I was bullied endlessly as a kid, at school, in my neighborhood, and particularly at home. The household I grew up in was brutal, chaotic, and frightening. The smallest issue, that may or may not have been my fault (one of my parents had a rough day, they were angry at my other siblings and so were mad at “the kids” in general, etc), any little thing could at the least, earn a tongue lashing and at the worst, a beat down. But, sometimes the tongue lashings were worse than the beatings. You can only hear how worthless you are in so many ways for so long before it starts to wear on you. I was an EXTREMELY anxious child, so much so that my interactions with other children were tense and stunted. I cried easily, was very quiet, kept my head down and tried to be invisible. Each day of school, with its competitive curricular nature, brought fresh horrors, as I often easily surpassed my classmates and was the center of attention much to my extreme dissatisfaction. I never asked to be put in that position, and hated the stares of my classmates, the weird girl who rarely talked, always knew the answers when called on, and beat everyone at every BS competition put into place that was meant to give children incentive to excel, but did nothing but torment me as I never had to try to win these competitions, won them anyway, was rewarded for my lack of effort by the teachers and administration and taunted endlessly by my peers for their feelings of injustice that they never had a chance. Through most of this, outwardly I was quiet and anxious, but inside was seething with anger and jealousy. While the other children wanted my intelligence, I wanted the things that many of them had. I wanted their healthy families, nice clothes, and most of all, their easy going nature and ability to socialize with each other and make friends as if it was such a simple thing to do. I struggled to make conversation without being bound by fear and anxiety.
By my teen years much of the anxiety and self-consciousness had lessened, but the anger remained, and for many years after I harbored an unspoken hatred toward my parents for bringing me into the world when they were clearly so woefully unprepared, both financially and emotionally, to raise so many children. As a teenager when I still lived at home I played de facto parent to my brothers while my parents worked and my mom was too stressed to handle the responsibility. As I was preparing to leave for college she lectured me that it’d be best that I stay home and go to community college for a few years then maybe go on to a university in town because I wasn’t smart enough or strong enough to make it through a major university, and as I was going to the same school as my sister (her favorite child by far) I would only drag my sister down with me, and don’t even think she was going to take out a loan or help me financially in any way because she didn’t approve of or condone my decision! I knew she was trying to keep me home to help her, but she didn’t ask that. As with all things in my house then it was strongarm, bullying and manipulation tactics. Still, it hurt, and it still kind of does. I told her I had never asked her permission, never asked her for money, and was going regardless of whether she wanted me to go. I was just so angry for so long! So angry my head would hurt and I’d clench my jaw so tight my teeth ached. I just had such strong hatred and disdain toward pretty much everyone and everything and a giant chip on my shoulder.
But…over the years I thought about my parents and their upbringing. How my dad used to beat us but he’d always present this caveat that it was nothing like what his father did to him and his siblings, and he wasn’t kidding. His father was an angry drunk who took “head of household” very seriously. He ruled with an iron fist. My mom sometimes would describe the absolutely horrifying things her father did to her and her brother, and how they had to flee like criminals to escape him. I realized, my parents did the best by us that they could. No, it wasn’t good, or proper, or healthy, but they really tried not to repeat their own parents’ mistakes. As I was getting older I thought of the mistakes I’d made, and was making, and how I was reaching the age my mom was when she had her first child, and realized how young and ignorant I still felt, how much I still had to learn. As if a fog blown away by a strong gust of wind, my anger at them, and at the world, quickly and easily dissipated. I didn’t need it anymore. A much more phlegmatic me emerged. More calm and easygoing.
When I was diagnosed with MS I felt like I should be angry at SOMEthing. My temper always still quietly lurks under the surface. I can feel it there like a giant sea serpent, circling under the waters, stirring them up very deep, occasionally rearing its ugly head then dipping back beneath the calm waters like it never existed. My fits of temper are always a shocking and frightening thing to anyone who witnesses them, so unexpected, so out of my usual character. But with this, I wasn’t angry. A bit sad, maybe even felt a bit defeated, but not angry. My ever logical mind was already researching the disorder, planning my next move, trying to figure out how to proceed and what was best for each new circumstance.
It’s so unpredictable, and I often feel at the end of my rope, frustrated, saddened, aggrieved, tired…but not angry. I’m glad that, at least, I was able to outgrow this particular knee-jerk reaction. It did take a good deal of soul searching and coming to terms with my life as a child, but I was able to learn, and I hold out hope that I’ll be able to, in time, overcome my many other shortcomings and continue to grow to be a halfway stable adult.