I remember when I first began to realize I was crazy. There were thoughts in my head that scared me, feelings that were simply too big to explain or contain in such a small body. I recall laying on the cold tile floor alongside my childhood dog attempting to process the crippling anxiety that was taking place inside me when I thought about the concept of heaven. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.
It took years of therapy and white noise tapes and concentrated breathing practices to teach a young Kalee to stop pacing the halls of my home night after night instead of sleeping. For reasons I still can’t really explain, the sounds of crickets chirping in the dark would send me into a deep frenzy; I assumed that they were all sitting outside my window, carefully plotting all the ways to kill me, or at least ruin my sleep.
As I got older, I developed ways to conceal my disturbing thoughts. Sure I kept journals, wrote poems, even carved obscure phrases and lyrics into my desk tops in school- who didn’t? Though I pretended to be an active participant in my life, I’d roam the pathways of my high school in a daze, thinking not about assignments, not about making friends or the upcoming dance, but instead about how deers felt when they were being chased, what it’s like to be tied up in a basement, and crying in solitude at the idea of one of my less popular teachers dining alone.
I never really had a boyfriend until I was in college. Even then, we were only allowed to hang out on Sundays and I wasn’t supposed to refer to him as my boyfriend in front of people. I showed him a piece of my own writing once, and he looked at it like a weird bug who had happened upon his salad. The first time he saw me cry, he awkwardly patted me on the shoulder and sent me home on the 38 bus. He’s now married to a girl who smiles very easily and has nice straight hair.
I’ve read and re-read Girl, Interrupted enough times to lose count, and while books that speak of crazy women usually warm my heart and help me drift into an easy slumber, I remember realizing upon my last read that I am simply not crazy enough to be cared for. Nor am I regular enough to be loved.
For years, it was evident to friends, family, and acquaintances that I was no doubt odd, but that I would always be alright. I didn’t need to be studied, to be kept away from sharp objects or impressionable children. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was deemed an appropriate babysitter, a hirable candidate for virtually any customer service job, and an extremely capable student.
While my prickly disposition has (so far) kept me from being mugged, I’m arguably far less approachable than most girls my age.
If it ever seemed like I was going to fall apart, especially in front of people, my dad would usually tell me to wash my face and regroup with everyone in a few minutes. Potential lovers would backtrack out of any room or conversation if I showed signs of weakness, usually blaming the weird mood on my menstrual cycle or an off day. When things became too much to handle, I was brushed aside or left for good. “She’s fine” is probably the most common phrase that has ever been sent in my direction. Boyfriends would quickly replace me after months of emotional turmoil with a simpler model, one that usually looked similar to me, but seemed softer and less complicated.
As my 30s now seem like a short jog from the horizon, I don’t know if there will ever be a person- friend, lover, family, or otherwise- who will completely accept all of me. There are so many contradictions and frustrations that bubble beneath the surface of this 5 foot frame. There are days where I am completely in control of myself, my humor and my joy, and there are months where I feel like an open, walking organ without any skin to protect me- all my wounds and scars available to the naked eye. Neither seem appealing to anyone in close radius.
Being loved really isn’t all that big of a deal, especially if you’re not a sucker for Nicholas Sparks novels [movies]. It’s not that hard to fall for someone with big eyes and a cute smile. I can attract love with my words, the way I move my hands, the gifts I give, the way I laugh. For me at least, it is profoundly deeper and more meaningful to be understood.
The moments where I have felt safe and just allowed to be have been few and far between. I am simply not crazy enough for the passionate, yearning, toxic love, and not simple and gentle enough to bring home to the parents. My assumption is that I will always float around in this strange purgatory of living with a not-believable-enough mental illness. I will make my way through life with an easy assumption of strength. For years to come, my parents will tell everyone that I am “fine” and that I can “handle it”, while I’ll actually be sitting in a weird corner panicking about the next social event I might be invited to, or wondering if everyone is staring at my left eye because it’s smaller than the other.
I often wonder if I’m one personal crisis away from lining my bedroom walls with jars of pee, or if I’m going to become the greatest written voice every millennial has ever asked for.