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.