiments, I would inevitably find myself isolated from others. I was trapped on this cyclical, self-perpetuating, and destructive path. I kept mum, blindly convinced that my divulgence would be a burden to others, that it would be a vulnerability that could be ripped apart and pitted against me, and that from that point forward people would only see me through the lens of my affliction rather than my totality. This last notion rang especially loud and true for me; in my lowest moments, and at my most raw, I personally couldn’t see anything past it. It boiled down to this frame of mind that I couldn’t be around others, and I couldn’t bear my own self. This discrete type of loneliness ultimately deprived me of everything, including me.
Loneliness, after all, is not always literal solitude, but the perception of a lack of intimacy and connection. Every human craves to be heard, it is ingrained in our social nature. As I mentioned earlier, I can already feel myself cringing at the thought of someone reading this, as I inescapably do every time I come face to face with the prospect of revealing this facet to those around me. Regardless, I find that it is essential to extend yourself towards others, whether it be to your close friends, or even perhaps with strangers online. While I recommend caution if you choose to lurk on Reddit forums—my primary source for countless taboo topics explored with complete transparency, thanks to the inherent anonymity—like I admittedly do at times when I want to remind myself that I am not alone, I can’t stress enough that speaking candidly about your experiences will bring massive relief to yourself and those around you. The first step in combating the detrimental effects of the condition is to bring it directly to light and out of the depths of stigma; depression, loneliness, and a myriad of other mental illnesses thrive, mutate, and reinforce each other in the darkness. I more than understand that it is easier said than done, and I am very, very far from reaching an idea of “success.” I can still only count on one hand, with some missing fingers in the mix, the number of times I have exposed myself in this way in my close relationships. Yet here I am, unmasking myself to an audience with the intention of demonstrating that I, and others out there, truly hear you. If you are able to, I urge you to share your story with those who respect you, recognize you for your courage, and foster the very networks of trust and compassion that were lacking in the first place. If you feel that such an avenue is unavailable to you, I sincerely hope that my tale and others’ that you may come across can offer the emotion I aim to expound here. Finally, I have one last riddle to end these thoughts on, if you’ll humor me for a moment. After the weightiness of my soul-baring, it only seemed fair to culminate on a lighter note.
You have me, even if there is none of me. What am I? Hope.
Alison Amos is a Brooklyn-based creative and writer. She is passionate about
working with and covering topics like art, fashion, design, music, and the human
experience. Follow her on Instagram: @alisonamos