As a child, I was oblivious to my differences – until others pointed it out, that is.
I wore the wrong clothes. I sat in the wrong seat (would you please move?) I didn’t talk enough. I stared too much. My skin was too pale. My hair was too long. My teeth were too big.
When I stood out in the sun, the glare would hurt my eyes. I squinted too much. I also, apparently, rolled my upper lip in, so my gums were showing. This, too, was wrong – though I had no idea I was doing it.
I didn’t play enough. I cried too often. I didn’t belong… anywhere.
I was too old to play with dolls. Too old to want to colour. Too old for cartoons. Too young to want a child. Too shy to be included. Too strange to fit in.
As I grew, I tried to follow their “advice.” I tried to wear what they wore, do what they did, go where they went, sit where they wanted me, say what they wanted me to say.
“Be yourself,” they told me, though I knew that didn’t work, they had already told me so.
So I chose strange clothes – on purpose – and they laughed. I sat at the front, where no one else wanted to be, and they didn’t send me away. I kept colouring, and let them laugh. I talked as a child, and they accepted. I danced in the hallways, and they danced along. I still didn’t belong…
As an older teen, I tried once more to be like them. I dated, but I was too dependent. I tried to find work, but I was never accepted. I tried to finish school, but I was too overwhelmed. I tried to dress like them, but I couldn’t figure it out.
I wrote, when they wanted me to speak. I cried, when they wanted me to laugh. I was still to silent. I still stared too much. I still didn’t know what to say, or what to do, or how to act, or where to sit, or where I belonged…
Others had boyfriends, and did okay. I had a boyfriend. It looked the same to me, but apparently I was wrong.
Others had children, and others supported them. I had a child. It looked the same to me, but apparently I was wrong.
Others had jobs, and lived outside of work. I tried, but apparently I did it wrong.
Others had friends, and enjoyed time with them. I thought I had friends, but it seems I had it wrong.
Others got married, and people were happy for them. I got married, and people were concerned. I guess I did that wrong, too.
Others then had families, or adopted when they couldn’t. I tried. I really tried. But apparently I did it wrong.
Others fought for what they wanted. Fought for what their children needed. Others had people fighting with them – but it seemed I was fighting alone, and I lost. Apparently, though it often looked the same to me, I did it wrong.
What has this taught me? That I have no idea what I am doing. Even when I think I am doing it right, I am probably getting it wrong.
They are right. I am wrong.
They are good. I am evil.
They are smart. I am stupid.
They are successful. I am a failure.
They are whole. I am broken.
They are everything. I am nothing.
They are powerful. I am weak.
That is what they told me. Those are the words I hear in everything I try to do. Those are my thoughts in every attempt to overcome. In those words, my anxiety finds its beginning.
Or in the words of Voldemort, “You are a fool, Harry Potter, and you will lose everything.” (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)
It will take a while, I suppose, to overcome their words. I still don’t belong in their world, and I feel it. I wish I could return to being oblivious, and submissive, as I was as a child, but I am not. I cannot.
My mind is scattered these days, and my anxiety and depression are both strong – despite, or perhaps because of, an increase in my medication.
There is so much I do not understand. So much I do not know how to do. So much I am afraid of. Please be gentle when I fail – for I know I will – and understand that it is not for a lack of trying.
Even my words are not working for me today.