Tiny Little Voices: How I Learned to Embrace My Emotions and Overcome Apathy

My comprehension of human relationships has been severely impaired by the cumulative effects of my past experiences, which have left me scarred, traumatized, and besieged. This sounds like the beginning of a very sad movie, butI guarantee you there’s hope. The term “relationship” itself becomes vague and ambiguous here, further complicated by my incessant and excessive overthinking that I engage in on a daily basis. An overthinking that I am still trying to slow burn with napalm. And the subtle hostility that I perceive from misinterpreting the signals of those whom I am supposedly establishing a rapport with, or something to build off of.

By relationships, I mean not only the romantic ones, but also the platonic, the familial, and even the ones that I regard as “inferior” on the hierarchy — such as professional, casual, or incidental ones. Before I reached the threshold of adulthood and entered the final phase of my twenties, I was a gullible, impressionable, and somewhat conformist youth. Barred by the denizens of what a prosperous life looks like. I denied my own sensitivity and aspired to attain what others seemed to have mastered (and probably had) and pretended that it was a natural part of life, like a garden.

Family members — like the ones where cousins are like siblings, uncles and aunts are like second parents, your grandparents’ senescence resonates with you on an emotional level. I think grandparents are adorable wise wizards and they should treat you like little innocent dumb pre-wizards. I think their mortality is subconsciously engineered at this age, because they have a different perspective of life- and not to sound morbid — but it as if the awareness of an inevitable end gave them a sense of purpose and solidarity.

Close friends with idiosyncratic, humorous, personal, and exclusive inside jokes. The kind that arouses that harmless type of jealousy from others with friendships that are nowhere near as awesome. Then there’s the Not-so-close friends, but close-enough to exchange witty remarks, meaningful conversations, and the ability to acknowledge each other from afar with the tip of a cap or small gesture at the local pub where we are visiting with our partners. Corny shit like that.


Being immersed in a traditionalist mindset seemed like a desirable goal to me, not because I wanted to conform to the expectations of others, but because I yearned for the normalcy that it promised. I had witnessed how the lack of normalcy had destroyed or left disfigured many of the relationships in my life.

I think this was partly due to what I call and token immigrant child syndrome. I don’t know if it is a recognized term, but I define it as the desire to make your parents happy who sacrificed leaving their home country to give you a better life- because of the unending guilt and pressure of living in a first-world country that supposedly is the safest, has the most powerful military force the world has ever seen, and is the leader of the free-world. This desire, in theory and in practice, can be seen as a gift to your parents, give you a sense of purpose — but it can also trap you in a rigid role that does not allow you to pursue what is right for you — it can poison you.

This syndrome may be related to some of the challenges that children of immigrants face, such as unspoken guilt, identity confusion, and intellectual divide. These challenges can affect their mental health and well-being, as well as their academic and career choices — not only that but being siphoned into the push-and-pull of indecision and guilt is mortifying. Some studies have also suggested that children of immigrants may have higher risks of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, or even a mysterious condition called resignation syndrome, which affects only the children of asylum-seekers. These disorders may be influenced by factors such as stress, trauma, discrimination, and cultural differences- which plays a huge role in any environment.

increasingly confused and strained, leading me to doubt myself and the world around me — I felt that either I was the problem or everyone else was. This resulted in a profound state of apathy that engulfed my life. A state of apathy that started to feel dangerously comfortable to me.

I think that many young people who delve into existentialist philosophy experience a glimpse of what true apathy is — I cannot compare their experiences to mine, but I can say that I faced apathy head-on, feeling its coldness against my heart. And in those periods of apathetic stagnation, I lost sight of everything I wanted to achieve — So I achieved absolutely nothing. The guilt ate at me.

And it was not because I did not care — at least not entirely. It was because I did not know — I did not know what I wanted, who I wanted, or what I wanted to be, become, think, or express. My apathy was strangely twisted — I had traumatic periods of starving and purposely living in uncertainty and despair — for many days, weeks, years.

According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, adolescence is a critical stage where one faces the crisis of identity vs. role confusionDuring this stage, one explores different roles, activities, and behaviors to develop a sense of self and direction in lifeHowever, if this process is hindered by external or internal factors, one may experience role confusion, which can lead to feelings of insecurity, doubt, alienation, and apathyIdentity is a fundamental organizing principle that develops constantly throughout the lifespan, and it provides a sense of continuity, uniqueness, and psychosocial well-beingTherefore, resolving the identity crisis is essential for achieving a healthy personality and a positive outlook on life. I believe because of this, the volume of the negative tiny voices seem to drown out the other ones.

My sensitivity

It was only recently that I realized how much my sensitivity affected me — like really affected me. I was unaware of the need to assert myself to a degree that I resonated with a violent side of myself I was already trying to suffocate. I did not know how to do it without being aggressive — with clutched fists. I did not know if I was expected to, or if doing so would trigger the forces that forbid any expression of emotion other than the final evolution of Cristian which was a stoic, serious demeanor.

I mean that in every sense of the word.

I was not allowed to show emotion in practically ever sense of the word. I could not be angry, I could not be sad. Even if I was happy, it would be too much. For reasons related to the harmful effects of toxic masculinity, I had not yet sought proper help, (as of late July 2023 I first started seeing my first therapist! Hurray for progress!) even help with identifying my feelings. The reasons are ironic, but being a Latino-First-Genner, and also, a man that was forced to be a man early, for that matter in this environment does not seem to fit together. Not only do I fear what I have to say- but deep down there is a voice that tells me nobody cares.

I am aware of the fallacy of my beliefs, but I feel as if a spectral force violently grabs my throat whenever I attempt to act contrary to that specificity. It was a struggle between the manifestation of anxiety and depression being drawn into the physical, panic attacks, choking, and so chills.

I never expected to reach the age of thirty — in fact, I have composed numerous poetic elegies for myself in my late twenties- so by that alone, I felt accomplished. My survival is an act of defiance that contradicts the voice that has haunted me for as long as I can remember. When I turned thirty, I still had that savior complex of wishing I could contact a younger version of myself and share my emotions with them over the phone. When I turned thirty, I wanted to commemorate it — but maybe I can contact that little boy — a voice told me that little boy still exists.

The actual celebration occurred in my mind — It was not a physical confetti-and-balloons celebration. It was countless affirmations from another voice that had supported my resistance for so long. It was every time I recovered from utter despair- which looked like me being half-clothed, drooling and humming on a cold floor. It was the nights when I lay on my bedroom floor, with nothing but the hardwood and radiator pipe pings to disrupt my tears, and nothing but gravity and depression to sustain them.

During my difficult times, I often resorted to a form of breathwork, a technique that involves altering the breathing pattern to achieve a state of relaxation and self-awareness. It was nothing like the common 4–4–6 six method- rather it was just a form of breathing that I HAD to focus on. According to research, breathwork can have various benefits for mental and physical health, such as reducing stress, improving mood, enhancing creativity, and promoting quality sleep.

To accompany my breathing exercises, I would listen to movie scores, and classical music through a myriad of expensive headphones. Classical music has been shown to have a soothing effect on the brain and body, as it can lower blood pressure, increase dopamine levels, boost emotional intelligence, and help with insomnia. The combination of breathwork and classical music created a powerful emotional experience for me, as I felt the contrast between the muffled crying sounds of my own voice and the harmonious melodies of the instruments and orchestras. Sometimes, I would cry uncontrollably, which in turn made my nose congested and my breathing more difficult — which spurned the worry of my faithful dog, who would sense my distress and cuddle with me, offering some comfort as he knows how — this was one of the best parts, as I felt I wasn’t alone, and loved.

I realized that I was the only obstacle to my healing. I had many stories, excuses, and truths that prevented me from seeking professional help. I believed that my situation was unique, singular, and incomprehensible to anyone else. I wasn’t aware that humans fit a framework- so that even if I experienced something no one else did, we dispersed the same chemicals, our memories are formulated the same, everything and how our bodies respond to that stimuli is the same- except the event- so there was hope. I felt that no therapist or doctor could relate to me or diagnose me properly — and I thought that my very personal disease was too new and too complex to be treated by conventional methods. But I was wrong. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. There are many people who have gone through similar or worse-in-their-mind situations than mine, and they have found ways to cope and recover. There are many evidence-based therapies and medications that can help with various mental health conditions. There is hope for everyone who suffers from this very real emotional pain. There is a comforting tiny voice out there.

Occasionally, the accusations were valid. Occasionally, my utterances lacked coherence. Sometimes, people would attribute this to stress. And I would sometimes concur with them.

I harbored suicidal thoughts at times. And I came close to acting on them at times. It was weird.

I regarded myself as a highly intelligent person — A logical person. A man with infinite patience, but who would not tolerate any nonsense beyond a certain point. I had morals, and stuck to them. So it puzzled me. Why did I want to inflict harm on myself? Did stressed people really resort to self-harm or contemplate ending their lives? This was exacerbated by the expressions of horror from friends of the relationships that I felt unworthy of. The other tiny voices weren’t going away- or atleast down with a good fight.

In my early twenties

I was engaged. I entered into a commitment with someone, or something? It was strange. The very essence of it was bewilderingly perplexing. I think I felt compelled to take such a drastic step, honestly, just to feel.

At that time

I felt nothing. This was the perfect condition for someone to plunge into the depths of the world in order to feel. I could have easily succumbed to gangs, drugs, violence, poverty, and more.

The world was open to me. Morally, my apathy was hindered by indifference. I somehow appreciate, that voice that encouraged me. Muted and battered deep into my psyche.

I was aware of my affection for her, but she never reciprocated it beyond a superficial level. And even that was scarce. I assumed that playing mental chess and emotionally tiptoeing around her was the essence of love. I believed that I had to conceal my true self in order to attain that sense of normalcy — that hurting myself was love. That desire to emulate what others had been, for me, intoxicating. I had to have it, I did not know why. I wanted to achieve something and experience positive neurochemical reactions in my brain for once. The ones I remembered from when I was a child — But she did not grant me that privilege. The gap between us and the closeness I healthily craved were drowned in a sea of depression and what-ifs.

I did not know any better- to me that was the foundation and pinnacle of love and companionship. But I am often too harsh on myself, I had no examples growing up, and from what I have heard, anything on television was exaggerated. So, I took those two precedents and measured what love was for myself — something muddled and hard to explain. Being a human was hard. My blueprint was given to me at a young age. I had to suppress my emotions a lot in order to survive. I could not be sensitive. Or react. Side note: I AM EXTREMELY SENSITIVE. Sometimes, the intensity of my sensitivity is white-hot, but I have shielded it from exposure with layers of personality traits disguised as my actual personality. So in turn, a fake version of myself.

Fortunately, by the Grace of a loving God, I have come very far.

I have achieved significant progress in my personal growth. This is a self-acknowledgment of my efforts and resilience. However, I still face challenges in my interpersonal relationships, as I tend to scrutinize and doubt everything. I struggle to balance between the two voices in my head: one that is cynical and pessimistic, and the other that is optimistic and supportive. They often agree on the need for caution and prudence, but they also hinder my ability to communicate effectively — like two siblings that hate each other. Instead of expressing my thoughts and feelings to the person I am involved with, I resorted to harbinger online research and muddy self-diagnosis.

“Am I a narcissist?” I ask myself with horror.

“Of course not. I am the kindest person I know. I sincerely believe that.”

I walk away … and murmur

“That’s probably what a narcissist would say…”

I have suppressed my self-doubt and I have exerted myself diligently. I have attempted to mend various facets of my being that were injured in conflict, in a self-defined version of love and sacrifice. In existence.

Occasionally, the negative thoughts prevail. Occasionally, I sense a palpable struggle between one force trying to suffocate me and another force resisting it. They’re both versions of myself- one most likely hurt, and bleeding, and the other loved and secure. I literally perceive it as so, I feel it in my bones. Occasionally, I wish for it to cease (occasionally). Not myself, but the world. Time. I desire to thrust a colossal metal rod into the planet and halt its rotation. Just fucking stop it from spinning. Stop it all.

The Separation

The dissolution of my quasi-romantic relationship with my former partner was acrimonious, painful, and confusing to say the least.

I delivered a lengthy monologue, expressing the very depths of my emotions. It was fucking agonizing. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. To paint the scenario — it occurred in a dimly lit room, where we sat on opposite sides. Tears and mucus stained my face- it was disorderly, napkins and dirty novelty mugs littered across the cheap countertops. It smelled like a revolution. I spoke for what felt like an eternity, without any interruption, any pauses. I laid bare my soul — eviscerated myself into a vacuum. Extremely frenzied and vociferous that for that moment, there was nothing my voices could say — I finally silenced the voices in my head. When they attempted to interject, I told them to be quiet- no I told them to kindly shut the fuck up. I told her to shut the fuck up as well. Everyone, anything, every being in the room had to shut the fuck up, because I had something to say. She, on the other hand, was apathetic- stone faced and Medusaesque. The impact that had on my entire being was devastating — But it was also pivotal in how I evolved and understood why I felt the way I did. How I wanted to change it, and never feel that again.

I had never experienced something like that before. I had never felt like I stood up for myself until that day- like really standing up for what really mattered to me. Fortunately so, I have done so more often since that day. And I feel that every time I write about my past and my demons, I do so again, and again- and each description is an attestation to my healing. The fact that I had been contemplating writing this before I even turned 30 speaks to the intricacy of time and how often things in your head can create a temporal distortion. I want to continue defying voices. Norms, standards and traditions that afflicted me. Traumatized the origins of everything I have wanted to fight for. I want to be honest with myself and the next person I am vulnerable with- I want them to feel how much I love them. I want to be able to communicate that ineffably and explicitly. I want only me and that soul in the room with each other, no funny business.

No norms,

No traditions,

No rejection,

No apathy,

No syndromes,

No indifference,

No doubt,

No indecision,

No more little tiny voices.

Published by Cristian Leonardo Gajardo

Welcome to Cristian’s Cafe, a website where I showcase my various forms of expression and happiness. Here you can find poetry, podcasts, personal blogging, research articles, open mic, comedy, and art. Whether you are looking for inspiration, entertainment, or information, you will find something that suits your taste and mood. Enjoy browsing through my content and feel free to leave your comments and feedback. Please note that the Wi-Fi connection may be slow or unstable at times, so please be patient and look at the art instead. Thank you for visiting Cristian’s Cafe

3 thoughts on “Tiny Little Voices: How I Learned to Embrace My Emotions and Overcome Apathy

  1. Thanks for sharing. Sorry that it’s been so hard at times but you definitely should credit for yourself for coming so far. I relate somewhat, also being sensitive and finding nearly all relationships difficult. I wondered if it’s ok to re-post this piece on my blog, with a link and credit to you? I write and, also, share stories about anxiety and sensitivity.

  2. Too damn relatable. I don’t know how you do it, but don’t stop. Don’t.
    Reading through that reminded me alot of things, growing up . How I wanted to be normal and have everything under control like everyone else, wanting friends I could hang out and go on adventures with, a best friend I would have a secret code with, oh boy. Alot.
    Please keep writing, for yourself and for the rest of us.

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