I’m back in my bubble. What’s the bubble, you may ask? It’s my safe space. It’s where I go when the world is too much, it’s the one spot where no one and nothing can hurt me. My bubble isn’t quite bulletproof but I’d say it’s pretty close to that. You might think that the bubble sounds amazing − everyone should have one, right?!
The protection it offers comes at a cost though: while the bubble protects me from harm, it also protects me from happiness or any other beneficial emotion. Whenever I retreat into the bubble, I go numb. I cut myself off from the outside world and the stimuli it throws at me, because everything becomes too difficult to handle and I risk imploding. I have my hands full with my own thoughts and issues, such that every additional external thing (however small it might be) becomes too much.
When inside the bubble, I don’t talk to people − at least not by choice. Obviously, when I’m at work or around people, talking is sometimes inevitable. I try to avoid it though, either by wearing headphones or by keeping out of locations with too many people in them. I feel small while I’m in the bubble, as if I’m not capable of doing anything, even seemingly trivial things like making small-talk. Whenever I start speaking up, I immediately get a “what’s-the-point” kind of feeling and I want to give up talking mid-sentence because I don’t see the value of my vocal contribution anyway. I lose faith in everything I do, which usually means I end up doing nothing important at all. I’m too vulnerable to take on anything because it means putting myself out there in some way and that has the potential to cause me pain. What if I end up disappointing someone? Or worse, what if I prove that I’m a failure? What if I end up hurting myself somehow in the process? The risk simply seems too high.
Retreating into the bubble also means giving up my emotional connections. I almost completely lose touch with my feelings about certain situations and even people. If you were to ask me whether I love my family while I’m inside the bubble, I would most certainly tell you that of course I love them because I know that I do. I would however give that answer not because of how intensely I can feel it − sadly I have very little connection to that feeling, or any other feeling, while inside the bubble − but because I know for a fact that I love them. The only feelings that always stay at arm’s length even inside the bubble are those of sadness, emptiness and pain. They’re weakened through the walls of the bubble though, so they don’t hit me as forcefully as when I’m on the outside, completely unshielded. I believe it goes without saying that this kind of disconnection causes a lot of trouble, especially in interpersonal relationships but also in everyday situations. Going numb is rarely beneficial. It makes me miss out on happy moments and it hurts the people I care about most, which makes me feel even worse than I already do. My own suffering is bad enough even without it being projected onto and affecting the ones I love.