I was born intense and sensitive. My first year, I was crying nonstop. Everything seemed to bother me. Mum would feed me 5 times each meal time because I’d vomit everything. She’d change me, change her clothes, clean the floor, try feeding me again, vomit. Man, my parents were super patient. I wouldn’t sleep at night, so when my dad would get home from work, he wouldn’t even remove his shoes. He’d take me out on a night stroll, and it was the only thing that would soothe me. Until today, walking outside at night has the same effect on me.
When I turned 1, I suddenly turned quiet. I’d sit still and just observe. Mum would find it a bit odd that if she’d tell me to sit somewhere I wouldn’t move until I’m told to move. My speech was unusually developed – but I spoke gibberish. Dad jotted my words and their meanings in shorthand, and he’d translate for me to mum and others. He does the same for my nephew.
Once I walked up to him as he was eating supper, and I said something that sounded like ‘ Fushuq faashuq ma fagta’ whilst pointing at his plate, and he said ‘Fago’ which basically means dig in. And I actually did!
I was a year and 8 months by the time my twin brothers came along, and this pushed me further into my inner world. An incident that still baffles me till this day ( as told to me by my parents of course, don’t remember) was a day when I sat in the kitchen with my parents who each held a twin, and my distant aunt. Mind you, mum had an emergency c-section with the twins and suffered serious health complications that forced her to be in and out of the hospital in the first 6 months. Out of the blue, I blurted
‘ Aabo mid, hooyo mid, aniga baabah’
Dad one, mum one, me nothing.
I wasn’t even 2 when I said that.
My hypersensitivity and my above average intelligent made a dangerous concoction. I’d see and understand things a child my age shouldn’t have to ponder. I’d be debilitated by the emotional impact of my idealism and bleeding heart. I was incredibly naive, as lying wasn’t something I could fathom. And I had high expectations of the world. When the world inevitably showed its cracks, I didn’t know how to reconcile that.
So I assumed it’s because I was cracked and flawed. It was easier to absorb all the wrong and darkness in the world than to live with the cognitive dissonance of seeing the disparity between the ideal and the reality.
From the ages 4 and 5 I started to philosophize about the macrocosmic; where I came from, why I was here ( on earth), why dads existed if mums were the ones giving birth ( my 5 year old conclusion was that the dads were there to help take care of the baby once it was born. )
Focusing on grand ideas led my focus away from my extremely early inner conflicts which would prove to be the forerunner of my existential depression ( if it weren’t the beginning of it).
I attributed all bad in the world to myself and as such I believed I deserved all bad. This mindset would be the gateway of the most horrendous things that were to happen.
My head was in space and my body was on the playground. Only, I didn’t enjoy playing with kids or watching cartoons. I’d see through the make-believe and lies pretty quickly and it made no sense. Looking back, my mind was a dark cloud, even at that tender age. My carers at day care would take this up with my parents when they’d pick me up – that I’m awfully quiet and reticent. My mum made it her mission to bring me out of my shell, and for a decade we were tied at the hip – she’s more my close friend than mother.
I start school. I’m an adult in a child’s body. Obviously the school don’t know how to accommodate for me, nor did I want them to. I wanted to be as close to invisible as possible. I didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want my badness to be noticed.
I remember an incident that happened in the beginning of third grade that set the tone for how I viewed school – till this day. Our teacher Jane, a red haired and freckled short lady with round glasses, had given us maths homework over the weekend. A few pages.
I LOVED school so much so that mum would threaten me with making me stay home from school when I misbehaved 😂😂 . Obviously she never followed through with her threat.
So I got around to doing the homework that same Friday evening.
By Saturday noon I was done. But my momentum wasn’t anywhere near done. Once I get into flow, it’s like a trance. I’m still like that today, with writing. I disconnect from time and space.
I continued beyond the designated pages and one thing (page) led to another – and hey presto! I had completed the entire book!
I come to school on Monday, all giddy and proud. I was grinning from ear to ear over the anticipation of my teacher’s positive response.
Nothing of the sort happened. She became cross with me. Who asked you to do all this? she hissed. I froze. I told you I freeze when I’m caught off guard. I shrunk back into my chair. I felt so embarrassed.
‘Erase everything you wrote beyond the homework’ she commanded. I didn’t even wait to process what was happening. I just wanted her to stop. I didn’t want to cause a scene. I remember I spent most of the lesson erasing my efforts and my confidence, page by page, with my head so bent over the book that my nose nearly touched the pages.
I never tried with school after that. I was the class clown who pretended to be funny to show my bullies that I didn’t care. I’d wait till last minute before I’d do my homework or revise for tests. I didn’t want to commit. I’d consistently get mostly A’s, some B’s.
School didn’t provide much challenge, I was always bullied. So I shifted all my energy into reading. Books were a portal to an alternate universe where I wasn’t defective. I thought everything that happened did because I was inherently defective, that it was a reflection of my worth.
Books suspended time for me where I could leave my reality behind and live vicariously through others. In school I’d daydream about going to the library and discovering new books.
I’d read about 4-5 books a week on average.
Meanwhile, my rich emotional side remained stifled. I had shut everything off but my intellect. It was my armour I hid behind.
But unbeknownst to me, my emotional side was brewing with vengeance and planning to overthrow me…