Somebody in a sideshow

From The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:

He was the type of fellow I can’t stand. I’m five feet ten in my stocking feet, and when I am with little men I stoop over a bit and slouch my hips, one up and one down, so I’ll look shorter, and I feel gawky and morbid as somebody in a sideshow.

When I was reading The Bell Jar, I thought of myself as Esther Greenwood, mainly because of what she looked like and how she aspired to become a writer. I was convinced I was Esther until she gradually fell into severe depression. I believed I was Esther until I forced myself to read the remaining chapters of the book because they were becoming very painful to read.

Reading about what Esther was going through was heavy–it was like diving into a pool with all your clothes on. But, as Franz Kafka once pointed out, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

People who have this “medical condition” (I refuse to believe that a state of mind can simply be dismissed as such) are discriminated for being weak, when in fact, they are struggling against feelings of loneliness and trauma and desperation. How can fighting those feelings be easy? I don’t think you can simply tell someone who is depressed “Stop moping and put a smile on your face.” There’s so much more to it than just sadness.

Everybody gets sad, but I often wonder if people who never experience falling into bouts of extreme sadness or extreme happiness are alive at all. I wonder if they deeply think about who they are, where they are and what they are becoming.

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