Stories on Depression: Growing Up Ugly
Have you ever looked back at your childhood photos and were surprised at what you were looking at?
Or, have you looked in the mirror recently, and felt shocked at the image looking back?
This is me. This is how I feel, every damn time I see myself as a child.
Photos of the Past
I have very few photos of myself when I was little. A few years ago, my mother gifted me with a photo album of pictures of me that I had never seen before. I was looking for that book today, but I must have buried it with my other past items. I can’t seem to find it. (I was hoping to share some of them with you).
The last time I looked at those images, I bawled my eyes out.
I always thought I was UGLY. I had been called “gross” and “nasty” in my early years by my older siblings and my mother, more than once.
In school. I was bullied, and picked on for being “poor” and had very few friends who saw past “the ugly”. It sucked. I remember walking ahead of some older girls, one fall afternoon, from school. They were yelling things like, “Look! It’s the ugly kid from the ugly house!” As they walked, they threw rocks at me, some hitting me in the head, and on the back. I was too scared to run, and just took the pain and embarrassment for the short walk home.
There was a friend I had, Lisa, who was absolutely adorable. She grew big boobs in Grade 7 and the boys loved to chase her around. Back in those days we would walk to the arcade in the winter, and stop at the laundromat to warm up. It was about the halfway mark from my house to the arcade.
The laundromat was a meeting place, of sorts, and lots of older boys would hang out in there, in hopes of drinking stolen beers, and flirting with girls.
One night, it was freezing and blowing snow, my friend Lisa and I ran into the laundromat to warm our bones. When we opened the door, it was full of boys from our school-all of them in the next grade or higher. I felt instantly awkward and embarrassed, as I knew how I was perceived as a kid.
A very popular boy was smoking cigarettes and drinking a Pilsner beer, eyeing us up and down, as we rushed through the door, welcoming the smell of fresh laundry and the warmth of the dryers.
Lisa and I stood inside the door, shivering, and she smiled at the popular boy. Totally comfortable in her surroundings, she made idle chat with him, and soon, a small group of his friends surrounded him. They wanted to chat with Lisa as well. Not one of them gave me a second glance, as I expected.
We lived in a very small town, and everyone knew everything about every person in town-where they lived, who their siblings were, and their financial status.
The gathered boys offered Lisa a cigarette and she took it. I wasn’t a smoker at that age, and had no desire to visit with these older dudes. I tugged at her coat sleeve and whispered, “We should go.”
When I opened my mouth to speak, popular kid looked at Lisa, and asked, “Who’s dog did you bring? Why would such a pretty girl tag along with such a gross dog?”
The group of boys all laughed at his rudeness, and I felt tears sting my eyes, before I turned and walked out into the cold. I left Lisa with her friends, and ran home. By the time I had the 4 blocks behind me, my cheeks were frozen under my tears, and I was out of breath, wishing I could lay in the snow, and die.
As I grew into an awkward teenager, I had dealt with being picked on and bullied, to the point that I no longer gave a shit. I accepted my fate as an ugly girl, and although I tried to take care of myself hygienically, I never felt it was worth it.
I very seldom looked in the mirror, and when I did, I was often shocked to see the image inside of it. Some days I would punch myself in the glass version of me, making the large dresser, that the mirror was bolted to, rattle. Some days I would find a zit, and pick at it until it bled, and left a deep hole in my skin. I told myself it didn’t matter, cause I was ugly.
One summer, my parents took Lisa and I camping. We were going for two whole weeks, to a place with a huge beach and a small hamlet to play around in. It was the local “summer” place where most of the nearby city people camped.
That summer, we met two boys. They were much older than we were, maybe 4 or 5 years, but Lisa thought it would be fun to flirt with them. I felt a knot in my stomach, when she splashed water on them in the lake. I cringed when they approached us to talk to Lisa. I felt extremely vulnerable in my bathing suit. I was lanky, scrawny, had no boobs, and not nearly as pretty as my friend.
We were just barely 13 years old, and the guys told us they were 17. They were not from our small town, so had no idea what kind of life I had. It was refreshing.
One of the guys was drop dead gorgeous. He had black hair, dark brown eyes with thick lashes, and a smile that melted you at first glance. His friend looked like a blonde Tom Cruise. They were both very out of our league.
They offered us a cigarette and beer, and Lisa gladly accepted their offers. She nudged me and told me to take one of each. I was too shy, and felt embarrassed being with them. They were all so pretty.
I noticed that Tom Cruise guy was talking directly at me, and it was THE SINGLE STRANGEST feeling I had ever felt! At first I was stunned that he would look directly at me, and then I wondered why he would even bother?
He wasn’t only talking to me, but once in awhile, his hand would brush me, like he was doing it on purpose.
“Dude, stop it! Can’t you see I’m ugly?”
After that day, he called our phone number, and drove by my house to “see me” on occassion. I glommed onto him because he LIKED me. He saw past the ugly.
He called me Angel, and in the first few months we were together, he treated me like a princess. That is, until shit went south.
Regardless of how horrible this guy turned out, it was a lesson for me. I wasn’t UGLY. At least I wasn’t so ugly that Tom Cruise guy avoided me. He actually pursued me, until I gave in and became his girlfriend.
Something happened after Tom Cruise guy and I finally broke up. I had boys asking me on dates! I had one guy, who later became my husband, obsessing over me, and sending me roses every month. He called me beautiful and sexy, and swept me off my feet.
As I began working in restaurants and bars, men would look at me when they spoke, and they would flirt with me! It was crazy ! I felt my confidence build, and I began to dress pretty, and sometimes sexy. It was a new drug that I had never felt before.
While I was married, often men would tell me that my husband was a “lucky guy”, and this made my head explode. Surely they cannot be talking about ME being the source of my hubby’s luck. What a ride this was!
Even when it made me feel good, though, I doubted their words. I always wondered what their “angle” was, and why they were talking to me, when there were clearly prettier women to flirt with.
I could never get rid of the ugly kid inside of me, and fought with her, all the time. I tried to be skinny, and I tried to grow my hair long. I tried to put make- up on, in various ways, and spent a fortune on trendy clothes and shoes. Nothing got that ugly kid out of me.
One night, as I was cleaning up the bar in the hotel I worked at, a guy walked through the doors, and asked if it was too late for a beer. He was looking at me strangely, and I knew he was familiar.
Being married, I wanted this guy to drink his beer and leave, so that I could get home to my husband.
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked, as he set his beer and a $10.00 bill on the counter.
I looked up from wiping off the counter, and looked at his face more closely. He had black hair, dark smouldering eyes, and a smile that warmed my heart. It was Tom Cruise’s buddy from the lake. The last time I saw him was about 12 years before. “Of course I recognize you, Shawn. How have you been?”
My mind whipped back to that day. The cooling water, under the hot sun. My first cigarette and a choked down beer. The hand that grazed me, that ended up being the hand that held a gun to my head, and that pushed me down a cliff. I knew that Shawn had nothing to do with his friend’s abusive nature.
“I’ve been good, thanks. I am just graduating from University as an X-Ray technician and have a nice life. I have my own place, and am pretty happy. Looks like you got married. Anyone I know?’
We exchanged small talk for a few moments, and suddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to get rid of him. We hadn’t really spoken since Tom Cruise (Brad) and I had split up. It was nice catching up.
“Can I tell you something, Christina?” His face flushed slightly, and his boyish eyelashes covered his eyes, with a slight shade. He sounded serious.
I tried to keep it light, thinking he was going to bring up his buddy and tell me he had “changed” or something ridiculous. I answered with a “sure?” that sounded more like a question that a response.
Shawn reached out and took my hand in his, on the bar, beside his beer bottle and ten dollar bill. He looked me in the eyes, and took a deep breath. “ I just wanted to say that my biggest regret was letting Brad take you from me. I thought you were the prettiest girl I had ever seen, that day at the lake, and Brad and I argued over your for days. I should have tried harder, and I am sorry you went through so much hell with him. I had no idea, until long after you were dating. I couldn’t stand the heartache, and walked away. You are still so beautiful, and your husband needs to know how lucky he is to have you as his wife. I have always loved you, and will always regret letting such a beautiful girl get away.”
As I drove home from the bar that night, my mind raced a million miles an hour. I wondered why Shawn said those things. I wondered if he was lying. I tried to swallow my bitterness for Brad, and for Shawn for not being brave enough to fight for me. So many things, and images flooded my soul, as I drove down the dark highway home.
At one point, I looked in the rearview mirror, as the flash of lights from the car behind me illuminated it, slightly.
Glancing up, I saw the shine of my hazel eyes, and the faint freckles on my nose. My eyes were colored with mascara and a faint line of eyeliner that I had been experimenting with. Other than that, I had just worked an 8 hour shift, my hair was a mess, and the tears Shawn brought to my eyes, made me look tired.
As I saw my reflection, I thought to myself, “Yea, I guess I am pretty”.
I look at those pictures of myself as a child, and all I want to do is hug her. She is NOT ugly. She is actually cute, although there is a darkness and sadness behind her hazel eyes.
She is a little blonde girl, where as now, I color my hair black. (The reason is a whole other story). She was skinny and full of smiles, in every photo. I can look at them now, and KNOW that the smile came from the command behind the camera. “Cheeez” . However, there is a photo of my grandmother and I that makes me cry with happiness. I am dressed in red shorts, and a red top with knee high red socks. I am laughing, as she holds out a kitten for me to play with, and the moment captured is still a vivid memory.
When I look at that photo, I don’t see an ugly kid.
I see beauty in the moment. I see happiness and joy.
I see a pretty young girl, who wishes she wasn’t ugly.
At almost 50, I can now look at myself in the mirror without feeling ugly. Occasionally I wonder how to get rid of bags under my eyes and grey hairs, and I do what I can to maintain them.
But, overall, I like what I see. I don’t look as old as I am, and the years of eating disorders and self loathing are behind me.
I don’t base my beauty of my outside appearance any longer. I am a good person, who cares deeply, loves unconditionally, and who thrives on being helpful and nurturing to others.
And, Damnit, I am pretty.
Story by Anonnymous