Here’s a bit of a navel gaze today as I haven’t had one for a while! Old emotional wounds are funny things aren’t they? You think they have healed and you’ve managed to move on. And yet they are still very much there, just festering below the surface.
Even if you have the happiest life, we all have some emotional wounds. Sometimes they alter us as people, and sometimes they are just something that happened in the past. For some of us though, they never quite heal and go away.
I was a bullied child. I was bullied from the day I started school, until the very last day of school. I suffered with chronic eczema, the kind of eczema that people react to. For some reason we associate it with being unclean, and our natural instinct is to steer away. So at my first school (and as all schools in the 70’s) there was a lot of hand holding. A lot! During this time, most of the children refused to hold my hand, and to be honest I was relieved given they were so sore. However, it transpired that the mothers were telling their children not to hold my hand, in case they caught something. A lot of it went over my head at the time, and to be honest they had a donkey called Neddy who was my best friend. Until he ate my PE pumps, and then it was never the same between us again!
I moved to another school and came up against the same problems once again. People couldn’t see beyond my skin, and not helped that I was small, sickly and chronically shy. Eventually I was absorbed by the other ‘reject’ kids. We were all moving targets, we all had our moment in the spotlight. Not in a good way either! Things became quite unbearable a bit later on, because I was so good at reading and writing, I was often chosen to read a piece of my writing out in the Friday assembly. This resulted in me even being frozen out of my reject gang, I mean it comes to something when you are being bullied by the rejects!
I was that child who no one wanted on their team, and was always the last one standing. I was that child who didn’t have an exciting story to tell the class after the summer holidays. I was the child who was invited to a sleepover, but had to bring my own sheets. You know, just in case I got blood or contaminated their bedding in some way. You get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, I was clothed, fed and had a good roof over my head. But in the 70’s and 80’s the psychological welfare of a child wasn’t exactly top of the agenda.
By the time I finished primary school I had a pretty low opinion of myself. At 11 years old I genuinely believed that I was unlikable. That there was something horribly wrong with me, and it wasn’t just my skin. I guess in many ways, this is something I’ve carried with me throughout my life. So when I started secondary school I didn’t have high hopes. In the main I was right, but I did manage to make friends. I was bullied, I was bullied horrendously, but having friends seemed to make it more bearable. My low opinion of myself though endured. Even when my monthlies began and my skin miraculously cleared up. I was then bullied for daring to wear electric blue mascara (oh come on, you did it too). Or daring to express to fancying a particular boy. Basically I only had to open my mouth and I was bullied for it. I had my first close relationship with a boy during this time. Admittedly it was a bit one-sided, I did his homework and in return I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that we were having these clandestine meetings! In hindsight I should have told him to jog on, but in another way it helped affirm my feelings of not being quite worthy enough. This period of my life made me the adult that I am now. Fiercely independent, I rely on no one and don’t expect anyone to fight my battles, because as a child no one ever did.
Rejection, as with everyone, has been a feature of my life. My difference is though, I felt rejection a long time before I was supposed to feel it. I look at my 6-year-old now, and it physically hurts my heart to think that he might feel rejected in any part of his life. Of course, he hasn’t been invited to some parties this year but because he feels loved and cherished at home, I don’t think he’s taken too much notice. At his age I already felt alone in the world.
I thought that the bullying and the almost constant rejection of my youth had made me invincible. Yes I have periods of anxiety and depression but I deal with those. In fact I’m probably a secret oscar winning actress where they are concerned! Until this week, when I suddenly realised that actually I’m not as invincible as I thought. I believed that grown up me and teenage me had long reconciled those feelings. I thought we talked through each of them, rationalised them with adult eyes and come to terms with them. I was wrong. A particular set of events happened and suddenly that old wound is wide open, bleeding and 11-year-old me is suddenly alive and well. 47-year-old me feels angry for letting my well maintained walls down, I feel like I took my eye off the ball. However, this time 11-year-old me has the 47-year-old feisty me by her side. We’ll shed our tears together, we’ll build our walls just a little higher and we’ll accept the situation and move on together.
Rejection never gets any easier, no matter how many times you feel it. Of all our human emotions I think the two that are the hardest to come to terms with are rejection and grief. Thankfully grief has been limited for me, but unfortunately I do seem to be an expert at rejection and it never gets any easier!