The Freedom to Jail Ourselves

by Emily

Started May 20th, 2010          Posted June 2nd, 2010

As a society, we preach freedom and honesty and love.  As a society, we practice lies and omissions and apathy.  When someone hurts, is in so much pain they can hardly function, the common reaction is to hide it: to paint over the pain so that everyone else sees the white picket fence and happy life we all strive to live (as I write this, I’m having to reassure myself that yes, other people do hide their pain, I’m not the only person with problems).

White picket fences aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  Life can be beautiful and glorious and so amazing.  Life can also be brutal and fierce and full of pain.  Why do we refuse to admit to the pain?  Sure, we advertise wars and poverty and the damage to our earth.  But, honestly?  Those are the easy problems: the marketable problems.  What about the rising cases of depression and eating disorders and self-esteem issues and general lack of happiness?  One of the worst statistics I found was that “54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness”.  (

It is no such thing.  We need to sit down as a society, and have an honest (actual honesty, not the sugar-coated bullshit we all excel at telling) discussion about how to solve the harder problems.  The media needs to stop force-feeding us unrealistic, unattainable and unhealthy images of beauty and what perfection is, and we the people need to stop encouraging them to force-feed us those images.  It’s a vicious cycle; one we all need to help break.

I’m guilty of lying.  I lie every day, when people ask how I am and I give the pat answer “I’m fine”.  I don’t give them a chance to support me, to try and understand what is going on.  It’s a lack of trust, a fear that they won’t love me, or even like me, if they know what’s going on.  As I type this, I debate whether or not I’ll actually post it.  Posting this admits to the world (or whoever happens upon this blog) that I have problems.  I have serious, hard-to-deal-with problems.  I don’t want to admit that to myself, let alone the rest of the world.

I’d rather paint it all over with my pretty white picket fence and pat answers.  It’s so much easier that way.

Except it’s not.

By white-washing my life to the world, I take away other people’s opportunity to understand me and in the process themselves.  If I admit I’m not actually as close to perfect as I act, maybe I’ll make it easier for others to admit the same.  And, when they admit it, it will make it that much easier for still others to admit it.

But, dear god, why do I have to go first??  I’d much rather wait until someone else bares their soul.  You first.  “I’ll show you, and you show me” is the playground terminology for this situation.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the classic phrase morphed into something along the lines of “I’ll show you, but, only if you show me first”.

We are a stubborn nation.  Everyone is waiting on everyone else to make that first move.

With my first real boyfriend (ahh junior high relationships), it took us four months to have that dreamt of first kiss.  I wanted him to make the first move, and he refused to do so.  He wanted me to make the first move.  This went on for months, and made us the laughingstock of our friends (“haha look at them, they can’t even kiss, all they do is hold hands, they’re so silly” (which is a topic for another post another day, that idea that sex a necessary part of young relationships)).  In the end, I got so frustrated with waiting that I hauled off to smack him, and ended up taking that smooch instead.

This feels like a highly personal post, something I try to avoid.  My last posting though, was also highly personal, and I felt good after hitting “publish”.  I had bared a piece of my soul, and the world hadn’t ended in a fiery explosion, leaving only cockroaches to repopulate our desiccated planet.

I haven’t decided yet if this post is about me or society.  Probably both, I’m trying to do what I want society to do as well.  I’m being an example (even if I don’t feel like one).

I’m not suggesting we celebrate or encourage pain, simply that we acknowledge that it’s a prevalent part of many people’s daily lives.  By ignoring it, we teach a lifetime of hiding pain, of bottling it deep down until it can’t be bottled anymore; leading to tragedies like the five school shootings that have already happened in 2010.

I wear very little make-up and for years prided myself on my refusal to become obsessed with making myself up before I left the house, until I realized that while I may not use make-up, I still make myself up before I go out.  Fake smiles plastered in place, any threatening tears held within, rage bottled up, fear shoved deep, obsessive compulsive desires masked, anything and everything that might let anyone know something was wrong, all those indicators hidden.  I hide everything personal, in a way making myself up far more than anyone using make-up does.

But, dear lord, it’s not healthy for me and it’s not healthy for anyone else either.  In the short term it might be a little easier but in the long run, it sucks the trust out of everyone’s souls, a slow and gentle vacuum that doesn’t allow the shock or pain or loss of trust to register until far too late, when it’s been so deeply ingrained in our everyday behavior that it’s almost incurable, almost not worth the effort.  Almost.  But in the end, most definitely worth the effort.

This just keeps getting longer and longer; I’m avoiding posting it.  It feels too personal to publish for the entire internet population to potentially read: which is the habit talking, not the innocent me hiding behind the cynicism.

Now that I’ve shared as much as I have; there’s a large part of me that wants to lay down everything, to let it all out for the whole world to see.  It would probably be rather cathartic, allow me to put to rest some of the hurt I’m carrying around.  That’s a bit too much too soon though; baby steps.

So here goes, I’ll (try to) show you.  Will you (at least try to) show me in return?

(It took massive amounts of willpower to post this, and to refrain from editing all the personal comments out of it.)