When I was eleven, I stopped talking to people.
[This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ tale because I don’t feel sorry for myself: my life ain’t bad really.]
It started when I was bullied. It’s commonly known and accepted that bullying does that to people. I was embarrassed to share what was happening to me because it was very embarrassing: it’s hard to speak out when speaking at all means that you’re head butted through doors, ignored and humiliated day after day after day.
So, to put it briefly, I stopped talking at school and I stopped talking at home. My imagination and my mind remained a vivid, thoughtful, interesting place to be. Mainly, I stopped sharing and started learning. The more I shut myself inside myself, the more I focused on education and knowledge. When people hate you for being clever, you might as well live up to that stereotype.
Knowledge was safe. I learnt large parts of Adrian Mole off by heart; developed a fascination with education and was obsessed by 20th century Britain and the USSR.
I’m not clever; have never been clever. I am decidedly average, but learning is so safe and living in other people’s worlds so protective, that it became my refuge. I am one of those people who have got to the age of twenty-seven without discovering anything at which I am in the least talented.
And, all that time, I never said a word.
This is not strictly true, of course. I did talk, and I do talk. I’m a teacher and that doesn’t happen through mime and without quite a bit of talking.
But I don’t talk properly. I can’t tell anyone how I’m feeling and I don’t know why.
It’s very, incredibly, hugely frustrating.
When I was at school, or during the short period of time I was living in East Anglia, I used to tell myself that I was fine. If you tell yourself you’re fine, you are fine. I can be fine and I can make myself fine.
Insult me, tease me, upset me and I won’t flinch. Tell me that you’ve cancelled my birthday, that you’ve decided you don’t want to be my friend anymore and I won’t change my expression. Hit me, hurt me, leave me and I won’t cry.
I never cry. Crying shows other people that they’ve cracked you.
And I can be fine. I can be OK.
This does, however, have its own drawbacks. Imagine feeling like your feelings are trapped inside; that you can’t tell people how you’re feeling; that you can’t say that something is really upsetting you; that you can’t even be angry. I’m the first to admit that it’s not healthy. It’s destroying my relationship with my parents because I just can’t share anything with them. I can’t tell them because I can’t be weak and I can’t be helpless. I don’t really talk to my sister, or my friends. I don’t really know where to, or how to, start.
Butt I am fine. I can be fine.That is what I am and who I am.
This is not a blog post where I’m suddenly going to offer up answers because I haven’t got any. I have identified the problem but I don’t know how to change. I don’t know how to explain my feelings, or to tell people what happens inside my head. I don’t know how to share what is important to me, because if I share what is important to me, it might be disapproved of, or ridiculed.
Whilst I was writing this post, my Dad asked me when I would stop writing on this blog. I wanted to tell him that it hurts when he asks me that, because this is a safe space; a space I am proud of and something that helps me talk about what has happened to me; what is happening; who I am. It means that he disapproves of me as I am, that he wants me to change. It makes me sad; makes blogging seem illicit and shady and the wrong choice. It makes me feel wrong.
Maybe saying this here is a start.
PS. I’m also in the market for people who feel similar/who have made progress with this. I’m sure I can’t be the only one?