Sticks and Stones
People started calling me names in grade two. At least, grade two is what I can remember. I never fought with the other kids. I would hide away. I think I got along with them okay.
I have been called names all my life. I have been called stupid. I have been called a disgrace. I have been called an imbecile. I never felt most of those things.
Several times I was called a con artist. My father called me a con artist after I had been hospitalized with depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation. My mom called me a con artist a few weeks ago. She doesn’t believe that her child could possibly be ill. Not her son. She makes excuses for he daughter, but her son is a con artist. I never felt most of that pain. I wan’t there. It didn’t hurt.
What hurt me was when Aaron Davidovitch used to pin me down after school everyday and pound on my shoulders so that were black and blue. I must have dissociated. I didn’t know why the bruises were there or even that I had them until my mom pointed them out after several months of daily beatings.
Mom’s response was to scream at me. I became ashamed of the marks on my shoulders. I became ashamed of myself. I was called some horrible names. Some people call that diminished. In my case, I went away.
That wasn’t the first time I had become a public shame. In grade two I used to eat food from the ground. The other kids would have recess snacks, chips and pretzels and cheese puffs and they had food that fell to the ground. I scavenged the lost morsels. I was ashamed but I was compelled. I could not stop myself.
Had someone intervened then, I might have a completely different story. Nobody intervened. I just snacked away in shame. Once, I was scavenging and I was confronted by other students. They laughed at me. I denied everything, even after they showed me that they knew. I went away.
‘Going away’ or dissociating was never my problem. It was always my solution. It was the way that I was able to manage attempting a ‘real’ life. I would just ‘go away’. The negative side of dissociating like this was the fact that I never dealt with anything. I kept all the pain and shame inside.
Alcohol and drugs helped a lot. They kept my life at bay. They kept the pain of living, the shame of being Joel, the self loathing, the self denial, the alcohol and drugs helped that a lot. I loathed myself but I walked around in a drug induced haze.
I lived most of my life ‘gone away’ in great pain.
And then I started to wake up. It hasn’t been pleasant. Waking up has been painful and gradual. It is not a straight line. Some days I am more here than others. Some days, when I think all is lost, I am able to be present. I get better gradually and over time.
I had an acting coach belittle me once. He couldn’t do anything with me because I wasn’t there. What he was dealing with was a shell of a person who was not there. As much as he tried to crack me open, I was too ill. There was no ‘there’ inside, not one that I was willing to admit. He gave up, and, I think perhaps, that it was good that he did.
I have spent several years now trying to gently open up what that man was trying to crack.
Another metaphor I use is this: Picture a space ship that is circling the Earth and that needs to re-enter the atmosphere. As the ship starts downward the friction of the atmosphere against the skin of the ship cause friction and heat. Enter too fast and you become a missile and crash land destructively. Enter too slowly and you don’t enter at all. The best way to do this is slowly and carefully. That is how I am am re-entering my body and also my life.
As always, I hope that others can get some solace in their own lives.
Re-entry is possible. I am becoming relaxed to the fact that I will never be ‘normal’ in the sense of a nine to five job. I am just not capable of that. What I am capable of is helping others.
I hope this helps you.