“Why is your nose so flat?”
“You have a flat face!”
Look! I can have squinty eyes too!”
I grew up in private schools in the east end of Louisville, Kentucky. I was one of a couple minorities in my school, and I had four older [white] brothers that attended before me. I was held back in kindergarten, so I was a foot taller and a year older than everyone else in my class. I grew thick skin quickly, because it wasn’t that I noticed I was different. It was everyone else in my grade who noticed I was different. And as you know, kids are not the most tactful or mindful of your feelings. Thankfully, I was just plain bigger than all the other kids, so I did not get bullied or picked on too much. In fact, I think I immediately puffed up.
Honestly, I was a mean kid. I felt defensive. I felt offended. I felt embarrassed. I felt angry. I was a little overweight. I wore really baggy clothes (thank you, 90’s). I never got in trouble at school. Or at home, really. I had close friends but kept them at arm’s length. In the most pertinent milestones of my development, all I wanted to do was fit in.
Perhaps it was and is part of the depression, but often in social settings, I would feel this loneliness come over me. It would hit me right in the middle of hanging out with friends or dinner, or some kind of social setting. A zipped up emotional Katie that completely shut down. For most of my life, I never understood where it came from, why I felt it, or how to prevent it from happening, but then I started educating myself more about depression and realized it was just part of my process.
It took me a while to acknowledge the anger that lived inside me. From defending myself of things I could not change as a child to injustice toward people of color. It took even longer to figure out how to redirect it. And I am relearning how to deal with it as a married person, because it is different dealing with it alone. It is another thing when you have to deal with your anger with another human being.
I no longer walk in shame of what I look like and who I represent. I know my experiences have taught me to be an advocate for others who feel silenced and those who suffer from any kind of illness. I am slowly letting go of the chips off my shoulder.