Neither the cries for help expressed through my physical body, nor the behaviors that followed, were recognized as “red flags.”
No one knew my pain.
It began in fifth grade with chronic stomach pain. After testing, my pediatrician declared it a psychosomatic illness in front of me, and it ended abruptly. The stomach pain was quickly replaced with what we called the “seal cough.” I don’t remember how long they barked for or know why they stopped. I only know there were no further recommendations and this wheel stopped squeaking.
The same doctor informed my mother, year after year, by pointing to the graph on the wall, again in front of me, I was in the first percentile of height and weight. I might not have understood graphs the first time but I knew bottom from top since I was three or four. My height and weight were among the first of many personal attributes about which I became self-conscious/insecure.
In sixth grade, I had my hair cut short and began to prefer unisex clothing. I got quieter in school, stopped raising my hand and stopped performing in musical plays. I’d had two leads to that point but developed laryngitis on show night before the second one. I don’t recall if it was psychosomatic or faked.
People noticed when I began avoiding having my picture taken; I was vehement about it. Not only was I uncomfortable in my own skin, but my feelings of not belonging “made me” repeatedly ask, and over many years, if I was adopted.
My favorite books were a series called “Tell Me Why,’ but being analytical was not always the positive predicted by my PSAT scores. It was very easy for me to dwell myself into a spiral of rehashing, ruminating and over-analyzing; generally, beating myself up along the way. Movies considered tear-jerkers were popular at the time and, in hindsight, allowed me socially acceptable times to cry: to release some of my pain. I was sad much more often than anything else
At thirteen, my friend and I got caught shoplifting at the mall. It was my first time and it was indirect peer pressure that “made me do it.” I believe I did it in order to fit in or be accepted.
Cutting classes were a breeze once I mastered my mother’s signature. (Whose bright idea was it anyway to give teenage girls gym first period?) By the time I was fifteen, I was smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, and going to bars. Peer pressure was definitely the reason I started smoking cigarettes. A friend came over, took me to the park and told me it was time I learned how to smoke.
At this time, I can’t say whether it was peer pressure, the desire to fit in and be accepted, self-medicating, rebellion, or all of the above that were the driving factors for the intoxicants.
My grades suffered in middle and high school. I did the bare minimum.
The social masks I wore were apparently sufficient. No one knew my self-image was little more than a collection of insecurities and negative, limiting and self-abusive thoughts. No one knew how much time, money and effort I spent over the years trying to find ways to hide my perceived imperfections. My goal was to avoid drawing attention, to not stand out, to avoid being picked on, called out, or embarrassed.
While all my friends were striving for attention, I strove to be invisible. If I’d had financial control over my wardrobe, I would have entered high school dressed all in black. (Goth wasn’t a thing yet.) Somehow, I ended up with a disco crowd in high school, so blending into the background required colors, high heels, designer jeans, and fitting in – not standing out.
No one knew how deep and lasting each person’s criticism cut, or how each and every one added to the existing chorus of self-abusive thoughts in my head. I didn’t need anyone to help me feel badly about myself, I did well enough on my own. My worst bully lived in my head, and I’d had a few on the outside too. I was publicly called out for not having the right sneakers, for wearing hand-me-downs and for being flat-chested. (After a few public humiliations in middle school, I asked my mother to buy me padded bras, which I only wore briefly, as I felt it promoted false and unwanted advertising.)
No one knew when I stopped dreaming of becoming a singer-dancer-actress that I stopped dreaming altogether. I didn’t do much thinking about the future at all.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
(I reply to all comments personally!)
May you perceive and receive all your blessings.
With Much Love,
Copyright © 2017 Indigo Sky, LLC; All Rights Reserved