Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Slice of Childhood

About a year ago, when I first started out on this journey, my therapist (whom I had just started seeing at the time) recommended several books to me. One of which was "Adult Children of Alcoholics" by Janet Geringer Woititz an author who I'm sure is familiar to anyone who has done even the slightest ounce of research on this subject. After reading this book, it all started to make sense. I didn't know how to act normal because nothing in my life was normal. This book was the first time I saw my childhood described so accurately.

I definitely remember being young. What I have to think a little harder about is how it felt to be young. The anxiety, the social awkwardness, fleeting bits of hope & worry. But the feeling that seems to stick out more than any other is loneliness. I had such extreme and intense feelings of always being alone. But I had always been a loner, sometimes by choice sometimes not. I was an only child for the first 5 years of my life and had an uncanny knack for keeping myself occupied. I have always loved to read so throughout my childhood and early adolescence I used books as an way to escape into other worlds through the words written before me. It was easier to belong in those books than belong in reality.

I had a hard time fitting in with reality. At school I was shy, painfully so. At the slightest inkling that someone was even thinking my name caused my face to turn a bright fiery red and I would break out into sweats. If I had to stand in the front of the class and give a presentation, forget about it. I felt ill. I had no confidence in myself and the insecurity I felt was almost unbearable. I would procrastinate and wait until the last possible second to stand up so I could stumble my way through my report. If I was lucky, there wouldn't be enough time in class that day and I would be saved by the bell, putting off my humiliation for one more day. The fear I had of being judged was excruciating. I was always the quiet one in school. I would NEVER raise my hand to volunteer an answer or even to ask a question. If I didn't get something, I would tell myself I would figure it out later on my own for fear I would be thought dumb and stupid for not understanding.

Finding friends was difficult. Finding friends I liked and who I thought might actually like me was a whole different matter entirely. Aside from being shy and insecure, but during my pre-teen years I was what they call geeky looking. I had big teeth, frizzy hair and glasses. My only saving grace was that I was an athlete. It didn't matter (at least during the game) that while playing basketball my mom made me wear an elastic band around my head to make sure my glasses wouldn't fly off. Playing sports was the only time I actually felt like I belonged. I could run fast; I was one of the fastest boys or girls in my neighborhood in elementary school. I was one of the best at jump rope, 4-square, I could play catch, and during gym I was usually the 2nd or 3rd girl to get picked for teams, after the popular girls of course.

But life on and off the court were very different. On the court I was one of them, part of the team and with whom I could celebrate after a win or bum out together after a loss. We had something in common then. Off the court, I was a freak. I didn't know how to fit in. I didn't know how to bond with these girls. How do you relate to someone when you're so petrified that anything you say could send them running for the hills, laughing and pointing at you all the way. In 5th grade, the girls in my class watched an instructional video on menstrual cycles. I was so desperate to fit in with my peers I made up the fact that I started my period just so to get attention. I still keep up that charade. I've never told anyone that. I didn't actually start my period until the end of my 8th grade year. But what was the problem with telling that one little lie?? Keeping secrets didn't bother me that much. And besides, I was good at it.

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