Friday, May 27, 2011


She was just starting her senior year in high school. She’d been dating him for a year and a half and it was only a matter of time before she "went all the way" with him.  She had been so naive at the time. It was the night she’d come back from vacation. She always faithfully wore the jewelry he’d given her. The little heart ring with the diamond chip in it. The gold necklace with the heart and diamond chip in it. The gold bracelet. It was the only jewelry she wore. She was so excited. Seven days had seemed like forever for her. He picked her up right after dinner. She’d gained a little weight over the previous year, but he’d never said anything about it bothering him. She never thought about it, but it did bother her some. It seemed to bother her family a lot. They mentioned it quite a bit. He took her to his house because his parents weren’t home. She had no idea where they were or when they’d be home. He started talking to her about a "friend" he’d made at the Orange Tree, a hotdog and juice place across from the Peanut Shack where he and his friends worked. Jealousy burned up inside her. She only half heard something about a cucumber on her leg and a trucker and wasn’t that funny? She didn’t know where this was leading, but dread was building up in her stomach. She’d revealed to him a family secret that she’d just found out about on this vacation and she was still reeling from it. She’d been told she wasn’t aloud to ask about it. So she was in the dark about it and needed to talk to him, her best friend. And he was telling her that after he closed up for work he had been spending hours in the parking lot talking to this girl. She’d already been betrayed by her family this week. She couldn’t take another one. She started taking all the jewelry off. She put it next to his stereo and told him to take her home. She was crying. She could never help the tears. They always came no matter how hard she tried to hold them in.
They talked about breaking up. They agreed to break up, though in her heart she was begging him to say no he wanted her to take him back. He wanted her to keep the jewelry. She took it only so he’d take her home so she could really cry.
When she got home, her mom and sister were sitting in the living room talking. She came in with tears falling down her face. No one rushed to hug her. They waited for her to say it. "We broke up." From her mom, "Did you do something nice girls don’t do?" meaning "Did you have sex with him?" Still, no hugs. From her tall skinny blonde haired blue-eyed sister, "You’re too fat! That’s why he broke up with you." Those were the only words spoken about the breakup. Not exactly words of comfort, but words. She went to her room, her heart broken even more from the lack of comfort. Then again she was used to the cold, harsh reality of her family. Her mom was very matter of fact. It happened you moved on. Her sister and she did not cross paths too much, but had never liked each other being total opposite, her sister the beauty, she the brains. Her father was somewhat more sensitive, but he gave her the creeps and she rarely went to him for comfort. She had a dog that loved her very much and a stuffed penguin she’d gotten on her sister’s tenth birthday, a mix up, from another relative. She burrowed under her covers, her penguin to her back and her dog curled up beside her and she silently cried herself to sleep. For the next several months she cried herself to sleep. She stopped eating, doing it only when forced. They’d all complained about her weight, her father being the worst, yet he was the angriest when she wouldn’t eat at dinner. She went to bed at eight o’ clock except on the weekends. She cried at school, she couldn’t help it, even months after the breakup. She partied on the weekends. She lost a lot of weight. She hung out with a different crowd. She got a punk haircut and started drinking before school and eating only chocolate.
At football games she led the cheers for the quarterback in the stands going totally against her naturally shy personality. Alcohol tended to do that to her. She was funny when she was drinking and she said whatever she wanted. She did whatever she wanted. She was with a lot of guys. But she still never went all the way. And she still cried a lot when she was alone. Her ex boyfriend must have gotten a really big head, but it wasn’t about him. She tried to kill herself once, but no one ever knew and it was a half-hearted attempt. She was depressed, full-blown depression, but no one around her recognized it, despite the fact that she had an uncle with bipolar disease. She continued spiraling out of control, but no one noticed. Amazingly, she kept her grades up, but only because she had easy courses and got accepted into a big college.
She almost flunked out of her first semester of college. She partied almost every night with her roommate. They had boys in their room all the time, boys they knew from high school. Any that ended up in her bed, she asked them to take her virginity. None of them wanted to do it. Even the one that was in love with her. She began to feel like she had the plague. Her roommate got pregnant that year. The head of Planned Parenthood went to her church, so she got her mom to get the name of some reputable places to get an abortion and gave them to her roommate. Someone else took her for the abortion. They never spoke of it. Ever. Her roommate had as much feeling as her mother and sister. They did not room together the next year. In fact, they never even saw each other again.
Who is this she? Does she have a name? Of course, but is that relevant to the story? Couldn’t she be anyone of a million girls? All faceless, nameless that you’ve seen on the street and never bothered thinking about or wondered what happened to them to make them so sad. The thing is, this "she" was known for her smile. No one ever guessed that she was depressed, suicidal, taking risks with her life, believing that she wouldn’t be here next year. When someone asked "Hi, how are you?" She always said, "Fine, how are you?" The thing is, she knew they weren’t really asking, just exchanging pleasantries. But, when she asked, they always took it as an invitation to really tell her what was going on. And she listened with a smile on her face and never shared her own pain. She even saw her ex-boyfriend, the one that was the catalyst for her depression and listened to his woes with a smile on her face. She was known as a good listener. But all her hurts, and theirs built up like a brick wall inside of her. She began to get weighed down by all the feelings until she was overwhelmed. But still she smiled. She would skip a class for a week and convincingly lie to a professor so she could be excused and let back in the class. She failed logic. Go figure-nothing in her world was logical. The world swirled in her mind. In spring she was giddy with joy so much so that she couldn’t even contain all her ideas she had to write them wherever she could, walls, hands, jeans, books. She lost her virginity in spring finally and then didn’t even know it. Then in fall she would drag through what was seemingly sludge barely waking for classes, hardly following the teacher lying about assignments and missed classes. She was a very convincing liar.
And still you want to know who this "she"is? Why? You never looked at her when you passed by her on the street. You didn’t look at her when you sat by her in class. You never remembered her face when she parked next to you at the grocery store or sat at the bar next to you. When you saw her with red eyes and a tissue held to them, you never asked what was wrong. When she locked herself in her room, you never tried to find out why. When you saw her sitting by herself always at lunch, you never gave her your company. You never invited her to your room to talk. You never asked her if she needed to unload on you. No, she has to pay someone for that. She sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. Did you ever pay her? When she looked sad sitting under that tree, did you go over to her and ask her if she needed to talk? Or did you just try to preach to her about the Lord? When she never came out of her house even when she had little children, did you go invite her to bring her children to play? When the ambulance came to take her away, did you come and gawk along with the other neighbors? When she came home, did you offer her comfort and bring food for her family or did you still ignore her? Did you ever invite her over to chat while her children played with yours? Did you ever just smile at her and introduce yourself and say, "I’d like to invite you out for coffee?" No. You never did any of those things. None of you did. You went along with your busy lives, unloaded on her and then kept going. The thing is, she didn’t have anyone to unload on. When the cherry on top got unloaded, she froze and slowly the brick wall crumbled and she was just a pile of bricks on the sidewalk. What did you do? Stepped over her or on her according to your needs. In any case, you ignored her. No one picked up the pieces. She swept them together and went to therapy and took pills and therapy and more pills until the wall was up, but shaky. So many years later, the wall is stronger, she can feel again, but only in small doses. She doesn’t go crazy anymore. She doesn’t look for anyone to ask her sincerely if she is okay. She knows they don’t really care. Only her therapist and psychiatrist. But they get paid to care. And they actually do seem to care. But do you? No, of course not.
You still want to know who "she"is? "She" could be anyone. That’s the truth. She could be you for all I know. She could be your neighbor. She could have been the girl that lived across from you in the dorms in college. She could be your child’s teacher. She could be the checkout lady at your grocery store or the store clerk that gets your clothes for you and cheerfully puts away the ones you don’t want. She could be the one that works the take out window. She could be the baby sitter. She could be your sister. She could be your best friend. The point is, instead of talking all the time, shut up. Listen. Don’t interject with how that’s happened to you or it happened to someone you know. Then you’re telling your story. You’re not listening. Listen. Hear. She may be desperately calling for help in the silence and your listening might just save her from going over the edge. She doesn’t want you to solve her problems. She doesn’t expect you to. You don’t even have to give her advice. Just close your mouth and listen. If you’re scared, try it with your children, or your husband and see how much you learn. And see how much it means to her, when you listen. She will smile with meaning for the first time. Just shut up and listen, even if it’s just once in a while. A random act of kindness goes a long way.  So instead of talking for once, look at someone and ask how they are then shut the fuck up and listen!


  1. Wow - I sit here with a sodden face! Tissues please! This could have been me or a load of other people I've met along the way. In counseling training I learned about how to really listen. Its surprisingly how few actually know how. It's something which we should all practice. In my family, listening has always been useless to large degree because we don't 'talk' about our issues much. IT's seen as a weakness. Less so now I suppose, but we still have barriers which shouldn't exist between people we love.

    I wish I been able to listen to Brian my brother - I would have if only he'd wanted to share his pain with me. I asked how he was, if he needed to talk, but he always looked at me like I was strange. I certainly always was the odd one out in my family in many ways. Being soft mostly.

    So glad you wrote this and linked it up to Weekend Creation BH today. You made a very important point well. Shah .X

  2. Hey Heather - I'm here from Monday Madness, to say hello but also to rectify a silly mistake I made. In sorting through my photos in Photobucket I moved a few button pics to another album. In so doing I've ruined the pic everywhere. You may have noticed this with the Monday Madness button below. To rectify it you need to collect the new code on my post today (i'd put it here but it won't allow my to do so).

    Shah from

  3. Shah,
    Found it and fixed it on my other blog and will fix it here too! Thanks for the above comment. I actually took a class in college called Interpersonal Communications and it taught me how to listen. We had to tape record people's conversations a question and answer session and then write verbatim what we heard from the tape. Even after numerous times of listening and writing, I'd still make mistakes. We also learned how to ask questions that weren't yes or no answers. And how to not interject our own stories into other people's stories. Just how to listen. But I was a born listener. It kept me safe. I'll just leave it at that.

    Talking wasn't big in my house either. That was me in the story. That was my breakup with my first boyfriend. That was the comfort I got. So you can see I've come a long way to telling strangers I have bipolar disorder. Thanks to you, I feel I have a safe place to share!