Wednesday, June 4, 2014

High School, Insecurity and Other Issues...

High school was the worst time of my life. At 41 years of age I can still say that with certainty. My parents separated at the end of my 7th grade school year. My initial hopes that the separation would bring a certain instant calm and relief to our lives quickly evaporated in the overwhelming toxic fumes of my mother's depression and despair. It's not that I didn't feel bad for her but I couldn't understand the level of anguish it brought her to. Perhaps it was because I never felt a loss of love from my dad because he was moving out. I understood he was unhappy and I knew my mother was too. I just didn't expect her to become even more unhappy after the separation.  She let me know that she was rejected and left behind and that my father not only left her but he left me too. It wasn't the best way to begin my journey into my pre-adult years but it was a defining way.

I entered high school probably like most other teens; excited, nervous, uncertain but feeling ready to grow up. I probably looked and acted like most other teens my age and I probably had a lot of the same problems they did. The thing that did separate me from the other students I believe was how profoundly abnormal I felt I was and the insecurity that it brought out in me. I hid everything. My true thoughts and feelings and emotions were purposely squelched to fit in. I hated being labeled as a teen with divorced parents and I hated when I was approached by counselors to join discussion groups of like students. I really felt I did not need help. I knew that I was ok with my parents being divorced. I knew it was my mother that had a problem not me. But mostly, I was too scared to share any of the most basic insight into my current state of being with other people my age because I knew it could break me down into tears. It was probably what I needed the most but I could not see that at the time. In some ways, as much as I was afraid of appearing different I was also extremely afraid of being normal.

I began to believe that a lot of the time that I was better than other kids. I was better because I had to deal with all the changes that high school brought about plus a mother who was severely depressed. This belief allowed me to feel special in a way that I couldn't get through other more legitimate accomplishments. This belief also unfortunately led to me becoming more isolated and depressed as well. I enjoyed believing I was different and that others couldn't "get" me because they weren't going through what I was. I now know that everyone has something they are having a hard time getting through but back then I didn't know that and even if I did have some idea I probably would have dismissed it.

My insecurity about my appearance in high school was to say the least, immense. I hated the way I looked. I had greasy hair that needed to be washed everyday and pimples that I picked at until they were raw and bleeding. I hid the skin problems with layers of makeup that I hated wearing and knew looked bad but I would have rather looked like I was wearing too much makeup than have people see how bad my skin looked. My appearance issues and habit of picking my pimples kept me from doing a lot of things and according to one high school office personnel it made me miss more days of school than "students with leukemia". I would spend hours in front of the mirror looking at my pores and squeezing them and afterwards my face looked like I had been beat up. The make-up couldn't always cover up a bad picking session so I would stay home. I hated doing it but I couldn't stop myself. To this day I don't know why I had no control. I think maybe the hours spent picking at my skin must have let go of some monster tension I was carrying. I didn't know how to communicate and I was scared to communicate so it must have helped to release this pressure. But the aftermath was hard to deal with. I imagined it was much like anyone who had chemical abuse problems. The alcoholic who drinks to deal with stress but then afterwards has to deal with the guilt and problems associated with being an out of control alcoholic.

There were times I wished I had a more "normal" problem like alcohol abuse since it was at least a common issue that people knew about and not some weird skin-picking disorder that nothing was written about. It was just another problem I was afraid to share. When I did share the truth to why I skipped school so often with my mother she didn't understand. She was too embroiled in her own issues to even begin to have sympathy or compassion for me. "Just leave your skin alone and stop picking!" she would shout at me. I wished I could.

So there I was in high school. A girl who hated how she looked, tried hard to change how she looked, had an over-bearing depressed mother whom she lived alone with at the time and no means of effective communication. I somehow managed to pick myself up enough to start a relationship with a guy I had met at a New Year's Eve party. He was adorable and in college. I was now a junior in high school. I would visit him at college as often as I could. I was surprised he liked me but I took the much needed attention and companionship and ran. I felt comfortable with him for the most part. Our relationship blossomed and we became boyfriend and girlfriend. I felt happy for the first time in a long time. He wasn't right for me but that didn't matter. He was close enough.

I really quite effectively lost myself in this relationship but at least I had some fun along the way and was going in a direction that felt right at the time. He loved to follow the Dead. I hated it. How was I going to camp and deal with my make-up needs with no water or mirror? I would never let him see me without make-up. It wasn't something we discussed even it just was another hidden component of myself I didn't want him to see. He never questioned it thankfully. He loved experimenting with drugs. I hated it. I felt even more self-conscious (if that was even possible) and out of control when I smoked pot. I over-analyzed everything that came out of my mouth when I was high and then would spiral into some kind of locked state of consciousness because I was too afraid to speak anymore. It was bad. The first time I dropped acid was at a Dead concert and I think I stopped talking for approximately 3 hours. It's hard to tell how much time has passed on acid. I stopped talking but my mind was reeling. I felt I had finally unlocked the mystery as to why people followed the Dead because I sure didn't have a clue as to why before. They were all ridiculous reasons my mind developed. The long necklaces were worn to literally yank yourself back to reality every time you zoned off into some deep acid trip thought. Check, that finally explained the long necklaces. It was like I saw behind the curtain of a magic show for the first time but instead of coming to the realization that it was all a show, which it really was, I believed it was all staged for my own benefit. I was the sole benefactor of this whole show. It had all been done to get me to follow the Dead. Check.

I got over that first acid trip. I was amazed at how it completely allowed me to lose reality but it was insightful as to how messed up I was. Instead of realizing "hey maybe this isn't really for me" I denied my voice and pushed on further to continue my relationship and understanding my boyfriend's friends and needs. I did do acid again but I think I was so mentally prepared for a melt down I actually ended up feeling nothing. Maybe it was a bad batch but others seemed to be tripping normally.

The really unfortunate thing about not being able to communicate effectively and denying yourself of your own gut feelings is that it allows you to let others treat you bad. And to top it off you think you deserve it. I would let almost anyone say something condescending and horrible to me and take it and still consider them friends or believe that I may have done something to justify their contempt. I couldn't handle the confrontation that it would take to speak up for myself.  I'm not sure exactly how this poor communication developed in me but I'm guessing it started in childhood. I don't like putting so much blame on my parents but I really don't know how else to see it. I don't really "blame" them per se.  They were young and had their own issues and insecurities and how they handled their lives trickled down onto me. I get that. They were both horrible at communicating and horrible at being appropriate models for social behavior. My mother had an awful way of making me feel really dumb whenever I said something. My dad is they type of guy who won't ever easily say what he really feels. It's not surprising their marriage failed and it's not surprising I had the issues I did.