My morning writing spat up some memories this week and I realized I’ve been writing my “origin” story from the point of my husband’s death. But let’s be real this all started at the beginning and just because I don’t want to relive or think about (or honestly remember much) from my childhood doesn’t mean it’s not important to this story.
I started writing this a week ago. That first paragraph was all I got out and then I haven’t been able to write more. It’s amazing to think how much of my childhood I just keep in a box and all the feelings associated with it I try to distance myself from them. I can feel my breath catch. I can feel my body curl in on itself. When I allow it to come over me I can feel the helplessness and the gnawing sense of other.
Does bipolar happen because of brain chemistry? are we born that way? or do the events of our lives push us and push us until our brains are wired a certain way. As I think about it I’ve never felt safe. Well that’s not true, a few moments here and there with Rob I felt safe, for a moment and that is perhaps why there is a before and after Rob. That all my childhood fears felt put away when I was seen, but they came roaring back with a vengeance. I see now it’s because the feeling was external and conditional. So that’s why I’m here on this journey working on making that feeling internal, from within so that no one can take it from me. But since I have so little experience with it, it continues to be elusive.
But I digress.
I was not a healthy child. Think some 80’s movie where there was a kid who had an inhaler and was the weakling – that was me. Only I was just a side character so I didn’t get a makeover montage. I was just odd and sick. I’ve come to understand that what I experienced was being seen as a moral failing for not being hale and hearty. I never had the energy other kids had. So much so that I knew early on something was wrong with me, but I was born in ’68 and went to school in the ’70s, and catholic school no less, so we didn’t have any idea how to help a kid with food allergies and who was too tired to function, even at the ripe age of 8. I had terrible IBS even back then, I woke up everyday with a stomach ache. I had so many stomach aches that they were treated like I was always faking and that set me up for a lifetime of not believing my body signals, but that’s for another post. All that is to set up that I was bullied for being meek and weak. And to understand that my sickliness was also making dealing with life already difficult. At home it was my dad abusing my mom and drunken fights but at Church we were the perfect family. I may never know if I was born healthy and the abusive stress is what caused me to be sick but either way I was not well. A pale, scrawny, asthma having, eye glass wearing, book reading outcast. And that would have been fine if people could have at least been understanding or kind, but no as I said, moral failing. And it wasn’t just kids that were mean. I learned early that cruelty was not limited to a select few bullies and that even nice people will be awful in the right crowd. Sure I was bullied in school by the nuns for my left handedness and my general lack of vim, seriously berated for being pale and tired. Literally just made me laugh to think of it, how insane is it to make fun of someone for being ill, no wonder I have struggled with accepting it and now just want everyone to know. I want to heal that wound and feel like people give a crap. UGH again I digress. It seems so silly now, a trifling. Yet for me, in the first through fifth grades riding the bus was one of the greatest sources of trauma for me. It might be tied with my P.E. teacher but we’ll leave Mrs. Larimer out of this one and just focus on the bus driver. I’m not 100% sure what her name was, as I called her “bulldozer” in my head. Was her name Dozer or Dosier? who knows, the truth is lost to time. I only know she was not a happy person and she allowed me to be harrassed so much on the bus, even taking part on occasion. Like maybe Matt and Trey had a similar experience?
From the classics like tripping, stealing of items and playing keep away, and no available seat gaffs to the more upsetting gum in the hair, and ruined homework, riding the bus was a nightmare. Made extra so because I was beyond timid and being noticed was its own hell and somehow that was like a flame and all the bullies moths. Sigh. I will never understand the urge to pick on the weakest one. All that I suffered with as much dignity as a sad victorian child could. It was the bus stop fiascos that truly gave me the anxiety. Now I gave you all the lead up about being sickly and tired. Now put me in a stressful situation everyday and throw in my sensitive stomach and hypersensitivity to smells and my bus rides were like a fugue state. I could barely function I was always so overwhelmed. And more often than not I would fall asleep. (I presume it was the beginnings of a strong flight/freeze response to stress) Now my bus driver decided to punish me as often as possible. She wouldn’t help me procure a seat up front where I wouldn’t be harassed or get as car sick. No she would watch the kids block the seats until I was in the back. So many times. I stopped crying and begging for help that seemed to only make her angrier. She would call me pity party princess. LOL I just remembered that, huh. Anyway if I fell asleep sometimes she would just drive past my stop and make me ride the whole route and drop me at a different stop on the way back making me walk further. (realizing now how much she endangered me) Sometimes she would get the kids to chant – “Is Aminda on the bus” on the way to my stop and then they would jeer and thrown things and call me names as I exited. Good times.
Now I can look back and see how tiny those things were individually. I can even understand that Ms. Bulldozer probably had her own trauma and reasons for being a complete a-hole to small children. Yet it doesn’t change that those daily interactions were a constant stressor on my tiny little pathetic nervous system. There was no relief. You didn’t admit weakness to the nuns, that brought down more wrath and punishment than help. And ya know the few times my mom got wind of anything hinky she was quick to defend me but she did it in way that always mortified me and generally had a backlash of being bullied harder. Now there is so much more history from St. Gregory’s. come to think of it all the people that were the worst to me where all the women in charge. It’s no wonder it took me years to trust women. Recently I’ve been wondering why I’m so sensitive and reactive and reliving/remembering my childhood reminds me that I was trained to be wary. It’s wired within me to be protective and scared. And my digestive system never did figure out how to life all that well.
Bullying is a health crisis. And make no mistake the “grown-ups” have always been as bad as the kids.