Back Then

A new memoir essay for my writing community. I share it here, though it is pretty intense and strips me bare. But forge ahead I must….Courage….

Preface: In no way is this story a tale of woe. I am not a victim or a martyr. I own my own “stuff.” I do not blame my well-meaning, decent parents for anything. This is simply a vignette of my childhood experience as I remember it:

Back then, I was…

Such an unhappy little girl. So insecure. So scared. So lonely. So ill equipped for life on Earth.

From the outset, my external environment was overwhelming. I was in chronic discomfort: extremely sensitive to loud noise, violent outbursts, cold, hunger, unpalatable food, excessive sugar, lack of sleep, scratchy clothes, discordant energy, harsh touch.

I often broke out in rashes and had persistent eczema. I was a magnet for insects, and my allergic reaction to their bites led to welts so itchy I would unceasingly scratch until they bled. My legs were perennially adorned with unsightly scabs.

It wasn’t pretty.

I also had recurring insomnia. Apparently, when I was still crib-bound, I often rocked back and forth so vigorously at night that the crib ended up on the other side of the room by morning. This became one of many parental “jokes” that emerged as family lore, to cloak an inability to understand the inexplicable.

Life was a daily struggle to adapt to the thinly veiled, if mostly suppressed, paternal rage and maternal depression. I instinctively knew something was amiss in our home. But being in the precognitive stage of development, I could not decode the discord and dysfunction in our midst. I felt besieged by powerful emotions my tiny body could not contain, digest, or name. My nerves were always on high alert; my synapses fired like pyrotechnics.

I was the family’s Town Crier, so to speak. Frequent crying jags would last until I utterly exhausted myself. Of course, no one enjoys being subjected to incessant crying. These copious tantrums shook salt into my parents’ unhealed wounds. It was not welcomed, to say the least.

Nowadays many parents would recognize the obvious signs of distress in their child and feel some inclination to address them. But in those days, these antics were simply annoying irritations my heavy-laden parents grudgingly endured. Instead of offering empathy for my plight, I was packed into an invisible box labeled “troubled, difficult, bad.” I guess it was their strategy to separate themselves from feeling pain. Mine, or theirs. I was “the problem” after all. It had nothing to do with them! As the family Crier, I received routine, frequent punishment for my unacceptable behaviors, which typically included spankings and banishment to my room.

The latter being the Best Punishment Ever.

My room was my sanctuary! Each one of us kids had our own bedroom. I also had the luxury of a big walk-in closet. That closet became my haven, my retreat. Only within its dark cozy four walls did I feel safe, where I could forget my distress and creatively play for hours. My inner life, imagination, and solitude were blissful escape and solace. My father used to tease (ridicule) me about this. “Why would you spend hours in your closet when you have your own room?” To my mother he would bewail: “She’s in her closet again!”

He could not understand that this was my buffer zone. I needed a room within a room to have a safer safe room!

Back then, I wonder….

If I might have had some form of sensory autism? My sensitivities seem so extreme in retrospect. I am still quite sensitive compared to most perhaps, but fortunately, through decades of effort and lots of grace, I found my way to joy, peace, love, calm, and sane living.

But, whew, I had a rough start!

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