Originally published at In Her Skin.
I always wanted to be invisible, not be my body, just my mind, because my body brought me pain, and I couldn’t protect it. I wasn’t allowed to say no. Imagine being in a room but not being seen by intruders, you could protect yourself.
I became afraid of my body. It wanted to do things and I didn’t want it to because there might be pain, especially if other people were present.
Vulnerability and grief live in my pelvis, like a piece of meat with no skin across it. I visualise drawing the skin of a bass drum across it, taut and strong and resistant. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out.
Isolated and starved for touch, no love, no children, because touch equals pain and being in a body means fear. I grieve being invisible almost as much as I grieve being seen.
Strangers would see me, would tell me to cheer up when I thought I was smiling. I wondered how strangers could see the profound sadness within me when those who knew me could not. Or would not.
I stayed invisible and silent because to speak, to tell, to say no, to be seen, brought fear, wrath and disdain.
Those around me stayed silent because they didn’t want to believe, it might mean they had to do something.
It’s easier to side with the perpetrator, you just have to stay silent. Siding with the one being victimised means breaking the silence.
I have never stayed silent about the world’s pain, only about my own.
I gave up my pocket money to save the seals. I pinned Greenpeace posters to the staff noticeboard. I sponsored children, I wrote protest letters, I signed petitions, I donated money, I volunteered my time and I promoted causes. I became a therapist.
I will always speak up for injustice. I know what it feels to be downtrodden while others stay silent. But I didn’t speak up for me.
The ones who spoke up for me were the strangers –
- the ones who drove past one day while I was sitting at the bus stop lost in misery and beseeched me to smile,
- the customer who spoke to the manager on my behalf after I was sacked (for not smiling enough),
- the teacher on the receptionist course my mother forced me (the depressed introvert) to enrol in who asked what was wrong and invited me to a young people’s group who saved me again and again.
Now that I’m finally finding my voice, I write and speak and pray for those who are not seen or heard, as well as for myself. I reach out to the broken hearts, the lost and exploited and oppressed. I speak up for them, for the hurt inside them.
I break the silence.
We are not invisible.