Today I am going to guide you down my panicky memory lane. It will be so fun!
When I was a child, I was untouchable in terms of being affected by other children. I took no precautions when I played. My toys, my friends, my imagination – they were all instruments of pure, untainted fun. There were no boundaries.
I would spend hours in the forest behind my house making believe, building forts, and climbing trees. When I played house with friends, I said exactly what I wanted to, when I wanted to, without considering whether my storyline was the most popular option. It never mattered. Whoever made the rules made the rules. I felt wild and free, and I was. There were no reasons for inhibitions. No embarrassment.
I was very shy at school, confounded by the realization that teachers held a lot of power. But with my friends and family, I remained unrestrained on every level.
But as I graduated from grade to grade, I became more and more aware that other people’s opinions had weight. It became harder to access that carefree, untroubled way of life. No longer was I able to prance around like a unicorn in the schoolyard without being painfully aware that judgment lurked in every corner.
I began to play out my fantasies with a more guarded approach, quieting my voice when certain kids came nearby. I did not relish openly in my love for make-believe and talking to inanimate objects and insects. I was aware that mini-human society did not approve of the connection I had to joy.
I recall feeling thwarted that I could not just be free.
It was of course a simple realization that kids are cruel at times, and that you can point and laugh at someone and become popular and strong in doing it. Generally quiet, skinny, short, and unathletic, I was a natural target. But over time, I became more and more aware of how that dose of reality really affected me.
I find that as you grow older, that awareness takes flight and folds itself into pretty much every experience you can have. It becomes a fucking beast and is what the medical community refers to as anxiety. Awareness is really the root of anxiety if you think about it.
I dealt with my situation by turning inward. I had bouts of coming in and out of my shell, but overall I was still considered shy. My shyness expanded, though. I was no longer afraid primarily of adult authority. Now I was terrified of other kids.
The beginning stages of my anxiety disorders were a bit of a whirlwind. I had always been prone to temper tantrums as a child, but as I grew up they turned into something I could not control. I actually began to enjoy them in a really fucked up way. My family learned to tune me out until I calmed down (I don’t blame them). I would thrash around my bedroom and break everything in sight.
Ironically, destruction was the only thing I did have control of. I thought of myself as a powerful tornado, commanding authority from the items in my room and getting the respect I craved.
It felt exhilarating. I apologize to my family for this. But it did. I felt unencumbered by the outside world and the harsh, swift verdicts it imposed on me. I could blow out all of my stifled anger and frustration like a storm, smashing everything I came into contact with. I could scream at the top of my lungs. I could cry superlatively. Aside from not being allowed glass things in my room anymore, there wasn’t really a consequence to this. I was wild and free again.
As time went on, my jackass tornado character became less and less accepted by my family. Plus, time out and being grounded wasn’t really something a real tornado had to endure and I recognized that I was not actually superhuman. My tantrums didn’t cease by any means, but it did take a little more to instigate one. I would not necessarily fly off the handle when I didn’t get my way. I still didn’t give a fuck about how I acted (at home), but I chose my battles a little more carefully.
The problem was that I was acting out, but I had no real idea why. I didn’t even think it was abnormal. To me, there were calm, reasonable kids, and there were kids like me – those who unleashed fury whenever life was not predictable. I wish I had known that emotional outbursts can have mood disorder origins.
I still did not have a handle on things when I entered high school. And high school itself supplemented far more catastrophic consequences to me and my fleeting grasp of how to get through life.