Posts Tagged ‘schooldays’

Soundbite from a conversation I had on Sunday…

It’s… like… I grew up thinking the world works one way, but now I’ve grown up and it doesn’t, it works another way – and now I feel I’ve lost those years that I could have had learning to fit in this world

I don’t subscribe to the feeling that I had a bad childhood (I did have a bad adolescence, but that’s a different matter), but I did have a slightly different childhood. In primary school I was ostracised by my schoolmates, so I grew up thinking I was worth less than other people, that it was a kindness to people to avoid them – that if I sat down next to people, I should leave an empty chair between me and them to avoid the pain that having me sitting next to them would cause.

And I can still see the echoes of that coming down the years.

Backtrack a few hours to yesterday evening. I went to a fellowship group organised by someone at my church – I go every other Wednesday, as it gets me out of the house and in the company of other people. I walked into the room where we were all meeting that day, and had a common dilemma – all the sofas were partly occupied… so where should I sit? I settled for sharing a two-seater with my conversational partner of the Sunday… and then realised that I was squished up against the arm of the sofa in order to provide as much space between her and I as possible.

Another example…

When I was a young teenager (13 – 14) I was quite talkative. Still quiet and thoughtful, because that’s me, but I thought nothing of yelling across the classroom to butt into a conversation on the other side (and indeed got picked up on that by my teachers), backchatting my teachers, or having long conversations with people I didn’t know very well about random things.

Then, at about 15, I stopped talking at school. I physically couldn’t talk, the words just wouldn’t get past my throat. Some of the more understanding teachers stopped calling my name out with the rest of the register so that I wouldn’t have to answer, some of the unobservant ones would wait for me to finally squeak out a “Yes” (to the amusement of everyone else), and one of the misunderstanding teachers would give me long passages to read aloud in class, and yell at me for being so quiet (I still somewhat wonder why on earth he thought that would solve anything, but he remains one of my favourite teachers for other reasons).

Fast-forward to the present day.

I do talk now… most of the time… and I sometimes don’t even have to think about it. But it feels a bit as if the bit of my brain that translates what I’m thinking into words that flow of my mouth sort of… disengages occasionally. And then I revert to mutism, and garner odd looks, without even realising what I’m doing, or that there’s any difference.

So, aside from the lack of opportunity for self-carnivorism (is that even a word?), I do wonder how to tackle these kind of behaviours, because (for me), they feel instinctive. I don’t have much choice in the matter – I behave that way because the old conditioning holds so strong.

However, there are no scars I can point to to show my past. I don’t walk around with a sign saying “I am occasionally a bit strange”. So I’ve struggled to make friends, because people misinterpret how I behave. And though I’d like to learn more appropriate social skills, it’s proving a bit of an uphill struggle, as I almost never get feedback on them (go on… when was the last time you praised someone on how they interacted with you? Yeah, I thought you might say that… me neither!)

So, here I am, a child of my past, in a future I haven’t quite figured out yet and never really envisaged to be this way. And I think my map might be upside down…

*twists the other way*

…no, still doesn’t make much sense. Hmmm…

Anyone up for a spot of orienteering?


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I forgot to say (think I was too lethargic…), I got the job! Hurrah! I’m having trouble getting very excited about it, possibly because of how far away it is, but other people have been reminding me how great it is that I did, so, errr… yay and stuff?

Still don’t have anything to do this summer though, and that’s where the familial pressure lies.

In other news, I just found an old mindmap of my depression which I made at Easter when I was far enough out of my depression to be able to put fingers to keyboard, but not so far out that I’d forgotten how it felt. I’ve always been a visual learner, though it took me until I was 17 to realise this, and mindmaps have been an absolute godsend to me. I had to do regular essay plans for my French A-level (along with the actual essays), and never could get the hang of the way that we’d been taught to do essay plans, because it was linear, and the plans in my head utilized 2 or 3 dimensions.

Even better was an unexpected benefit – my French teacher stopped asking me for essay plans once I started handing them in in mindmap format, because she couldn’t make head nor tail of them (I got at least one of them back with that as the comment, plus “10/10” – apparently because it “looked good”. Not that I’m recommending bamboozling your teachers as a good method for getting full marks…)

It’s funny, looking back. I don’t remember half of this, and yet it’s there, in black and white.

(click on the image to enlarge it – and obviously, it might be triggering for anyone who’s going/gone through the same thing)

Looking at that now, I can see that my thoughts were distorted… twisted… ever so slightly round the bend. And to that extent I’m really rather glad that my brain has drawn a veil over those few months.

But, I’m also glad that I have this record. Because next time I think I don’t have an illness, or that I’m just making it all up, or that I shouldn’t have dropped out when I did, I have this as proof to myself.

I do wish I could put pretty pictures on it, but given the content, I don’t think full-color illustrations would exactly be appropriate!

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Just for effect, let’s have that again:


I went into town today, and that was exactly the word someone decided to yell at me in the middle of the local shopping centre. I was too busy trying to eat an ice cream before it melted to be able to point out that smiling while eating an ice cream is actually rather tricky (but I digress…).

I don’t know why he did that, and it’s not really my place to theorise about why he might have, but it’s certainly a complaint I heard from plenty of people when I was growing up. I assume I can’t be alone in this? There’s two reasons why, I think – one is that, obviously, depression doesn’t really make it easy to walk around looking like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The other is kinda linked to my shyness – when I was growing up, I found that showing emotion (of whatever sort) often got attention, ranging from the innocent

“You look happy today”

through to the cutting

“Why are you happy, eh?

and to the absolutely well-meant but deadly

Are you ok, Chouette?

So I trained myself not to. Someone who knows me quite well once described me as “incredibly self-contained”, and it’s very true. In a way, this helps to feed depressive episodes, because it gives me sharper knives to hurt myself with in my mind.

I was told, in a school drama class once, to “act angry” (we were doing improvisation). I, er, did what he said. I snapped. All the anger from what had happened to me, and all the anger at myself, suddenly found an uncontrolled and unsuppressed release. I have a strong memory of seeing the poor girl who was my partner cowering up against the opposite wall, with real fear in her eyes. I think that memory will last forever.

I only got a B for that “improv”…

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