Two Types of Silence

Silence is one of those things that can be either incredibly liberating or infinitely suffocating. Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself that you really want things to be quiet, especially if you’re depressed. Let me explain.

So the first kind of silence is something I think everyone wants at some point. If you’re in a situation when you need as little noise as possible, silence is amazing. Need to study for a test or focus on writing an essay for school? Yup, silence rocks. You certainly don’t need the other people in your house making a lot of noise while you’re working. You don’t need kids outside screaming so distractingly loud. You don’t need to listen to the guy talking on his phone in the middle of the library.

How about if you want a nice, quiet moment with someone, or even just by yourself? You take your dog to the dog park at sunrise, hoping to start the day slowly and peacefully. You’ll watch your dog run around like a lunatic (OH BOY! NEW PLACE! SO FUN! PEE! ON! EVERYTHING!) and nurse a cup of coffee as the sun comes in. But then you get there and- GASP! Someone else. And it’s not like he’s sitting there minding his own business. He sees you coming in and he’s already on top of you, asking what kind of dog you have, how old she is, and anything else to make conversation for the sake of making conversation. And there’s nothing wrong with talking to other people at the dog park, but… you really just wanted the silence.

How about if you wanted to have an intimate conversation with someone? Say you need to talk about your depression with a close friend. Or maybe you need to tell someone that you like them. Maybe there’s just something really personal you want to talk about. You meet up for coffee or lunch or whatever, and you start this quiet conversation, when all of a sudden, you hear this really loud person enter the building. There’s plenty of space everywhere else, but they choose to sit down at the table or booth directly next to yours. And while you’re trying to have this difficult, intimate conversation with someone, they’re having a loud, obnoxious one directly behind you. Silence would be really fucking awesome right about now.

But then there’s this second kind of silence, and this one can really hurt. The effects of it are usually very strong when you’re depressed or lonely. When you go to sleep at night like this, you may end up keeping yourself awake with overthinking or even just regular thinking about your personal issues. You’ll turn the TV on, or listen to music, or even just sleep with someone just so it’ll feel like you’re not alone with your thoughts. And after a while, it’ll become a need. You need to listen to reruns of old sitcoms or be in bed with someone because the loneliness and pain that silence brings is too much to handle by yourself.

How about those awkward silences with family and friends? Particularly family and friends you don’t get along with. And you may think it’s pretty weird to be spending time with people you don’t get along with, but like it or not, it happens. One of you will keep trying to make small talk, but there are these long stretches of silence that remind you of the fact that you don’t really belong with them. Forced conversation and laughing at jokes or comments that aren’t really funny are never going to cover up the fact that there’s this giant distance between you and them.

Something changes between you and someone you’re close with. One of you starts dating. One of you moves. One of you is mad with the other. One of you just wants to stop being friends. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. I’m sure you know the feeling. This person’s out of your life, and whether it’s temporary or permanently, you notice the silence. The phone stops buzzing with calls or texts. Your Facebook timeline stops receiving pictures of things the other person thought you would like. You find yourself with free time you wish was still being spent with the other person. This silence… geez, this silence really sucks.

But what’s very confusing is when you want one type of silence and not the other. Well, okay, everyone wants the first kind of silence and no one ever ever wants the second type. But sometimes you’ll find yourself wanting silence, and when you have it, you realize you don’t really want it.

When you have all this anxiety about whatever it is you’re going through, you don’t want to hear annoying coworkers drowning you in idle banter. You don’t want to be out shopping and hear babies screaming. You don’t want to hear construction outside your window all day. You don’t want to go out, get something to eat, and listen to old people whine about anything. ANYTHING.

Because when you have enough trouble dealing with depression, dealing with anxiety, trying to convince yourself things will be okay, and overall just trying to work through stuff that you have enough trouble understanding, let alone trying to find a way to explain it to someone else… the last thing you need is to have a group of old people sit down next to you and start whining about everything. It took enough strength for you to get out of bed, enough courage to go out into the world, a world full of people that can potentially hurt you, and now you have to listen to such serious issues, like “it’s too cold in here,” “I don’t know how to get an E-mail,” and “what is Tweeter?” while you contemplate how to fix yourself when you feel broken beyond repair.

Look it up! For fuck’s sake, look all this shit up, old people! If 1st graders are learning second languages and how to use computers, surely someone that’s fought in a war, or raised a family, or had a lifetime worth of experiences can find the resources to learn the basic functions of a basic part of modern life!

Sorry… I’m sorry. It’s just when people complain about the most trivial things while I’m fighting a war against myself in my mind… it really, really frustrates me.

And it should. It should frustrate a lot of people. You want all that obnoxious shit to shut the fuck up, because all it’s doing is making you more frustrated, and it’s only going to be that much harder to deal with whatever it is you need to deal with. That’s when you want silence.

But then you get silence. And it’s too much. You need some white noise. You need to become distracted at least a little bit. You need idle banter, but with someone that’s not an obnoxious coworker. You don’t want to hear babies screaming while you’re out shopping, but you might want to hear the murmur of the crowds or the music in the stores. You don’t want to listen to the construction outside, or the kids screaming, but the sound of rain, wind, or cars would be nice (but not motorcycles). You want to go out, get something to eat, and not have someone else’s conversations and complaints invade your personal space.

It’s hard, wanting silence but not too much silence. It’s difficult to describe to people, especially people that are unfamiliar with depression. It’s hard enough to describe to yourself, you know? How are you going to describe it to someone that has no clue how to even begin understanding what’s going on in your head? Silence is tricky. And difficult. It’s kind of like a relationship. Sometimes you love it. Sometimes you can’t stand it. And it can be difficult to explain to other people. Silence can leave you with peace of mind, and unfortunately, the fear of the unknown.

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2 thoughts on “Two Types of Silence

  1. I’ve experienced very similar feelings, but what tends to be more irksome when I’m feeling down is very loud talk that’s really shallow. Everyone makes trivial banter, but the shallow stuff tends to make one want to retreat.

    Either way, though, good post. Stay strong.

    • Any kind of shallow conversation is enough to frustrate someone when they’re feeling like this, but when it’s loud… yeah, that’s enough to make you want to get up and leave no matter where you are. It’s like they’re shoving it in your face. Thanks for reading! You stay strong, too.

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