Lately, my emotions have been playing an intense game of tug of war. Side one wants to be happy and confident and loving/appreciative of myself. Side two wants to wallow in pain and discord, to loath and tear myself apart.
Most often, it’s side two that wins the battle.
This game is not anything new, and unfortunately I don’t feel it’s a game I’ll be able to sit on a shelf and forget about.
Now, I can’t exactly pinpoint when my emotional and mental stability took a turn. That’s crazy to me because I should be able to know the exact day, time, and what jump-started the downward spiral. Right? Truth is, at twenty-seven, certain parts of my memory are as terrible as my ability to socialize with others, in person, for longer than five minutes without growing tired and uncomfortable.
Perhaps it was the bullying in school. But don’t most kids go through that? Especially those of us that were overweight, or not so pretty (thankfully, this whole #TeamLightskin/#TeamDarkskin thing wasn’t that big of a deal in my world during the mid-late 90s). I went to a Pre-K through 12 school, where you saw the same people every day, every year, in a community where literally everyone is related. Cousins fuss and argue all the time, friends and family say mean things all the time. Eventually kids grow out of the mean phase and you let stuff slide, right? Or, you fight it out and move on to be friends in adulthood.
Perhaps it was the late, but super alert, awareness that unlike a lot of the other kids I didn’t have a mother. Not my birth mother. This is in no way meant to be disrespectful towards my grandmothers, my aunts, or the other female figures in my life. Certainly no disrespect meant towards my step-mother. I love and appreciate all that she has done and still does for me. But, it was never the same as seeing the bond between my classmates and their moms. Then again; intense grief about the loss of my mother didn’t plague me intensely until my mid-teens.
Could be a number of minute and grand situations. Loss of my mother at the age of three. Saddled with the responsibility of raising a disabled sibling at the age of three and throughout both of our lives. Having my father but not living with my father. Bullying in school. Abuse at home. Troubles and problems that I put myself through throughout my teens. Inability to follow through with educational goals post high-school. Being trapped in a state that serves no real purpose for me.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say my feeling of self-doubt and lack of assurance in myself and my stance and beliefs and attitude began in the fifth grade. I can vividly recall this situation between myself, another student, and a teacher. Crazy thing is, the other student and I weren’t even into it with or arguing with one another.
She and I had been called to the office by the assistant principal for the elementary side of the school we attended. It wasn’t for anything bad, we later found out, but I’m sure you know that when you’re called to the office, you go straight away to avoid more problems. Well, my science teacher didn’t agree with that. She refused to let us go. Once again, the other student and I were called. And again. The teacher would not let us go.
We got a final warning call (meaning she and I would get in trouble for NOT reporting to the office). The teacher would not let us go.
Now, I was in no way a perfect child, but I was not the type of child, at that time, to speak out of turn or disrespect an adult. The other student was. She began respectfully, stating that she and I had to go to the office.
The teacher took issue, felt it were the other student and I who were disrupting her class when we were simply trying to do as we were told by a higher authoritative figure.
Well, one little word of input snowballed into more. The assistant principal eventually came and retrieved us, and once the other student and I returned to class, we were scolded.
Now, I know for a fact that I’ve always hated to be blamed for things that were not my fault. Back then, I didn’t take it to heart, but you weren’t going to place false blame on me or make me believe I’d done anything wrong.
Simple commentary, and a semi-sincere apology (that I didn’t owe anyone) led to me being labeled as an angry child. Disrespectful, snide commentary with profane words from the other student led to nothing. I was immediately enrolled in MANDATORY therapy with the elementary guidance counselor. My feelings, invalidated. My choice and right to stand of for myself, ripped away.
The mandatory therapy itself was a MESS. It seemed insignificant then, but here I was; a little black girl who typically stayed to herself. Sitting in a room with a ditsy white woman that used socks with googly eyes poorly glued on; speaking to me in a shrill and condescending tone as if I were incompetent for my age. As if I were wasting her time, and not the other way around.
If I can be brutally honest here; at ten, I was far more advanced and knew a bit more than this woman in her mid-thirties to early forties. At ten, I had more important things to do with my time than spend an hour with a woman that fit the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype perfectly.
The best thing about the mandatory therapy was that I got to skip that science teacher’s class while maintaining my B average. The worst thing was that daily I was being talked to as if I were still and infant or toddler being cooed at in that annoying baby talk that serves no purpose to help the developing child.
I know for certain this is where my disdain for therapists began. Mainly therapists that don’t look like me. That sounds terrible to say, but to be frank no one gets US like we get US (African-Americans/People of Color).
And it absolutely shouldn’t have, but each session throughout the remainder of the school year began to make me feel as if, “well, she’s speaking to me like I’m dumb. maybe I am dumb”.
Child-like voice and attitude/antics? Check. Condescending and self-righteous tones? Check. Placing blame/shaming me for being a therapy candidate/patient (even if it weren’t by choice)? Check.
And I was over it. I grew angry (for real) and began lashing out through each session. And then, eventually, I began to pull the Antwone Fisher. Oh you can talk, but I’m not saying shit.
Up until then I’d never acted out in school. Never fought, never used profane language, had never been in In-School Suspension, Out-Of-School Suspension, expelled, expulsion. Nada.
Picture me cutting up every so often from sixth grade and up. Lashing out whenever others sought to make me feel the way that science teacher and this therapist made me feel.
But that shouldn’t be an excuse, or used as one, right?
I suppose the next thing I can break down is the realization I came to when tackling the loss of my mother and late grief that tacked itself on to my heart and mind.
She passed a few days after giving birth to my younger brother.
Some program was going on at school, and it involved mothers. I don’t believe I’d given it much thought. Anything that usually went on; my grandmother came, my father came, maybe other family members came, and so on. But this event struck a chord. I remember seeing all the beautiful moms and the smiling faces and watching as my classmates ran to these women that they were able to call theirs.
I remember feeling some type of way, wondering what was so bad about me that I couldn’t share in that moment too. What had I done wrong? I know that’s where blaming myself for a lot of things began. Even things that I couldn’t control.
The thought and feeling of; “why not me” and “what about me” CONSUMED ME.
Did God, or whoever, feel that I weren’t deserving enough to have this person, and that bond that is so needed in life? Did God, or whoever, know that I would do something terrible later in life so I should be punished then?
Roughly from the age of fourteen until now at twenty-seven, I’ve felt that my life is this disaster because I didn’t grow up with my mother.
Where would I be now? What would I be doing? How would she have guided me?
Surely I would be happier, in a better head space, more self-sufficient. I’d have someone that I could go to with all of these little problems and get through without wanting to tear myself apart. I feel like she wouldn’t have played that “I don’t love myself” mess. I would have had someone to talk me up, build me up, teach me how to love ME, and ALL of me.
Not saying there aren’t people who tried, but I’ve heard that that mother’s love and push is something completely different from the norm.
When my mood swings and these long periods of depression come about for me, my main thoughts are always what if she were here, and why couldn’t I have her in my life. Seriously, what did three-year-old me do wrong?
It could be that and all that’s packaged into that situation, right?
And with that, being saddled with the responsibility of giving up my life to raise a child that’s not mine. The struggles of caring for and worrying about another being at periods in my life when I could hardly even care for myself. No time to worry about myself, my goals, my life, my dreams. I’ve felt like I’ve given up my whole life, that I’ve been trapped here, though I’ll deny it until my end.
It’s selfish to feel like that when it’s a fact that my brother is blessed, especially with the thought that he shouldn’t even be here because of his condition and how something like that works for individuals like him.
And because it’s selfish, I feel I’m sometimes punished for having that thought. Or, at least I punish myself for thinking that way. Even though others have told me they feel the same.
Maybe the abuse at the hand of a family member?
Surely being told that I’m fat, ugly, useless, worthless, talentless, disgusting, horrid, being called a bitch and more had a strong affect on my psyche. Surely being beaten mercilessly for the smallest and simplest things shifted something in me. In my attitude, in my formerly happy and quirky personality.
Locked in closets, held at knife-point, slapped and knocked into walls. Ohhh, all those damn belts and extension chords. Fly swatters and those old school, spiral telephone chords hurt as well. So do metal backscratchers, shoes, and wire hangers. Being a girl but being manhandled as if I were a boy. Talked down on and told constantly, made to believe that I wasn’t worth anything. That I would never amount to anything. Even now, as an adult, sometimes told that my minor successes aren’t successes at all.
Being reminded, I did that for you. That whole, “I made you what you are” attitude. Sounds about right.
I should probably unwrap all of this, but … sometimes, still, it gets to be too much to wrap my mind around. And in my current state, emotionally, this situation is the last thing I need to focus on.
I hope you get the gist.
Now, to avoid making further excuses (as I feel these things are and can be), I should probably look at myself and my own behaviors. Still, I wasn’t the wildest of children, but I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. Things that I sometimes look back on and mentally, and sometimes verbally, beat myself up about. Theft incidents, excessive drinking (that I don’t think anyone in my family even knows about), self-harming and suicide attempts. Even ran away once, though no one even noticed. Declines in my grades, my lack of desire to finish school, my struggle to finish school, not furthering my education. Not leaving the hellhole that is Louisiana when I had the chance (too afraid of leaving others behind). Violent tendencies that have surfaced and shown themselves, especially as I’ve gotten older and people have pushed me far enough. This extreme desire I have now to break myself down to nothing that developed when I was a teen and grew to this massive urge to fulfill anytime it seems like I’m going to be or feel happy.
I build myself up with love and pride, with confidence just to turn around and intentionally tear myself back down.
Self-sabotaging. I do that because for a good ten years or so, I’ve felt that I don’t deserve good things. I don’t deserve what I want out of life. That I’m not good enough to be happy, or feel proud of myself for how far I’ve come and all that I’ve done. That my minor accomplishments mean nothing.
This has spilled over into my work and life as a writer. I’m filled to the brim with so many ideas! I work on them, begin to write all of these wonderful stories, and then I turn around pick the stories apart. Then I pick myself apart as I begin to tell myself why the stories and the ideas were terrible to begin with.
This story just isn’t working because of ______ trickles into bullshit statements like you ain’t shit and you should just give up on life in a matter of seconds and those thoughts flow like waves of the ocean crashing on the shore and washing away all things beautiful.
It could be a culmination of these things and more, but I have yet to understand why it all hits at once and why it stays and keeps me down for long periods of time. Creating an inability to function properly, sometimes leading me to make attempts at what I feel will be the final solution to all my ‘problems’.
If I take a look at my life now; what I’ve done, where I am, where I’m heading as long as I stay focused, who I have in my corner, who truly loves me, etc; I have absolutely no reason to be depressed.
And yet; I can’t shake it long enough to love myself back into a great place of wanting to live and go about each day with happiness in my heart. I have yet to figure out how to get through my days without feeling like things won’t get better eventually.