i am five years old and i am psychotic for the first time, words spilling out of my mouth, rambling on and on, letters uneven, some backwards, when i write: and then i cryed and my unicorn teers heled stefiny
the other kids whisper, they laugh. i am too young to connect the dots, between the way they look at me and the way my books get pushed off my desk day after day, the way i sit alone at recess (distracting myself by singing gibberish words of Divine Importance), the way they find insults scrawled onto a desk in the back. i do not draw connections, not yet, between the way my teacher hisses “quiet hands” like a threat and the way i get yelled at for getting distracted by ant colonies during phys ed and the way i never quite learned how to whisper and the way nobody seems to want to talk to me. i know, somehow, that i’m doing something wrong, or else that other people are–but what?
i am confused. i am blindfolded, walking in circles, hopelessly lost, trying my hardest with no results, over and over again.
i thought that, as soon as i could just figure out what was happening, why this was happening, i would be able to fix things. i could just be less weird, or i could just distance myself from the people hurting me, and then everything would be okay.
i didn’t know, not yet, that finding out why would, in many ways, make everything so, so much worse. even if i did know, i had a blind curiosity and naivete at the time that would have propelled me straight into the trainwreck anyway.
looking back, it seems inevitable. this world was not built for a crazy girl.
i am 11 years old and i have figured it out. i am too loud, can’t whisper; gotta stop talking. too distractible; so, stop paying attention to anything, stop thinking, let my mind go blank and far away while my mouth parrots the right words. other people don’t like me; so, i have to get away from them, don’t talk to them. i fidget too much, hands twirling in the air, mouth always chewing on cloth or hair or paper; i try to stop fidgeting, fail; discover it is more acceptable to chew skin and fingernails, start doing that, let my fingertips get rubbed pink raw and stained reddish brown because at least i won’t be as weird anymore. i am lumbering, clumsy; my voice in chorus is a loud alto. gotta fix that. i starve myself, walk on my tiptoes, sing as quietly and high as i can. i start existing as we, but keep it hidden, keep up the performance. i am a girl, i am nothing, i am certainly not people.
(did i know then that i would, four years later, struggle with standing up and losing my breath, or get told when auditioning for a solo that they can’t hear me and be overwhelmed with shame because i’m singing as loud as i can, or try to gather up the courage inside me to tell my mom who i am and then chicken out again and again and wish i didn’t, or hate the way my voice gets me ma’am-ed? no. of course not. all i knew is that i was too much, and i needed to get rid of it, and if that meant i had to get rid of myself then by god i was going to try. i didn’t consider what would happen if i wanted my self back, if i wanted to take up space or exist in this world, because i thought i never would. i didn’t think i would ever want anything again. want is selfish, want is repulsive, want is disgusting.)
and it makes sense–it’s not an unreasonable position. far from it, it’s the logical continuation, the obvious extension of what everyone had been telling me. they tell me, “be quieter, be more ladylike,” so i train my voice. simple. easy.
(it’s not easy. i tell everyone it is easy. i try, as hard as i can, to make it look easy. it is the hardest thing i have ever done. but since i was able to tell you i was fine, then it must be true.)
if you pretend, for long enough, that you do not want, that you do not crave anything, that you do not even need anything to live–not love, not food, not communication, not blood, not even air–eventually you come to fear your own desires. but however much you teach yourself to fear yourself, you never disappear. you can train your body to panic and scream and tear itself to shreds, but you can never stop your mind from wanting.
that was her excuse when i tried to tell the guidance counselor what was going on.
i believed her.
i am a teenager and i am queer. i am a teenager and i am queer and i want touch and pain and intimacy. i know i am dirty/gross/wrong/bad/evil/predatory/objectifying/sinful. i know, at this point, that i cannot just make myself stop. monster, i call myself, voice vengeful. irreparable evil. original sin.
i learned my lessons well. i have been taken to the hospital three times by now but each time i managed to be articulate and smart and relatable enough to avoid getting kept there for longer than an hour or two. i am quiet, i am polite, i am very good at acting normal–no matter what.
i am still not good at being normal, because i am not normal, and i know at this point that i never will be, that all of my efforts are for nothing.
everyone else looks at me and sees a tiny, quiet girl, voice high and whispery–two inches shorter than she should be, growth stunted by malnutrition, but two inches taller than the doctors told me i would be after a year and a half of my starvation diet, wearing a hoodie, black to hide stains from being a chronically messy and chaotic person, hood pulled up to hide from the world–and they cannot see how someone like me could want like i do.
they cannot see how this is overcompensation, trying to keep my exterior quiet and neat because i’m afraid of people seeing my interior, my interior that is too weird and too crazy and too overbearing and too messy and too needy; always, always in excess.
i learned my lesson early: if/when they do see, they recoil. freak. they tell me: stop that. get small again. get quiet. that’s what you’re supposed to be. so i listen. i am a very good listener. very obedient. well-trained.
my weakness has always been caring too much.
i do not know how to handle a friendship that is not overflowing, bursting at the seams with feeling. when i try, i make accidental, careless wounds; a misspoken word, a yelled confession, a clumsy trip that pulls them down with me. i do not mean to hurt anyone, but beneath all my guards i am a feral cat, full of claws and teeth and fear. and then i hurt someone, and in that moment i know that i was right. monster. stay in hiding next time.
and so i do.
“but you didn’t do anything wrong” not this time. not this time. but i have. i will. won’t we all? and maybe you don’t think i did anything wrong but there are so many differences of opinion about that, really
“why do you feel bad? it’s just thoughts” thoughts are enough to me. i can train my face and hands and voice, but i can never stop my thoughts. the thoughts are the bad part, really, they’re the part that bleed through accidentally when my emotions get too strong and my mask slips. (thought-action fusion, they write. magical thinking)
i try. i try. i try. but my friends and i, we are screaming. we are wild.
(forgive me father for i have sinned.)
my self-flagellation took on a religious fervor. there are two reasons for destroying yourself: as punishment, and as relief. what started as an overflow for when i could not help but spill slowly but surely became its own punishment and its own reward, desire and pain and self-hatred, all in one. unable to talk, at war with myself, my body became my battleground, each battle both lost and won at once. my bodily fluids, a source of shame from the moment i was first called crybaby, the only way i can reliably communicate when words seem impossibly far away, intermingle, spilling over the bathroom floor, my blood and pus and vomit mixing with my tears and cum.
(the three populations at highest risk for self-harm: young women with a history of trauma. prisoners. captive animals.)
the third time i went to the hospital, i was psychotic again. the body was catatonic, utterly still, undemanding, yielding to the force of others; and yet my still, compliant body said what years and years of a compliant mouth never could. when i was there, i was not in danger, not like i had been so many times in the past.
i did not know how to ask them: where were you when i needed you? why do you care more about my lack of response then you did about my pain? why do you direct your ire towards the girl with a mind on fire, excited or pacing or frozen and distant, and then smile and nod when she learns to hide? why do you worry now, and not when i have the knife in my hand, not when i am sobbing, not when i am starving, not when i am withdrawn and suicidal and destructive? do you even worry, or do you just look at my still frame with the same condescending hiss at the disruption to the class that you did when i was five? why do you only care about this girl is too much and approve of this girl is destroying herself in her quest to be less? why am i fifteen years old and trying to grow but too afraid of being too weird? why do you only care about what you see in me and never think to care about who i actually am?
why did you encourage her to destroy herself, and then bring her to the hospital when she obeyed?
i did not ask them this. i willed my mouth to be good. i told them a half-truth: a history of seizures, a cocktail of medications.
they sent me home.