I began my journals to better understand myself. Therefore, to save myself, I figured it would be best to go back to see where this began.
I figured the only way to understand my depression was to go back to the beginning. I had to begin with the basics to create a timeline to see the birth of my anxiety.
I was young, small, very thin, and basically weak. I was never much of an athlete. I looked younger than the other kids. I felt different, which was painful to me because all I wanted to do was fit in.
No kid ever asked to be picked last when choosing teams. No one ever wants to be the one other kids picked on. No one wants to be refused or unaccepted. At no point does anyone sign up for anxiety disorder. No one asks to be rejection sensitive and certainly no one wants to be or feel depressed.
Everyone wants to stand out for one great reason or another. However, no one wants to stand out, alone, to be picked on for some kind of abnormality or shameful flaw.
No one looks to be pointed at or humiliated. We are very social creatures with the need to be wanted, validated, accepted, and included.
My first effort to understand myself was to learn more about my identity—and why, because identity is everything. There is the identity we have and the identity we want. And there is the identity others take notice of.
I was the younger brother of a popular athlete in town. I was a small, skinny kid with no likeness to my older brother whatsoever. He was six years older, well-liked, strong, and well-known in the town. Everybody liked my brother, especially the girls.
But me, I was pint-sized and weak. I was different than him. I had no special talents that I was aware of. I struggled in school. I struggled to understand the material. I struggled to read aloud and I hated to read in class because I did not read very well.
I remember sitting in my classroom during a lesson and feeling petrified that I might be called on to read out loud in front of everyone.
This was one of my worst fears. I stuttered when I would read out loud. I would lose my place in the readings and struggle with the painful sound of my voice. I hated everything about this but more, I hated the way I felt inside because I thought this made me stupid.
I recall these moments of reading in class. One student would have to read one paragraph—then the next student read the next, and so on.
I would count the students that had to read before me. Then I would count the paragraphs and pray to whoever would listen that my paragraph was short.
In most cases, these prayers never worked. Most times the paragraph was long, or at least longer than I wanted them to be, so I would find my part and quietly rehearse the paragraph.
This way I could read when it was my turn; however, I was always easily distracted. I would be thrown off by the others that read aloud. I would be distracted by the teacher’s explanation—meanwhile, I would keep rehearsing so that I could read well and not sound stupid or as if I lost my place.
The only problem is I would find myself so lost and nervous that when my turn came, someone in the class would say my name—or maybe it was the teacher that called my name and the rest of the class would laugh at me; either way, my name was called and all eyes were on me. I was humiliated.
In an effort to keep my place and seamlessly pick up where the last person left off, I lost my place, and out of any analogy, this is the one that fit me best. I was always trying to find my place, but it never worked—
I had learning disabilities that went undiagnosed. I had struggles with my physical appearance. I couldn’t play ball as well as the other kids. I wasn’t as strong as the others and I looked much younger.
Tracing the outline to understand my depression and anxiety, I looked back to the early years, in which I always felt different from everybody else.
I didn’t like the same things. I didn’t always like the so-called cool things, the popular music, or the popular trends. I didn’t have the cool toys or the cool things to draw attention.
I had to learn how to compensate, which is when I began to lie. This is when I began to cheat, which is something I believed I had to do because how else could I compete.
Did I ever tell you about the first time I stole?
I stole a matchbox car from my kindergarten teacher. The reason for this was all the other kids had a big collection. But not me—no, I had a small collection that I would bring to school in a little bag.
The other kids had carrying cases and they would get new cars. But not me—nope, I had the same boring cars, all the time.
I remember the teacher brought in a few new cars. I can specifically remember one of them. It was blue. It was nice. And by the end of the day, it was mine.
I took the car home to play with—only, there was no one at home to impress.
After a few days had passed, I placed a little sticker on the car to claim this as my own. I took the matchbox car into school with me so I could show the others and impress them. And it worked until the teacher came over.
She told me, “I have a car that looks just like this one” — to which I quickly pointed at the sticker and said, “But this one is mine. That’s why I put a sticker on it.”
For as long as I can recall, I always thought that I had to compensate. I always looked for the angles. I felt less-than, as if something was wrong with me, which is why I believed I needed to find an easier, softer way.
I had a strong attachment to rejection, which I could never seem to shake.
I wanted to please people but people-pleasing does not come easy. I wanted to please my parents but I did poorly in school.
I wanted to be cool on the playground but I was never the one chosen first when picking teams.
I felt lost. I wanted to have an identity but the identity I had was not the one I asked for.
The stress of going through one day to the next was excruciating to me. For some reason, I fell into the idea that there was a problem with me and that perhaps if I were gone, maybe this would alleviate the problem of me being as I am for everyone else.
I had no idea what depression was. I didn’t know what suicide was (at least not really). I had never heard the word anxiety or knew there were such things as anxiety attacks. I never knew there was something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria.
All I knew is there was something wrong with me. And I had to protect this. I could never let anyone know or see this part of me; otherwise, I would be exposed and then everyone would know. And that would just be one more thing that made me different from everybody else
I can say that at least I was quick-witted. Perhaps this was my talent. Maybe my talent was to survive in situations like this. I was a class clown and trouble-maker because at least I could gain attention this way.
At least I could make people laugh but the laughter came with a price. The laughter came with trouble in school and trips to the principal’s office. This led to notes being sent home by teachers, which I would never bring home to my parents like I was supposed to because I was afraid my parents would reject me as well.
In fact, did I ever tell you about the time I invented forgery?
I had a teacher that used to send home notes with her students. She would send “Happy notes” when the student did something well, and “Sad notes” when the student did something poorly. All notes were to be brought back the next day to the teacher, signed by the parent.
In my history of classwork, I only had one happy note sent home. I made sure this one was signed. On the other end, I was given sad notes galore! But none of them ever came back signed. And I always had an excuse.
One day the teacher stapled an envelope with a sad note in it. The teacher was a mean old lady. She wore orthopedic shoes, had terrible hair and coffee breath. I swore she was a dragon lady.
After stapling the envelope to my shirt before I left to go home for the day, the teacher said, “There, now you can’t lose this one!”
Everyone on the bus made fun of me. They were laughing and saying things like, “oooooh, you’re gonna be in trouble!”
As soon as I got off the bus and walked away from the crowd, I ripped the note from my shirt and tossed it away.
The next day, my teacher asked for the note.
“I forgot it at home,” I said.
She snarled and rolled her eyes at me. But she was not done with the note writing business. She wrote another note and handed it to me with a new threat.
She said she would give me one last chance. I was to bring this note back, signed, or she would call my Mother.
And Mom, I could handle. It was The Old Man that I was worried about. My Father was tough. He had heavy hands. He had no tolerance or patience for lies or liars, which was me.
School was important to The Old Man. He was serious about this. And me, I was just frightened of the trouble I would be in, but more, I was more afraid that I would be a letdown. How could I make Mom or my Old Man proud of me if I was stupid and couldn’t understand things in school.
That day, I went home with the note. I gave into the sad resignation that I was in for it. Big Time!
I was going to be spanked. I was going to be punished. I was going to be yelled at, but worse, it would just be one more thing that was wrong with me.
Suddenly, a light came on in my head. I had an idea. It was a great idea. Mom would always sign my things for school. The teacher knew this because she has seen Mom’s signature before. And Mom would sign things very simple too. She signed her initials and rolled the pen around in a circle. I saw Mom do this a bunch of times.
“I could just sign Mom’s name and nobody would know,” is what I thought.
“What a brilliant idea,” I thought to myself.
And just like that, I signed Mom’s initials and rolled a circle around it, just like Mom did.
“I can’t believe nobody else ever thought of this,” I said to myself.
The next day, I appeared in class like a convict about to beat jail. The teacher summoned me to the front of the classroom, but I was ready for her.
“Young man, do you have something for me.”
I walked up to her desk and tossed the note before her.
I said “Here’s your friggin note,” and then I turned to walk away, defiant as ever.
It was not long after, maybe three, or possibly four steps at most when the teacher shouted out, “Young man, you come back here this instant!”
I noticed there was always a “Young man,” beginning to any of her disciplinary statements. And this was so with a lot of teachers in my time back then.
“Your Mother did not sign this!” she charged.
I defended myself and argued, “Yes she did!”
I told the teacher, “See? Those are my Mother’s initials!”
“You mean to tell me that your mother signed this?”
The teacher was angry but I was sure I had her on the ropes.
I told her, “Look, see? Right there! Those are my Mother’s initials, A.K.”
Angry as ever, the teacher asked one last time “You’re going to tell me your MOTHER signed this?”
I responded, “Yep!”
The teacher held the note up for all the class to see and screamed, “In purple crayon?”
I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “She couldn’t find a pen.”
What can I say?
I was only in the third grade at the time . . .
I laugh as I type this. I laugh although; I agree there is sadness to it. I laugh because I was a precocious kid. It is sad though because I had no idea that there was so much in me and there was so much I was capable of.