Monday, December 15, 2008


Since I've been up here I've been encouraged to contemplate the environmental and psychological aspects to my condition. Particularly I've been asked to examine my childhood and adolescence. What a sad tale both of those are. Still, I have never been shy about revealing myself, even on a public forum, so for the sake of processing what I've been through, I might as well spill.

I was born into the world a high-strung, nervous, easily frightened child. Preferring my own company to those of others my age, I had all the makings of a born loner. To their credit, my parents tried everything to get me to be more social: church youth groups, sports, clubs. Instead of making friends, I sat alone at the table and avoided the company of my peers. If I had exhibited these qualities now instead of in the early to mid 80's, treatment would have been much more aggressive and I might well have found myself on medication and therapy. As it was back then, no one was quite sure what to do and assumed (wrongly, I might add) that this was something I'd grow out of eventually.

He's so bright
. This was the refrain of one school counselor or teacher or friend of my parents after another. I find this motif slightly comical now, because it implies that mere intellect alone can redeem gaping personality defects. If they'd looked closer, they'd have seen a perpetually depressed child with resulting major self-esteem issues. Assigning blame for past ills, particularly in this case isn't an especially helpful endeavor because the game of playing "what if" is fine as an exercise in speculation, but it leads one to no substantive answers. The short of it is that no one knew quite how bad I was. As an aside, I taught a Sunday School class a few years back. A boy was literally pushed into the room by his parents, then after they left, he proceeded to isolate himself in a corner, clearly scared out of his wits. I thought to myself, I was that kid once.

A lifetime with a strange collection of tentative acquaintances who were mostly adults and only one real friend to speak up left me vastly unprepared for adolescence. Alienation and self-isolation kept me years behind and it also worked against me in the dating department. Hard to believe now, but at fifteen I was seen as a naive innocent. The onset of my first major depressive episode and a largely forgettable high school experience in which I alternated back and forth between drug fueled courage, a hyperactivity that I know now as the precursor to mania, and paralyzing bouts of depression. Perhaps some of the women I pursued have forgiven me now for being needy, demanding, and being utterly clueless towards dating protocol. Mostly I think I was invisible in those times---a person many wished to know in detail, but few knew how to approach and a soul even fewer could say for certain that they really knew.

I think the point in me writing all of this, from their perspective, was to come to some sort of understanding of what transpired back then. Does one ever really understand one's past? So many times we return to how we used to be in the hopes that it might reveal something that might explain who we are today. The answers provided are often quixotic riddles. And I've found, much to my frustration, that self-awareness just by itself is often no guarantee of health or contentment. I suppose the challenge is to work within one's limitations without feeling hamstrung by them. I am aware of my shortcomings but have I forgiven myself for having them?


Gail said...

Hi Kevin-

Fascination self-narrative. You are so right about awareness - it is only the beginning and can either paralyze of catapolt(sp) and if were lucky provide knowledge that is empowering because we decide to do something empowering.
My self awareness has sent me in many directions.


Life As I Know It Now said...

Self awareness is the first step I think.

Utah Savage said...

I know this isn't the ANSWER, but for me writing about my childhood has not only been cathartic, but helpful for my therapists. It isn't easy reading for others, especially those with "normal" childhoods, and often brings up things buried by those with mental health issues that may or may not have involved sexual abuse or other forms of extreme cruelty in childhood. Often this bringing up of the buried past is highly unpleasant for the one who's tried to suppress the past. But therapeutically speaking, it's been very helpful for me. I never was able to suppress my childhood experiences. The memories were always as fresh as the moment of happening. I was a three years old with PTSD when my "Daddy" got his hands on me. My mother had made me the scapegoat for her lifetime of problems at my birth--I was the problem. Then add bipolar disorder and we have the perfect storm to make a crazy woman. The story I posted yesterday was lifted from the novel and given a different ending than the real ending for that chapter. It is a far more satisfying ending for the reader, but not the "real" ending at all. And I wonder, if that had been the ending, how would that have changed the trajectory of my life.