On Becoming Invisible

This weekend my sister and her husband invited me to see a movie with them.  The offer thrilled me so much, I realized how dependent I am on others for social and cultural stimulus, and how rare those opportunities are.  The culprit, of course, is lack of money.  Living on a tiny Disability income makes things like going to the movies or a dinner out something I have to plan, save and rearrange my budget to manage.  Going to the city to sit meditation on a weekly basis is almost beyond my means, so things like concerts and museums are out.

But lack of funds is only part of this pickle.  I seem to have become invisible.

I would love to be invited along out of town for a shopping spree, even if I can’t buy anything.  Just getting together and spending time with others would be lovely.  Or to be included in a party invitation.  Or remembered for a potluck.  And it’s not like I haven’t tried to connect.  I’ve asked people to have coffee with me and watched their eyes glaze over.  Or when I strike up a promising conversation, the person will wander off with their spouse/friend/child in the middle of a sentence.  And then when I do meet folks for lunch or for coffee, they talk to each other, but not to me.  If I try to join in, the conversation rolls over me as if I’d never spoken.

I agonized over this for some time, thinking I must be a horrible human being, frightening because of my bipolar disorder, embarrassing because of my poverty, rude or snobbish or in some other way completely offensive.  But, I think invisibility is the key.

I’m not sure when I started to fade away.  Sometime during my long mental crisis, I suppose.  Did my corporeal substance bleed out with my sanity?   Did people get used to my befuddled state and stop trying to engage?  Or is it that poverty is just so unsightly that the eyes skip off the image?  I know when I was working and I’d come to an intersection manned by a homeless person, I’d pretend he wasn’t there.  Maybe I’d chance a quick peek at his cardboard sign, but never look into his eyes, never acknowledge that a real person was there.  If I didn’t see him, I didn’t have to do anything about his situation.  Just a flicker in my periphery vision.

It’s nearly impossible to consider someone who’s only a shade.  Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes.

So, what’s the answer?  Do I raid Goodwill for loud Hawaiian shirts and pink pedal-pushers?  Will that get anyone’s attention?  Maybe a T-shirt that shouts “Poor and Proud!”  Do I need to watch Ghost Hunters International for tips on how to make myself heard?  Can you buy ectoplasm at Wal-Mart?

It’s a real head-scratcher.  Or it would be, if I had a solid head.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. strugglingwithbipolar
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 17:03:54

    I have had these feelings in the past as well. For me, they get fueled by depression. It’s as though I see these things from a different perspective at this time.

    I really love the portrait of the woman in the post. It is truly beautiful.

    And remember…you are not invisible to those of us here.


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 26, 2011 @ 22:46:54

      Yes. Depression can quickly turn my perception of being alone to being lonely. It can be hard work to stay connected.
      I love that portrait, too. It’s by DaVinci.


  2. martin
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 18:01:25

    You hit on a point thatI have been noticing myself. I took an early retirement due to a disability. It’s been 2yrs and my life is totally different from anything I imagined. I blame it mostly on money, but peoples perceptions have changed also, ( or maybe just my own). I’m not broke yet, still have a little savings, so I could do a few things, I guess my biggest challenge is learning to be alone, always.
    Anyway I liked your piece.


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 26, 2011 @ 22:45:32

      Thanks, Martin. There’s being alone and being lonely. It’s more difficult when friends are still working and have families to take care of. Often I hear them say “I have a life” as if that precludes time with me, or I’m somehow not part of that life. It’s all very puzzling.


  3. Kathryn McCullough
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 21:00:21

    Gosh, Sandy, I hate this for you. I think it’s hard to recover from too much time in the dark. Folks just get too used to not seeing you. If it weren’t for Sara, I don’t know what I’d do. Hang in there, my friend.


  4. pegoleg
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 09:31:30

    I don’t really know you, so I don’t know the answer, but I would doubt that poverty makes any difference to people who know and care about you. (although, I have to admit that the thing I can’t handle about the truly poor/homeless mentally ill is the lack of hygiene/smell.)

    Perhaps, as you mentioned, people stopped trying when you were often befuddled. Can you truly hear yourself when you’re like that? You write so beautifully, even when twisting in a cruel wind, but do you speak and interact in person as well?


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 27, 2011 @ 18:09:27

      Sniffed my pits–I’m good to go!
      You make a good point, Peg. On my worst days, I’m paranoid and needy. I’ve torched a lot of relationships by believing what my faulty brain was telling me. I’m trying to do things differently, keeping those thoughts to myself and just letting everything ride until my mood calms. But, for folks who have known me the longest, they may be gun-shy now. I have no idea.


  5. ManicMuses
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 10:25:10

    Yeah, this is really hard, isn’t it? Sometimes you just don’t feel like keeping up contact to stay in everyone’s mind either. A long time ago I figured that I was always the one who had to make a bigger effort because that was the price for going and hiding out every once in a while. I don’t know. Do you think it’s because the BP makes us sporadic communicators? Do you think we’re just more sensitive to being invisible because we stigmatize ourselves in the first place?


    • Sandy Sue
      Sep 27, 2011 @ 18:00:02

      I don’t know about stigmatizing myself, but I do tend to make being bipolar the go-to excuse for whatever is hinky in my life. But, yeah, I do go underground sometimes, but I tend to let people know when I’m back.


  6. Kitty
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 11:17:37

    Interesting. You and I haven’t lived in the same state (of the union, not of mind) in a long time, so I don’t know if this is a new thing for you or not… because you have never seemed invisible to me. What comes to mind in this moment is your comment from long ago… about showing up at church and feeling like you needed to hike out a tit for people to feed off of you… and you got to where you hated that. But we also know that we teach people how to treat us, so you knew you needed to learn NOT to let them suck you dry. So where does this take us? Is it possible that becoming invisible was necessary while you learned not to let people take what you needed to learn not to give? And now you are noticing the state of invisibility… so perhaps it’s time to come back into form… but a new, healthier form. Sometimes transitions take a while… It’s that “in the fullness of time” thing. And I know that when I’m learning a big new thing, I often swing way too far in the other direction before I can come back to a comfortable middle ground… so maybe invisible was necessary for a while and now it’s not.

    And for what it’s worth… I see you!


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