“Hard to read” was a common phrase I heard growing up, and it continues even today. Hell, even one of my past therapists said that. I used to take it as a point of pride because I had control over the perception people had of me. What I’ve started acknowledging in therapy more recently is that this control was the result of amazingly fucked up childhood environments wrapped in the veil of a gifted boy with a temper, that almost no one could reach.
Anger was the result of circumstances denying expression of sadness. Concealing happiness was the result of ensuring I didn’t stand out to the bullies. I had few friends that I didn’t confide in. Ever. I grew up surviving by concealing myself in social norms and being as unnoticeable.
But that was hard for me. I was the tall kid that had all the answers in class, because I did want to solve the puzzle. I did want to show that I was worth something, because I felt like so many people didn’t believe that of me. It was easy to bully me because overwhelming my senses with shouting and trying to only be angry resulted in me hitting my head against things. Hard. And at all points– all but one, as my mother can attest– I was the one that got in trouble for the disruption.
It culminated the first time in a suicide attempt in sixth grade. It was the result of feeling horrible for the one time I let my anger go against someone else very dear to me– my mother. My mother, whom I had seen the struggles of raising two big, growing boys, who was doing her best, who loved me unconditionally… and I retaliated against her because I couldn’t keep in my frustrations with the world.
WHY?! WHY DOES THE WORLD HATE ME?
Because in that very, very fragile moment, I believed it to be true. My entire life up to that point had been dealing with anger, with not fitting in, with physically abusive bullying, physical abuse from a stepdad, scorn from school administrators whom I was supposed to get help from.
As far as I knew, the world did hate me. And the trespass against my mother, who was the closest thing to sanctuary I had, was the last straw. I felt like I was a threat because of what might happen if I let myself explode. So, I stood on top of my bed, aimed myself at the bedroom window and jumped head first through it, hoping that some of the washed out rocks a few feet below the glass would break my neck and that’d be it.
I came to a few moments later, my mother walking quickly towards me and my brother crying hysterically. I saw how my mother’s body language had changed, how she was trying to keep it together. I saw how devastated my brother was, and heard how much he was apologizing for anything. Everything. I cannot fathom what it looked like, my limp body laying in the dirt as they approached before I started stirring and coming to.
To my mother and my brother: I am so, so sorry for what you went through that day. I am sorry that the world almost took me away from you because of how it treated me. I am so very happy that I failed my attempt. And I am so glad that I could do better than any of those fuckers ever deserved to see me do.
I knew from that point forward that I could never try that again. I knew I wouldn’t. But it sealed me up, emotionally. And I continued reinforcing those walls for decades, because I felt like it was safer for everyone, myself included.
The bullying continued. No one at school, nor any of my friends, knew that I had attempted suicide until well after I left where I grew up. I got punched and handled by others, held down and hit with a jump rope, and so many other things that I can’t recount… but I kept it to myself. I felt like I knew I needed to keep it to myself, to weather it and to put those emotions away so I could survive. I was (am) big, I could take it. So I could make sure that I didn’t hurt anyone else.
And so, the only times I am vulnerable are in places where I am by myself. I rarely experience true happiness around others, but I can by myself. My sorrows, my anger, almost every emotion outside of what would shift others I let out only when I am by myself.
I am hard to read.
I am doing my best to be better with that, but it is difficult sometimes. It was easy for me to cry just now because I was by myself. But I am undoing those bricks, one by one. My therapist has been key in helping me address this, and I am working up the nerves to be vulnerable with people in person.
But as part of this, I also need to acknowledge when people want to help me, and acknowledge what they say about my vulnerability. So I’ve placed this out for the internet to see. It’s easier to be vulnerable to people I can’t see.
But I have to start somewhere.