Thoughts On “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton, ADHD, and Loneliness

I spent the last week transported into the 1600s in Amsterdam. It was winter, and it was cold. And I was very much alone, and very lonely.

The reading project is going well. I have made it through The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, and have now moved on to The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The Snow Child already has me in its grasp so fully that I am having trouble concentrating on anything but reading. It’s a wonderful feeling. (Blog post: Historical Fiction with a Dash of Magic: A Reading List)

The Miniaturist was equally enthralling.

Most of my time in 1600s Amsterdam was spent in the home of the main character, Nella. And yet, even though we spent all our time in each other’s company, I can’t say I got to know her well.

She was kept at arm’s length from me.

All the characters were. I didn’t like or dislike any of them, but at the end of the story I still felt I had only just met them.

This got me thinking about my real life friendships and relationships, and how often I find myself having this feeling.

Closeness and comfortable camaraderie seem to elude me. I get near enough to touch it at times but it’s fleeting.

Even with those I’ve known longest and love the most, I don’t feel as though I truly know them or they, me.

This idea of healthy connection and attachment has been on my mind much in recent years. In my friend group and with my family I feel I have it. There is emotional intimacy there. And yet, I know something is missing.

Most of what I feel and who I am is kept inside, either on purpose or by reflex. I’m unable to let it out, to open up, to truly connect with others. It’s not something I’m able to let my guard down enough to do.

The real me remains hidden, because I don’t know how to unlock that door. I stand behind it screaming to be let out and pounding at the heavy oak until my hands are raw, but it’s always for naught. The person on the other side of the door, the person interacting with the world, is a representative. She’s a shell. A facade. I can’t get to her. I can’t direct her behavior.

Lately, I’ve wondered if my inability to feel fully connected to others has anything to do with anxiety and ADHD having been undiagnosed during my childhood.

My years then and to an extent now were spent trying to avoid situations I found hurtful. In childhood, I usually failed at this goal. Kids can be cruel. My memories of childhood are memories of cruelness.

High School was when things started to change. I met people I connected with better. The damage was done, though, and probably began long before school even started.

I was unable to connect with others the way I wished to. I am unable to connect with others the way I wish to.

I don’t feel I’m the only one who feels like this, and I wish there were a way to fix it.

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