DON’T BELIEVE MY SMILE: A COLLAGE
I.“You’re not depressed,” my depressed friend said to me, laughing. Our hostess swept by with a tray of hors d’oeuvres and another friend, glass in hand, joined our circle. My friend was so sure about my mood, citing reasons like my extroversion, my smile. It wasn’t easy to insist, at that cocktail party, that depression was a part of my life. But as I munched a stuffed mushroom, I thought about how different depression (and other issues) could look on different people, like a dress we both tried on which fit our bodies differently.
This is what depression looks like.
What if this selfie popped up in your feed?
What do you see when you look at me?
Do you see someone happy? What does happy look like?
I’m smiling. Is it effortless or hard won?
This is what devastation looks like.
Who you’re looking at:
A woman who has been lucky in some ways.
And a woman who, as a child, was brutally sexually abused by her biological father (now dead) for 11 years. Left for dead more than once. Terrorized until she didn’t remember a thing.
All of that and more is behind my smile.
This is what abused looks like.
That girl was an expert at appearing “fine.”
Please don’t take me at face value.
This is what lonely looks like.
Nobody posts the dark times.
The dark times lurk out of view.
Read between the (laugh) lines.
This is what survivor looks like.
I was a mistress of deception and I tricked all the adults and even myself into thinking I was “fine” while I was being abused.
My smile was and is infectious.
But it’s not the whole story.
This is what PTSD looks like.
This thin slow falling of the mind.
The cells store a sequence.
Truth floats outside language.
There’s only one of us here.
Don’t call survive another name.
That girl emerged torn.
Some stories defy telling.
This is what a survivor looks like.
Part of this essay is from the poem “Evacuee” in the book SOME PERFECT YEAR by Cameron Gearen. Shearsman Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission from the author.
Cameron is an author, editor, writer, rocker and mama.