I was a selective mute

When I was 3 years old, I stopped talking.  I was progressing normally until then and I progressed in every other way imaginable after, but when it came to speaking to people who were not my parents or siblings, I just couldn’t do it.  My mom wasn’t even aware that I had stopped talking because I still spoke to her.  It wasn’t until my family visited my grandparents in Florida that my grandma mentioned that I wasn’t speaking.

I was selectively mute.  The diagnosis was previously called elective mutism, but it was changed to reflect that those with this disorder do not choose to not speak.  They just can’t.  I remember many times as a kid when I was pressured to speak and most of those times I desperately wanted to say something just to end the relentless interrogation, but it was like an invisible force was around my neck, preventing me from saying anything.  I once described the feeling like a cartoon garden hose with a kink and the water pressure builds until the hose explodes; the words would clog my throat and I’d fight to simultaneously keep them down and hope that they break free.  I wanted to speak but over the years my silence became comfortable and I couldn’t figure out a way to start talking without causing huge reactions from my peers, those of which asked me nearly every recess why I didn’t talk.  How was I to go from being “The Girl Who Doesn’t Talk” to being a kid who does?

Following third grade the school district boundaries changed, so I, and many other students, was moved to a new school.  This redistricting would end up changing my life.  At my new school I had the chance to start over and be the kid who does talk and most of the students would have no idea that it was something I struggled with, but the fear of revealing my voice was still overpowering.  My fourth grade teacher pulled me aside a few days into the new school year and requested that I start communicating with her but through a notebook.  I was reluctant to start and fought it as much as I could.  The idea of changing, even as little as using a notebook to communicate, seemed more daunting than speaking.  Later on I was introduced to the school’s psychologist, Ms. Manning.  She had a plan and was willing to do anything to get me to where I needed to be.

One of the projects the fourth graders were tasked to do was to create a children’s book that we would write and illustrate ourselves.  Having been a budding writer from my experiences of writing stories in class at my last school, this project was something very special to me.  Ms. Manning discussed making my big goal, to be accomplished at the end of the year, as reading my story to my sister’s second grade class.  The reward for completing this feat was to be a pet bird, which my parents had agreed upon.

Throughout the year Ms. Manning gained my trust and I started speaking with her. Using the same methods she helped me feel comfortable around other people, like my teacher and a few classmates.  By the end of the school year I had finally started speaking in class, but I still had to complete my final goal of reading my story.

The day came and all I remember is being up at the front of the class.  I don’t remember the walk to the classroom or how I ended up in a chair with a bunch of seven year olds crowded around me, but I do remember the gut-wrenching fear.  I was scared out of my mind, but I was also a courageous and ambitious little girl, so even though I did not want to read, I did it anyway.  I spoke to those younger kids, telling them the story of a girl who befriended a talking carrot as they go off into the city and solve crimes.  The story itself did not make much sense, but ideas from kids rarely ever do.

Closing the book to mark the end of my tale, I felt a huge wave of relief as the gurgling in my stomach settled.  I smiled hesitantly, like I had just outrun a cheetah and the realization that I was still alive hadn’t sunk in yet.  The second graders clapped for me, all but one unaware of how monumental this day was.  I looked to my sister and then to my mom and Ms. Manning standing in the classroom doorway; if I could speak, I could do anything.

Regrets of a Former Self

I was watching some home videos tonight that I put on my computer.  The particular one I was watching was from June-July of 1995.  Some of the things that were filmed included my 9th birthday, a trip to Itasca where a tornado went through our campground, my brother’s 2nd birthday and various everyday things.  The video of my birthday though, upsets me a bit.  I open one of the gifts from my parents and it is a Barbie of some kind, then I set it on table, where my sister starts to look at it.  I then snatch the doll from her.  In so many of the scenes with my sister, I am just mean to her and I can see blatant jealousy on my face.  I hate that I can’t watch these videos without seeing how conceited I was and how I acted like I had to compete with my sister.  The sad thing is that I didn’t really get over the jealousy thing until a few years ago.  It still pops up every once in awhile, but for the most part, I am able to tamp it down.  It bothers me that I had this mean streak in me as a kid.

Fear

Everyone in my family considers our dog a big chicken.  She barks at every little noise and startles at stupid things.  If you think of it though, would the better word for Maya be brave?  Bravery doesn’t mean without fear, it is facing something even if you are afraid.  Even though Maya is afraid of the neighbor’s German shepherd, does the fact that she tries to show that dog that she isn’t scared mean something more?  She is facing her fears, even though she reacts the same way every single time.  She goes in fearful but brave.  That giant dog scares her, but she still tries.  Shouldn’t everyone be living their life like that?  I’m afraid of doing this job interview, but I’m going to go into it pretending I’m not.  I guess it is kind of a ‘fake it til you make it’ situation and while the the thing we fear might not get any less scary, if we keep trying and getting up when we are knocked down it shows everyone and the thing we fear that we aren’t going to give up.

Revenge

I’ve been so proud of myself the last week or so because of how I’ve been feeling better and getting out there, then I come home after house sitting for my sister and I’m greeted with contempt and dismay.  My mom enjoyed that I wasn’t home the entire week so much that she keeps telling me at every possible moment how I need to move out.  I’ve spent the last 11 years fighting depression and just when I start feeling great again, my mom makes it her personal mission to make my life a living hell.  I want revenge and it’s stupid.  I want my mom to hurt how much she has hurt me, but I know that I can’t do that on a personal level.  I don’t have it in me to seek revenge on someone like my mom.

I’ve been working hard to fight the depression and it just really, really hurts that no only am I not wanted in this house, no one seems to acknowledge that I have been doing better.  I don’t need praise or compliments or anything, I just want someone to recognize that I am trying and I am doing better.  I want them to just lay off the torment.

Living without Fear

I am a fearful person and I wish I wasn’t.  I want to do so much with my life, but my fears keep me back.  The ironic thing is that I fear doing things but one of my greatest fears is not doing what is important to me.

My birthday is tomorrow (June 4th) and I will be turning 29.  As a teenager when I imagined how my life would be now, I thought I would be in a completely different place.  I am not exactly happy with where I am, but I am going to change that.  My plan is to spend the next year until I turn 30, doing things that scare the crap out of me.  I want to go outside my comfort zone and be the person who isn’t afraid to live.  I want to be whom I’ve always meant to be.  I’ve started a list of things that I want to accomplish this year that I find scary.  Some of them are as simple as saying “hi” to a stranger and some are as difficult as standing up for myself or admitting my wrongs.  I want to do this and I am going to.  Here is a complete list of things I am going to do:

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Just some musings.

It’s unfortunate when told to live everyday like it’s your last, the only thing you can see yourself doing on your last day of life is staying in bed.  Is my belief that I am doing better really true?  If I were to die tomorrow, why would I not be gathering all of my loved ones and having a giant party?  What is it that makes me believe that if my death was imminent that no one would be there?  If I knew that tomorrow, my Willow was going to die, I would spend every waking moment I could with her; holding her, snuggling her, breathing in her scent as her long fur catches in my nose.  I would want her to know that my life was infinitely better because I had her.  Why does the possibility of my death mean less to me than my cat’s?  I’m sure that if I were to die tomorrow, that my loved ones would want to see me and say goodbye, yet some part of me thinks that my request to be around them would be met with contempt.  I don’t know where this comes from.  Is it from a lack of confidence or low self-esteem or is more that I have no self-worth?  Am I worthy in my own eyes?

Comparison to Three Months Ago

I decided to look over some of my earlier posts from before my time in IOP. I wasn’t completely aware how much different I felt until I read over those entries.  Here are some quotes from my October posts:

I don’t plan on doing anything drastic, but it just feels like this emptiness I have been experiencing is just going to engulf me.  It’s like I am standing on the shoreline and a giant wave is just going to drown me and my lifeless body will be swept to sea.  It feels like I have no control over this.  I feel like someone is going to find me dead, not by my own hands, but by some unforeseen force, like I spontaneously combusted with despair … I imagine my spirit as this decrepit soul, weighed down by chains, carrying a boulder the size of a small car and dripping wet from being doused with ice cold water.  It is seeking solace, warmth, relief, but all it does is get colder, wetter, heavier, weaker.  How do you come back from that?

The world is pressing down on me and I am not fighting back.  I’m letting it crush me, asphyxiate me slowly.  The light inside of me is no longer the sun always shining, it is a candle constantly being blown out … How do I start caring when the thought of doing so crushes me into immobility?  I can’t face living.  I don’t want to die though.  I’m not only at the end of my rope, it is fraying quickly under my weight, under everything I am going through, everything I am feeling.

I feel, dare I say it, hopeful now. I feel like I have purpose and I can do the things I want to do and succeed at them.  I don’t constantly feel like I am putting up roadblocks from my goals.  I know I still sometimes do that, but I don’t feel like they are impenetrable like they once were.  While my sleep schedule and issues are still wonky and need to be worked on, I feel I can fix that if I push myself to change.

I still do not have a job, but I am actively looking.  While I do not want to take just any shitty job out there, it’s becoming more and more likely that that is just what I have to do for now.  I do not want that at all, but apparently being a grown up means doing things you don’t want to do to better yourself.  I once was capable of doing such things, but haven’t in several years.  Maybe it’s time to start.