I rarely share stories as true and raw as this one but I’ve found that when you empty out your own pockets full of heartbreak and lay them before the world you often open up the door of healing for someone else, a door hidden in the vines and thickets for far too long.
When Depression first arrived, wearing quiet but bone-crushing shoes, I couldn’t call it by name.
It was just “sadness.” It was just “I’ll feel better next week.” It was just “I cannot get out of bed this morning.” It was anything but Depression—a diagnosis that hissed and hummed in my throat as I struggled to find the words to tell my friends that I was falling apart. That I couldn’t find a place in this world. That I felt sorry… Sorry for the sidewalks that took my footsteps. Sorry for the people that took my handshakes. Sorry for taking up space when I really should have been smaller. Skinnier. Quieter. Invisible.
It had gotten to a point where dressing was harder, where I ached while wearing clothing and wanted nothing more than to disappear when I walked out the front door. I didn’t want conversation— I didn’t want you to ask what set me apart or what lit my heart on fire. I didn’t know. I felt nothing. Nothing but hot tears on my cheeks. Helpless.
I remember crawling from my bed one morning, already knowing by the heaviness on my chest that it was going to be a Hard Day. Are you seriously going to unravel before you even get ready for the day, I asked myself. Are you really this pathetic?
I couldn’t stand. Couldn’t do anything but let my knees kiss the carpet and put my forehead down on the floor. Maybe to cry. Maybe to pray. I glanced to the right of me, noticing an object wedged underneath my dresser.
A pair of pink sunglasses. Little Girl Sunglasses. Barbie decaled. I instantly remembered Audrey—a four-year-old girl with a love for Nutella and Disney Princesses—and how she had sneakily placed these Little Glasses into my suitcase before my move to New York City. They were perfect and prim and a reminder to look at the world through Pink Shades every once in a while, if not always.
In just one summer, Audrey had shifted my view of the world. She had helped me to relearn the entire thing from a three feet tall perspective. We danced. We loved. We made wishes on hot tub bubbles. We painted our nails. We didn’t fear. We ate peanut butter on counter tops. We felt beautiful. We played in the waves.
Audrey—too young to even spell her name correctly—taught me Fierce Love for the first time, a love that literally wells up inside of you and overflows with all the things you want for Someone Else. I wanted the world to be kind to her. I wanted things to stay magical. I wanted her to believe in every dream she placed her finger upon. I wanted her to trust in maps and compasses, in the beating of her own heart, in the goodness of fairy tales and the love stories of life.
Clutching the little girl sunglasses, I began to weep. Collapsing onto the floor, curled up and shaking.
Remember how special I think you are, I had whispered to Audrey during nap time. Remember that you are limitless, I always wanted her to know. That you shouldn’t be fearless but don’t let those fears dictate your choices. That you may never remember a girl whose hair magically turned from curly to straight from one day to the next but remember her love. Her Morphing Love.
This is all your Little Bones need. A Love that morphs into Ambition. Imagination. Creativity. To Grow Them Strong.
A Love that will leave you seizing days and dreams with both hands long after I have stopped holding them.
I felt for a moment like a child coming out of the swimming pool, teeth chattering, being wrapped tight into the plush towel that mama used to pull and tuck around shoulders. Letting the warmth pour in. All the things I had wanted so fiercely for the holder of these Little Girl Sunglasses, it was all the things I had forgotten to want for myself as the Depression took me in by the shoulders and shook me, shook me, shook me.
I had forgotten me. A girl who deserved fierce love. A girl who deserved quiet moments. Days of rest. Clarity. The truth that it is fine to not have it altogether. The finest laces of life. Good stories. Happy endings. A girl who deserved to stand in the world, unafraid to use her megaphone. Unafraid to make noise. Unafraid to be the foolish one with the will to change the lives around her and know that she would play a part in history. A part in the history of love.
Until that morning, it had been Get Stronger. And Stop Crying. And Be Better. And Eat Less. And Try Harder. And Do, Do, Do.
It hadn’t been Depression, or This is Beyond My Control, but rather a boulder on my back that I couldn’t stop apologizing for. I am sorry I don’t feel like talking today. Don’t feel like walking. Don’t feel like moving. Don’t feel like waking up. Impossible feelings that can only be met with Love, a Love that waters the weak and rusty limbs of the Tired and Trying in Tin Man fashion. Only met with a hushed whisper like the ones that come after nightmares, “Shh… it is OK. It is OK, my sweet one.”
I didn’t get better on that day. I cannot type out the miracle that didn’t happen. Getting out of Depression was a slow and steady process. It took many days of Change, snapping and shifting in my bones, to make me whole again. But I stopped apologizing. I started acknowledging that I deserved just as much as anyone else. Happiness. Joy. Moments tucked into sepia-stained photographs. Laughter that comes from the belly. I deserved that kind of Love and it was fierce and it was pulsing and I was craving and unwilling to let the prospect of it go.
Fierce Love. It is not a passive arrival. It is not a fearful contender cowering in the corner. Fierce love is a tidal wave of awkward and imperfect but incomparable passion for goodness. For ourselves. For others. For the world. But it starts in our own souls, bubbling up like a river. Eventually pouring outward onto others.
It’s sun on the face after a cold winter.
Unconditional. Unwavering. Constant.
It is saying, “I deserve this,” and finding the strength to hold out your hands.