I've had problems with depression since the 4th grade. No one knew what it was back in the late 70's, or that a child could suffer from it but I did. I woke up one morning in grade four and I was unable to get out of bed. I was consumed with sadness and fatigue. I believe I came to the planet a hyper sensitive soul and I had consumed all the unpleasantness I could and I just shut down.
In the 8th or 9th grade I discovered that alcohol could make you feel good. I had no coping mechanisms or tools at all. At home , my family was a mess and at school I was the constant target of hatred. It started in third grade being called "sissy" and as we all grew older the words became uglier and uglier and . I turned to food and alcohol to give myself breaks in the tension. I never felt safe, emotionally I wasn't safe at home and school was a nightmare.
I had years and years of depression that resisted treatment, and I learned to self medicate . I got to a point where I could not generate any positive or good feelings on my own. Then a curious thing happened, In the very early nineties I saw by accident a Asian girl skate on tv. She was so tiny her skating costume actually sunk in where she should have had hips. I made a note to myself to watch for this Michelle Kwan. The next year was the hideous Tonya Harding clubbing and it brought skating to a national forefront. After the Olympics, Nancy Kerrigan passed on worlds and that left this tiny, unadorned Chinese girl as the sole chance for the U.S.A to finish in the 8 at the World Championships in order to be able to send two girls then next year. She delivered a great set of skates and secured two spots for the ladies the next year.
The next year she underwent a very dramatic Hollywood style makeover for her skating. She came out in full makeup and dazzling costumes. She was suddenly the champion.
Because of years and years of being dead on the inside, I was surprised when I watched Michelle skate that I felt feelings of life inside me. There was something about the art and movement she created and delivered with her full heart that allowed me to feel, feelings I couldn't feel on my own.
I think it was in 97 she had a couple of bad skates at the worst possible times, a year before the Olympics. She fell in competition at Worlds and when she got up there was a look on her face that betrayed her. She was lost, in fear and couldn't not get her bearings for a second. I was kind of devasted for her because I know with atheletes, was them mental game wavers, sometimes they never come back.
But she did come back, and in 1998, she skated in a fashion forward icy blue lavender slip dress to "Lyra Angelica". It was the first time in history I had seen someone literally burn the fucking barn down with brilliance. It wasn't the string of perfect scores that moved me, or her incredible artistry. It was the fact that she came back from the worst competition year she ever had and triumphed in the face of all the people that said she was finished. She won the battle with self doubt and she was simply fantastic.
From that point on, when I could muster no hope of my own, when my soul had gone dark. I would pull out the VHS of The National Figure skating Championships 1998. I would feel moved in my soul because of the performance and then I would hang on to the fact that if she beat her doubt that I could too. My tape broke so i bought one from some stranger on the internet. It's a gift of spirit for a human to do something musical or artistic and actually stir the feelings of the dead like I was. When I could find no peace and no hope I pulled out Michelle Kwan VHS tapes and could feel something lovely in a very ugly place I lived in.
For every disappointment she had on the ice, she was never anything but beautiful and courteous. She never tried to make her loss, over shadow the one that won. She was always kind in the face of turmoil.
I would love to tell her thank her one day, although it is a long story and I don't come off that well in it.
I found successful treatment for my depression and my substance abuse problems and I am proud to say that today I self-generate my own good feelings and I got rid of all but one of my Michelle Kwan clunky VhS plus there is YOUTUBE. Just moments ago I watched her 2003 Dallas Championship win and was moved to misty eyes and a tightness in my chest. Partly because it was so perfect and so beautiful and partly because her skating days are over and she will not be creating anymore ice magic for me me to lose myself in. Whatever spiritual ideas you subscribe to, I know that the girl from Torrence was a gift to the world and I will forever be grateful that she participated in the opportunities that came her way.
When I had no loveliness of my own, she shared hers with me and all the people lucky enough to watch that Thorough Bred Run. Thanks M.K. Thank you for reminding me that when you get knocked down, you just get up again and start over, and that there is beauty available to us on this planet when we look for it.