The first song I ever heard that I just knew was about me was, weirdly enough, from the Treasure Planet soundtrack.
I am a question to the world
Not an answer to be heard
Or a moment that’s held in your arms
And what do you think you’d ever say?
I won’t listen anyway
You don’t know me
And I’ll never be what you want me to be
SUCH DISNEYFIED ANGST. It didn’t matter that I first heard Johnny Rzeniks’s “I’m Still Here” on the Treasure Planet episode of the super sunshine-y Disney Channel show Movie Surfers; it was the first song that spoke to my real, dark, honest truth, though I sure couldn’t have told you why. I’m not positive I can explain it now, but I’m going to give it a shot. Sometimes I vainly like to see my life as a far dorkier adaptation of Almost Famous, and “I’m Still Here” was the record under my bed that set me free.
And what do you think you’d understand?
I’m a boy, no, I’m a man
You can’t take me and throw me away
And how can you learn what’s never shown?
Yeah, you stand here on your own
They don’t know me
‘Cause I’m not here
What’s most fascinating to me about the memory of my deep “I’m Still Here” passion is realizing how much I’ve apparently always been obsessed with identity coupled with the fear that I’m not actually real or present to the people I love. I was 12 when Treasure Planet came out. Nothing was wrong with me on paper. I was a comfy, well-taken-care-of little tween with parents who bought me plenty of Star Wars books and Beanie Babies, and best friends who pretended to be knights and Harry Potter characters with me on the weekends.
Apparently, mood disorders commonly first present themselves in pubescence. As I’ve said before, I feel a lot like “The Girl Who Cried Bipolar Disorder.” When my childhood comes up during therapy sessions, I can see my counselor putting pieces together of my depression jigsaw puzzle. I feel like I’m lying about the extent of my youthful despair, and therefore hurting the people that always loved me and took care of me at that age. If I started being depressed that early, was I just an ungrateful brat who failed them and their love? Sometimes I would rather not be here at all than feel like a lifelong disappointment to my family and friends.
And I want a moment to be real
Wanna touch things I don’t feel
Wanna hold on and feel I belong
And how can the world want me to change?
They’re the ones that stay the same
They don’t know me , ’cause I’m not here
I’ve very rarely felt truly “here.” From as far back as I can remember, I have been the safest in the fantastical worlds of books and movies. The character archetype to which I’ve always most connected is the Dreamer. The Wanderer. The Craver of Something New. The One with the Not So Secret Need to be Special. I saw myself in starry-eyed, young wonderers turned heroes, like Jim Hawkins.
I know, I know. It’s the biggest cliche: Me, alone in my bedroom, surrounded by my stuffed dolphins and Tim Burton movie posters, cranking the Treasure Planet soundtrack, sighing, “No one understands me. Nobody even knows who I am. I won’t be what society wants me to be, man.” The Treasure Planet soundtrack was my Dylan.
They can’t tell me who to be
‘Cause I’m not what they see
Yeah, the world is still sleeping while I keep on dreaming for me
And their words are just whispers and lies that I’ll never believe
I can’t speak for those who love me and know me best, but I imagine that they see a me who is probably really cool. They see someone that makes them laugh, who excitedly organizes opening night movie excursions, who gets tipsy at parties and talk way too much about the difference between seals and sea lions, and so on. Logically, I know that none of these people would lie to me.
“But,” whispers Cruel Voice. “I mean, what if they are?”
What if the more content, happier me that might get crafted by the therapy and mood stabilizers is the lie? What if I’m meant to stay a yearning Dreamer, albeit a sad one? If I suddenly like myself, will I stop wandering or wondering? My friends don’t want me to change, but they want me to be happy, and what if that’s the same thing?
The diagnosis makes me want to isolate myself. I want to set sail on my own for some solo adventures in self-exploration and figuring out the right dosages and crying a lot when something goes wrong, and I don’t want anyone to have to see. I want to stand among the stars for days at a time until I learn the truth about who I’m supposed to be. I want to keep away from everyone I love until I can burst into their lives again, triumphant and laden with treasures unfathomable.
If I were really brave, if I were really strong, I think, I would take that leap. I would jump off the dock and swim towards the horizon, confident that people don’t just forget forever a person they love. I would. I really would. I want to, even.
But I’m still here.