Invisible Illness
Published in

Invisible Illness

Smart.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

It started in second, grade.

I was the creative kid, I wasn’t smart.

Well, I wasn’t math smart, or science smart. I tried to be book smart, until I tired of hearing the books I was selecting from the library were too advanced for me. I needed to slow down.

I was distracted, and unable to reach my potential, I probably wouldn’t amount to much.

The assessment came from my second grade teacher Mrs. Vick.

She was a bitch. In an unhappy marriage, the misfit kid in class was an easy target. To be clear, no one told me I was stupid. I was told I was annoying, and my quirky personality pushed me to an assessment of “creative” by my teacher, too scared to tell my parents, who were paying steep private school tuition, that she didn’t like me.

This pushed me further into obscurity, deeper into my shell.

By the time I reached middle school, the situation had exploded into full blown bullying from my classmates. At this point I was either craving attention or simply too stubborn to change my personality to conform to the social norms of 8th grade social construct. Being the mid to late 90’s, I was spared the further damaging effects of cyber bullying but the impact of that time has left it’s impression on me.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

As an adult my eyes wander during conversation. I break eye contact to think, but I also break eye contact when I feel intimidated, and ultimately that leads to questions of self doubt, and causes ruminations that linger. On the flip side, during a conversation maintaining eye contact, means not only am I engaged, it also is a sign of trust, trust that whatever it is I have to say won’t be looked upon with disdain.

My parents were always loving in their own way, but they too had their own struggles they were sorting out. As much as it pains me to say, I felt they were often absent, or worse unaware and disaffected.

I often felt isolated, alone with my thoughts.

My grandmother was the only consistent positive and guiding presence in my life. The consistent message from adults told me I lacked focus, blaming my struggles on ADD (a popular diagnosis in the mid 1990's), and depression due to a chemical in-balance, which I surely inherited genetically, probably from my father.

She was different.

A deeply spiritual woman, her presence commanded every room she walked into. A British ex-patriot, and Royal Airforce veteran, who married an U.S. Army officer during the war, her booming voice belied a soft and caring nature. Her connection to her faith, inspired her to live a life protecting the downtrodden and the outcasts. Our interactions were always special. She maintained a balance of empathy with discipline and high standards. From a young age, the thing I feared most, besides going to school, was letting her down.

She died when I was 19.

It created a hole in my self confidence and my personality.

It has taken 16 years to recover.

Through her passing, I’ve learned the power of grace, and faith, as well as the meaning of integrity, and the impact of empathy and kindness. It’s a topic I still struggle with today.

Her legacy continues to be a guiding force in my life.

The strongest lasting effect of my childhood is the struggle to recognize my own success. For years it was exacerbated by the fog of addiction. It’s only in retrospect and often by third party validation, that I see the victories whose presence dominate the content of my story, the building blocks of my character.

I let my self stay stuck in, a dead end career, for years because, even in my early thirties, I didn’t believe I was anything more than creative. I was resigned to the real possibility of dropping dead at work.

The path of recovery reminds me, humans are born, by nature, well rounded, and capable.

We evolved this way to survive.

The reason we end up thinking we’re not is because we’re put in to boxes at a young age and told what we are.

When I reached “adulthood,” I felt as if I was only able to operate from within the box, I was pushed into. I reasoned it was safe for me to stay put, because change is scary, and we don’t like things that scare us. I learned to ease the anxiety of change with alcohol.

Addiction takes, and takes, and when it has everything it takes some more. It lies to us, to tell us we’re in control.

Recovery has been less about putting an end to destructive behavior, and more about taking back everything I lost.

You see, I AM smart.

I understand science, and math.

And, I’m still creative.

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

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We don't talk enough about mental health.

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Josh Gregory

Josh Gregory

Retired chef, recovering alcoholic. Learning the rules so I can break them.

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