One of my earliest childhood memories is from when I was three. I was friends with these twin sisters who were blind, and we were looking under my bed, possibly for monsters. I told them to “Look,” and they told me, “We can’t.” I’m not sure my childhood brain really understood, but I knew they couldn’t see me.
A later memory was of swimming at the Perrysburg pool. I was a good swimmer, but I was tiny. A friend of mine—who was a lot bigger than me—started panicking in the water. She shoved me under, held me under, in her rush to get out of the deep end. Once I was able to escape her grip, I vomited. Hygienic, I know, but it was like she didn’t notice I was drowning.
When I look back at school as a kid, I was the smallest one in class. I wore big glasses and had a funny haircut. I was smart, well behaved, and shy. No one saw me. I was an invisible kid simply because I was good and average and quiet.
This isn’t to say I wasn’t loved. I’m sure I was, dearly, but when I think hard about my childhood memories, they’re mostly of things happening to other people, like I was an observer but not a participant in life. I remember my dad crying when his father passed away. I remember a drunken woman peeing on our front porch. I remember watching the neighbors have a huge screaming fight. I saw, and no one noticed because I was the invisible kid.
Most of my current issues, seemingly, have to do with my fear of returning to that state—of becoming Mrs. Cellophane. (Look right through me, walk right by me.) Maybe this is why I dye my hair crazy colors and wear revealing clothes. Although I can’t imagine being anything else, maybe this is partially why I’m a writer. It’s a limelight sort of career, especially the romance genre, especially erotica. (Look at me! Look at all the smut!)
Lately, despite professional success and an amazing support system, I have felt invisible. Like no one cares. Like no one is listening. Like no one can really see me. It’s partially my own fault, because I come off as happy and carefree—the social butterfly. And, yes, there’s a thing as being “too seen.” This past weekend, I was sexually harassed at a convention, possibly due to my weird hair and revealing clothes. Desperate to disappear on Monday, I wore a huge coat, didn’t wear makeup, and covered my head in a big hat. Sometimes, surprise, I want to be as invisible as possible.
But not usually. Usually I want to be seen and heard and understood. Our early memories shape us greatly, and the invisibility of my youth has followed me like a ghost into adulthood. I fear being forgotten, being ignored. My depression thrives in this space. When I begin to feel invisible, the Depression Monster loves coming around to remind me … “You’re not important. No one needs you. They look right through you, walk right past you.” Maybe this is why my mental health has been so bad lately.
Do you know me? Do you see me? I’m barely here.