Individual battles may differ, but we’re all in the same war.
Welcome, to what book-sellers call a depression-memoir; a first-hand account of an individual’s struggle with depression, intended to support, and inspire others.
‘Life with a Crooked Eye’
What I offer the reader, is the preface and chapter one.
To purchase a copy of my memoir from Amazon.com, either in paperback or Kindle format; Click here.
There was an interesting by-product, of sorts, that resulted from me writing this memoir; something I never expected. Although I’d hoped my stories might help others, it turned out, that telling these stories–just getting them on paper, and out of my head–helped me more than I would’ve thought possible. Since I finished writing this book, my inner-voice has been silent.
My inner-voice—the ‘angry me’—is the loud roommate-presence inside my head. He’s the voice that won’t shut up; constantly yammering in my ear, and telling me I’m a loser, or “it will never work”. And for most of my adult life, he’s been derailing, and sullying everything I’ve done, with negativity, and insults. But nowadays, he’s not saying a word. And it’s actually kind of weird.
It wasn’t until I started digging around on some psychology websites, that I found what I think happened, and it is so cool.
I stepped back inside, closed my front door, and opened the package I’d just received. It was the first copy of my new book. I smiled with pride, “Cool!”
I looked it over, thumbed through the pages, and even took a whiff. I chuckled, and grinned at the gloss of the cover, and my choice of fonts. The artist-ego in me, was gorging on a sense of accomplishment; and a certain novice-pride, to be holding a printed book of my own work. But now that that sad, and exhausting project was finally over, all I wanted to do was forget about it. Even a week after finishing, I still felt physically drained from the ordeal.
So I went to the bookcase, put it on the shelf, and walked away. I didn’t think about it again for days. And I think that’s what did it for me; I literally walked away from my depression–well, in an imaginary sense, of course. Whatever happened, I haven’t heard a peep from my inner-voice since that day. What a wonderful change that is.
This turned out to be a form of therapy that’s commonly used by psychologists. Patients are asked to write their problems, or problem-thoughts down on paper, and then throw the paper away. As symbolic as that is, and as silly as it may sound, I think that’s the reason for my positive change.
I distanced myself from my book, and in doing so, distanced myself from those depressing events, thoughts and memories. Who knew? I love dumb luck.
I found papers on the subject by several psychologists, and more than a few studies. One study, published in the Journal of Psychological Science: ‘Treating Thoughts as Material Objects Can Increase or Decrease. Their Impact on Evaluation’.
“When participants physically discarded a representation of their thoughts, they mentally discarded them as well, using them less in forming judgments, than did participants who retained a representation of their thoughts.” – (Pablo Briñol, Department of Psychology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) – Psychological Science January 2013 vol. 24 no. 1 41-47
Could wadding up your troubles, and throwing them away, work for you? Who knows? Give it a try! Be well.
To purchase a copy of my memoir, ‘Life with a Crooked Eye’ either in paperback, or Kindle format, from Amazon.com, Click here.
This title, ‘Life with a Crooked Eye’, and the first chapter, ‘Crooked Eye’, both deal with only one aspect of my depression. At the time of writing, I was simply in need of a title. My lazy-eye is not the theme of this memoir, merely one of the subjects.
Everything in my life always seemed to fall apart. Whether it was my family, my friends, my loves, my work, or my sanity, if I became attached to it, and started to depend on it, something would happen to cause it to fall apart.
I was born into a dysfunctional family that was twisted by alcoholism, violence and sexual abuse. My childhood experiences were the source of my chronic depression and the basis for my insecure unsociable personality.
I am a dark self-absorbed character, hiding my self-loathing behind an abrasive demeanor and false air of confidence. Yes, I am just as dysfunctional and neurotic as the family I came from.
The face I see in the mirror is a freak with the power to set others’ nerves on edge just by looking at them. Although I’ve been this way since birth, I still avoid making eye contact whenever possible.
I sometimes wonder what friends I could have had, what careers I might have enjoyed, what my life might have been like had I not been afraid to look others in the eye.
I know some of you feel just as freakish and awkward as I do. You may not have a visible deformity like mine, but you have a flaw, and it bothers you. You’re always aware of it, you try to hide it, or you may even try to ignore it, but it affects how you live your life in some way.
I never understood before why anyone would want to read a memoir of depression. How could reading about some other poor slob’s life help me? Then one day I happened to pick one up and read the first page. Instantly I felt a sad kinship with the writer. Okay, I was wrong. After reading the whole book I felt better about myself than I had in years.
No, the book didn’t change my flaw or how awkward and different I felt. It just showed me there were others who felt the same way. I guess misery really does love company.
If after reading this you feel less alone, and not stranded on some freakish island surrounded by an ocean of normalcy, then the torture I went through to relive all this crap was worth it. I wish you well.
Chapter 1: Crooked Eye
I was born with what some call a lazy eye. I never wanted to be associated with the word “lazy,” so I chose to call it my crooked eye. I’m not sure “crooked” is much better, but it fits.
When I look straight ahead, my left eye turns noticeably outward. A lack of coordination between the muscles that turn my eyes keeps them from focusing on the exact same point.
This doesn’t affect how I see others, just how others see me. They can’t tell if I’m looking into their eyes or over their shoulder, and the discomfort I see them experience affects how I see myself.
My crooked eye has had a negative effect on my psyche through the years, stunting the healthy growth of my personality and self-esteem.
“Embarrassed” isn’t a strong enough word to describe how it makes me feel. I’ve had my crooked eye since birth, but it wasn’t until the fourth grade that other kids started to notice and point and laugh at me. I was teased so much that sometimes I’d hide in the boy’s bathroom and cry. I felt like a freak because of my eye. I still do.
I tried to be brave and ignore the teasing, but at times it was overwhelming. I know it’s a normal thing for kids to tease, but at the age of eight, all I wanted was for others to like and accept me. When that didn’t happen because of something I couldn’t change, my little world became sad and twisted.
It’s stressful to have everyone you meet act as if there’s something wrong with you. Strangers would stare and wrinkle their faces like they were looking at some horrible deformity in a circus side-show. This changed the way I looked at myself and my life. I went from being a normal little boy to a brooding self-absorbed loner.
Although the taunting at school over my eye could make me cry, my home life was sometimes worse. Home was often a place of drunkenness, violence, emotional stress and sex abuse. I didn’t feel comfortable or safe anywhere I went. Before long, the only place I wanted to be was alone.
I started to resent everybody and hated having to go to school. My grades took a dive and my attendance became sketchy. Some mornings I’d just blow off school and hop the city bus to the public library. I’d hide out in the stacks and read books all day long. When time came for school to let out, I’d go home as if nothing was wrong.
The school contacted my parents to inform them of my behavior. This prompted them to take me to an eye doctor, and I was excited. I hoped the doctor could fix my eye and make me normal like the other kids. He prescribed corrective glasses. Although the word “corrective” emphasized that there was something wrong with me, I didn’t care. I counted on their power to fix me because I felt I needed fixing.
After wearing them for a couple of weeks, they were accidentally broken. My parents bought one more pair, but that was it. We couldn’t always pay our rent. Pair after pair of glasses for a boy who could see just fine was a waste of money. I wore the second pair until I lost them several months later, and never wore corrective glasses again.
It was so awkward and uncomfortable for me to try to make friends, I finally quit trying. Even those I did want to be friends with would stare at me. Although they didn’t intend to be mean, their stares turned to nervous glances, and without them consciously moving, I saw their body language pull them away from me.
Who’d want to be friends with someone that made them feel like that?
I didn’t think of myself as someone others would like, maybe only tolerate or pity. I wouldn’t approach anyone. The few friends I had in elementary school were those that decided on their own to hang out with me. They were okay friends I guess, but were mostly misfits like me of one sort or another.
Then came puberty. This new awkward bodily change, along with my crooked eye, was a disturbing combination. Saying hello to a pretty girl was out of the question. I felt way too freakish and clumsy.
I know it’s natural for young boys to be intimidated by young girls, some guys never get over it. However, the fear I had was if I found the nerve to speak to a pretty girl, my crooked eye might make her uncomfortable. What if I frightened her? Or worse, what if she laughed at me?
Her name was Cynthia, and she was the prettiest girl in my fifth grade math class. She had big green eyes and a long brunette ponytail down her back.
It was the first day of the school year. There were twenty or so kids in the class, and the teacher hadn’t yet assigned our seats. Cynthia sat in the desk to my left on the next row. It was fortunate for me she sat to my left. If I don’t turn my head too far, and look to the left, both my eyes line up and look normal.
She spoke to me first. “Hey, I like that hot rod drawing on your notebook. Did you draw that?” she asked as she smiled with her eyes. I almost forgot to breathe. “Uh, yeah. I draw.”
That’s the best you could come up with? “I draw?” I felt like an idiot. She was really pretty and made me very nervous. She was the first girl I remember ever speaking to me first. It was thrilling and scary at the same time.
“You know,” she pulled out her own notebook and held it as she spoke, “I’ve got this butterfly picture at home. It’d be really neat to have a drawing of it on my notebook.” She ended with a hopeful smile.
I was starting to sweat. It took me an awkward moment to respond, “Well, yeah, I could do that. I could draw that for you!” I smiled, she smiled.
“I’m Cynthia Fisher. What’s your name?”
“I’m Rick, Rick Yost.” We both did that kid thing where you realize you’re interested in someone, so you look around the room at anything else so they don’t notice.
The next day our teacher assigned our seats alphabetically. Once everyone found their new desk, Cynthia sat in the middle of the second row next to a giggly girlfriend of hers. I was on the fourth and last row near the back of the room.
Now I had a problem. She now sat to my right. I didn’t have the advantage of keeping my eyes together by looking at her to my left.
Cynthia turned around to look at me, caught me off guard and I froze. My right eye looked straight at her, and my left eye looked straight out the window. Her eyes popped with surprise, she let out one of those girl-squeals, and whipped her head back forward, covering her laughter with both hands over her mouth.
After that, every few minutes she and her friend would glance back at me. They’d see me looking at them with my crooked eye and dissolve into belly laughs. I did what I always did when I felt like a worm; I pulled a piece of paper from my notebook and started drawing. It was a way of escape for me.
Cynthia was never as nice to me after she saw my crooked eye. When we’d pass in the hallway, she’d glance in my direction, but never look at my face. She looked down at my feet, distant and wary of me, as if walking around a small dead animal on the sidewalk.
She wasn’t mean, but we never spoke again in a friendly way. This depressed me for a long time. I would have really liked to have drawn a butterfly on her notebook.
At fourteen, I worked a summer job as a painter’s helper. It was my first real job and the first real physical labor I’d ever done. It was difficult work, but fun. I wasn’t earning much money, but I was working. That was the important thing to me. I dreamed of the day I could move out of my parent’s house.
What I liked about working as a painter’s helper was nobody cared about my crooked eye. No one even noticed. I was just another worker, carrying wood and buckets of paint. My eye was never an issue on the job site, and I was free of the unwanted attention.
As a novice young working man, I assumed how a person looked made no difference while on the job. This was another reason for me to enjoy working. But I would soon find out that was far from true.
The next year I turned fifteen and applied for a job at a McDonald’s restaurant. A lot of local school kids worked there. I was hired and put to work on the front counter, taking orders and serving burgers and fries.
My first day on the job started at noon working the lunch rush. The dining room was full of hungry, impatient customers. I stepped up to my assigned register, smiled, and looked across the counter at the customer in front of me and asked, “May I help you?” Suddenly, a dozen customers in the crowd were confused. They looked one way and then the other, trying to figure out to which person I was speaking.
I’d gotten better at dealing with this problem since grade school, but I’d never had so many people react to my eye at once. Some in the back of the room even laughed at the situation.
The hungrier customers didn’t care what I looked like and just gave me their orders. Things went fine for a while. But I had to repeat the same thing over and over. I’d ask for the next person’s order, and customers standing on each side of them wondered if they were who should respond. Then they’d either frown or try not to laugh. I became so rattled and embarrassed I was confusing orders and bumping into my coworkers.
When the manager realized customers were reacting negatively to me because of my eye, he thought it best to reassign me to another position in the restaurant. I was quickly escorted away from the front line, handed an apron, and put to work out of sight on the grill.
It was as if I’d been covered with a tarp and rushed from the view of the worthy. I was cloistered out of sight like a deformed bell-ringer.
I tried not to show it, but I was hurt by what I saw as a demotion because of my eye. I was taken from the work station I’d trained for, not because I couldn’t do the work, but because I was a freak. I remember making light of it, laughing and joking with my coworker buddies. I told them I was glad to be working behind the grill, far away from all those annoying customers. We all laughed. But deep down I was depressed. This was a hurtful kick in the groin to my self-image.
The painter’s helper and restaurant jobs were more than just frivolous teenage work experiences. They were pivotal points in my life. I saw the contrast between these two types of jobs, one of which involved public contact and one which didn’t, and my whole existence started revolving around my crooked eye. I never had any problems while working on a construction site. My crooked eye only caused problems when I worked in a restaurant, or any job involving eye-to-eye contact.
For the rest of my life the criteria I used for choosing work were based on whether my crooked eye would be a problem or not. Even as an adult the majority of jobs I’ve had have been mostly construction or unskilled labor positions. Along with learning carpentry and concrete work, I’ve worked for gas stations and machine shops, I’ve loaded trucks, been a delivery driver, fork lift driver and rubbed fenders at car washes.
Since I worked minimum wage jobs, I stayed broke and depressed and felt incapable of success, which kept me working minimum wage jobs. It’s been a dismal cycle.
I was healthy, of average intelligence, learned things quickly, and kept a good work ethic, but I never gained the confidence to apply myself to reaching my full potential. With only a few exceptions, I’ve always worked jobs that were essentially beneath my abilities and intellect.
No one forced me to work low-paying jobs. I chose them because they didn’t threaten my self-image or self-esteem. I didn’t have to live my life in such a mediocre fashion, I just didn’t want to be embarrassed by my crooked eye while trying to make a living.
If I had gone to college to become an accountant or engineer, lawyer or doctor, I would have had to look people in the eye and give a firm handshake to succeed. I could manage the handshake, just not looking them in the eye.
Although my self-respect has improved over the years, I still can’t say I like myself. My self-image is still very poor. And now in my mid- fifties, I’m still embarrassed by the reactions of others to my appearance. This tells me my self-esteem is still as low as ever.
The struggle with my crooked eye, and my disturbing childhood memories, was the basis for my dark, depressed and sometimes angry personality. I’m not always the most pleasant fellow to be around.
I attribute most of my bad-tempered nature to my crooked eye, which caused most of my self-esteem issues. I’m not trying to excuse myself, just identify and accept the reason for being who I am.
My life has been dark and depressing; I’ve not enjoyed much of it at all. If not for my crooked eye, I would have a more positive attitude, be more sociable, and enjoy my life.
Knowing why things are the way they are, doesn’t always make them easier to change. I’m working on it.
(This has been an excerpt from my memoir. Click here, to purchase)
Content on this page is Copyright (c) by Rick Yost 2016. All rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.