Have you ever been stabbed in the heart?
Have you ever been stabbed?
There’s the faintest of pricks as the blade pierces the skin. It’s almost unnoticeable at first. Adrenaline courses through your veins and keeps the pain at bay for a while, as the blood oozes out of your body, dripping down your skin. There’s a dull throb signalling your brain that something isn’t right, that there shouldn’t be a hole in your torso, that this red liquid shouldn’t be dripping out of you. The throb increases. You start feeling. You start hurting. You double over in agony, tears wetting your cheeks, as the pain grips you. You’re not actually crying. There is no sound. No wail. No breath to scream. Just pain.
But that pain fades. Eventually.
I haven’t been stabbed in the heart. I have been stabbed. In the arm. I’ve had glass shards cut my hands. I’ve been punched in the gut. And the face. I’ve broken my clavicle. And my fibula. My gods, that was agony. I’ve popped my knee. Also extreme agony. I’ve fallen two metres onto my back. I’ve been kicked in the head and the chest. I’ve fallen off a number of horses. Down rock cliffs. Free climbing walls. I’ve had my fair share of physical pain.
But I’ve never been stabbed in the heart, I think, as I press the point of a steak knife against my bare sternum. How painful would that be, I wonder.
Certainly not more painful than what I was experiencing, the wrenching hurt that no physical injury could ever compare to.
Have you ever been heartbroken?
It’s a thousand times worse than any blade. I have been stabbed. Not in the heart, true, but skin has been pierced, a blade inserted into my body. It was never as bad as having my heart broken. Never as intense as the all consuming torment caused by hormonal chemicals flooding the chest area, concentrated on that singular, beating muscle.
It feels like a thousand blades piercing your skin all at the same time, again and again and again. There is no reprieve, no stopping. It’s just constant pain. A physical pain that has no reason for being.
No reason at all. Because I haven’t been dumped. I haven’t fought with a loved one. There is no actual heartbreak. It’s just me, unscathed, alone, in my kitchen, barefoot, in front of the stove, crying, holding a steak knife to my heart. I want to cut out the pain. I want to die so badly, just so that I don’t need to feel this anguish. I am scared, by myself, and I don’t know what else to do.
I am at the mercy of this darkness. This thing they call depression. This unending sadness. It has me in its grip and no amount of self-talk will cause it to loosen. It knows no sympathy. It knows no care nor concern. It is a physical pain that no physical instrument could ever inflict. A thousand blades stabbing away at one point in my chest repeatedly would not be as excruciating. And I have nothing to show for it. No scars. No actual attacker. Nobody to call. Nobody to understand. All they would see is a lunatic holding a knife to his own chest. I am on my own, being tortured by my own mind, and all I want to do is cut it out.
The knife pricks my skin and I drop it. I sink to my knees, sobbing quietly. I don’t have the energy. I curl up in a ball. I want to die. I want the pain to end. I want to close my eyes and never wake up. I just want the torture to stop. Just once, I want it to stop.
I think about calling out. But there is nobody to hear me. Nobody to care. I remember a fight years ago. When I foolishly took on four men in physical combat. I stood my ground as the first one ran up to me. I awaited his approach, lowering my stance, automatically balancing my weight, one leg behind the other, my arms up, my mind calm. I watched him run all the way to me, and easily dodged his punch. My fist connected with his head and I kept swinging. But his friends were not far behind. In the darkness, I didn’t know how many there were. I just saw more bodies approach in my adrenaline fueled haze. I fought on automatic, my training kicking in, parrying, blocking, dodging, swinging, punching. But I couldn’t sustain it. Within minutes I was overpowered, held down by three grown men while the fourth punched and kicked, angry that I had dared to defy them, dared to defend myself against their misdeeds. I remember calling out then and only then. Realising defeat, the adrenaline working its way out of my cells, as fatigue, not pain, replaced it, I chose only then to yell for help. The leader punched me again, ordering me to shut up. He could have saved his energy. It didn’t matter. Nobody came. Nobody heeded the call. I would later learn that my cries hadn’t gone unheard. The neighbours had simply chosen not to do anything. Perhaps they were scared themselves. Perhaps they thought somebody else would do something. It didn’t matter in the end. I was alone. Fighting the world on my own.
Just like I am now. I cannot call out. I have no voice. What could anybody do anyway? There was no help when I was under physical attack. How much less helpful could anybody be when the only entity attacking me was inside my own head? I simply groan quietly, and cry to myself until I pass out. And the pain fades away in my unconscious state.
I may never be free of this darkness that comes out of nowhere to bully me for no reason. Every morning that follows, like this one, I awake emotionally bruised, usually disappointed that I’d made it through the night, the dull throb in my heart the only remnant of the previous night’s beating. I feel the rising sun on my skin, and for a moment feel okay again. In time, as the hours and days pass, I will gradually forget how bad the agony was. I will gain energy again, and be able to function as a reasonable member of society. I will know that I never want to feel that again. I will know that I’d rather face those four men in the dark than the darkness inside me. And I will know that all that hoping is for nothing because it will be back. It never goes away forever. It simply sleeps, resting itself in preparation for my next torture. And I’m not stronger the next time. I’m not more prepared. I’m not more capable.
But there is nothing I can do. Except, perhaps, be thankful for the respite I will enjoy between beatings. Thankful that the only scars I’ll bare are emotional. Thankful, maybe, that I’ve lived to face another meaningless day.
Thankful. What a joke.
My heart is sore. It remembers last night. It remembers the times before. And it quivers. I am afraid. I am isolated and afraid of a darkness inside me that may one day push me enough to end the torment. I doubt it will ever go that far. But I’m fearful nonetheless. I remember how appealing death is in the throes of the anguish.
I pick the steak knife off the floor where it still lay and toss it into the sink. I look out my window, watching my neighbours leave their homes, heading to their places of work. I am tired. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. The fight has gone out of me. I woke up several times in the night. Laying awake, in the quiet of the night, feeling the dull throb in my chest, the sting in my eyes, the emptiness in my heart.
I want to cry but my eyes are dry. I am numb and unconcerned. I am aware that it doesn’t matter. Not to the world at large. I’m on my own, there’s work to do, clients to satisfy, activities to perform, life to live. And the ache left behind by the darkness is nobody’s concern but my own. People feign understanding, care, sympathy, and continue to expect their pound of flesh regardless. I switch on the kettle and prepare the coffee grounds. I pick up my journal. And plod on through another day.
– Extract from Harden The Fuck Up by Jai’prakash