My world was in black and white. Days blurred together while I was caught in a gray fog. I was living in a dreamlike state. I didn't feel awake and life seemed like a nightmare. I was sleepwalking through life, in a daze and seemingly awake. I only remember wearing gray, eating gray, being gray. My life was drowning me. Just one long blur of a year trying to catch my breath, trying not to waste away. Many of my memories during this time are forgotten. Nothing seemed significant enough to remember anyway. Food had no taste, so why bother eating? My only incentive to get out of bed in the morning was to not draw attention. I continued my daily routine to stay invisible. Wake up. Ice skate. Go to school. Only speak when spoken to. Blend in. Don't draw attention. Get good grades. Be perfect.
School was boring and meaningless, my friends drifted away, and everything moved in slow motion drowning on, day-by-day. I was just there; frozen in time, just doing the "normal" routine that society thought I should do. School was yet another routine. Lunchtime was the worst. I would wait, hoping not to be noticed. I had to go through the inevitable task of making small talk to whoever spotted me, pretending to be okay. Okay enough to not warrant questions. The questions were the worst.
"What's up?" "How's it going?" "Is something wrong?" "Are you okay?"
"Do I look okay?"
Of course I wouldn't say that. I would mostly just burst into tears. Then they would hug me. Or pat me awkwardly on the shoulder sayings something cliché like "It'll be okay." I would just pray for the bell to ring to relieve me of this agonizing attention.
Either I got really good at blending in, or people caught on to stop asking. They would just continue with the small talk, out of pity I suppose. There were a few regulars who would walk by, some would say hi, some wouldn't, and some would stop and chat. Just like most days, my friend Ariel was really just talking at me, about whatever was on her mind. I just listened, ate my bland, gray peanut butter and jelly sandwich while trying not focus on eating. I hadn't been hungry in months. Finally, she said something that caught my attention.
"I wonder what it would be like to be psychoanalyzed. I think I want to be a psychologist. Do you think I would have to..." That is all I remember. All I cared to hear really. After a fleeting moment of thought, I interjected.
"I've been psychoanalyzed."
At this point I was seeing a therapist. She had big bug eyes that just stared at me and I dreaded going. I was seeing her weekly and we were working on getting me to be more social. Clearly this was not working too well.
Ariel stopped, wide eyed, and turned and looked at me. We made eye contact. A rarity for me those days, I was usually caught looking at the ground. She looked at me like I was a rare animal at the zoo.
"You have? What did they say about you? What was it like?" She turned her whole body towards me in excitement.
"They told me I was clinically depressed."
And there it was. Silence. I had made her uncomfortable and she was at a loss. I however, didn't mind the silence. Eventually she just left. It was peaceful on my gray bench stuck in my gray fog. I started to think about what had led me to this bench. I used to sit in this exact place everyday, except then the bench was red. Every time it was a friend's birthday someone would bake a cake, we would gather forks and meet at the red bench to celebrate. I would sit on the red bench everyday with my boyfriend and we would share our lunches and plan our next adventure. Slowly everything faded. The friends were gone, the boyfriend was gone. I honestly don't know how it happened and I don't know in what order everything took place. It just seems that one-day I woke up completely overwhelmed with life and its possibilities, and there was no one to turn to. I didn't even have anyone who wanted me to be in their group project. It seemed no one wanted to be around me. Everything made me unhappy. Was it because I had no one to tell everything to or because I didn't want someone to talk to? My parents had been putting so much pressure on me to get straight A's, to get into college, and to be on the nationally ranked synchronized ice skating team, I don't even think I would have time to talk to anyone. Except at the weekly appointments they sent me to. They honestly tried to understand, but after they realized they couldn't they sent me to professionals who could understand.
To find yourself, sometimes you have to start by losing yourself. I had lost myself. I had lost all color and it had been replaced with gray. I had lost all but one emotion, and instead I was an empty shell of sadness. I was drifting farther by the day, farther away from whom I had once been, deeper into the darkness, being shoved into a black hole by the pressure of the world I lived in. As I was falling, more textbooks were being thrown at me, essay prompts, dates for exams, ice skating routines, job interviews, questions, questions, questions: "Are you okay?" "What's wrong?" "What happened to you?" "What's wrong with you?" I was Alice, falling down the rabbit hole, but I knew where I was going. Into the darkness.
I tried to stop myself, to catch myself. I didn't want help because I didn't want to drag anyone down with me. I felt alone, so deeply alone that I thought I had to be alone. I would try to cheer myself up with little things. I would dress up in my favorite outfit, or watch my favorite movie. On one afternoon I went to my favorite ritzy grocery store to get my favorite fancy food in hopes that I could taste it. I was being rung up by this woman with deep green eyes. She looked at me,
"How are you today sweetie?"
I sat in my car and cried for eleven minutes. Uncontrollably. I didn't even bother reaching for the tissues. She was so genuine. How can a stranger be so loving? Everything about her was sincere; the tone of her voice, the way she said sweetie, her green eyes that never broke eye contact, her slight head tilt, her smile, even the way her blonde curls bounced as she turned her head seemed genuine. She seemed to understand, even more than the therapists who were paid to. She wasn't concerned with bagging my groceries quickly or getting to the next person immediately. She actually wanted to know how my day was. For her it wasn't just a socially delegated question, she cared. I am positive she was as sincere to the next customer. This was a unique, compassionate woman who gave me a moment out of her day.
It was during those eleven minutes that I realized, this isn't about me. This is about all of us. Every person I had brushed off, refused to make eye contact with, or I was crying in their arms and didn't even have the decency to hug them back, I had given them a piece of my darkness. It was like a tug of war between light and dark and for every person pulling me out of the darkness, I had dragged them in, even if only for a moment. I was crying for myself, out of pity and selfishness, I was crying for those I had hurt, those I had lost, and for those who thought they had to be powerful to change the world. This kind cashier changed my world. She isn't exactly the epitome of power. Instead, she was genuine. She didn't just make me part of her routine, as I had done to everyone I cared about. I now plan to change the world. I know I change at least one person's world a day. It's the little things that make the harsh world manageable: the bus driver who waits for you, the professor that writes "Good job" on your assignment with a smiley face, or the cashier that asks you about your day. Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres have made significant impacts on peoples' lives. They started out small and ended up being so widely supported for their love and care for perfect strangers. I do not yet have the means to bring as much happiness to this world as Oprah and Ellen have, yet I know that through being kind to others I am adding goodness to the world that had not previously existed.
It was a long journey to pull me out of that dark hole. They say that admitting you need help is half the battle, and they don't really say much about the other half. Three therapists, a psychiatrist, dozens of arguments with my mother, millions more tears, countless apologies, many more days of darkness.
One morning I woke up confused, disoriented, recalling the yearlong nightmare I had just encountered. I looked towards my window at the beautiful, golden sun fighting its way through the blinds to reach me. I lifted my hand into the sunlight, and it was as though I had felt its warmth for the first time. And now here I am, the sad girl, the lonely girl, the invisible girl. No longer invisible, telling my story to you, a perfect stranger, hoping to make a difference.
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