I met her some years ago in Group. She was young, quite silent and withdrawn. Most of the time, you couldn’t see her face. She had a heavy head of hair, and its arrangement served to conceal all but one eye, looking usually down at the table. She was uncomfortable when speaking, but her answers were always short and direct. Questions like “tell us about yourself” bothered her the most. More than once she cried some in the sessions, and was absent for a couple of them. After a time, I found that I was focusing on her feelings and was perhaps not paying enough attention to the dynamics around the table. I felt that this was not the right environment for her, but I was ignorant of her circumstances, and of what other treatment she had had, if any. I approached our psychologist and tried to ask her about the girl, but she cited confidentiality, and I had to respect that.
I have written about this before, and mentioned that I did see the girl (Nancy) some two years later. It was at her workplace. She had changed very much, and seemed to have overcome her withdrawn nature. Indeed, she was a shift manager in the restaurant where she worked. I sat down with my coffee, and watched as she guided the crew confidently while serving many of the customers herself. She happened to glance my way, and there was some recognition between us, just for a second. Strangely, she bowed her head slightly, reminding me of her former self, then quickly went about her business.
On a subsequent visit, I spoke to her and asked if she remembered me. She said yes, and gave a little smile. I noticed that she had bad teeth in the front, then immediately regretted it. On other occasions, she spoke a little more, but had the peculiar habit of pulling her upper lip down, almost as if she was about to whistle. I felt her shame, and was all the more embarrassed for it.
So, Nancy has been successful, and I think courageous, in being able to function in the world. I do not know her story, and would never ask. She seldom looks directly at anyone, or so I think. She has peculiar eyes though, that are no longer hidden by her hair. In my overactive imagination, it is as if she is wearing opaque contact lenses, cleverly painted to resemble the real thing. Behind these blinds, the old Nancy watches as the new one gets on in the world.