‘Cause I’m not ten years old, anymore

Source: jon.swanson

While fixing supper tonight, it occurred to me that a lot of what I felt when I heard about the nickname at work reminded me of how I felt when I was in fifth grade, and a couple of kids took an intense dislike to me and teased me mercilessly throughout the school year. I was made a laughingstock over and over again — they said I was weird and clumsy and dorky and strange, and more…. I had a hard time understanding what people were saying to me, because they had different accents than I was used to. Plus, I had a lot of problems with ear infections and “stuffy” ears. But I sure as hell could understand what they were saying to/about me — I was a reject, a loser, an outsider, a freak. When I started fifth grade, I was so determined to prove that I was as good as anybody else. My family had just moved to the area, and I was determined to prove how I was a regular kid like everyone else. Except that I wasn’t. I had a host of problems that nobody could pinpoint, and certainly nobody could fix. For all my determination to do well and fit in, I nearly flunked out of school, and I spent most of my time on the defensive against kids who made fun of me, or outright physically attacked me. I decided I wouldn’t let it get to me. I kept a stiff upper lip and resolved to not let anyone bother me, no matter how badly they treated me.

Anyway, tonight while my spouse was out running errands while I cooked, I had some time to ponder the past few days. And it occurred to me that this feeling I have of being in a new place with new people is a lot like the disorientation I felt in fifth grade. And it occurred to me that my reaction to the (perhaps good-natured) ribbing at work might be harking back to the past times (fifth grade was only one such time) when I resorted to forced good humor and defiance to deal with people being incredibly cruel to me.

See, this is the weird thing about having sustained brain injuries when I was younger. All those difficulties that I had weren’t standard-issue growing up problems. They were worse. Confusing. Perplexing. Undiagnosed. Intolerable. But they actually either resolved in some cases, or I grew out of parts of them, or I adjusted and came up with compensatory strategies to offset them. But even though I’m not dealing directly with those old problems, it feels like I still am. I have grown up and matured and learned to deal with a whole lot of crap. I’m a adult, living an adult life. But I still have this nagging remainder of old “stuff” that colors my choices and my decisions and my reactions.

Someone starts teasing me in a novel situation, and all of a sudden, I feel like I’m ten years old again, working overtime running after everyone — “Hey, wait up!” Listening to them laughing at me. Watching them ditch me. Hearing the whispers behind my back. Bracing for the hit.

But I’m not ten years old anymore. I’m not in fifth grade. I’m not a laughingstock. I’m a highly trained professional who brings a lot of great stuff to the table. And the people I’m working with… well, they want me. The ones that matter, anyway.

Okay, now that’s settled. Time to go to bed.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

4 thoughts on “‘Cause I’m not ten years old, anymore”

  1. BB –

    I think you are correct and it is a wise move to just let things be and see how it goes – as you said, in 6 months the various monikers for you may undergo many transformations. Even more, ultimately does it matter what anyone thinks?
    As I said I am in a similar place right now – which is why it was particularly striking to me – because earlier in the day yesterday I was talking about responding to something and a friend of mine say ‘why do you have to give a response, why not just listen and leave it at that?’. And when I considered it I realized that it was the right thing – I didn’t need to defend myself or to change myself or be something to prove something – I needed to listen to the person, consider what they said (and what it meant about them) and know what I wanted to do, what mattered to me. The mistake I make is to react quickly to what I read into the situation rather than to just breathe and look and see.
    The answer is in your name – Be. Be.

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  2. Yes, these childhood hurts do haunt us in real ways.

    Remember that it’s easiest to label, nickname, or jest about someone who isn’t directly interacting with us. In time, you will have spoken to nearly everyone there face to face, and they will see you as the person you are, and not just the “new guy.” I believe the nickname will fall away.

    It’s sooo hard not to react the same way we would have back then… I remember waking up a second after I had sat bolt upright in bed and shouted “Guys, wait for me!!” … then realizing it was the middle of the night. I was living in a college dorm, and I had been dreaming that my roommate and our neighbors were walking down the hallway to go to dinner without me.

    It’s very very hard to operate above these deep-rooted feelings and reactions. Trying to white-knuckle it isn’t so good, because then it feels fake and others can tell. It’s good you’re thinking about it, but it’s okay to feel it, too. Just know that it’s possible for things to be different if you can breathe through it and not run. 🙂

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  3. Thanks –

    That feeling of being left behind is probably the worst one I deal with — in part because I have gotten ditched so many times, in part because I often feel like my own brain is ditching me, though others may not be able to tell.

    It can be maddening. But if I can just stop and appreciate where I am and what I’m able to do, and what I can experience in my own life, outside the realm of what appears to be happening (and my interpretation of it), that helps.

    Of course, it also helps to catch up on my sleep, which is what I’ve been doing this afternoon. Got out of work early — life is good.

    Thanks for writing.

    BB

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