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Talking to Someone I've never Met

By AJD ~

Even this afternoon, I caught myself doing it again after telling myself to stop it for many years. I tried Googling the symptoms but only came up with unrelated topics. What is it that I do? I have mental conversations in which I explain myself to people I don't have much contact with or don't even know personally, having only heard about them through others. I don't have these one-sided mental conversations with anyone I've ever known, and so I realized once again that these are replacements for the long distance relationship with God that I grew up with.

When I was very little, I would have my private, daily, and increasingly desperate talks with god, always saying "you" with what I only realized much later was with a small, intimate "y." He didn't respond, of course, and my "you" somehow transitioned into a conversation with myself in which "I" could not be said. As I got a little older, I did somehow realize that I didn't mean to say "you" at all and switched to "I,", but almost immediately, I began talking incessantly in my head to a pen pal that I had only met once. As the years went by, the person to whom I was/am trying to explain myself has changed, and increasingly lately as I realized more often that I'm not going to have any sort of relationship with that person.

Intellectually, I know that these one-sided conversations all come from the prayers that I was forced to say aloud in front of my family. I had to say what they wanted to hear, but in my head, I could privately express who I really was. He didn't respond, and so I understand now that I quickly moved on to other long distance "relationships."

My sister began to hear voices when she was 16 and I was 12, and my parents believed her when she said they were demons. I was terrified of the dark, of the demons that were just out of sight and hearing. With all the denial of mental illness, I never did take a single psychology course in college. After all, my parents were paying for my education, and I was so used to their continuous monitoring for the slightest hint of spiritual rebellion. It was only toward the end of high school that I started hanging out in graveyards at night with friends that I finally lost my fear. To this day, I don't turn on lights at night but make my way through the darkness because I can.

It was about the time that my sister's schizophrenia took hold (though I didn't know it was that till I was middle-aged) that I began talking to people other than God. Eventually, my inability to hear Him (now him) against the background of my parents' bitterness against each other and my brother's failed rebellion led me to Calvinistic despair in middle school. Suicidal thoughts began and have come back from time to time since then. I was desperate to hear a small, still voice, any voice really. It took my so long to realize that I was the normal one for not having schizophrenia.

No, I've never spoken to anyone real about these conversations that I cannot stop. I pursued a doctorate that both saved me intellectually and made it impossible for me to talk to any therapist; I can out reason the best of them while keeping some obsessive compulsive tendencies like this one secret. A grounding therapist gave up on me, and the app for veterans with PTSD that she suggested had no effect on me; I now see that I have RTS.

The conversations are an addiction, of course. I've always been extremely careful about any sort of physical addiction. My family's religiosity is good for that, at least, but replacing a dangerous habit that society recognizes with an emotional one that appears spiritual and healthy is also self-destructive. The unreal people who listen are vastly more attractive than the husband and child who cannot listen to what I cannot tell them. They may know me better than anyone else, but I'm not nearly so interesting to them.

Are these internal monologues a tamer version of my sister's schizophrenia, one that allows me to avoid hospitalization? I cancelled an appointment once with a psychiatrist after she told me that she wanted to "take care of me." I knew that line only too well from my upbringing and cling to my autonomy. Triggers can be good; doctors are gods all too often.

Will I ever recover from this particular aspect that underlies intense loneliness? Intellectually, I know that it was impossible ever to have that all-encompassing relationship with an inattentive, unreachable figment of my family's imagination. I was even able to walk away from some horrible relationships when I saw how they mirrored my family, but I still need to turn off this compulsive chatter of mine with strangers who never respond.

And so I've decided to move on, though here I am babbling into the Internet void. Will anyone real hear and respond? I can't tell. I know atheists and a few are former Christians, but none are as taut as I am, so much closer to that which does not exist.