the fundamentals of speaking

Courtney Woolery
Mar 23, 2019 · 4 min read

I’ve started writing this so many times only to backspace it all the way back to a blank page, cursor blinking at me on the screen in a way I can only interpret as mocking. Go back to where you came from, it says. Go back to where it’s safe: alone, in your bed, refusing to acknowledge that you’re scared you may have lost your voice.

I’ve sat in coffee shops and written entire pages full of my feelings only to get stage fright. Why does any of this matter? I’ve asked myself. No one wants to read the blabbering words of a girl who feels broken, a girl who once knew how to write but has since forgotten how to speak.

I’ve sat at my desk in my room, after forcing myself to get out of bed to ride the high of an ounce of motivation, only to cease all function out of frustration and anger. Where has my voice gone? Is the girl who sat up every night for weeks in the spring of 2017 writing a book even still inside me, and if she is, why has she abandoned me? I miss that girl, the one who couldn’t type the words fast enough on the notes app while she was at work, the one who raced home every afternoon so she could spend the night with herself and the words she couldn’t keep inside, the one who regardless of all her fear stood up in front of a room of strangers to share her voice with the hope that it was the start of something really good, a dream on its way to being fulfilled.

I know life brings with it both highs and lows. And I also know that with that there is an inherent beauty and necessary darkness. That with change comes growth. That with the unexpected moments, the unexpected sadness, the hurt, the confusion — we really learn and we really live.

This past summer I was barely keeping it together. How do you take the broken pieces of yourself and put them back into something resembling who you think you are? How do you stare your own failure in the face and stay standing? The truth is, sometimes you don’t.

I went to work during the week, I drank at night just so I could sleep, and on the weekends with the time stretching out so empty before me in a way that felt scarier than anything else I’d ever faced, I started to take long, long walks in the suffocating heat. I walked just so I wouldn’t fall. I walked and I looked at the sky and I listened to beautiful songs on my headphones and sometimes I stood on the sidewalk looking at the golden warm way the sun hits rooftops in the summer and how the houses glow with the shadows of shaking leaves from the trees in the yard and felt for a quick second that maybe I’d get out of this alive. And sometimes I stood on the sidewalk and let myself cry and think, nothing is going to ever feel okay again.

I tried hundreds of ways to write about it. I wrote myself long, rambling letters by hand. I bought new, crisp notebooks in an attempt to get inspired. I took my pain and tried to turn it into some kind of fiction, but it always circled back around to the truth and I’d stop, frozen — thinking, what’s the point? Nothing feels good, nothing will ever feel good, and writing about it isn’t going to change that.

I’d forgotten how to speak.

My life became the before and the after of my own depression, and I couldn’t see a way to get to the after after. The part when I’d gotten through it and I was myself again.

I knew I wasn’t who I was before, but I couldn’t let that go. The idea that there was this “me” I could get back to, as if I could go back to a place where this happening to me hadn’t changed me. I tried to take the broken pieces of myself and put them back together again the way they had been, but parts had gotten lost or changed shape and no matter how much I tried to force them to fit they were never going to. I tried to force myself to still be that girl who wasn’t afraid, the one who still wrote and felt good about it, the one who felt like she could share herself with the world with zero expectations about what would come back to her.

But I’m not her anymore, and I’m learning that that’s okay, and with patience the long ways in which life takes time can feel okay. Who I was still lives inside me, and one day I’ll be a version of her again. A version of me that got through this alive, stronger even. A me that knows how to take the words I have inside and make them into something beautiful, without fear and without expectations — just me, writing because I love to.

Courtney Woolery
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