The Ophelia in Us

Posted on November 23, 2015



Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-1852

Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window; for her I feel so afraid.
On her twenty-second birthday, she already is an old maid.
To her, death is quite romantic; she wears an iron vest.
Her profession’s her religion; her sin is her lifelessness,
And though her eyes are fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow,
She spends her time peeking into Desolation Row.

Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

For those of you who do not know her, Ophelia is the love interest of ya boy Hamlet who, as we all know, is the angsty guy who asks “to be, or not to be?” She has long been associated with the image of the tragic heroine – disheveled long hair, billowy dresses, drowning nonchalantly in a river with flowers tangled upon her, driven to madness by a broken heart. Her influence has reached a number of artists from Sylvia Plath to Sofia Coppola and even Lars von Trier . She has become the icon of depressive girls everywhere, myself included. Her popularity as an ethereal vision of madness shows that there is something attractive and intoxicating about human sadness and despair.

Most would associate Ophelia with the Stereotypical Melancholic Teenage Girl. She’s the type who writes dark love poetry and wears nightgown-y bridal dresses and flower crowns. She probably got depressed because, I don’t know, she experienced heartbreak or she doesn’t have that much friends or she feels trapped in her house or she’s just oh so different. Not that I’m undermining the sadness of some melancholic girls but it’s just annoying how some people seem to romanticize depression when it’s an actual disease that really fucking hurts. If Ophelia had a choice she would probably rip her brain and heart out in exchange for someone else’s to free herself from the shackles of her insanity. When she drowned in the river, she probably thought it would calmly transport her to another world, one far away from the crapsack one she knew with dead fathers and distrustful lovers. She was, in a way, too pure for the world. Maybe this was the reason why she was named after the Greek word for “help”.

Intelligent girls are more depressed because they know what the world is really like
Don’t think for a beat it makes it better when you sit her down and tell her everything gonna be all right
She knows in society she either is a devil or an angel with no inbetween
She speaks in the third person so she can forget that she’s me.

Emilie Autumn, “Opheliac”.

I guess I consider myself to be an Ophelia-variant. I am drawn to things with elements of childlike, ethereal purity and my mind wanders a lot. I have a morbid fascination with madness and death. I like plants. And yes, I occasionally write (bad) poetry. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with my brain. My heart is a complete mess. I’m pretty darn depressed. I have issues with my family and society. But I refuse to be a tragic heroine.

Disillusioned as I am, I refuse to succumb to madness. Ophelia is someone who lost the battle with the demons in her head, letting them consume her until she is all but an empty shell damaged beyond repair. I may be an empty shell but I would rather have a nice afternoon tea with my demons once in a while, chatting with them about how much it sucks to be depressed – more so in this society. I’m still holding on to the hope that this battle is not a lost cause.

There is an Ophelia in all of us. Somewhere deep inside of us, there is a desire to just run free, disheveled hair and all, picking flowers and succumbing to the madness that pain brought us. There is a desire to stop behaving the way society expects us to behave; to randomly dance and scream the pain away, to drown ourselves in rivers to forget our aching hearts. Sometimes, this Ophelia manifests herself. I feel myself becoming an Ophelia when I hear Christmas songs and cheerful things and then I get angry at people for being happy when I’m not. I sigh and take in the beauty of it all, wandering through streets filled with lanterns and Christmas lights, lost in the sight of it all and how it emphasizes my own sadness.

Ophelia goes away whenever I have to be a proper adult. But I guess she will never leave. She will be there, sometimes possessing me. It’s unstable to let herself manifest fully, but it’s okay to let her show herself sometimes in you. It’s the only way to make sure you are still a human being. To make sure you still feel.