As the vivid memories of clinical depression begin to soften around the edges with the passing of time, I’ve gained a long-yearned for sense of clarity. This must be what people mean when they talk of “coming out the other end”.
I have greater self-awareness and I’m actually starting to like myself. I’m no longer the 94lb girl dressed in colourless clothes, floating in and out of your peripheral vision, wishing she was invisible. I can walk into a room and know I have as much right to be there as the next person. I won’t stand by and watch abuse and bullying happen, to me or anyone else. I’ve kept the secrets of other people’s abominable behaviour for far too long. I’m learning not to care so much about those who care little for me.
I almost lost my own identity in my attempts to gain the acceptance of others. I put so much on the line and when it all came crashing down I was lucky not to end up back in therapy. But the skills I’d learnt saw me through and as I moved through the visceral stages of grief, the scales fell from my eyes. Years of struggle were uncloaked and I saw, for the first time, how my efforts to build bridges had been thwarted and devalued at every turn. The fault lay not with me, as everyone would have had me believe, but with them.
You cannot imagine how this revelation made me feel. At first I was hurt. I felt the burn of betrayal. I questioned and examined shared occasions and perceived relationships, doubtful now if any of it was real. Then I felt angry and humiliated. They played me for a fool. All this time… Instinct drove me to shut down, retreat, erect a wall. And for a while this sufficed. But I’m stronger now. I won’t go quietly into the night like I always used to. I won’t pretend anymore. The sun has risen on a new day in my life. I will face my detractors – I’ve cut the strings of my puppet masters and I’m choosing my own path.
That’s why the news I got this morning was such a blow. I’d written a feature for a British newspaper about how my inter-racial marriage had been received by our families and they told me it would have to be published under an alias – my words could be construed as allegations of racism and threatening behaviour. The paper couldn’t risk being sued for defamation.
I’m not out to name and shame anyone, I thought hard before I first committed my personal experiences to the public arena of my blog. But I realised that by giving in to the “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” mentality I was helping to conceal wrongdoing. And by being complicit in the concealment, I was allowing the hold over me to continue.
This morning’s news stung because it still feels like I’m being gagged. I’m prevented from taking public ownership of my hard-won lessons. I can’t use my voice to tell it how it is. I must remain nameless, shrouded in anonymity. I must protect the very people who set out to wound me.
But I can see beyond this. It’s only as big a deal as I make it and, in reality, it doesn’t change anything. It’s only strengthened my commitment. I won’t be part of any more cover-ups. I’ll write so people can understand: how it feels, the consequences of certain behaviour, the ugliness of prejudice and the abuse of power. And I’m unafraid to stand by my words.
I have a note above my bathroom mirror that reminds me to live every day by the lessons I’ve learnt. It helps me remember to be true to myself and not slide back into existing to keep other people happy. It reads simply, “Be Honest”
I will tell my story. I will write my experiences, and I will say what I think; not what you would like me to think or what society says I should think. This is Me.