He has seen others grow and thrive in it. The only instances that he has seen of it is between lovers, between parents and their children, between two friends. On television that is. He has never truly felt it. His parents cared for him, so did his friends and his sibling. Yet, he never felt love from any of them, just a sense of acquaintanceship at most and, because of this he started to yearn for love. From anyone, a family member, a friend, a lover (if he got lucky). Yet he never received it.
“Even from me…” She completed her speech and hung her head in shame. The man in front of her finished taking down notes and glared at her through his glasses.
“Edna, there is no need to be ashamed.”
“But I am his best friend!”
He took off his glasses and looked at Edna with sympathy in his eyes, “Child, that does not mean you have to solve every last bit of his problems or give him all the love and relief in the world, it’s not possible. It’s good you brought him to me. His case is more common than you think. Now bring Felix in, I’ll take care of him.”
Mr. Hart had actually lied, Felix’s case was rare, and he had no idea whether or not he could treat him. With the description that Edna gave, it seemed that he would be an angry teenager with scratches all over his arm and the most uptight and rude attitude.
The door opened and a boy with afro-like hair and fair skin entered. He was wearing a black hoodie that had sleeves longer than his arms and he had friendly, inviting eyes which seemed a little heavy from too much time staring at screens. Yet, his good features made him seem friendly.
Mr. Hart looked at him and asked, “Are you Felix?”
He shyly nodded.
He was surprised. Hart thought that this boy seemed quite stable by the looks of it, but in his career he had learned that people do not always act what they look like.
He gave Felix a smile and said, “Have a seat.”
Felix looked at the many chairs around him and asked, “Where?”
There was a lounge chair, a couch, a beanbag and an armchair. Mr. Hart laughed and said, “Anywhere, child.”
Felix glared at the bean bag and slowly pulled it near Mr. Hart and sat down on it. “It’s…fun to sit on them..” He said, a little embarrassed.
“No need to explain Felix. Now Felix…your friend Edna has told me a lot about you…is there something you want to tell me besides that?”
“Did she tell you about me not getting enough love from anyone?”
“Yes, she did. How does that make you feel Felix?”
“I don’t…mind it really..”
“But Felix, everything about life is give or take. A person needs to give love as well as receive love.”
“Oh, I know that! But the thing is, I am not supposed to receive love.”
Mr. Hart stared at Felix, waiting for him to say that he was joking. Felix only stared back at him.
Felix shook his head, “It’s true! I am not supposed to receive love.”
Mr. Hart took a deep breath and said, “Felix, why do you think that?”
What Mr. Hart heard next shook him to his core.
“Well you see, there is always that one person in someone’s life that acts as an emotional garbage can. They take in the other’s anger and sadness and mix it in with their own unvented emotions. That way, everyone around the emotional garbage can stay clean of negative emotions, since people are not allowed to show these emotions as they are unnatural.”
Mr. Hart was astounded at this boy’s logic. It was the most self-destructive thing he had ever heard in his life.
He gathered his senses and said, “Felix…that is not correct, showing emotions is not unnatural.”
Felix looked puzzled, “But, my parents keep telling me not to cry and when I have tantrums, they tell me to calm down or stop being so childish.”
“Felix…that is not correct.”
“But I am doing a good thing by being selfless!”
“Not for yourself Felix.”
“But isn’t that bad?”
“Being too selfish is a bad thing but caring for yourself is important Felix. What you are doing is toxic for yourself and it will end up destroying you.”
Felix looked at Mr. Hart with confusion. Mr. Hart took another deep breath and explained.
“Felix, your depression has manifested in such a way that you have mistaken it for kindness. You are kind and that is great, but your methods of socializing and maintaining relations are extremely self destructive. You treat yourself as a garbage can of emotions and that has caused you to change your world view. Life is about giving and taking. Not concealing and not not feeling and…turn your mental health into a clogged sewer drain.”
Felix had an expression that screamed ‘confusion’ and ‘realisation’. He got up and drank water straight from the jug that was kept on the coffee table in front of him. He finished the whole jug in one go and sat back down on the bean bag and started hyper-ventilating.
Mr. Hart tried his best to calm him down, “Now, Felix. We can fix this.”
Felix gave Mr. Hart a thousand yard stare, “How?! I-I wasted thirteen years of my life…caring for people who never cared for me!! Eda, my other friends, my parents!”
“Felix, calm down. Everything broken can be fixed if we have the patience. Your problem is not that you have surrounded yourself with toxic people, but it is that you have left out self-love in the equation, making everyone’s actions toxic as a result of that since you have always piled up your negative emotions inside of you.”
“So this is my fault?”
“I never said that, Felix. It’s a result of consequence and situation. It can definitely be fixed. We can work on this slowly and surely with your friends and your parents. Just have hope.”
“Hope? Hope?! I have had ‘Hope’ for thirteen years that someone will love me for what I am but now you’re saying that I was used? That I was…I was used…”
It dawned on him what he was doing to himself. He was letting others use him for no reason, turning himself into a garbage can, only because he thought he was not worth the attention. Yet for some reason, he blamed others internally for not giving him attention and affection. He crashed into the bean bag and contemplated why he even did this in the first place.
“I hurt myself…and everyone around me…” he murmured.
Mr. Hart sighed. He had seen cases like this before where people unintentionally hurt others around them but this is the first time he had seen someone hurt both themselves and the few people that actually care about them.
Mr. Hart walked up to Felix and gently got him back onto his feet and said, “Felix, you did not hurt everyone. Only the ones who are close to you. This can be fixed. We will fix them and we will fix you. Everything will be better. Understand?”
Felix nodded and got back up, tears forming in his eyes. Mr Hart told him to come by later for a therapy session and a discussion with his parents. He thanked Mr. Hart for his help then walked out of the room and hugged Edna and said, “I’m sorry…and thank you.”
The next few weeks, Felix went through therapy with his parents. Now he is a confident little child who knows how to stand up for himself, all the while respecting others. He did not morph into this perfect example of a human being but he did learn that self-love is an important part of life and without it a person shrivels themselves into an emotionless husk of a man or in Felix’s words, a garbage can.
Love for yourself always results in abundant love for others. With that, comes happiness and security. No one needs to be the designated garbage can of the group and bury their emotions.
It’s all about give and take.
Author: Aditya I Editor: Anika