At seventeen, I was in the deepest depression. I remember when mom took me to the doctor and I sat on the table with the clean, white paper that made too much noise when I moved. Dr. Lind came in and asked me the standard questions, “How are you feeling? What’s going on? What have you been experiencing?” Then he gave me a paper test and I was to circle what was true for me. Things like, “Have you lost interest in things you once enjoyed?” I scored “severely depressed.” A part of me felt okay about that; it made me different, special in some dark way. That’s all I wanted…to be special.
So every week after I was diagnosed I waited in that wicker chair and flipped through magazines and wondered if I’d cry this time (I hated crying in front of strangers). I remember my eyes wandering around the room, trying to find something to comfort me, to quiet the sadness racing through my veins. I continually found myself staring at a small painting that hung above the wicker couch. It was of two small children playing on the beach. Simple, yet peaceful. I never cared for children, so I wasn’t sure why it was of particular interest to me, but there it was offering comfort while I waited.
It was only years later that I found out anything about that painting - nine years later to be exact. I was in Tennessee working in a corporate building and sitting in my office, miserable. The image of the painting came to me, after all those years, still offering solace like a best friend or guardian angel. It came to me whenever I was feeling sad, and I was taken back to the wicker chair and the radio and the peace of knowing that someone would listen to my pain.
I decided I needed to own that painting, a print obviously, but anything would do. Since I didn’t know anything about it, I searched keywords – kids, beach, painting. It was called Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt. So I went to Ebay hoping to find a good quality and affordable print, and the perfect one manifested. It even came in a gold frame and for less that $40! I snatched it, and a few weeks later it was hanging in my art room. Whenever I needed to still my spirit I looked at that painting and my mind drifted back to the third floor where I sat quietly and waited for my therapist to open her door and hug me.
I still have that painting, although it hangs in a different art room now. It still speaks of comfort, but in a different way. Now it hangs like a beacon lighting the way to another chapter in my life. I’m reminded of how my therapist pulled me out of the muck at different times during my twentysomethings. I’m reminded of the hugs and the Kleenex and the blanket when I was cold. I’m reminded of the time I left work and drove to her office without an appointment because I was in such despair, but she saw me anyway. I didn’t hold back the tears that day, and that was okay.
Now I look at the painting and want to give back that comfort. I want to pass the tissue and hug the scared girl sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around her legs.
I go back to the time I sat in the car with my mom and told her I was glad I was suffering because it meant that when I got better I could help others with sad hearts and anxious minds. I still believe that, and when I look at the children playing on the beach, I know that time has come.