Do you ever send a part of yourself on vacation?
It comes to a family wedding and the hullabaloo surrounding the festive week(s); it comes to having no choice but to exercise those cheek muscles and social niceties and brave the world; it comes to uprooting myself and occupying beds not my own as I attend to my familial obligations; it comes to schedules that are so upside-down that I don’t have a spare minute to myself.
And it is then that I give the Unseen Melissa in me a break.
It’s not that I don’t want to wallow in her world. I do. I just don’t have the presence of mind to deal with the darkness. I can’t be both of me at once.
And Melissa? She furls herself into a tiny ball and bobs around in my chest, occasionally surfacing, but generally lying low.
It’s not without repercussions, this reprieve. The tension takes hold of every muscle of my body.
I find myself with clenched fists while I’m socializing so blissfully and smilingly. I find myself in a guest room in someone's home and my body is so rigid. My shoulders ache and my jaws are clenched.
I fleetingly think about therapy and the various issues I have to deal with, and the thought is a cloud passing by on a sunny day. I’m not the right territory for this now, and so the thoughts go as soon as they come.
I’ve traded myself for a facade. Under a mask of cosmetics and shimmer and tulle and high heels, I bely the entire gray underside of my existence. I shut the door on the entire gray mass that is my existence.
“You look so good,” they say.
“You have such good taste,” they say.
“You are just so sweet and special,” they say.
“It is just so good to spend time with someone as easygoing as you,” they say.
You have no clue who I am, I think, even as a smile and send some kind words back their way. I am Melissa, master of depression.
I am an anxious, unmoored, unsettled human being.
I cry more than I smile.
I grieve more than I celebrate.
On some days I don’t even get dressed. I wonder what you’d say about my fashion sense in nightclothes.
And it’s not only them.
I, too, have no clue who I am when this integral part of me is missing.
Am I this — this facade that they all see?
Am I that — that depression that I wallow in?
And yet, despite the confusion, the reprieve is strangely peaceful.