Average Jane

Unexpected Understanding

I take you to 11th grade.

Awkward and not overly attractive, I was the epitome of self confidence. By “self-confidence” I mean teetering on the edge of cracking. My panic attacks were less frequent and none had yet landed me in the emergency room. Such occasions were saved for my senior year. I was in therapy for pretty severe depression, but not yet medicated.

Back to 11th grade. Selected to be on Leadership Council, I was in charge of the “off campus lunch” initiative. I take my group to Walter Johnson High School to talk to their student council about how they do their lunch time. Make it all work. Coordinate the masses. You know, only the most critical of issues. Our guide was “Mouse,” a senior who was as attractive as anyone I had ever met, let alone talked to. He walked us around. Showed us the ropes. Gave us advice. Then, we left.

At some point during the week I grew some balls and “IMed” him. This was relatively new technology at this point. I was being savvy. Lo and behold, he wrote me back. We exchanged e-mails, and eventually got together.

Whoa there kiddies. I’m only 16 at this point and I’m not even kissed ’til college so let’s not get ahead out ourselves.

He takes me to this park to hang out. The hot senior. The nerdy junior. We start talk about all things inconsequential. Then, things switch. Somehow we start talking about depression. He doesn’t believe in it. Thinks it’s overblown. Overdiagnosed. He says things about depressed people being weak. I let him in on my biggest secret. He doesn’t seem to care.

I ask to go home and he obliges. I never speak to him again.

Until today.

An unknown person IMs me so I get the handy “stranger danger” warning from AIM. When I saw his screen name my past flooded back. “Holy God” was all I could muster. We exchanged pleasantries, but he cut to the chase.

“I’m sorry I was so insensitive about your depression. I’ve been through some really hard times lately and now I understand. I just didn’t know.”

My panic attacks are infrequent now, drug-free for 3 years. I am an adult. Changed. I will always have depression, but now I am not depressed.

I hadn’t thought about Mouse in over 8 years, but all of a sudden I was 16 again. Finally someone was validating me and what I had been through all those years ago.

Vindicated by a stranger. Thank you, Mouse.


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  1. * Matt says:

    I used to have panic attacks. Always been a fairly anxious fella. What can I say? No more coffee for me on weekdays.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  2. * mist1 says:

    That’s really nice. I was Mouse to somebody once. I remember going over to her house and seeing her on the couch and telling her to snap out of it. I had no idea. Until later. Then, I had to apologize.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Kristin says:

    I’m impressed at the follow through on his part, eight years later. It’s awfully hard to understand, even for someone who lives with and around it. He was just a kid then, too.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  4. * Lisa says:

    I think what impressed me the most was that such a seemingly inconsequential and insignificant event stayed with him, affected him. I had all but forgotten about it. He was the popular kid and I was the loser. Perhaps I judged him on his character too quickly. You’re right, we were both “kids”.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  5. * Hey Pretty says:

    One of my favorite aspects of being a grown-up is that arbitrary labels such as “cool” and “loser” carry so much less weight.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago

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