by baby blu
biolgraphy of fear
|Throughout life, everyone faces problems. Sometimes they are small problems, easily remedied, but causing a lot of stress for a short amount of time. Others are ongoing, things that can be struggles with for a lifetime. Often, this type of problem is an internal conflict, a feeling, a habit, a characteristic of oneself that might not be desirable. For me, this characteristic has always been fear. Well, I suppose not always.
The school I went to in England from the time I was five until age eleven, was tiny in comparison to every school I've been in since. There were between sixty and seventy students enrolled at any given time, spanning seven grade levels, which they called "years" over there. I moved to England when I was four, after living in Maryland for two years, and Germany for the two before that. I only remember bits and pieces of the years before England, one of them being the days at my daytime sitter's house, Ms. Shelley. There were about ten kids there on a regular basis, ranging from about age two, until age five I suppose, as anyone older than that would have been in school. During these hours away from my parents, I would spend much of my time wandering out back where there was a selection of small ornamental ponds, come with fish, others with mini waterfalls, in which I could become entranced. I rarely talked these days, except to my family, to whom I babbled incoherently almost non-stop when no one else was around. We were forced to take naps in the middle of the day. We would all unroll our sleeping bags in a wide circle, and Ms. Shelley would turn the light off and stand in the middle of the circle waiting for us all to fall asleep. I never would. "Madailein go to sleep," were the words I hated hearing. Every day I closed my eyes, lettering her believe I was sleeping, while I made my mind blank and wished "stupid naptime" was over. I remember throwing up one day during this period of boredom. I don't remember why. I don't recall feeling nauseous before it happened. Every day my father would come in wearing his suit. He stood in the doorway, waiting until I ran to him, and he picked me up in his strong arms, both of us happy to be reunited. I'm sure he might have seemed intimidating to some, but to me he was comfort, safety. In these years of my life, my differences from others was not so much a reaction of fear, but more of me just not knowing I was supposed to act any other way.
I do not have picture in my mind with which I can articulate the move. Looking back I realize it was a small house that we moved into, about the size of four of my current classrooms stacked two on top of the other two. We got a dog within the first couple years, a relatively small Irish wolfhound, who loved people, was quiet, well-trained, and un-possessive, due to an easing, my teaching technique. While she was eating, my sister and I were instructed to put a hand in the dog dish. When Anna (ah-nah) growled, Dad promptly struck her head, not enough to hurt, but enough to let her know who's boss. She never growled at anyone again. My first pet was a jet black kitten, who I named very imaginatively, "Blackie." When we moved, she stayed in England with a friend of mine. When we brought her to his house she hid for hours. I never did find out how she settled in. When I was six I desperately wanted a hamster, and I got one. She was brown and white and called Meghan. At first I played with her every day, but eventually the novel wore off. She got fat, most likely from lack of exercise, and died somewhere around the time I was nine. I buried her in the back yard, on my knees, numb from the tears that had drained me of all emotion. Next came Carrie, a friendly miniature schnauzer we adopter when she was already mature, as her previous owners were moving overseas and couldn't take her along. She was a pig-dog if ever there was one. She would have eaten herself to death had she been allowed to. She died from cancer a week before we moved to the United States when I was eleven.
At school, Beckwithshaw Primary School, I pretty much opened my mouth only to answer an academic question. I was a brainiac. Obviously that changed, as everyone continued maturing, and gradually overtook me. I played alone, refused to play "make-believe" and didn't have friends until year five. The school was divided into two classrooms, one for reception until year two, and the other for years three to six. In year five they expanded into three classrooms, splitting the four older years into two years in each classroom. I entered reception almost as soon as we moved. I am told that I was shy, that I was anxious about entering the classroom and leaving my mother, but I do not remember this. I also started Irish dancing, which I did until year five when I gained friends, thus making youth club hold more appeal. Somehow I never had any fear of dancing onstage when I was little. The friends I made were people I had grown up with and yet never really interacted with on a personal level. We were a group, me being the only girl. Man, we thought we were hardcore. Those guys dictated what I wore, the music I "liked", and how I entertained myself in my spare time. It wasn't until year six that I finally had a friend who was a girl. Hannah and I were immediately drawn to each other, doing everything together for two years, going onto to the same secondary school for year seven, at the end of which I moved. My year at St. Aidan's was uneventful- I went to my classes, all of which were mandatory, and gained the knowledge about "popular girls" and "rejects." During this year, the fear started growing inside me. It began as a low rumble, I became nervous to speak to authority, and my self-esteem got lower and lower. Perhaps it was the fast-approaching move that changed something inside me, because I had felt a twinge of it two years before when we moved from Beckwithshaw to Harrogate, into a huge house with a game room, a basement with a shower, a wine cellar, a sauna, and three above ground floors, giving my sister and I our own floor and full bathroom.
When I moved to Orrtanna, Pennsylvania, it was a drastic change from the energy-filled, entertainment abundant town, to a middle-of-nowhere, rural environment, where I was sixteen miles from anything, and what I was closest to had nothing for teens to do. My father warned me as soon as we moved, about snakes, spiders, and wild animals. A week later, several tornadoes passed over the ridge we can see on the horizon. As I watched them on television, worried they might hit our house, I truly thought my parents had moved us to a dangerous place. The tornadoes passed, and I spent my first summer in the United States picking blueberries, blackberries, and running barefoot around our seven acre property. These days were broken up by a couple visits to the school to get my enrollment finalized. I was glad we finally had a home, as the first few weeks of summer were spent travelling back and forth between the beach house in Delaware my Grandparent's own, and Gettysburg, trying to find a house. I was nervous and missed the familiarity of my old life, but I looked forward to a new start.
When school started I fit in easily at the beginning, made surface-friends, and got used to my new schedule. This is also when I experienced my first stab of terror at the confrontation of a teacher. I just froze up and sort of lost my voice. This only happened a couple of times during my year in the middle school, but the next year, and on the bus, it became routine. On the bus I finally found my place at the back, playing poker with a group of guys who became very protective over me, even before I had broken my barrier of silence toward them.
The next two years of high school were a battle of the people who believed I was acting out by not talking simply for attention. Math and English class, in the first semester of ninth grade, were the worst. My math class was small, leading to a lot of personal attention that I did not want. English class was my last class of the day. Luckily, my best friend Nick was in that class, and he did everything he could to calm my nerves and get my questions answered, but Mr. Murren was big on participation, and while he was understanding of my difficulties, he still included me in his random chip selecting to get people to answer a question. He had a shoe box filled with poker chips, each one with a student's name on it. He would get it out whenever we were doing a worksheet, to go over the answers, or when there wasn't enough class discussion. Every time I saw him reach for the box my heart would start pounding and I would hope as hard as I could that my name wouldn't get pulled out of the box. Whenever I did get called on, I would slowly mumble the answer, having to force each individual sound out of my mouth. I never talked to the teacher until I was out of his class and he became a safety, because he knew my tendencies toward fear.
During my tenth grade year, I became more sociable to several teachers, mostly through them getting acquainted with my absolute terror when they approached me. They were intrigued by my silence and spent time with me just trying to figure me out, until I became familiar with them and started talking. The safety I built with these teachers proved beneficial when they acted a communicator between me and others, and their classes became a haven for me when I was distressed by the most recent invasion of my "bubble." These teachers knew how to explain me to others, and knew how to communicate effectively with me to get me calmed down and productive.
One day in electrical technology, Mr. Hardy was getting observed by Dr. Mowertery. Mr. Hardy had told him beforehand not to approach me, as it would scare me, but Dr. Mowery decided to take things into his own hands, as he had met me previously when he attempted to examine my hand after it cut in the school greenhouse. I didn't go for that. When he was in Mr. Hardy's class, he made his rounds, talking to some students, and I went about my business silently, carefully avoiding him. As soon as Mr. Hardy turned his back, Mowery jumped at the chance to interrogate me about my work. I immediately bolted into a corner of the room, curling my knees to my chest and leaning back against the cool, soothing, solid wall. After a few minutes, Mr. Hardy came over and started talking to me, realizing almost instantly what had happened. With a few words of reassurance, I was cautiously starting to work, making sure Mr. Hardy stayed close by. I don't think Dr. Mowery ever approached me again, after he realized that someone who is with me every day and has already gotten through my barriers probably knows how to act around me better than someone, even someone with a PhD, who has never spent more than fifteen minutes with me.
The summer going into eleventh grade really marked the start of personal change for me. I took a huge leap when I decided to volunteer at Emmaus thrift store. I signed up weeks ahead of time without thinking about it, and didn't realize I was terrified until two days before I was due to work. By then it was too late to back out. I was so glad I had acted without thought though, when after a few weeks I had become a regular to just chilling at Emmaus. I had become a part of the intentional community.
Through Emmaus, I met the people that really changed my life. I learned how to talk about my feelings, was told it was OK to be scared sometimes, and started going to church. I am still in the process of getting courage to face new situations, I still experience the times when I am too freaked to handle something, and I still cover my ears at certain sounds. However, I have also been known to answer when my name is asked, take part in fellowship group, and explain why I am not in class, to a teacher that happens upon me trying to regain my composure after a mini breakdown. The people I met at Emmaus surrounded me in enough trust and love to build my confidence and convince me to try new things. I trusted them enough to believe them when they said it would be OK. Usually it did end alright, sometimes with some understanding and accommodations needed, but OK just the same.
I am by no means done with the characteristics I am working on. I continue to go to church, attempt to gain social skills, and I keep writing so that I can continue learning about myself, and continue getting closer to the person I want to become.