Marlon Brando saved my life because I was really depressed.
Or rather, I am really depressed, only now I have tools, vocabulary, and a bigger world view to help me get through the rough patches. But up until five years ago, I was fucked.
When I was in kindergarten I was molested by another kid in my class. We could go into the details of the abuse, but I'll just say it was humiliating and continued for a year.
I will also say, I was not like most "victims" while being abused; I was vocal. I was loud and I was adamant. I said no. Many times. And I was ignored.
Because my abuser didn't stop when I told him to, and my teacher ignored my sobs and tears, and God was too busy to answer my prayers, my brain took care of me. Mr. Freud calls what happened to me "Repression and Recollection." I repressed the memories of being molested for ten years.
During those ten years I grew up believing I was a boy. Or maybe…it's not that I identified as male, it wasn't that, I just definitely wasn't a female.
I developed obsessive compulsive disorder, severe anxiety with panic attacks every night and depression so deep I was lying in bed for hours upon hours unable to move.
I was a straight A student who was at the top of her class. I was President of everything, I was involved in every club, everyone in school knew me and loved me. I wanted it that way. No one was allowed in.
My parents didn’t know about the OCD or the panic attacks. In my experience it is much easier to just let your parents yell at you for being lazy and lethargic than to tell them you are fucked in the head.
Trust me. That's worse.
When I was sixteen years old, the last year I played sports, I had to go to the doctor for a physical. I had gained weight.
I've always "struggled" with my weight.
It's not really a struggle, I don't know why people call it a "struggle," it just changed a lot when I was a teenager.
And my doctor looked at me and asked, "Why did you gain so much weight?"
And I was embarrassed and ashamed. She was looking at me and probably judging me so I began to cry. My doctor then handed my mother a business card for a child therapist.
And thus began my healing journey.
I want to disclaim that my therapists didn't heal me. Therapy didn't heal me.
I healed me. And that's the only way healing can happen, from within.
My first therapist put a lot of words in my mouth, but she gave me the tools I needed to be open to learning who I was and am.
Through reading a few books, I learned about Repression and Recollection and decided to try and open my mind to the possibility that maybe I repressed something when I was younger.
And the recollection was both liberating and terrifying all in one.
After remembering the abuse, I thought I could just move on with my life. Oh silly girl, what a fool.
I went on the rollercoaster ride of my life and I only know that now looking back on it all.
I stopped talking, I stopped eating, I was frequently considering suicide. But I was still getting good grades and was loved by everyone. So how could anything be wrong? We only care about results that can be measured in this society. I am not valuable as a young person unless I am achieving and standing out in some way. It's not enough to just be a good person. It's not enough that my biggest accomplishment that day was getting out of bed, or eating a meal. I'm not allowed to be depressed or have anxiety.
"What do you have to be anxious about?" Said my mother after I got shingles; a painful phsyicalization of a person's anxiety that never truly goes away.
"Nothing. I'm fine." The number one lie in America…I'm assuming.
I was in a "rough patch" one day. I was nineteen years old. My parents didn't really care about the abuse. My mother cared for about one week, but for the most part they just wanted me to "move on and get over it." So this particular day I couldn't get out of bed. Like so many days before I skipped school. I turned on the television to TCM and "Anchors Aweigh" was on. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra; and suddenly I was glued because I didn't have to think. I wasn't thinking about the work I was missing. I wasn't thinking about the money I was losing because I pay for my college education. I wasn't thinking about my responsibilities or the people I was disappointing. All that mattered were the two talented men dancing on my television. When the movie ended, I could feel the thoughts creeping back into my mind. And so, in my pajamas, I drove to the store and bought more Frank Sinatra movies; "Pal Joey" and "Guys and Dolls."
I don't know what it was about him, but Marlon Brando stole my heart the second he opened his mouth. He and Frank made one movie together, "Guys and Dolls." I stayed in bed for eighteen hours that day watching those movies and then Googling Marlon to see what other films he made. Being a second generation Italian, "The Godfather" was essential to my childhood. When I learned that Marlon was The Don, I got my dad's old tapes and watched those movies on loop. And the next day I ordered five more of his movies, bought his books and re-read "A Streetcar Named Desire" because that's him on the cover of the play.
I was in love.
I learned everything there is to know about him and I'm still learning. The man and I share a birthday for crying out loud, how could we not be soulmates?
Marlon got me out of bed.
Marlon gave me motivation and drive. I fell in love with him.
Became obsessed with him.
I was instantly attracted to him, but it was more than that. He was so incredibly vulnerable onscreen. I felt like he cared about me as an audience member; as a viewer. I wish I could describe it better. He got me up and out of bed. He gave me a reason to get up.
Marlon had an amazing career and he could not have cared less about it.
Marlon wanted to change the world. He wanted social justice for all people. He believed in humanity and equality and treated acting as any other worthless job. He wasn't ungrateful, he just saw the bigger picture. That the materialism of the world doesn't matter. How we treat one another and each other's ideas, that is what's important.
He is my hero and he continues to be every-day. He is a constant inspiration for me and the work that I create.
Marlon wasn't afraid of any role, any job. He always did his very best at any challenge presented to him. He always saw the bigger picture. If there is one thing I know about living with depression and anxiety, it's that you must see the bigger picture. Life is bigger than me and you. We all share this Earth and its energy, contribute to it positively.
That is what Marlon taught me and continues to teach me.
I don't know what I would have done that day if it were not for the distraction of those movies. He was sent to me that day to prevent me from doing something harmful to myself.
He saved my life and I owe him and his memory the dedication of the work I create.
I was able to eventually write a play about my abuse. There is a movie watching scene in the play, much like my eighteen hour binge. The play has been a gift to me and to the people who helped me create it. We have been able to perform it in New York City and I only hope it continues to have success. Everyone deserves the chance to heal and accept and to "move on."