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"In plain English, stress early in life makes us more vulnerable to stress la...

"In plain English, stress early in life makes us more vulnerable to stress later in life. The evidence for this can be seen in multiple physiological an... - Nyawela Gianna - Google+

Saturday, August 16

Welcome Back




I like to say that my childhood was peculiar.  I was a very quiet and timid child.  I loved to read and had more books than toys.   I loved to write before I could ever put sentences together.  I was eager to learn and did so well in school, I was supposed to skip from third grade to fifth prior to relocating.  I was allowed to watch soaps and murder mysteries.   My “grandma” and I island hopped via speed boat to visit my grandmother.
Other than friends at school and an occasional playmate, my "grandma's" adopted daughter or friends I made during summers with my mother, I spent most of my time in the presence of adults.  When these adults weren't entertaining me, I was left to entertain myself.  Slipping into myself at that time in my life seemed harmless and was always temporary.   It seemed as though I would gain so much once I made the transition from the islands to the city.  And I did!  But something changed along the way.
I don’t remember there being children in either neighborhood while in Bahamas.  That is, my “grandma’s” and “caretaker’s”.   And I was not allowed to socialize with my friends outside of school. The first time a friend called our home, my “grandma” would not let me to talk to her.   She also told each subsequent caller not call our home again.  Whether or not I was told to not give out our number again was irrelevant.  I pretty much got the message.
Despite this, I was well received by my schoolmates.  Still shy but easygoing, I was eager to meet new peers in Philadelphia.   Meeting friends in the neighborhood was almost instant.  I just sat out on my stoop. Coming in as the new kid in the last year of elementary school was altogether something else.   I didn’t make friends as easily.  With this came my earliest memories of maladaptation.  
mal·ad·ap·ta·tion  [mal-ad-uh p-tey-shuh n]
noun
1. incomplete, inadequate, or faulty adaptation
On the one hand, I made a friend who was verbally abusive, controlling and a thief.  On the other, I was faced with almost an entire class of peers that treated me with indifference.  Insecurity… timidity, they are the probable culprits for my failure to share with my mother how I was feeling.  If she knew, I’m confident she would have said something, done something or both to restore my courage and give me the push I needed to become well adjusted.
Instead, I chose to slip into myself again.  Except, this time I stayed there a bit longer.  I began to imagine and pretend my schoolmates wanted to be my friends.  I would not only envision, but would also act out playful scenarios.  Like a little girl having a tea party with her stuffed animals.  Just as those stuffed animals would be given attributes and personalities, I would give my classmates the same.  The ease of my sadness and feelings of exclusion led me to continue to pretend into my years of middle school.
Fifth grade was the first time the indifference turned to bullying.  I was mostly teased or threatened.  I was physically assaulted at least twice.  Once by a boy, sadly.  Even more so, it was my closest “friends” which troubled me the most.  Not knowing how to stand up for myself and wanting so badly to be accepted by my peers, I subjected myself over and over again to the abuse, never once  telling my mom what I was enduring.
bully [boo l-ee]

noun:
1. A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

verb [with object]:
1. Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants: a local man was bullied into helping them

There were good days and bad.  As bad days worsened, I began missing school, unbeknownst to my mother.  I first began intentionally missing the bus so that I could walk to school instead.  For me it was an adventure.  A way to take my mind of the troubles facing me.  When times became overwhelming, I would just miss school altogether.  How often I skipped depended on how bad the bullying was at the time.
 
next: Much of the Same