(Art for sale on my Ebay store)
(Art for sale on my Ebay store)
It is strange how negative words can stay with us for a lifetime and hurt long after they are spoken. Today, I was reminded of a conversation I had way back in middle school. My friends and I were having a conversation about birth order statistics and how the oldest is often the smartest and most responsible in the family – which apparently was the case in all their families.
I mentioned how that hadn’t really happened in my family as I was the youngest and yet I was the one in the gifted program, the one who got straight A’s, and the one who was least likely to break the rules. My sister was very smart in her own ways, but not overly academic or intellectual.
One of my friends (or more likely a frenemy) replied, “Well, maybe your sister is the pretty one then.”
Before I could digest this insult or respond, one of my other friends chimed in assuring the group that my sister was no looker either, which made everyone laugh. I didn’t let on that I felt anything, but inside I was crushed. I felt ugly and I also felt bad that my friends had insulted and made fun of my sister.
To this day, remembering this conversation makes me feel ugly, plain, and rejected. I wish my friends had been more careful with their words.
Today was a rather stressful day since I had an appointment with my lawyer for my SSDI hearing next week, so I didn’t have time to plan a full post, but I did want to participate again in the Twittering Tales picture prompt by Kat Myrman. As I explained last week, this writing challenge is to simply write a short story, or poem, or whatever you want as long as it is under 280 characters (the length of a tweet).
Here is this week’s picture prompt and my entry for this week below (photo from Pixabay):
My mother considered naming me Candy, but worried that if I turned out to be fat, it would be more ammunition for the bullies to use against me.
I didn’t turn out to be fat, but I did turn out to love candy – except for those little Valentine’s hearts.
All sugar, no substance.
This has undoubtedly been a rough week for me so far, but some good things have happened too. Here is a short run-down of the last few days:
Sunday and Monday, one of our pipes froze because of the freakishly cold weather so we had no water until that section thawed out. Luckily, it didn’t cause the pipes to burst or anything like that. My husband thinks he solved the issue by replacing the insulation around the pipe, but I guess we’ll find out the next time we all freeze.
Yesterday I had my appointment with the rheumatologist to get my Ehlers Danlos testing done. I’m officially a zebra! Right now my diagnosis is Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos, although I do plan to try to pursue genetic testing to make sure none of the other EDS genes are playing a part. The doctor also highly suspected I have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which would help explain my dizzy spells, vertigo, feeling faint, and maybe even a few episodes of passing out when I was younger. It sucks that there is no cure or really even further treatment other than what I’m already doing, but it is wonderful to have some answers that finally make sense!
Tuesday I made the mistake of posting in a Facebook chronic illness group about my surprise that a zoo we want to visit charges $25 for the use of a wheelchair for a couple hours. Soon I was accused of being entitled, expecting everyone else to pay for my disability, and even being too poor to go to the zoo if I couldn’t afford the extra charge. The attacks got to the point that it actually made me cry because it hurt my feelings so much. I wasn’t even saying that the zoo had no right to charge for use of their equipment, I was just questioning whether the price was a bit high for the time it would be used. Of course, then I heard that some zoos and theme parks charge way more, some even over $100 a day! I can’t help but feel personally that is taking advantage of the disabled. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still feel that way.
Last night all this stress took its toll on me. I had the worse migraine I have had in years. Luckily, I still had some migraine pills from the last time I filled the prescription which was several years ago. They were technically expired, but still did their job. Today I have that slight headachy, hung over feeling I always get after a severe migraine.
This post will contain a collection of short journal entries I wrote recently about what it was like emotionally to grow up with autism. These thoughts specifically dealt with bullying and (for me) the most confusing time of adolescence, which was middle school and the beginning of high school. By the last couple years of high school I had figured some things out and learned how to “pretend” to fit in a bit better, even though deep down I still felt like an oddball.
I hated always being the butt of the joke – even among friends. I was naive. I was gullible. I was trusting. Too many times I was set up for humiliation or embarrassment.
In an effort to avoid this embarrassment, I quit trusting anyone. I quit taking anyone at their word. I became suspicious. I struggled to identify sarcasm, so I started assuming ALL was sarcasm unless I knew someone well enough to tell the difference.
Due to this struggle with recognizing sarcasm, how many “mean” comments did I take to heart that were meant in jest? How many cruel words that cut me to the core, were never even meant to be cruel? When boys would say they liked me and I would take it as them mocking me and choose to ignore them or laugh at their “joke”, did I instead end up hurting their feelings in an effort to save my own?
Bullied for my weight during middle school, accused of having a lack of “feeling” or frustrating others who thought I didn’t care about anything because I suffered from selective mutism under stress, constantly feeling reminded that I wasn’t “feminine” enough – this was much of my teenage experience.
The common thread throughout was that I unknowingly made myself a target for abuse. The way I dressed. The way I talked. The way I acted. I was so desperate for acceptance and approval, but I reached for them in ways that were socially unacceptable to those around me and ended up only painting the bulls-eye larger on myself.
The last few days, I have come across a lot of stupid, ignorant comments about attempted rape and its potential aftermath on social media. In case you have been living under a rock, people have gotten very passionate about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court candidate and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who both recently testified in front of the senate about sexual assault charges.
I have seen many memes and comments about both the accuser and the accused, and while some of them are respectful in expressing their personal opinion, many have taken to maligning the accuser, calling her a liar, a political schemer, and even saying the assault wasn’t a big deal and couldn’t have been that traumatizing. I want to take a minute to say that just because an assault is not completed, does not mean it isn’t extremely traumatizing! I will use a couple personal experiences to illustrate why I feel this way:
When I was in middle school, almost every day I was chased by big, mean bullies who threatened to “kick my ass” or even “kill me”…they never did actually beat me up, but they TERRIFIED me. I was truly afraid for my personal safety. They made me dread going to school and I became hypervigilant about trying to avoid them. In fact, I remember having to time my afternoon trek to the school bus just right so that hopefully I wouldn’t cross their path, while also making it to the bus on time.
When I was 17, I was robbed at gun point while working at Burger King. It was the end of the night shift and the manager and I were leaving out the front door, when two males in black outfits and masks jumped out of the shadows, one of them pointing his gun straight at me. No, I wasn’t actually shot during the ordeal, but I had terrifying dreams and flashbacks long after. I could never work night shift there again. To this day, I am still afraid of home invasions and double or triple check the locks at night.
If I had been a victim of attempted rape, I’m sure that would have been another terrifying memory to live with. I wish people understood PTSD and how even attempted assaults can cause immense levels of trauma, depending upon the person and how they process events and react to them. Some of the events that I find most traumatizing, others might not understand, while other events I went through that didn’t phase me much (like my mother’s many divorces) would have rocked the world of other kids. I wish we didn’t feel the need to judge others for what hurts or scars them.
Recently my therapist and I have been talking about and working on my hypersensitivity to criticism. I have always had some hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism or rebuke. As a kid, I was the one you could make cry by looking at me wrong or even gently scolding me. I still tear up over things like that, even though I wish I didn’t.
This inability to deal constructively with any kind of feeling of failure has haunted me throughout my adult life, especially in the work world. I think this fear of not living up to expectations is partly why I struggle with immense anxiety around any kind of authority figure (bosses, teachers, doctors, police, etc.) Many times this anxiety is so strong that I am almost struck dumb (probably a type of selective mutism), such as when I have had to go for job reviews or any other kind of personal evaluation.
I have noticed though that my hypersensitivity to criticism focuses mainly on 5 areas. If I am criticized on something outside of these 5 topics, I am likely to be able to shake it off better or not let it bother me in the first place. Here are the subjects I am referring to:
So, what do you guys think? Do you share any of these insecurities? Are you also hypersensitive to criticism in these areas or others?
The problem isn’t me. Not really. The problem is the world. The gossips. The bullies. The abusers. The narcissists. The shallow. The cruel. The snobs. The judgmental. The callous. The ignorant. The rude. The contentious. The angry. The passive aggressive. The sadistic. The jealous. The violent.
Is it any wonder I fear humanity? Is it any wonder I fear humiliation, rejection, and being misunderstood?
My experiences have taught me that life is harsh, and that is what I’ve come to expect. Not long ago, my psychiatrist warned me about the danger of “expecting everyone to treat me the way my abusers did”, but how easy is that to accomplish when so many others HAVE turned out to treat me that way? I often feel like a wounded gazelle surrounded by lions. I look for empathy, but instead I find savagery.
I am currently experiencing a real downturn mood-wise, but I’m going to try to write a life update post anyhow. I tried to write a blog post yesterday, but was simply to depressed to complete it. Today I’m just going to sum up a few things that went on this last week, so hopefully, I will get something done today.