I’ve heard voices in my head ever since I was a kid.
At first, they sounded like my older brother. They told me, “We may be blood but that doesn’t mean we bleed the same color.” They told me I was strange. They told me that I didn’t fit in. That I would never fit in. That I would always stick out sore. That I would never be comfortable in my own skin until I scraped it all off and found new skin.
Later on, the voices multiplied.
Now, I could hear my friends at school, too. They didn’t like my skin either. They told me, “Only weirdos read books and daydream.” They told me I talked weird. They made fun of my hair. It started to seem–at least in my head–that I would never be allowed to exist. I started to realize that I had to protect myself. Protect my insides from what was outside.
People didn’t need to know what my insides looked like.
Whatever it was, I knew early on that I needed to listen to the voices. They were there for a reason and sometimes, they were the only ones talking to me. Maybe I’m not supposed to do this on my own. Maybe I can’t. So I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I would follow the voices wherever they took me. I mean, what’s the harm in that? I didn’t know where I was going anyway.
Things got tricky when I started dating. Voices started to contradict one another. I didn’t know who to believe. They would tell me, “Be yourself,” but in the same breath, “Cover up.” Words like ‘perfection’ and ‘promise’ were thrown around a lot, to a point where they lost their meaning. I was trying to find space to crawl between their skin and bones but there was never any room. Boyfriends were always some of the loudest. Not that they meant to be. Not that they knew what they were doing. Everyone just wants to be heard and everyone’s hoping that they’re doing things right. No one wants to believe that there are things about life and living that we don’t quite know how to comprehend yet. I think I’ve always known this but it’s hard to tell sometimes.
I can’t figure out what’s me and what’s something someone whispered to me in my dreams.
But relationships never lasted long anyway. I would break free from them the moment they got too loud. I didn’t let anyone get too loud for me to hear my dad. My dad. The voice I was born with. Before I could walk, I could already hear him. On the playground at school, I would hear him telling me, “You’re too smart for playgrounds.” I could hear him whispering in my ear on dates, “Don’t trust that boy. He’s just going to take advantage of you.” Today at work, I hear him criticizing the length of my skirt. He doesn’t like how quiet I am at work sometimes but he doesn’t like when I get too loud either. He says I’m weak when I’m too polite and rude when I’m too demanding. The problem with these voices, I realized, is they are never consistent.
After all these years, the voices that used to anchor me are now splitting me into pieces.
So messy. So fucking messy. How did I let my head get so fucking messy?
Sometimes I forget these voices aren’t real.
I don’t know when I stopped being able to hear my own voice. I don’t know when it changed. Maybe it never changed, maybe I never had one. Or maybe I just let mine go. Am I weak? I don’t know. I don’t know who to blame.
All I know is, I haven’t been me in a while and I might not know what I sound like.