I feel like a fish in a fishbowl, watching the world go by.
Caught behind the glass, no one to hear me cry. (Dee DiGioia)
“I feel like a fish in a fishbowl, watching the world go by.Caught behind the glass, no one to hear me cry.” These are some of the words from a poem I wrote many years ago when I went through a long period of depression. Additional excerpts will appear in this article. Like all people, I have a story. I am ready to tell little bits of that story. “For listening to the stories of others … is a kind of water that breaks the fever of our isolation. If we listen closely enough, we are soothed into remembering our common name.” (Mark Nepo)
I grew up believing that my story, that I, was not important because of the messages I received and believed. For years I felt alone and ashamed of the burdens of my problems which nearly crushed the life out of me. I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that they loved me while growing up. Ever. Anytime I was sick or had a problem my father would respond with a gruff “Awww you’re fine. Nothing wrong.” He would ignore me and move on with what he was doing. “Feel so damned insignificant—always wonder if I was a “mistake”.”
In my first marriage my husband would dismiss my problems with “Aww- you think that’s bad. That’s nothing!” and he would tell me his story. “Why didn’t my husband want to be with me and do “couple” kind of things? Never even a kiss…Instead we lived our own lives, I buried myself in the kids, now and then looking out my fishbowl wishing for none of this. Felt so unloved– always trying to improve myself thinking there must be something wrong with ME.”
When trying to tell my friend my story about my emotionally abusive marriage she would say “Well at least he’s not beating you!” So I stayed in the marriage, soul empty. “Friends came and went, but I felt like a fish in a fishbowl, never really a part of their world. Seemed like they were all so happy. I secretly yearned for friends to scoop me out and rescue me from my pain, my fear, my insecurities, and misery.”
A chapter in my story still makes me feel ashamed and one I have been reluctant to tell. I did not have the tools or support to know how to stand up for my own two children (a long time ago) when their father raged, and I live with that regret every day.
“A husband with a wild and angry temper which came out unexpectedly any time of night or day; I hid in the safety of my fishbowl, pretending to myself and to the world that everything was okay. Felt so afraid– always walked on eggshells thinking one day he would smash my fishbowl in a fit of rage.
His behavior disgusted me. Why didn’t I have the courage to stand up to him? Looking out my fishbowl at other happy couples, my spirit slowly died within. Felt so ashamed — wished my little fishbowl would fall off the edge of the table.”
I have not shared the story probably because I am afraid someone will say “you think that’s bad…” and then tell me their story. But to me, my story was a hell I didn’t know how to escape. Chapter after chapter, I felt stuck in the role of a victim. It led to depression. It led thoughts of suicide. “Feeling so lost and alone like never before… I hide from the world, too ashamed to tell anyone I silently pray for it all to end.”
More recently I would be tested. It was the day, about 5 years ago I was let down by the court system to provide me with a restraining order against my second “ex” who was also emotionally abusive. I sat in a court room shattered by a judge’s decision. He announced that due to lack of evidence the request for a restraining order from my bullying “ex” was denied. I was stunned and terrified. I just wanted the bullying to stop so I could get on with my life. However, emotional abuse leaves no physical evidence (unless you inflict it upon yourself… or others). The person and the system I thought could protect me were essentially telling me “sorry, you’re on your own.” Hope was shattered. For some, this can be a very vulnerable and dangerous precipice to be standing on. Some will choose violence inward (harm to self), some will choose violence outward (harm to others), some will withdraw into depression (not accessing the tools and resources to continue), and some will choose to make significant changes in their life (making a commitment to find the tools needed to survive and thrive). This time in my life, I chose the latter! I wanted my soul back and I wanted my story to change.
Within the next few months, while working at an elementary school as a speech-language therapist, I coincidentally began learning that some of my own special needs students were being bullied. As Maya Angelou says, “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” No child should ever feel like there is no one that can help, but so many do. No child should ever feel afraid to come to school, yet so many are. In August of 2009, I introduced “Caring and Courageous Kids”* to the school where I worked at the time. I found my life’s calling!
We are all on a journey. We all have a story. There are so many other people like me who hide their stories in shame. They are just different stories. Each one is important. Bullying, physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, harassment due to race, religion, and sexual preference, domestic violence, physical abuse and torture. Suicide by a family member, friend, or community member. The effects can be crippling.
Everone needs to know that what’s going on in their lives is important and matters. Everyone deserves to have someone they can talk to and someone who not only listens and acknowledges the pain or problems someone might have, but also provides support (resources, tools) to get past any obstacles which make someone feel stuck. “Feel so lonely–if only the world knew I could really use a caring soul to help me through the day.” People want to be heard and feel validated. As importantly, people need someone to help them find the light when it all seems so dark. When there is no effective intervention bullying and abuse, as well as the effects, can continue into adulthood. You may be the target or victim, you may be the one perpetrating these things (often because you, at one time, were the target). And the cycle goes on. Until we have had enough.
“Will there ever be a time when tears no longer fill my fishbowl, when tears no longer drown me and choke the life out of me…please let it end…I need peace…I don’t think I will ever feel peace, I am so very sad. I can’t stop crying. I feel like a fish in a fishbowl, watching the world go by. Caught behind the glass, no one to hear me cry.”
Gratefully, Caring and Courageous Kids has given my life new meaning. The story I am now living is my greatest chapter. I have transformed and grown more positively in the past four years than I have in all of my life, or so it seems. I love my life. In fact I celebrated by changing my last name to “DiGioia” which means “joy” in Italian. Having found my voice, I have also found the courage to be me. In turn I am passionate in helping others find their voice and be the beautiful souls they were meant to be! Caring and Courageous Kids is not just for kids. It’s for all ages!
Join the movement to break the cycle of bullying and abuse. Take the time to listen to the stories of one another. Next time someone comes up to you and wants to tell you something, please stop what you are doing and turn your body to face them and look them in the eyes and listen. Really listen. Then with delicacy and with love, take their hands and them “You are not alone. I will help.” You just never know the difference you can make in someone’s life. “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be their world.” Help that child or person turn the pages to begin the next chapter of freedom, and happiness, and peace.
In joy ❤ and peace ☮ and in hopes of inspiring compassion! Look within and look out for others who can use a lift today.
Dee DiGioia ✿⊱╮