Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GIRL IN THE DARK by Anna Lyndsey

Look, I'm pale. The sun gives me headaches and I burn extremely easily. I'm also hypersensitive to bad indoor lighting and even the slightest flicker will trigger a migraine. However, because I am able to walk outside, because I can sit in a room with three lights illuminating a room otherwise cast in shadow, and because I am currently sitting here and looking at the illuminated screen of my laptop, I am more fortunate than Anna Lyndsey.

Girl in the Dark is Lyndsey's trance-like memoir of her rare medical condition and her life. A 20-something, she was working in an office one day when she noticed that her computer monitor brightness was hurting her. The condition progressed over the course of weeks to become sunlight, lamp light, dim light, and then all night entirely. There's photosensitivity and then there's Anna Lyndsey. Her career is put on hold, her pending marriage becomes a huge question mark, and the need for complete dark becomes an all-consuming goal. Lyndsey's life is reduced to blacking out an upstairs room in her home and staying there for days and days and days. You know those prison shows where solitary confinement in The Hole makes people go mad? That's her world, except
The view from Anna's room.
(Artist's conception)
(Yes, it's just a black box)
without the crime and punishment element.

In the book, Lyndsey lyrically describes her condition and also her attempts to find others like her, to find help that doesn't include a doctor saying something clueless like "just come down to the hospital and we'll examine you" when she can't go outside her room, to find ways to keep from going insane. There's not a sense of time in the book because there is no time when you don't have sun and moon, day and night. She can't see a clock. Clocks require light to read. Oh, and she can't read. She listens to audiobooks. She longs for visitors and dreads the awkwardness of visits. She plays games in her head to keep from cracking. If "The Yellow Wallpaper" were set in a moodier locale, it might be Girl in the Dark.

If you were stuck in pitch black for
days on end, wouldn't you start to
worry that you'd end up looking like
this? Just me? Okay. 
I admit that I'm crazy for this book.  Lyndsey is resilient despite pain, seemingly hopeless situations, and struggles that wouldn't even occur to most people. She's an activist from a second floor room without contact with the outside world. She's reduced to the most basic functions, but still keeps fighting for her quality of life, and writing about it eloquently. There's a section of the book when her photosensitivity eases a bit and she's able to go out into her garden for short periods of time on dark nights. This reprieve is threatened, though, with the city announces that new, more efficient, brighter light bulbs will be installed in all of the area street lights. The new lights would imprison her. It's the drama of a routine, mundane change amplified to life-altering magnitude that makes Girl in the Dark a wonder.

No comments:

Post a Comment