I’ve had to sort of reinterpret parts of my childhood. I realized a bit back that there were some things I believed about my childhood that weren’t objectively true. There are many things I remember happening explicitly; I have very strong memories of my childhood.

(It’s a little ironic that I can remember several days from each year as far back as kindergarten just as well or better than I can remember days in my recent past.)

I’ve basically come to the decision that if I can’t remember a specific instance of something happening, it was probably a generalized belief from something else.

For example, I reevaluated my junior high years and realized that, while I was bullied, it wasn’t nearly as severe as I remember feeling like it was. Most of that feeling came from a specific, admittedly severely traumatic, instance.

I’m also working on remembering the positive aspects of my childhood. For a long while, I fixated on the pain and forgot there was any pleasantness. While I wasn’t a happy kid, there were moments––vacations at the beach, theater, art…

Sometimes I struggle with reconciling the good parts of my parents with the bad.

My father made up bedtime stories for my brother and I when I was little. I was given the largest bedroom when I was a preteen because I managed to persuade my parents that I needed my own bathroom. My mother encouraged me to write. My mother would come get me in the middle of the night from a sleepover if I called her and asked.

My parents starved me. My parents beat my brothers and me, even if only a few times. My mother forced me to parent her half the time. Boundaries and punishments were inconsistent.

I feel like I’m being dramatic with those first two sentences: my parents starved me, my parents beat me. I feel like I’m exaggerating, like anyone I tried to explain this to would tell me to get over it, to stop accusing my parents of abuse when they did their best.

I mean, they did do their best. I don’t think they were malicious.

Maybe all parents traumatize their kids in little ways and I need to just accept that life happens.

Maybe the time my mother dragged my brother down the hall after he wet the bed, and spanked him for it, was just a parent losing control from frustration. He doesn’t remember it, how dare I hold it against her?

Maybe the time my father held another brother by the ankles, while my brother braced his tiny little hands against the mattress, and spanked him with a belt for who knows what reason was just a parent disciplining their child as they saw fit.

Maybe the time my mother flew at me and beat me upon the chest with her fists while I stood firm and detached was my own fault for calling her emotionally abusive.

I don’t think any of those times were acceptable, but the thing I’m most perplexed by at the moment is the time I was fourteen and suicidal.

Well, I was always suicidal as a kid and teen, but mostly just passively.

I was actively suicidal that night and tried to aspirate a cup of water.

It was stupid and a lot of people would think it was just attention-seeking impulsivity, because what sort of immature dramatic brat thinks they can actually die by inhaling instead of swallowing? If I’d really wanted to die, I wouldn’t have done it in front of everyone, right?

I remember the desperate feeling, though, the miserable fear.

And I remember my father holding me down while my mother hit the front of my thighs with a belt.

I remember writhing in their grasp and screaming and trying to lash out and sobbing that I wanted to die.

I remember dissociating and meekly following my mother to the truck while she drove me to the psychiatric hospital for the second time in several months.

By the time we got there I was that giddy sort of detached. Everything was curious and interesting and fuzzily sharp.

The nurse was talking to me and I noticed a bruise on the front of my thighs and I pointed it out, knowing in some distant part of my mind that that wasn’t right, and she didn’t care.

I enjoyed my week at the hospital. I loved going to the hospital. The structure was part of it. It’s funny, though, I slept so much better at the hospital. The nurses treated me so much better than my parents did. It felt like a vacation, rather than a cage.

My parents were abusive, even if not severely abusive like some peoples’ parents. I know how to manage them these days, though: if I don’t contradict them and let them believe they’re always right and support their views of the world things are mostly okay.

It’s better than not having parents,  I guess.

 

 

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A Revelation

So, yesterday I had a realization.

Realization is putting it lightly; it was a paradigm shifting, world shaking revelation.

It began with reading a fic that focused on a suicidal character, which prompted a stray thought about being grateful I’d had someone visit me at the psychiatric hospital when I was thirteen.

That led to recalling how my theater class had made me a poster to present to me after my weeklong stay.

It’s sort of amazing how belief perseverance can make you blind to things that seem obvious to anyone else, or to yourself once you’ve had something manage to wriggle its way through. (Especially when that belief is tied to a trauma.)

I spent the past ten years believing that everyone hated me.

I spent the past ten years believing this so strongly that, at fourteen, I sobbed in my mother’s bathroom because I couldn’t feel loved, and I was terrified I never would. I had no idea why, and I assumed I’d always felt that way.

I spent the past ten years believing this so strongly that, at twenty-two, my best friend told me her heart sang when she was around me, and my reaction was essentially, “cool, she tolerates me.”

She tolerates me.

I spent the past ten years assuming people hated me, that at best they tolerated me, despite a metric (pardon my French) fuckload of evidence to the contrary.

This belief also led me to using the word “friend” casually and without feeling. Anyone who spoke to me regularly was my friend, even if I believed they hated me. I believed I didn’t have friends. The cognitive dissonance I was unaware of wouldn’t allow me to see the contradiction of this person is my friend and they hate me, and when it did it went the wrong direction––instead of “if they are my friend, they can’t hate me”, it went with “they hate me, so they can’t be my friend.”

If I had noticed, I would have had to confront it. I couldn’t believe that people could like me or that I could have genuine friends.

Despite my friend coming to see me in the hospital at thirteen. Despite my classmates making me a heartfelt poster. Despite the friends I had at fifteen, at school, who invited me to hang out and joined the writing club I founded. Despite the friends I had at theater, who spent my sixteenth birthday party laughing with me and running around the park.

Despite the friends I met online who spent hours Skyping with me in those three long late-teenaged years. Despite the friend I routinely confided in, who asked me to be a member of their wedding party when I was nineteen.

Despite the friends I made in my first year at college, or the friends I made in my second year, who became like family to me and who I still believed merely tolerated me.

This all slid past me like oil on ice.

Yesterday, I realized that there was no reason a group of eighth graders would make a poster welcoming back a student they hated, especially not one they wished dead.

I realized that I hadn’t believed people hated me, in sixth grade. I didn’t quite get along with others, but I didn’t believe people hated me.

It resulted in some serious cognitive dissonance. I had to fight to reconcile my beliefs and to process.

Initially, I attempted to write a post on here about it. My thoughts were too scattered, too difficult to pull together, to be able to. Instead I turned to the venting channel of a Discord server my friends use.

I spent nearly an hour typing my stream of consciousness. I was able to realize where the change was.

In seventh grade, I befriended someone in gym. I’d had friends before her, but only losers like me––this girl was one of the cool kids. I thought she was really neat, and when she was nice to me, I was desperate to please her.

I was twelve years old and autistic and used to not getting along with most people, and I became a cliche. There was another girl in my gym class that idolized me. When I befriended the new girl––we’ll call her Z––I started shunning my old friend, C. C had some sort of disability. Cerebral palsy, I think. She was treated with a mixture of disdain and patronizing quasi-affection by the other kids.

C didn’t really understand why I didn’t want to talk to her anymore, and the way I treated her is the only thing one of my strongest regrets. I wasn’t actively malicious––although it might’ve been kinder if I was. If I had been actively cruel, she might not have understood why, but she might have at least given up. Instead, I just ignored her, which furthered her efforts to get back on her only friend’s good side.

I made fun of her, once, to try and make Z laugh. I don’t recall if it worked, only that sense of childish desperation, and that sick feeling in my stomach because I knew that C didn’t get it. I ignored the sick feeling.

For several months, Z and I were… friends, of a sort. We didn’t hang out outside of school, but we sat together at lunch and always partnered up in gym.

I think it was a spring day when that changed.

It was sunny out, so the coaches had us out by the track.

Most of the class was standing by the bleachers.

I don’t remember what prompted it. But I remember her exact words to this day.

“I never really liked you,” Z said. “I only pretended to because I pitied you, because everyone hates you.”

Sharp. Cutting. I could barely see. I shoved her, called her a bitch, and ran.

I feel it important to note that until I was nearly seventeen, I was the sort to call people out for using such minor swear words as damn. At twelve, I’d once went up to a sixteen year old jock to tell him off for swearing. Yet I called her a bitch, the first time that word had crossed my lips.

It was one of the most intensely painful moments of my life, and this from someone who first tried to commit suicide at age six, who had been on-and-off depressed since toddlerhood.

I got suspended for a week. I was told that her mother was considering pressing charges, considering getting a restraining order against me. No one asked me what happened. I suppose they all just assumed that the crazy kid had snapped for no reason.

And because no one asked what happened… no one ever refuted what Z told me.

The rest of the class rallied around her and babied her the rest of the semester. I was treated with disgust. Poor, sweet, heroic Z, who tried to be kind to a monster like me, and look what it got her.

Now, I want to be clear––I don’t bear any ill-will to this girl. I don’t hold a grudge. I can empathize with what may have been her plight; I can imagine she may have been losing her popularity by associating with a loser like me, rather than my original hopes of ascending by association with her. She was only eleven, and I cannot hold it against her. Junior high is hard. She was trying to protect herself and I’m sure she never realized how badly she broke me.

She did, though. Break me. Because I spent the past ten years believing what she’d said. I internalized it. People would be kind and I assumed it was pity, or that they wanted something from me. People hated me, I knew it in my shattered heart.

I’ve spent the past few years putting myself back together from all sorts of childhood traumas. Yesterday, I managed to heal one of my innermost hurts. A core trauma has sealed.

As a result of that hour spent barreling through cognitive dissonance, I managed to process a decades-old grief. I managed to purge it. And, for the first time in ten years, I felt like people liked me.

I spent the next several hours having thoughts every few minutes of, “oh my god, people like me!” interspersed with “oh my god, x likes me!” Where x was any number of people: my dungeons and dragons group, my brothers, my best friend, the people who’ve been crushing on me for ages and have told me so repeatedly.

Yesterday I had a revelation. They say that change doesn’t happen overnight, but for me, I leapt forward in an hour.

I don’t expect it to be miraculously and entirely cured. Likely, I’ll be sore for a while. I’ll have doubts.

But I managed to sew together a long-gaping wound and a hole is gone. There’s only bruising left in its place.

Yesterday, I had a realization, and holy shit.

People like me.

Building Habits After an Unproductive Childhood

This year, I’ve discovered that it takes me about three to four weeks of doing something before it becomes easier to do it than to not do it.

I remember once hearing that it takes a month to make a habit––and while I just googled that and discovered that that’s not necessarily statistical fact, I’m roughly normal in those regards.

The thing is, my parents never taught me that. I realized at twenty-two that it takes me about a month to adapt to something. In that month, I’ll have about two or three “I really want to stop doing this” moments that I have to push through.

I never learned to push through those, as a kid.

My parents were not good parents. Now, I don’t think my father is a bad person (and this post isn’t about my mother), but neither of them should have had kids. They were incredibly inconsistent, didn’t enforce boundaries, had no specific rules, and I got in trouble for trivial things while also being allowed to get away with important things.

(The only thing I ever managed to do regularly was go to theater, and I always thought that was because I really liked acting, or something. Now I wonder if it wasn’t because I spent my entire life at the theater, so it was the only thing they ingrained into me as a habit!)

They never sat me down and made me do my homework, and I never learned how to do homework. I almost had to repeat the seventh grade because that was the first year I had a class where a 0 in the homework section was enough to outweigh a 100 in the test section.

I quit guitar lessons after one day because the guitar felt uncomfortable in my arms. They should have forced me to keep going. They should have told me that an hour isn’t long enough to decide.

I flunked out of college because I didn’t know how to build habits, I didn’t know how to make myself do homework, and because I build passive habits (I’m gonna call them “anti-habits”) or break active habits really quickly. If I skip one single day of something, it becomes exponentially easier to skip the next time, and the next.

I always believed there was something wrong with me. I thought I just don’t have the energy to live life. I’m just not capable of these things. My mother supported this. (In hindsight, I wonder if her behaviors might qualify as munchausens by proxy.)

While I always had some amount of trouble making it to school, my absences went from a couple of days a semester in elementary school to 90% of the first semester of tenth grade.

(Something for another post––I remember my parents parenting me until I was six or seven. Then my father withdrew and my mother… was herself.)

In kindergarten, I made it to school basically every day. My father would pick me out of bed and carry me to the bathroom because I could not wake up by myself that early. I can remember being foggy-brained and him setting me on the toilet, and then bringing me back to my room to get dressed. By breakfast I was awake enough to start doing things myself.

In eighth grade, I would text my mother every day asking her to come pick me up. I hated school, because I got bullied and it was exhausting (junior high was when I started being starved full-force). Sometimes she would come, which––intermittent reinforcement! of course I kept doing it.

In ninth grade, I didn’t get bullied nearly as much. I was also on better meds.

(Post for another day––my childhood as it relates to being constantly medicated.)

I made it to school most days… then I got whooping cough. It sucked. For some reason, I wasn’t taken to the doctor, and I just spent most of the last month and a half of ninth grade in bed. I would sometimes nearly pass out from coughing so hard. A few weeks in, I went to school a single day, but was miserable the entire day so I stayed home again the next.

My teachers sent my work home for me, and I made it to the last week of school for finals, so I passed all my classes.

But it set a dangerous precedent.

In tenth grade… I stopped going to school. I would sleep in and my mother would drive me when I woke up, or sometimes I would just never go in. The school work piled up, and with it, my anxiety. I couldn’t seem to get any work done at home.

My doctor asked for late arrival for me, but the school refused because that would affect my status as a full-time student, which would affect my standardized test results and how they averaged in, and given that I got perfect standardized test scores and my school was the “bad one” of the district… it could’ve actually affected financing.

Instead they fudged my attendance records and when I could, I would stay after school with my SpEd teacher and work for a few hours straight. I taught myself all of my classes.

(Post for another day––how my mother taught me that sitting somewhere public and crying is the best way to get attention, how my adulthood taught me otherwise, and how I still struggle with it.)

I aced all my finals except chemistry. Then I dropped out.

Well, technically dropped out. I’d planned on graduating through an online school, and I thought I got my diploma six months later… when I was eighteen I discovered I’d been scammed out of one. So technically I only have a ninth grade education.

Now, I know blaming my parents for everything isn’t necessarily healthy… but they really did a shitty job in my childhood. I think it would be unhealthy if I was blaming them and then not doing anything about it. However, I feel like acknowledging their fault and then taking personal responsibility for changing it is different. My parents messed me up, and now I’m fixing myself.

Sometimes I wonder who I would be if I had had parents who were adequate, who had parented me, instead of having a distant father who was only around when he was yelling at us and a mother who was always in bed and who used me as her emotional support and who I’m pretty sure liked being the parent of a disabled child to the point she made me more disabled.

Obviously, I’ll never know. I try to tell myself it makes me a stronger person, to be able to become someone in spite of my parents, rather than because of.

I hope to go back to college in two years, when I’ll be an independent student in the eyes of financial aid. My plan is to spend the next two years learning how to deal with unpleasant things, learning how to make habits, saving up money.

Maybe working my way through some of my textbooks, so when I have to retake certain classes, it’ll be easier.

I have orientation at a new job in a few hours. I don’t know whether I’ll enjoy this job, whether it’ll be difficult, but I do know that I have to push myself to keep going. I can’t let myself give up. If I feel like quitting, I can’t do it on the spot. I’m going to make it at least a month.

My childhood may have poorly prepared me for the world, I may have PTSD and BPD and autism, but it is my life, and the best revenge against those who’ve harmed me is to live it well. I’m taking control of it, and I will become the person I want to be.

It’s been a few months since my last post, and that one had been a bit since its predecessor.

Likely, hopefully, they will become more common again. A week and a half ago, I had my last session with my therapist. Medicaid has made some changes, so he’s no longer in network. It’s chill, though, I had been considering calling and canceling all my future appointments anyway when I got the voicemail telling me. (My last session wasn’t very useful. I think we’d reached the point of diminishing returns.)

Typing things out like this helps me process, and posting them “publicly” feels more worthwhile than merely keeping a private journal.

Lately I’ve been considering the nature of my attachment issues. They’ve frequently occupied my mind throughout my life; I can remember sobbing on cold tile in my mother’s bathroom, at fourteen, terrified that I would never be able to feel loved or a connection.

At twenty-two, I still rarely feel loved by or connected to others. I assume people hate me until they say otherwise. My best friend once told me her heart sings around me and I went, essentially, “Huh. I guess she tolerates me.”

I feel tolerated at best.

Slowly, that’s healing. I’ve began to trust her, to believe she means what she says, even if it makes no sense. Who would want anything from me when I have so little to give? Who would want to care for me when I am in a position only to take?

I was taught relationships were transactional, as a kid. There was no unconditional love in my upbringing. It seems that insecure attachment styles may not be as irredeemable as the internet would have you believe. Slowly, slowly, I find myself trusting, bonding, opening up. Slowly, I find myself allowing vulnerability to show.

It occurred to me, before I grabbed my laptop and began writing this entry, that it’s possible that my loyalty is an adaptation to this attachment issue. I don’t attach how healthy people do, I don’t trust people, I expect to be abandoned… but while people are present and caring, I’ll do whatever I can for them. It’s a largely mind-based, intentional pseudo-attachment.

(Quick note to self: what if you wrote a character who only used words that had some pattern to them? potentially only words whose letters are in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order, or that start with vowels, or something. Could be interesting.)

I’m loyal because I’m loyal. A lot of my personality is made up of traits I decided upon. I’m loyal because I’m loyal, and if I stopped being loyal, I would lose a cornerstone of my personality. If I became willing to betray, I would lose myself.

I am easily amused. I am generous. I am compassionate. I am strong-willed and determined. I am loyal.

Of course, I’ve only decided upon positive traits––I do, of course, possess flaws. I am hypocritical. I am a perfectionist. I have a tendency to jump ship when conflict arises, rather than take risks or ride out the storm.

That last one is something that only occurred to me tonight. I almost quit the job I’ve had for a month––the longest I’ve kept any job, even if it’s only a day or two a week––because I got lectured about an empty box that was discovered in my section on my shift. Someone shoplifted a $40 fog machine and I got the blame because we can’t know if it happened on my watch or the person previous’s watch.

(I find it incredibly unfair that I was “given a warning” when, a, I wasn’t informed that I needed to keep an eye on that particular part of my section, b, we were very busy, c, I wasn’t told that loss prevention was part of my duties, and d, it mightn’t’ve even happened while I was at work!)

(Also, I just realized that “given a warning” may be processed differently by people other than myself. Being “given a warning” and lectured for ten minutes about it feels like a punishment, feels the same weight as having pay docked or given less hours would. Warnings are a precautionary measure by definition, though, are they not? So perhaps other people would perceive them as closer to a roughly-neutral word of advice than a negative punishment?)

I went out and found myself a new job, which I could fill out the hiring paperwork for tomorrow… but I don’t think I will.

My immediate reaction to conflict in the workplace was to quit, even if I’d been rationalizing it as wanting to find longer-term employment.

This is a seasonal job. It only lasts another seven or eight weeks. I need to stick it out. Not necessarily because they’ll be at a loss without me––they won’t––or because I’m afraid of the change a new job will bring––I am, a bit. Because if I quit now, even if I tell myself I’m just swinging to a more stable ship… it’s still jumping ship.

It’s still following the pattern I’ve set out till now.

I need to prove to myself that I can handle conflict. That I can last more than four weeks in a single job.

In the past, I’ve lasted mere days in a workplace. My last job was the record-setter by a significant amount. Three weeks, six months ago. Four weeks is still a record, but if I can’t even last a full month?

If I last three months in a job, well. A, that’s better on a resume. B, if I can stick out one job for three months, I can stick out another. If I keep beating my own records, maybe someday I’ll be at three years in a job.

I hope so. I want to be a productive member of society, someone who can afford to eat regularly and have an apartment.

Anyway, that’s all for tonight. I’m off to bed.

A Letter to my Therapist

My last session with my therapist was…  unproductive, and I’d like to discuss it with him at our next one. I want to be sure I’m going about it, right, though, so I’m going to untangle my thoughts here.

 

I feel you were unnecessarily harsh at our last session. I felt as though you kept pressing me with questions that I didn’t know how to answer. Perhaps, for some people, that’s useful. It forces them to confront things.

But, with my upbringing, I learned you always had to answer questions, and you had to answer them satisfactorily. It didn’t matter if your answer was true, it matter if the questioner liked the answer.

So I scrambled for words, and I can’t even remember the answers I gave. All I know is I didn’t have time to think it over because I was too busy frantically trying to ease the pressure.

I’ve spent the past two weeks thinking over what happened.

You wanted me to tell you why I couldn’t ask my father for grocery money or eat his food.

I struggled to answer, and I feel like you took that as there being no answer.

But here’s the thing:

As a child, I was taught that it was wrong to ask for help.

It was rude to ask for help. You had to wait for people to offer.

Now, I’ve been able to work on getting past this with my friends.

My mother wasn’t the only abusive parent, though. My father also taught me this.

I can’t ask him for help in most situations because he won’t give it, and he’ll make me feel bad for asking.

 

You also told me that I should work in a warehouse.

You told a physically disabled person that he should do manual labor.

On top of that, I felt like you implied I wasn’t trying hard enough to get a job, because there are jobs out there and I’m not applying to all of them.

I am disabled.

Not every job is an option for me.

I sent out a couple hundred job applications this year, and few received calls back.

My resume is lacking, a lot of jobs throw it out immediately.

I’ve had a lot of people believe and imply that I’m a malingerer.

I’m not. I want to be employed, I want to have a job, I want to be a productive and contributory member of society.

You seemed disbelieving when I said that the act of putting rice in a rice cooker took too much physical energy.

I spend most of my days sitting down. I don’t have the energy to work on projects I love.

Actually, I managed to get to a doctor, and they think I have sleep apnea and hypothyroidism. Fatigue is a major symptom of each.

My mother had narcolepsy, fibromyalgia, and thyroid issues. My father and his mother both have sleep apnea.

I’m not making any of this up.

 

 

Well, I expect he’ll have interjections. I suppose this is good enough of a disentangling.