Letting Go

September 1982 ~ Secondary School Cloakroom

*flashback to the odour of sweaty plimsolls, Impulse, and the sound of dripping taps*

I’d just started secondary school. Everything was strange and scary. You know how it is? I was in the cloakroom hanging up my coat when a shadow appeared in my peripheral vision. I looked to see that the shadow had frizzy hair and was the size of a barn door. IT was a grizzly bear in school uniform and IT was looking at me with an expression which I couldn’t accurately place. All I knew was, my stomach was doing somersaults. According to my friend, IT was a couple of years older than us and IT had a reputation for being a cow.

Out of nowhere, IT hit the side of my face with an open-handed smack, leaving a red mark behind.

WTAF?!

For a second or two, I was seeing stars, the blow was THAT hard.

IT was towering over me while her cronies stood in the background sniggering like Beavis and Butthead.

‘What did you do that for?’ I asked IT, rubbing my face.

IT bared her teeth and said, ‘I. DIDN’T. LIKE. THE. WAY. YOU. WERE. STARING. AT. ME’.

I couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t cleaned them..

Staring? It was no more than a glance. You’re not exactly easy on the eyeballs, Mate.

Is what I WISH I’d have said.

Right after I bitch-slapped her face with a size 9 plimsoll. No, make it 10.

Once IT had left the room, my friends suddenly found their voices.

Oh, THERE you are! I thought.

‘I wouldn’t let IT get away with that. You have to tell a teacher!’. They said.

So, I told a teacher, who just happened to be the deputy head. I don’t do things by halves, me. IT was made to apologise to me. Not one to one in the deputy head’s office but in front of EVERY girl in the school. No doubt, Miss felt this necessary but what all it achieved was guaranteed bullying for the foreseeable. Nice job, Miss. *double thumbs up*

I have loads more of these type memories. This is because people mistake sensitivity for weakness. They sense the opportunity to make themselves feel important by making people like me feel inferior. It’s taken me all these years to understand that it’s they who are the weak ones. IT was built like a brick shit-house but did she pick on someone her own build or bigger? No. She picked on an awkward looking first year. Well hard, eh?

Happy and well-balanced people don’t bully others. They are the ones with the problems. As for the ‘victims’. Well, I hate that word for a start because it implies weakness. I never was and never will be, a ‘victim’. The tears might have stung my eyes that day but they never fell. I REFUSED to let them fall and it takes a LOT of willpower to withhold tear flow, trust me.

At home, I cried myself a river. Snot. The lot.

Then I doodled pictures of IT, giving her a MASSIVE perm that took up half a piece of A4.

Then I wrote something like, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE, YOU GREEN-TEETHED FUZZY-HAIRED COW. MAY ALL YOUR ZITS MORPH INTO FESTERING BOILS THAT REQUIRE LANCING. I. HATE. YOU.

Then I probably comfort ate my way through a six pack of Penguins. And maybe a few packets of crisps.

Via therapy, I have concluded that the problem was never with me but what to do with all these thoughts that are fighting for space in my head?

BALLOONS.

Actual or imaginary, BALLOONS.

I’m going to need a LOT of balloons…

The memory of IT will go into a beautiful yellow balloon, symbolic of her cowardly act towards little me.

A bully’s ‘power’ always comes at someone else’s expense. They choose someone smaller and more vulnerable than themselves. IT targeted me and having received no physical retaliation, she knew I was fair game for the forseeable. Had I have hit her back that day, I probably wouldn’t have had any more trouble from her. As it was, I didn’t and so she made my life miserable.

Nobody stood up to her for me. My friends looked the other way whenever IT pushed me into the wall or tripped me up. I get why. While she was picking on me, she was leaving them alone. I get that but I resent it. Is that what friendship is? To look the other way when your friend is being hurt? I often wonder if Beavis & Butthead were IT’s friends simply because it ensured that they were never on the receiving end of her fist? Either way. Those f**kers can have a balloon each as well.

No doubt IT has long forgotten about the little girl who’s face she slapped for no reason at all. I wonder how she’d feel now, to know that she is being placed in an imaginary balloon and buggered off into the stratosphere as part of a therapy cleansing exercise? I would be MORTIFIED if I knew that I had done something to warrant such an act. However, this isn’t for IT’s benefit. It’s for mine.

Dearest IT,

Firstly, I don’t apologise for calling you IT. That September day, you treated me like a sub-human yet it was YOU who acted like one, hence, I am calling you, IT. It’s either that or COW.

I hope you evolved into a better person and that you and yours are happy. If you are alone, maybe you need to work out why that is? We create our own stories but it really is never too late to change the script. I’m changing mine with the help of balloons.

The last time I saw you was in 1986. You got onto my bus outside college. You saw me but pretended you hadn’t. Funny how you weren’t so tough without Beavis & Butthead flanking you. You were just a scowling-faced teenager with a REALLY bad perm.

I’ve been hauling you around in my head all these years but it’s time for you to float off, dear. So without further a do..

I forgive you.

Maybe you were mean because your home life was shit? Maybe your parents didn’t show you enough love? Maybe you were bullied yourself? If any of this applies, I feel for you because I know how it feels to be hurt. However, you always had the choice how to conduct yourself. NOTHING we do or say comes without the freedom of choice. You could have shown me some kindness on my first day in a strange school but you chose to show me the palm of your hand instead with the full force of your weight behind it. While I won’t ever forget what you did, I can release this memory’s hold over me. That’s my choice.

Goodbye IT.

Regards, ME

One balloon down. 8,567 to go.

“A young outcast will often feel that there is something wrong with himself, but as he gets older, grows more confident in who he is, he will adapt, he will begin to feel that there is something wrong with everyone else.”~ Criss Jami, Killosophy

 

Alone in the Universe

I like to be alone.

I am completely comfortable in my own company, probably because it’s only when I’m alone that I can be myself. There’s no need to pretend to be normal. I can just be me.

When it comes to loneliness, people usually identify it with physically being on their own. Not me. I can be in a room jam-packed full of people and still feel incredibly lonely because I know I don’t belong. That’s my lonely.

I didn’t ask to be born. None of us do. We are here by choice or mistake and nine months later, out we pop, with no instructions on how to do life. We are at the mercy of those around us and all too often those people let us down.

Those people who had a duty of care to me at school let me down.

As a child I played alone until the age of five and then I had to attend school, or ‘shithole’ as I call it.

School was where I was expected to socialise and interact using skills which I didn’t possess or understand.

School was where I was bullied by children AND teachers.

School was where my sense of not belonging started.

It was clear that other children didn’t like me but I didn’t know why. I tried my best to be invisible but all that did was make me even MORE conspicuous. All I know is that I came to dislike myself too because of it. I couldn’t bunk off because I knew it was wrong. Nor was I able to express my struggles to my teachers or parents so I had no choice but to endure every hellish second of it until I got home.

Home was where I felt safe.

Home was where I was loved unconditionally.

Home was where I could lose myself in my obsessions.

Yet even with my closest family, I was unable to be me. I belonged, yes. My parents would have loved me regardless of anything but I didn’t know how to be myself in front of them. Most of the photographs from my formative years are of me looking away from the camera. That was me before life pressured me into being someone I wasn’t in order to try and fit in. Personas and masks became necessary in order for me to survive.

Something that is common to ALL humans is the need to belong and be accepted by others. I have a need to belong in some meaningful way just as much as anybody else and I want to leave this world having made a difference in some small way. Yet for most of my life, I have felt alien, like I don’t belong here. I breathe the same air. I am a human being in every respect of the word except that my brain is wired differently and people know you are different. They can sense it even if they can’t see it, like Will Smith in Men in Black, who can spot the aliens a mile off despite them wearing their ‘human suits’. That’s how it feels to be me sometimes – an alien wearing a human suit.

These past few months have been an eye-opener for me. The most important change is that for the first time in my life I no longer feel alone in this world. Why? Because there are 700,000 autistic people in the UK alone so add to the rest of the planets autistic population and that’s bloody shit-loads!

There is an autistic community where I don’t have to think, ‘Will this freak people out?’ before I ‘speak’ because people get it. Imagine. After ALL these years. I get to be my freaky self and other human beings say, ‘Yeah, I do that’.

AWESOME!!

I’m hoping that the therapy I am currently receiving will help to address the many years where I was treated badly simply for being me..

The girl who walked up to me one day and slapped me across my face for no reason at all? She was a coward. She was a big girl hitting a small girl – a bully who needed to be flanked by her cronies at all times. I blamed myself for so many years but I know now that I wasn’t responsible for what she did. Nor have I ever been responsible for the actions of others. The problem is with them, not me.

At some point I need to let the past go and move on in order to make the most of the time I have left. Four years ago I felt that nobody would ever understand how I feel. Then my son was diagnosed ASD and I knew that I was autistic too. On hearing my own official diagnosis, I got control back of my life. I know who I am now and why I am different and these next years of my life are going to be lived MY way. I may be in a minority but my life counts just as much as everybody else’s on this planet.

It always has.

I still like to be alone because that’s when I function at my best but liking to be alone and feeling alone in the world are very different things. That’s changed now. There are people in this world who get me. There are also people who don’t get me but are willing to understand and support me. So you see, I am not alone in the universe.

CC Image Via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime Blues

On the day I was born THIS was number one in the Top 40.

“Have a drink, have a drive”

Have a crash?

Side-burns and demijohn as a percussion instrument aside, it is a catchy tune, but I’d rather have hung on in there for a few more weeks and slithered out to Elvis Presley’s The Wonder of You. Then again, it could have been Tom Jones’ Daughter of Darkness, which some light say, would have been more apt.

It was summer. The days were long. The jeans were flared and summers seemed to go on FOREVER, as happens when you’re on child-time because child-time is different to real time. Everyone knows that, right?

The skies were bluer. The clouds puffier and the sun cracked the pavements EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Then there were family holidays..

I’m fairly sure we went away most years but I only remember a few holidays and judging by sulky chops on most of the photographs, i.e. me, I can only imagine that I was my usual shit self during each and every one of them. I can only apologise to my parents who no doubt sacrificed all year in order to give us a nice holiday. If they were alive today, my autism diagnosis would maybe go some way to explain my behaviour…

I tried hard to enjoy holidays but being in unfamiliar places (and sleeping in strange beds) sent my anxiety orbital. The beds often smelled funny and had, er, unidentifiable stains, and at that time my olfactory sensitivities were monumental. Also, I couldn’t verbalise my problems so this reflected in my behaviour. I was either ‘showing off’, ‘naughty’ or ‘moody’. Moody, I’ll hold my hand up to but I wasn’t ever intentionally naughty and I was too introverted to ‘show off’. What I was, was overwhelmed…

It also pissed me off how flies used to do that circles round the light fittings. Why do they do that? Daddy Long Legs were much bigger when I was a child. They. Were. HUGE. Spiders were the size of COWS and the world was against me in general. Despite all this, I was supposed to enjoy myself?

Sometimes we stayed in B & B’s. I HATED that. It was bad enough being in a strange place with my own family without having to cope with being around strange people too? Strange sociable people who really annoyed me with their constant, “Are you going to give me a smile?’

No. Eff off.

I didn’t say the F word, obvs, as Mum would have ended my life, but I certainly thought it. Why couldn’t they understand that I looked miserable because I FELT miserable?

Then there were the days out..

If I was lucky there would be a plan and I’d know where I was going (sort of) but more often than not Mum and Dad did the ‘spontaneous thing’ which cremated my brain. The result?

This.

Beach days were the worst.

What child doesn’t like the beach?

Me.

I like it now (when it’s empty) but not then. Never then..

I considered it a breach of my human rights to be made to take my clothes off on a beach in front of strangers.

“Who do you think’s looking at you?!”

Well, I don’t know, Mother, perverts perhaps?

To be fair, most children stripped off without a care in the world but I wasn’t like them was I? I was a self-aware misfit. I refused to remove so much as a sock without Mum standing in front of me with the biggest bath towel we had and even then I tried to keep my knickers on under my bikini bottoms. Yes, I was that girl.

One bikini in particular stands out in my memory. I was about 4 or 5 but it was way too big for me. In those days, you had to grow into stuff so nothing fitted. The top was more like a scarf and the bottoms were saggy-arsed which was dead amusing, apparently. The relief when I was upgraded to a swimsuit was IMMENSE!

The whole beach experience was an onslaught to the senses. The smells. The noise. The stimuli..

We had a little Calour Gas stove and I liked the smell of the gas. Possibly inhaled more than what was healthy for me, though. Then there was Ambre Solaire which Mum and Dad slavered over themselves. They’d sit and sizzle in their deck-chairs, havin’ a smoke and drinking countless cups of tea and be in some kind of heaven while me and my brother whinged like buggery – him because he was stuck with his moody little sister and me because I wanted to be sand free and back HOME with my Enid Blyton’s.

I feel guilty about it now because Mum and Dad worked hard to keep us fed, clothed and living in a nice clean home. They deserved a nice holiday but I always managed to spoil it for them, not that it was EVER deliberate.

When it comes to weather – THAT summer of 76 overrules all other summers in my entire memory.

In the Summer of 76, the average house cost £12,704. Wages were about £72 p/w (in those days they came home via a brown envelope) and a loaf of bread cost 19 pence. 19p!!! You could get a huge bag of sweets for like 5p. Imagine that, Kids?!

It was, like, SOOOOOOOO hot, the tarmac on the roads melted. Google it!

Chopper bikes, Space Hoppers, Quosh (warm), water shortages, IRA bombings, unemployment, flares, platform shoes, white dog poo, really great music, really shite music, melty roads and deviant DJs. The 70’s had the lot. I don’t remember the serious stuff because I was just a kid. What I do remember is how uncomfortable I felt in general. Summer is supposed to be fun but it’s not that simple for sensitive souls is it? Plus, I have to remove my cardi, which is like asking an NT to remove a kidney.

Dare I say, roll on Autumn?

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”~ George R.R Martin ~ Game of Thrones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion, the Witch and my Wardrobe

When you’re an adult, a wardrobe is just a piece of furniture. It’s somewhere to hang your clothes and store boxes of old photographs from when you were young and energetic, not to mention packing a full set of hormones. To a child, however, it’s a porthole into another world especially if they’ve read (or seen) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe..

The plot, of course, is that four children are evacuated from London in World War Two and sent to live with a professor who lives in a large country house with big wardrobes. The youngest child, Lucy, has a root round the Prof’s house and finds a wardrobe which also happens to be a portal to a magical land called Narnia. Having pushed past all the moth-balled infused fur coats, she wanders out into a forest where there is a lamppost. Here she meets a dodgy looking bloke who invites her to his house for tea (always say no, kids) but it turns out that this bloke, Tumnus, intends to betray her to Narnia’s resident evil overlord known as ‘the White Witch’. The White Witch has ruled over Narnia for, like, ever, keeping it in a permanent state of Winter. This is to keep the Narnians in their place though it may be due to a bad case of hayfever she had once, who knows? Anyhoo, old frosty chops has an intense dislike for humans so the Narnians are under orders that, should they happen across one of the blighters, they are to turn them in or she’ll start removing fingers/claws/whatever. Tumnus is well up for a bit o’ betrayal in the beginning but changes his mind when he realises he likes Lucy. Oops! Now he feels proper shit that he wanted to hand her over to the Refrigerated One so he does the decent thing and takes her back to the lamppost which is where it all goes tits up. You know how it goes…

When I was about 8 years old, Mum and Dad bought a wardrobe for my room, well, actually it was a combi-robe which was a combined unit of a mirror, shelves, drawers and a single wardrobe. However, to me, it was more than a piece of furniture..

I liked to sit in my wardrobe.

There, I’ve said it.

Thing is, I used to feel safe in there, especially if it had been a bad day at school.

It was a confined space, even for me, who was of Borrower proportions, but I could sit in my little wardrobe, close the door, and cry it all out without anybody knowing..

I was also familiar with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by then, having read the book and seen it on TV so I would re-enact it because my imaginative play was always about acting out what I’d seen in life or on TV.

The concept of a magical world being accessible from inside my wardrobe fascinated me. What would I have given for it to be true? Only, in my magical world, evil witches wouldn’t be allowed because there was one of those at school masquerading as my class teacher..

A few years later we moved house and two things stopped me throwing the MOTHER of all meltdowns. One was Dad buying me the new Adam and the Ants LP and the other was the walk in wardrobe in my new bedroom. Never mind sit down, I could go horizontal in this one! WOOHOO! The wardrobe also had pretty brass knobs on which I liked to mess with.. which did not please my mother.

“Have you been messing with these ruddy knobs again, Madam?”

“Er, no” and I’d leg it downstairs as fast as my fluffy slippers could carry me.

One of my favourite wardrobes, EVER, was my Nan and Grandad’s because it was JUST like the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and yes I did shut myself in it until the whiff of moth balls put me into a coma, Not sure about Narnia but I did find a nice clasp handbag filled with various corn plasters and a few furry Polo mints..

It was easier to re-enact the story in an 1800s Gloucestershire house than in my 1960s built bedroom. More authentic, y’know? Well, as authentic as it can be until your mum walks in and bollocks you for ‘rooting’ through your Nan’s things..

I’m not sure how old I was when I finally stopped sitting (not a typo) in wardrobes. No doubt marriage and motherhood left me with little time to indulge my love of wardrobe interiors. Also, they were jammed full of cricket paraphernalia, old shoes and other such crap that builds up when one has to share their abode.

Then there was that incident where one of the kids mistook their wardrobe for the toilet. *shudders*

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Narnia existed though, eh? Without the resident bitch, of course.

How fabulous would be to have a really shit day and declare, ‘SOD IT. I AM OFF TO NARNIA!’ Though knowing my luck (and tendency for catastrophic thinking) I would most likely step out into the forest and be instantly mauled to death by a psychotic beaver..

Maybe I’m too old for sitting in wardrobes but I will never be too old to revisit Narnia via the book..

See you there?

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”

C. S Lewis ~ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Creative Commons Image Via Pixabay