What My Bell Jar Looks Like

“For the few little outward successes that I may seem to have, there are acres of misgivings and self-doubt.”
I recently finished reading The Bell Jar – the iconic book by Sylvia Plath and as late as I might be to join the bandwagon, I will say, the timing for me couldn’t be any better.
For someone who hasn’t read the book, what I’m about to say, the analogies I’m about to draw might seem confusing and gibberish. I apologize. But make of it what you will, the subdued sense of having a bell jar around you is not something you can ignore and have it pop up out of nowhere. It’s been there all along and if that’s the case, this will all make a lot of sense to you.

I’ll start off by saying that The Bell Jar is often termed as a book people read when they are depressed. It is a book people turn to because they need to be understood and realize that their sadness is normal and someone else gets it. I believe it can also be a book that reaches out through a portal and pulls you into a mind that is so clearly on the decline. An honest, interesting, insightful, brilliant mind that is gradually learning that all is not what it looks like and is questioning the authenticity of everything around it. Up until the first few chapters I tried my hardest to separate the protagonist from myself. I tried not to let this book be a recap of the couple of years in my life that I do such a good job of blocking out. The harder I tried, the more Sylvia Plath prodded and probed and let open the floodgates of my repressed memories.

Although the book plays around with many plot points right from virginity, obscure desires, a neurotic personality and the importance of pretence I couldn’t concentrate on any of them the way I did on the protagonist’s descend into depression. In my few brave moments or maybe I should call them weak moments when I lifted the curtain and peeped into the incidents, the signs, the very beginning of the mark of my downfall I realized that the more I kept these memories tucked away the easier it was to forget how it all started in the first place. Sylvia Plath brought it all back in glittering detail.

The protagonist’s inability to write or read felt like a punch in my gut. Her lack of desire to continue living and thinking so easily that life is something she didn’t want any more felt like a deep stab in my sternum. What made it so damn familiar to me was the effortlessness with which she sank…and sank.

And then got better. Or not?

“But I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure at all. How did I know that someday – at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere – the bell jar, with its stifling distortions wouldn’t descend again?”

And then those lines right there were what pushed me over to the point that I just had to sit down and write this. To say it out loud that I wasn’t sure either. That when I made the biggest decision of my life and thought, well from here on forward my bell jar will not be able to lay a finger on me, I was lying to myself through my teeth. When I took a picture of my face before leaving and shared it with a caption “Infinite Joy” I was only just hoping against hopes that it had gone away. But I was wrong.

Dark rooms and an odd plastic smell. The inability to move my limbs. The hollow, terribly hollow feeling in my legs. A sinking, drowning, half-there-not-there feeling. Numbness. And that’s what my bell jar looks like. There are good days and I forget altogether of its existence and just like that, bang, when my bell jar chooses to make its presence felt it latches onto my body and stays for as long as it pleases. Nothing I do makes it go away. Some days I fall asleep in it and when I wake up it feels like it was a nightmare. I only wish it was.

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4 responses

  1. The Bell Jar did wonders to me, wonders that no pill or no therapy could do. I read it when I was 22. I had been in a stable, heterosexual relationship for 4 years, and I had huge arguments with my then boyfriend about life in general. In short, he wanted kids, I didn’t, but I felt that bell jar over me. Him. Society. Our friends. Some family members. And ever since I read The Bell Jar, I realised that it’s ok. Wanting something one day, and dreading it the next one is just fine. That is life. That is what means being in your 20’s. And I should enjoy it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m almost 22 and this took me back to a time when I lost my ability to focus on things other than what I couldn’t do. A lot of the rough things Esther went through mimicked my experiences and although it was upsetting at first but it was also therapeutic in a big way.

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      1. Have you read more Plath? I have her journals, but I haven’t read them yet. Have only heard wonderful things about all her work.

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        1. My bf has read many of her poems and he’s a fan. I haven’t read much else.

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