I know the previous post was a bit of a downer. But I believe what I wrote is the honest-to-God reality of what victims experience. Forced depression. The way it sneaks up on you and sucks you in – in hindsight – is terrifying. When I was little, my parents called me “Happy Apple.” I was always smiling. By January of 2010, I am pretty sure I had not smiled for months. I was a robot. Any attempt at smiling never quite made it to my eyes and was a kind of half-hearted, tight-lipped grimace instead. So, I did what I normally and inexplicably do: I looked at the thing that was scaring me the most (my deep sadness), and I turned toward it, full force, to vanquish it.
As you can imagine, finding one’s own smile again is a nebulous concept. But, and I believe this was God’s hand, my dear friend Felicia reached out to me right as I was drowning. Felicia is a life force: beautiful, joyous, full of spirit and so wise…the phrases that tumble out of her mouth are often the kind of thing you want to commit to memory by writing on post-it notes and sticking to your desk at work. She hosted me when I was an intern at Nike finishing my master’s and she quickly became the person I most wanted to be like. I can still see her ironing her clothes in the morning, blasting Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, singing along, totally off key.
I spoke with Felicia late January and conveyed my fear for myself, that I was unraveling. And a few hours later, I had booked my ticket to visit her and her husband in Charlotte. I was going to a Mardi Gras party, she said, and she told me to go buy a dress that was colorful. For anyone else, I would not have done so. But when Felicia tells you to do something, you do it. Days later, I was in Lord and Taylor trying on the prettiest dresses in an array of colors. I had not bought new clothes in months and looking at myself in the mirror was difficult. My chest bones and hip bones jutted out of my skin. And the big butt that I had somehow made my peace with was gone. Still, trying on the dresses made me smile. I would think of how happy I’d be to be with my friend.
I flew to Charlotte and no sooner than I arrived did I just unload my anxiety and sadness on Felicia’s broad shoulders. I told her everything. Even the things I had been afraid to say to my family and closest friends because I didn’t want to scare them. And she and her husband wrapped their arms around me and dedicated three days to talking to me, discussing God’s plan for me and assuring me that I was going to come through everything a better person.
They took great care of me. Felicia took me for a spa appointment. She cooked for me. And then, they took me to a big Mardi Gras party. I put on my dress and picked out a mask, and hit the dance floor. The lone white girl in a room of 300+ people, I cut a rug! And I busted some moves. I started to laugh over and over at myself and at Felicia as she danced in her feather boa and mask.
When we got home that night and I was wriggling out of my dress, I remember looking at myself in the mirror in my room and realizing that I had turned the corner. I had found my smile again and my resolve. It may have taken a plane trip and a purple satin dress, but I found it; I got my groove back. Felicia and her husband had given me a gift I could never repay them for. And I was so grateful.