I thought it was something that only happened when I was a teenager, but I was wrong. Going dead inside never stops, it only changes. And as a mother and a wife, it’s something that is encouraged.
When I was young I found ways to help me feel dead: drinking, drugs, food, socializing, isolation, and self-harm all worked; and still do. But as an adult, the layers just keep growing.
Now it looks like sacrifice, compromise, disappointment, accommodation, endlessly pouring ourselves into other people's needs, and silence.
The challenging part is these new additions are subtle, and they are supported. They’re encouraged by peers and family because it's how mothers and wives show love.
I visit with my friends and we talk about needing to have sex when we don’t really want to so our husbands don’t leave us for the tart at the coffee shop. About keeping our messy mixed up emotions to ourselves because our spouse is stressed about work, and doesn’t have the capacity to manage our BIG feelings, ideas, and dreams. About giving all the parts of ourselves away to our children, and then we wonder why we feel so lost and empty. We are silent, filled with sacrifice and disappointment, but we are pretty sure there is meant to be more only nobody is listening.
So we go dead inside because it’s easier than fighting. It’s easier than always trying and never getting anywhere.
I go dead inside because it hurts less than staying alive inside and feeling all the feelings. I compromise and sacrifice and stay quiet to make the people who are meant to love me the most comfortable - and still, it’s not enough.
I go dead inside.
Everyone says that having young kids is just a hard time in life, that we just need to get through this stage, that my expectations are too high. I don’t know how to deal with this information so I slowly try to kill off my feelings of questioning.
There is always a whisper inside saying that there’s more. That it doesn’t need to be this way. That it can be hard and challenging and painful; and I can stay alive inside of it.
I try and kill that thought; it only makes things harder and more complicated.
The children get a little older and deep inside there is a slow burn of anger simmering away. I am trying to kill it. I don’t want to have to deal with it. It will mess up the quiet complacency that has been developed over the years. As my babies have grown and I have stayed home to care for them and my partner. As I have poured my heart into them and their needs. Supporting them, encouraging them, loving them. 3,000 dinners, 3,000 lunches, 3,000 breakfasts, 8 million snacks. My body, my chance at a career, my social life.
“Don’t ask for anything. Don’t have needs that don’t include the children. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t be messy. Don’t blow things out of proportions. Don’t say that. Don’t act like that. These are just hard years…”
Until the questions get too loud and I can’t help but wonder; is this what life is really meant to be like? Is this how I’m meant to live? Compromising, sacrificing, and accommodating? Endlessly staying silent to keep some angry version of peace inside our home?
How is this who I am?
I don’t want to be dead inside. I thought that was meant for the teen years - not motherhood.
When my children yell hurtful things at me or have behaviour I don’t know how to manage. When my partner ignores me for days or weeks, dismisses my emotions and feelings, and eats his dinner before I have even plated mine.
I’m an angry dead woman who walks around pouring life into everyone.
I am a workhorse and a machine. I do the things and make the stuff and get us places; and I am dead inside.
The whisper is getting louder and louder.
I’m over playing dead. Over endlessly accommodating for other people, over staying silent even when things hurt, over keeping appearances up for the sake of ego and image. Over feeling disappointed and dissatisfied and invisible.
Over playing dead.