Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Broken Child: You Mean I Really Am Different - Enlighten Me Series

Part five of six here. We have one left to go. These excerpts point to the beginnings of my depression. From what I have gathered, my situation was the perfect storm for a little girl to lose her way. I was in great need of enlightenment and guidance.


Part Five: You Mean I Really am Different?

I felt isolated and alone. When I tried to make friends, they kept looking at me funny or laughed at me. What was going on? I don’t get it, why doesn’t anyone want to be near me? Probably because I was what… ugly, weird, or just confused? Would someone care to enlighten me? What was so weird about me?

To confirm that I was different, I was sent to special ed class. When I looked around me, I was confused. I didn’t resemble anyone in the classroom. I didn’t have the same disabilities or learning problems. My new teacher looked at me and said a little too sternly, “You shouldn’t be here. I don’t understand why they sent you to me. You don’t belong in this classroom.” I whole-heartedly agreed with her indignation, because I was feeling the same way about the situation. All I understood was that she seriously didn’t want me either. That I didn’t belong anywhere. I cried.

I was intelligent, but not articulate. I stuttered slightly when I got nervous. And I was anxiety filled for most of my school life. Once I remember my kindergarten teacher telling me to speak in English. I kept insisting I was. “But I am speaking English!” I cried. The principal came to our home and told my parents to only speak English at home, because I was getting confused. I remember thinking, “What is he talking about? What is wrong with these people, don’t they know English when they hear it? I hear English, I can read English, and I can speak in English.” I just didn’t get it.

Apparently when I first started school, I spoke nothing but Spanish. Years later, I realized that I must have mixed the two languages together, that it sometimes came out as a stutter searching for the right word. My mind was translating quickly but my mouth wasn’t fast enough.

Why didn’t anyone enlighten me? No one told me I was speaking Spanish! I didn’t know I was speaking another language. It would have helped me understand why no one understood me or wanted to play with me. It would have explained why every time I opened my mouth, the other kids would laugh or tease me. It would have also explained why teachers wouldn’t respond to me at times and instead gave me a lot of blank stares as though I wasn’t there at all.

How can I have not known that I was a different culture? It goes to show you that when a child, me, goes out into the world, too naive, too young to understand, with no real guidance, and adults too busy to realize my dilemma that I became a lost girl. I was a smart child, but not smart enough to figure it out.

I was a broken child and no one knew that I needed to be fixed.

The last one coming up. Part Six - No Way! You Mean I'm a Different Race? Confusion arises when you're as lily white as your neighbor, but then again, you aren't. WTF?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Broken Child: You Can't Be Happy When You Can't See

Coming near the end of my six part story. These excerpts point to the beginnings of my depression. From what I have gathered, my situation was the perfect storm for a little girl to lose her way. I was in great need of enlightenment and guidance. My confusion was so complete when I was a child wondering around my elementary school. What have we learned so far:
Crying was the only thing I heard the first year of my life.
I was too young to go to school.
I didn't know I was a poor little girl.
And now: Add seeing on the list of things I do poorly.


Part Four: Seeing Could Have Helped

One day our second grade teacher announced that we were taking a new test. It was called an eye test. Why didn’t I know about this test? Why would she spring a test on us like this? I wasn’t prepared. If I went up there I knew I would cry and everyone would make fun of me. As the teacher administered the test to the other children I watched intently. There was no way I was going to fail this test if I could help it. I noticed that she pointed to every letter in the same pattern. By the time it was my turn, I looked at the board she was holding up and didn’t understand one letter on it, except for the big E. Why was it so difficult to make the letters out? Good thing I had memorized the pattern and passed the test with flying colors or so I thought. When I got my new glasses, by golly, I could see!

I realized that the confusion and haze I felt when I was a child was due in part to poor eyesight. Everything was blurry. I couldn’t see the black board. I couldn’t see people lips move. I couldn’t see the expressions on people's faces because my eyesight was that bad, almost clinically blind. But even after I started wearing glasses, my confusion about the world around me still didn’t get any clearer.

I wish now that someone had taken the time to enlighten me, to tell me that the reason I didn’t understand was because I was so nearsighted and had needed glasses for a very long time. Glasses just appeared on my face and Bam! Clarity. And Bam! Instant Dorkdom.

Glasses apparently were not cool.

Yeah. Something else to be made fun of. From now on whenever I was paired up with someone, they paired me with the other geek in the classroom. At least my glasses offered a new way to hide. I could hide behind them. They were like a miniature fence on my face that kept people out. It actually helped to repel them. I was considered a good looking girl until those glasses landed on my face. Boys never looked at me again.

Part Five: You Mean I am Different? Who knew? There was actually something different about me after all and I didn't even know it. And it wasn't good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Broken Child: You Mean We're Poor? - Enlighten Me Series

I've broken down my story into six parts. These excerpts point to the beginnings of my depression. From what I have gathered, my situation was the perfect storm for a little girl to lose her way. I was in great need of enlightenment and guidance.


Part Three: You Mean We're Poor?

Who knew? I was clueless. Poor children don’t know they are poor. Not until others point it out. Some of the laughter or jokes came because of the clothes I was wearing. I didn’t know that they were laughing at me because I was too poor to afford nice clothes that fit well, or looked worn out, faded, or most likely, mismatched clothes. I knew that I was being laughed at but couldn’t understand why. My parents have five children all a year apart. So our clothes were shared among us, as were the shoes and coats. Every once in a while my brother even wore a girl’s coat. On rainy days we didn’t wear boots. Sometimes there were no socks to be found. I realize now that the clothes probably weren’t as clean as they could have been either. When my glasses broke, they were taped up bringing more jeers and jokes. I became the geek, the unwanted, and the unwashed. I was confused. I cried.

I wished someone had enlightened me that being poor put you below others on the social scale. I didn't realize that the poverty moniker was showing all over me. It could have explained the behavior of the other kids. I didn’t care or even think about clothes or how someone else dressed or looked, but it meant so much to so many other people. I was confused.

I didn’t realize we were poor until my mother and I went shopping for my communion dress. These were the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen. Every time I picked one off the rack that I liked, my mother would say, “Sorry honey, that one costs too much.” She said that after the next six dresses I picked up. That’s when a paradigm shift happened and I asked, “Mami, are we poor? Are we a poor family?” She thought for a minute and then admitted that yes indeed we were what people would call poor. But as long as we were together and loved each other that we were rich in love and family. To this day, she regrets telling me yes, because I would never let her buy me anything ever again after that. I always told her I didn’t need it and to spend the money on my brother or sisters instead.

I became embarrassed, self-conscious, and tried my best to be invisible after that. But it was becoming easy. No one pays attention to you when you look so pitiful, unless of course, its to make fun of you. Other than that, you become a nobody. That was fine with me.

Part Four coming up: Seeing Could Have Helped - when you're blind as a bat, no wonder everything seems hazy. Geez.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Broken Child: Haze of Confusion - Enlighten Me Series

I've broken down my story into six parts. These excerpts point to the beginnings of my depression. From what I have gathered, my situation was the perfect storm for a little girl to lose her way. I was in great need of enlightenment and guidance.



I entered kindergarten when I was four years old, turning five three months later. In those days, four year olds were allowed to start school early. I can only tell you that my memories of this age substantiate that I was wholly unprepared for school. I could write my name in cursive, understood two languages, and was very good at math. I had book smarts but no street smarts. I never ever understood socially what was happening around me. I was too young and couldn't relate to other children on their level. Everyone looked at me as though they were seeing an alien and didn't understand me either. I didn't get it. I walked around in a haze of confusion for the longest time. That's the word. CONFUSION.

The only thing I could focus on or make sense of was the teacher. I needed praise, affirmation, acceptance and I got that from teacher. I excelled in her presence and I was appreciated. So I did everything in my power to please her. But even then she kept giving me blank stares and no sense of understanding. WTF was going on around here!

It took a long time for the haze to lift. People would laugh and I never knew why. Jokes zoomed over my head like a roaring jet. If I looked around and the laughter was directed at me, I cried. I could have been the one that made the joke, unwittingly of course. I never knew why they laughed. I cried even more. I excelled at the schoolwork, so they placed me into an advance split level class for math, which meant I was with even older children. I never understood what was happening around me. Socially I didn't have a clue. After a while I just stopped talking altogether. It was better to be silent, to be invisible.

Why could I understand the work so thoroughly but not understand the people around me or why they acted the way they did? My confusion was so complete that I would fill in the blanks with what I thought was happening and about myself. What was it about me that made people act so? I cried a lot.

I wished someone would have enlightened me to help me understand that the reason folks reacted to me the way they did had more to do with the fact that I was too young, and wait for it...
I was speaking another language. Now that was news to me. More on that in Part 5.

Next is Part 3 - You Mean We're Poor!?!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Broken Child: Deep Seeds of Depression - Were they planted from birth?

I've broken down my story into six parts. These excerpts point to the beginnings of my depression. From what I have gathered, I was in great need of enlightenment and guidance.


In my search to understand my depression, I needed to go back to when I first felt it. Like Freud would say, “Tell me about your childhood.”

But I can’t tell you when I first felt it. It was already a part of me before even sentience. It has always been there.

My childhood was not a pleasant one. When people say the “good ole days,” I cringe and think, “What good ole days? I never want to relive those days again.” They were agony for me so forgetting them seems so right. But revelations come every so often with age. I’ve come to understand how the confluence of events and circumstances created a ‘perfect storm’ leading to my distress, fear, and confusion of those “ole days”.

Conditions were just right for a clueless little girl to read all the wrong signs, to misunderstand so many meanings, to look inwardly for the problems that plagued her mind and heart. The most important element missing was guidance. As an adult, I cannot stress enough how important the impact of guidance can have in a young person’s life. I needed guidance to help me understand what was going on around me. My mom was way too busy with the other four babies to help me and my dad was too tired and worn out by work. My parents could not help me and my teachers couldn’t either. I couldn’t articulate my issues. No one could anticipate how I would interpret the things that were happening to me. I was in uncharted territory and on my own.

Was the Seed of Depression Planted – Is Crying a Learned Response?
As far as I can remember, I cried. I cried about everything. If someone looked at me and I didn’t like it, I cried. If someone admonished, teased me, giggled at me, pointed at me, looked mean, yelled at me, showed disgust or disdain, said something mean, stuck their tongue out at me, or called on me when I was unprepared, or worse, ignored me, I cried. Everything wounded me. My crying jags were monumental, legendary even. The more people tried to appease me the worse I got. Family, teachers and classmates soon knew me as the crybaby. I was teased by my siblings, exasperated friends and teachers, and ridiculed by classmates.

At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, many old family friends and neighbors told stories, reminiscing about the good times, the great parties, and about their lives together in the 1940’s and 1950’s. One family friend recounted the story of when my mom lost her first child, my brother when he was three years old. He died the same week my mother gave birth to me. The friend leaned over and whispered that all my mother’s friends were highly concerned for her sanity, her grief was so great and no one could console her. It took months and months before she was able to cope. This was a revelation to me.

My mother’s first child, a boy, the sweetest, gentle soul, I’ve been told by so many, died when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to me. I looked at my son, now sixteen, sitting across the table from me, and my heart broke for my mom. I did not want to imagine that kind of grief.

I asked my mother several days later about that time in her life. I asked her if when holding me, did she cry for her son. She told me she cried practically non-stop for a full year until my sister was born. She then realized herself that she cried whenever she held me, that all I heard for the first year of my life was her immeasurable grief.

Did the seed of my depression go that far back in my history? I don’t know. But I think if I had realized it sooner, I might have been able to put my crying jags into perspective instead of thinking I was crazy.

Next time, Part Two of Clueless and in Total Confusion – the Elementary Years - Too Young for School

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Opened the Door and Said No

The other day, I opened my bedroom door and could not think of any reason to leave. I stood there looked out and no one was there. Nothing or no one to greet me. I ran down the checklist in my head of what needed to get done, and I found nothing. There doesn’t seem to be a purpose for me that day. No one needed me, nothing needed to be done, deadlines were nowhere in sight. I was unsure of what to do. I closed the door and returned to my bed.

As I lay there, I decided that there was no reason to get out of bed all day or all night. My hips fell asleep. I’m getting sore lying here. No television to distract. Some sleep. No food. But I don’t care. Oh I know I will get up tomorrow because there is something I am supposed to get done tomorrow. I see my future. An old woman lying on her bed in the fetal position, getting sore, getting bedsores and not caring. Or worse, caring but only when it’s too late to change.

This is the first time that I have done this. I mean I have lain in bed all day before in my life, but because I was already depressed. But today was the first time, I found no purpose. The first time I have gotten up with real intention and when I opened my door and looked out, nothing was there. It was a big fat blank out there. The first time I closed the door and said no.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Analyzing the Flashback

The Flashback

When I get like this, I need about a week or so to figure out what’s really bothering me. Over the decades, I figured out a process that helps me recognize and pinpoint the exact moment when I got the darkest. The conflict starts inside of me unconsciously and then it manifests itself as an outburst. I feel angry at everything. I finally explode with irrational anger or manic depression. The outburst is way out of proportion for the infraction and I lash out with fury. Then the search is on - why? Why did I react this way? If I can find the trigger, I can get rid of the negativity.

The most shocking thing of all is to find that the thing that knocked the breath out of me today was the exact same thing that knocked it out of me when I was a seven year old. Who knew that at the age of 47, when I feel more in control of my mental and physical capabilities and potential that I can experience in a flash, the wave of intense emotion that I had not felt in years. It was truly unpleasant and sorely unsettling because it came like a lightning bolt. I was expecting enthusiastic approval but instead got transported back in time, to a time similar to this one, seeking approval and getting nothing. NOTHING. How deeply it had affected me then, and how quickly it reached up and grabbed me by the throat now was the biggest surprise.

I remember bringing home four A’s and one B, and mom said, “Why couldn’t you get all A’s?” or when I amazingly was a runner up in our two-class spelling bee. I was extremely shy, constantly bordering on anxiety attacks. To stay in front of the classroom, in the limelight, as all the other “spellers” were eliminated was a real triumph for me. When I came home with the news that I was runner-up and almost won, I heard, “I knew you couldn’t win.”

Later in life, when I asked my father if he was proud of me, he would say, “No, I can’t be proud of anything. It is a character flaw to be proud.” I told him that I really didn’t mean that particular meaning of the word, that he might be able to feel pride that I was his daughter and was a good student. He said again he could not be proud of me because it was a sin.

So when I waited for someone (translation: husband and 17 year old son) to enthusiastically want to read my first printed piece in the local paper, (with picture and by-line, thank you very much) and no one volunteered, I felt an old hurt. I thought, “Oh well, it doesn’t really matter.” They were happy for me and thought it was great, but they would read it later. I shrugged off the hurt. But later became days later and only when I brought the subject up again did they read the piece.

Luckily for me when I told my sisters about it, they couldn’t wait to read it and insisted I show it to them immediately. One sister insisted I fax it to her; the other went to buy the paper and called me back. Ah, thank God for supportive sisters. They exhibited just the right amount of delight, enthusiasm and kudos for my first literary triumph. They extended the joy for me. They were proud of me. It was immediate and oh so satisfying.

But the real support that I needed was the “want” to read my article or more so, the “need” to read my accomplishment by those closest to me. I do it for them all the time. I was always the cheerleader for my husband and son. If it was important to them, it was as important to me. I shrugged my shoulders and let it pass thinking that they were “just” men, as though that was justification. I thought why am I feeling like a seven year old. “Come on. Get it together.”

I kept saying it didn’t matter and convinced myself that my reaction was just a manifestation of a past event and really had nothing to do with the present. But then something else makes you angry about two weeks later, just a little thing among a thousand other little things and I blew up. What’s wrong with you? Why get upset over such a trifle? I didn’t know what was bothering me. But I knew from experience that if I blew up like that it meant something else was gnawing at me and for my own sanity, I now have to figure out.

At this point I become my own analyst. (German accent.) “Why do you think you blew up? Was there anything recently in your life to upset you? Tell me about your childhood. Ah, I see.” Then I realized it was that my husband and son never asked to read my article without my prompting much later. It was not a top priority for them. It didn’t really matter to them. I translated that to mean that I was not a priority to them. I realized further that the reason that it affected me so adversely and intensively was because of a past childhood experience. Not the same experience, but the same feeling on how it felt to be dismissed. I was amazed that this old feeling could reach all the way up through forty years and grab me so intensely.

So you might think you are well over certain old childhood hurts. As an adult, things like this shouldn’t bother you. But there are times and when you least expect it, that past and present will meld and you will be knocked for a loop.