I went digging around in my dark place.
I had to.
If I remember it exists it makes the bright brighter and the happy happier.
If I say it out loud it makes other people feel less alone.
If you can name a thing, describe it with language and science it takes some of its power away.
I call all of my power back to me. Now.
Once upon a time I thought I had to be perfect to be loved.
The problem with that is everyone’s idea of perfect is different and in actuality, perfection doesn’t exist.
It’s our flaws and cracks that make us beautiful like stain glassed windows.
One of my many therapists told me that my psyche is a house. Filled with rooms that are, in turn filled with things I love. Ridicule from others, especially at a young age, made me board up the doorways to most of the rooms in my house until I was only a foyer with a wide open door, letting anyone and everyone in even if they were only there to cause harm and havoc.
I had locked up and blocked so much of who I was, I became an easy place for vagrants to sleep and gather warmth. I had no substance, I was malleable and too open to everything. They didn’t want to build or repair. Just stay and piss in the corners until they found somewhere else to sleep.
I still carry deep shame about being that way. I am trying to air it out.
But the house stood.
Despite every earthquake I invited in, every hurricane that threatened to pull it all down and left everything a soggy mess, every tornado that picked me up and dropped me somewhere strange. I stood.
After the therapist explained this to me I tentatively started walking up the stairs. I took a crowbar and opened the rooms. Some of the things contained within were silly bits of childhood, others rotten and useless, piles and piles of other people’s carelessly packed baggage they had left behind. And some of these things were precious beyond description. The ideas of home and hope and truth and love were all written on the walls.
I still don’t lock the door, but I do shut it from time to time, when I need quiet and time alone.
I started inviting people in, on purpose, with purpose. And much to my delight, they liked me. They called me sanctuary, and I am exactly that.
They celebrated my weird collection of curios and curiosities. Show and tell at Sarah’s house.
I started writing again. First on my own walls, then finally in signs on the yard that passersby could see and they smiled, and said me too and thank you. And the sun was always shining.
I almost developed some amnesia about the dark places. Like in the pain of giving birth to my light self my dark self was forgotten completely.
And when I tripped and fell in one the other day, I forgot how to get out.
I hid my scars. And in them are written the answers.
There are still mines and shrapnel from the war I fought inside myself, blood and bones of who I was. They hide under the flowers and sunshine of where I live now.
And I trip and I fall and I explode.
Not remembering is a dangerous game. I was unprepared.
Someone who could have benefitted from seeing my dark place was denied, and I can’t reach him.
And even then.
Isn’t that scared and tattered girl a valid part of who I am? Doesn’t she deserve recognition for making it through?
I have to reconcile. I have to welcome her and love her.
Because she is part of who I am.
Skinned knees from crawling, raccoon eyes from crying, I love her anyways.
I found her. Behind a door I had never unlocked. Alone, scared, dirty and feral.
Dressed in tattered remnants of her favorite things, before someone told her trying to wear all of the colors in the rainbow was ridiculous and she decided to cover herself in grey to avoid ridicule. A hand-me-down man’s sweater she wore because it looked like sunshine and felt like a casual embrace. All of her clothes hand-me-downs because she loved the feeling of being touched by something someone loved once, still do.
Her hair not long or short because she could never grow it without becoming impatient.
10 years old was old enough to stay home on the weekends.
So she did. Watched spaghetti westerns and fell in love with stockings and petticoats.
But she was lonely being left alone.
Her vocal chords atrophied with no one to talk to.
If she could speak, she would try to tell you it was her choice, and it was in a way. “I didn’t want to go anyway”. But she still wants to be included, feel like she belongs somewhere that isn’t her bedroom and her her forehead will crease into what has become the only deep line I still carry, the mark of discontent between my brows. She feels sick when she lies, but she does it so often it’s almost a first language.
Lies like “I’m fine” when she’s screaming inside.
“It’s okay” when she needs to be held. Someone told her she touched too much and she believed them. She fights to keep her hands at her side. They make fists and push people away.
Then the bad ones. Pretending the kids at school actually like her and let her play without consequence and judgement. They don’t. Her friendships are imaginary and precarious. One wrong word or move and she will sit alone for days. So she stays quiet and still.
She made a fortress in her closet. A reading lamp and a stack of books she has memorized. Stories of other little girls and she prays to any kind of god, that she will someday get a happy ending too. Someday never came.
She is forced to take dance classes and has all of the stage fright and none of the grace. The other girls mock her and giggle into their fists. She doesn’t belong there either. She belongs outside.
All skinned elbows and knees from climbing trees and playing in ponds. She can’t keep her clothes clean, she bites her nails and they are not for polish. She isn’t polished at all. She is a wilding trapped in a world of shoes and should, and manners and homework and chores.
She has started to notice boys and has no idea why they don’t like her, or what that even means to be liked.
She wants them but doesn’t know what to do with them and it doesn’t matter. She is unwanted. They tell her she is strange, she talks to much, laughs too loud. She is too intense for them, but 10 year olds don’t use words like intense, or outcast they just ignore her.
Always too much for everyone but ends up feeling not enough.
She wants to be held, touched, kissed, loved and listened to without judgment.
But that mouth of hers, full of big words and ideas no one understands.
Her funny mouth.
Someone told her that her smile was crooked so she covered it with her hands and then stopped smiling altogether.
Someone told her to stop singing, so she did, but didn’t she get picked to be in the school play and had a solo? The negative outweighs the positive, so I just started singing in the car 6 years ago, always alone.
And I think, therein lies the secret.
I am standing here, in this dirty basement named depression, staring at this incredibly strong and brave girl, who lived through all of this and has been holding me up the whole time. She is my foundation.
I will bring her up into the light, let her wander the rooms. She can shower and grow her hair, I will braid it for her with her head in my lap. I will let her wear whatever rainbows please her and feels good.
I will tell her stories of how we danced, naked on stage and people applauded, not because they had to, but because we were good.
I will show her all of the music and watch her eyes light up at new songs.
She can sit with me in the car and we can sing them off key.
I will teach her how to drive so she can be free to go anywhere she pleases.
I will show her the places where we swim and we still climb trees.
She can howl at the moon whenever she likes and the wolves will come when we call.
I will show her forgiveness for how we had to survive.
She’ll meet our friends that truly love us even when we are dirty or sad or weird.
And I can tell her about the time I asked a boy if we could touch him and he said ‘yes please’.