Tortured soul, amazing writer.
Given a gift that she allowed herself to use, she provided us with insight into her torment.
I will not claim to be any kind of Sylvia Plath scholar. I’ve only dabbled in reading her works. But I am fascinated. I read “The Bell Jar” (yes, I know, standard fare) during a rather tough time. Great read. And, I’ll admit, I understood. I understood her confusion, her lack of clarity, the way she viewed things.
Recently, I saw the quote, “I desire the things that will destroy me in the end,” on social media. Sylvia hit home with me once again.
Not to say I’m ready to head to the hospital now, but I think our culture views depression, anxiety and any other mental illness as so taboo. Few people will admit to ever having issues, unless they are among close friends. I dealt with horrible anxiety for years. I still have issues with it, but I am working through it.
Funny thing — I have anxiety, yet I’m very impulsive. Explain that. (I certainly have explanations as I psychoanalyze myself frequently.) I don’t do drugs. I will have an occasional alcoholic beverage. Overall, I live a clean life. So, I can not blame any of my actions on “external forces.” It’s all me. Wonderful, controlling, anxious, impulsive me.
I firmly believe that we all have our addictions/issues in one form or the other. The way we deal with them runs the entire spectrum. Some allow their addictions (drugs, alcohol, adrenaline, sex, attention, control) to overrun their lives and destroy them. Others can function in society seeming “normal” to the outsider, but fight their demons daily. Still others bury their demons deep. The last group is the people for whom my soul hurts. They are tortured, but not able to admit why. Are these the people who tend to “crack” at some point in their lives? Rocking in the corner as the air depletes under the bell jar?
Our hedonistic society here in the great U.S.A. acknowledges mental illness and addiction, but allows everyone such freedom to express themselves they way they choose. Daily alcohol use is an accepted norm in certain societal subsets (you can check the definition of alcoholism on your own). Drug use is as “popular” as it always has been. The drug of choice constantly changes, but the appeal is always there. Substance abuse is seen as a means to escape. Is that an “excuse” to allow yourself to let go of your inhibitions and not worry about the moment?
But, mental health seems to be spoken of in hushed tones. It’s not as “fun.” I have a cousin who is now diagnosed as schizophrenic. He also used hardcore drugs as a teen. Which came first? His mental issues or his drug use? Impossible to tell really. It seems to be easier to talk of substance abuse and addiction rather than mental health issues in open society. What discussions are being held behind closed doors?
The stories of shootings, murders, assault that are plastered all over the media. Are these rage, revenge or undiagnosed mental health issues? I tend to believe that mental health is the core of most of these violent events. Had these people had strong families and received the mental health care they needed, would their victims still be alive? Are the events a result of someone “cracking” because they couldn’t have their core desire? Did they allow their desire to destroy them?
I believe that our society’s way of talking in whispers about mental health, but laughing about getting drunk at the bar perpetuates the stigma regarding mental health issues. Why can’t we openly talk about the band of pressure across our chests when the anxiety builds up? What about the fear that can be so paralyzing when we have to face people we don’t know? The sadness for no reason that is sometimes simply suffocating?
I admire Sylvia for directing her internal battles onto paper. Her writings have opened up dialogue. Necessary dialogue.
Don’t we all, at our core, desire things that are bad for us? It’s what we do as a reaction to our desires that differentiates us. Do we give in? Do we stay strong? Do we talk it out? Do we let the desire become our core focus?
What do you do when that which you desire is in front of you? If you are alone, are your decisions different that when you are in a group?
I certainly have no answers. Only more questions. Again I admit an addiction/issue of mine – a constant quest for knowledge and understanding. I thank Sylvia for sharing her gift with us, even for a short time. She could not have known how her torment would, in essence, help others for generations to come.