We are the loneliest sweet potatoes

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I watched a video earlier this week on Facebook of a woman named Sabrina Benaim reciting her poem, entitled “The Loneliest Sweet Potato” from her book Depression and Other Magic Tricks.

Sabrina starts off by saying “So I’m at the grocery store because I feel sad.” She says she gets lonely, and is uncomfortable in her lonely. Going to the grocery store, she can practice making herself feel better by pretending she is a regular person.

I’ve done that.

As I listened to her speak, I imagined myself as the subject of her poem. I’ve meandered to the grocery store in the middle of the night because the background noise in my house wasn’t enough. When you’re alone with your thoughts, you can’t lie; you can’t pretend.

At the grocery store, you HAVE to pretend. You’re in public, and you must practice the politically correct practices that one does in public. And that helps. But in reality, you’re still alone, at the grocery store.

But how many of us feel this way at the grocery store at the same time?

I’ve never ventured looks at those who are alone in the grocery store like me. I was always too enveloped in practicing feeling better to notice others who may have been lonely, too.

I continued thinking about this, and it led to me wondering how many people actually do the same things as me to ward off the loneliness and sadness when they are by themselves.

How many have had full conversations with their dog just because they haven’t spoken any meaningful words to anyone all day? How many have turned on the TV to their most comforting shows just to feel like there is someone else in the house? How many others have paced back and forth to the refrigerator trying to find the most comforting foods?

How many other people in the grocery store have come just because they were sad and lonely, like me?

Logically, I have to answer that there are probably quite a few people who go through these motions in exactly the same way I do. There isn’t any feasible way that I’m totally unique in the things I do, or in the coping mechanisms that I’ve developed. Of course there have to be more people exactly like me.

But it never feels that way.

There are those who carry their struggles until they break down and take their own lives. There are those who do the same, but end up taking someone else’s life. There are people who feel so backed into a corner by their own emotions that they lash out at themselves, and at others, and the collateral damage is so great it affects everyone.

In her poems, Sabrina tackles these feelings. Depression isn’t a magic trick, and neither is feeling sad or lonely or completely disconnected from everyone.

The real magic trick is how we make ourselves believe we are the only ones who feel the way we do. We trick ourselves into thinking we are totally alone.

But logically, we aren’t alone. And that is important to remember. When crippling mental illness brings you down to the middle of the earth and it seems like there are no living souls around, we have to remember that it’s an illusion; there are people everywhere who struggle with the exact same things as us every day.

And we all want to help.

So when I’m searching for some comfort while I’m alone in my house, I have to remember that there is a girl somewhere out there who is sitting on her couch, talking to her dog just the same as I am. I’m sure she would like to be reminded of the same thing, along with all the other people out there who are similar: We aren’t alone.

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