Tag Archives: sadness

Warning: Laptopless Week Ahead

Due to an unfortunate accident involving my laptop and a violent meeting with the floor, the blog posts this week will be a little less quality than usual. My faithful little buddy is currently in transit to the fix-up place, so I’m having to bum computer time off family and friends until it returns home. At least it was only the LCD screen that was damaged–I lost no data! (In fact, it kept its screen working for five minutes when we arrived at the computer “emergency room,” but could not keep up the charade for long. Its graphics card, RAM, and hard drive appear to have suffered no damage at all.)

Also, once my laptop is fixed, I would like to implement a couple of changes to the layout, but I’m leery of changing anything because it seems every time I change something, the whole site goes bonkers and I get a page full of errors. Maybe some more study on WP coding would do me well, even though all the changes I’ve tried to implement before were so-called “valid code.” *sigh* WordPress, why must you be so difficult to understand?

Loneliness, the Bane of My Existence

loneliness
Author’s Note: This post is pretty heavy lifting, emotionally, but this is one of the reasons that the category “Tuesday on the Soapbox” exists on this blog–it forces me, weekly, to dig into personal, social, political, moral, and ethical issues and really get down to what these problems are really about. If I’m not brave enough to tackle the minefield of my own emotional makeup, then I’m not really doing right by this category. And maybe those who read this post will be inspired to dig down into the detritus of their memories, as I have, and find some beautiful “a-ha!” moments along the way.

If you understand that I fear being lonely–not being alone, but being without people who love me and care for me–then you understand me. It literally rules everything I do. I am the way I am because I greatly fear the moment when I am utterly without love.

One might wonder why I, an only child of doting parents and loving extended family, would have grown up with this type of neurosis. I can give you a one-word answer: school.

Where Loneliness Grew

Everything I needed to know about life, I did learn in kindergarten. I learned that friendships were often political alliances; I learned that they could be made and broken in the same day. I learned that friendships were fragile because people were petty creatures, able to hate you or fear you deeply over nothing. Five-year-olds do all that just as well as 30-year-olds? You better believe it.

I was an only child, desperately seeking children my own age for friendship. But even the first day of kindergarten proved to me that I had royally bungled that attempt. I was exuberant and talked in outlandish imaginative words. I wasn’t used to having other kids to play with, they weren’t used to a weird kid like me, and I didn’t understand their “picking” and “teasing.” All this difference didn’t serve me very well, because soon I was the absolute outcast in the classroom, apparently too different to befriend or even speak to.

The Pattern Continues

Elementary school passed in much the same way–the glass wall between me and the rest of my classmates did not come down over time, but only strengthened. I would attempt to play with the popular kids, and they would laugh and walk away as if I wasn’t even human enough to treat with respect. I would try to talk to the kids sitting on the edges of the playground, who also looked lonely, and they would scream and run away as if I was some terrible monster. It made me feel unworthy to be alive. I had parents who loved me and told me I was a good person–but how good of a person could I be if my entire grade level couldn’t stand to be anywhere within ten feet of me? I was clean, I dressed neatly, and I was good at schoolwork. Despite this, was I somehow tainted?

Whatever was “wrong” with me in the eyes of my classmates has been a mystery to me since those long-ago days of early grade school. All I know is that my role in the school’s social system was established early on, and I was not allowed to move from that Godforsaken role until well into high school. I was the whole class’ emotional punching bag, no matter if you were a “nerd,” a “jock,” a “prep,” or anything else. Anybody could pick on me because I didn’t know how to defend myself against it, and it was apparently great fun making me cry because I gave people what they wanted–a response. I got teased for my hairstyles, my clothes, my grades, the way I walked, the way I talked, my height…absolutely anything and everything they could think of.

And yet, I continued to try to reach out to these people, because they were my classmates, for better or for worse, and they were the best shot I had at trying to form friendships with kids my own age. My life was school and home; I had no neighborhood of kids my age to come home to. I kept trying the same things expecting a different result, hoping that this attempt might get at least one of the kids to respond positively. Some days, after 7 1/2 fruitless hours of this, I came home and fervently prayed to God that I would die in my sleep. And that was just elementary school. Even then, I already knew death would be an escape from the horrible, crushing loneliness I felt.

Loneliness -> Depression

Around second grade, largely due to loneliness, I lapsed into what I now know as my first cycle of depression, which had been immediately preceded by several severe crying fits in the classroom. I cried because of the teasing; I cried because I was hurting emotionally. My second-grade teacher could not deal with me, so she sent me to the office, twice. I was reminded that if I had a third office visit, I would be suspended. I was horribly afraid of that third office visit (what it meant for my precious-seeming permanent record more than anything), and so I began to internalize my feelings so that I wouldn’t be sent to the office and permanently marked as a “bad kid.”

Depression came to join loneliness very soon after, at the same time my teacher began to praise me for my magical “turnaround” in my behavior. If she had only known what she had helped to engender in me; the sadness stagnated within me and festered into a darker emotional infection. My life thus became my schoolwork; pride in my work took the place of friendship. If I could not have friends, then I would just be the best in school and no one could disrespect me for that.

I spent the rest of elementary school in this fog, which only a few people pierced through to become friends; I still remember them fondly and have kept up with them over the years. But I remember also the silences which followed every “cool” comment I tried to make in groups; everyone just got awkwardly quiet, and then resumed talking as if I had never spoken. I also remember the moments of aching for someone to just recognize that I was there, that I was a fellow human being, and being too afraid to make the first move for fear of being laughed at and teased. (Isn’t it funny how our brains focus on the negative memories?)

Middle School: A Fertile Ground for Loneliness Indeed

Middle school did not clear this fog very much; in fact, as my body bloomed into its bigger adult form, I began to be teased for my weight as well as everything else. To think that I had looked forward to middle school, thinking would be better because I was with people from two other elementary schools, and I could make a clean slate of things. Unfortunately, the kids from my elementary school warned the kids from the other schools about me on the FIRST DAY, spreading vicious rumors and lies that they had grown up to believe about me.

By the second day of sixth grade, I was again an outcast, except with three times more people around to either tease or ignore me. But now, instead of just verbal abuse, I was physically assaulted, as well. Other kids slammed my head against lockers, held me against the wall so they could jiggle and pinch my flesh. A gang of six girls got together to torment me in the bathroom, dumping bathroom trash (used tampons and pads) down on my head in the bathroom stall, standing on each other’s shoulders to look down at me while I tried to use the restroom in peace. (Years later, I watched the movie Carrie and envied the title character for her ability to get back at all the hateful people in her life. I was all too familiar with the tactics her enemies used against her; the movie hit far too close to home.)

The Only Defense Against Loneliness

If it hadn’t been for seventh-grade choir, I probably would not be alive today. Choir gave me a sudden reason to live–I was suddenly one of the strongest singers in the choir, and other people depended on me for the voice part, whether they liked me or not. I was suddenly useful. The loneliness sped away when I sung with the group, because I had a purpose and I had people who needed me; it didn’t matter that I was fat, that I wore “high-water” pants, or that I still cried easily. Thus I learned something else about society–as long as I was useful, people would like me. I also discovered that I had a gift for vocal music, and coupled with the writing I had begun to do more of, I began to cling a little more closely to life.

Outwardly, I began to be more self-assured as I left middle school and went into high school. I looked very confident and poised on my graduation day, when I urged my classmates in a graduation speech to “be bold” and grab their futures. All through college, as well, I was considered to be studious, helpful, and well-educated, and people depended on me for help in tough classes. I was eager to help, not only because I enjoyed seeing other people achieve their best, but because they were genuinely grateful for my help and appreciated me.

Where Loneliness Still Blooms

But even as successful and “happy” as I appear, even today in my late twenties, I am actually no more self-assured now than I was back in seventh grade, as my teacher training so painfully taught me. As I watched my seventh-grade students flounder in loneliness and self-doubt, I saw myself…even the “teacher” skin could not cover it. I’m a Magna Cum Laude college graduate, generally well-liked by the people in my life, loved by a wonderful Christian man, and on my way to becoming successful with the writing and music I used to keep myself alive. Yet, I still apologize for everything and do my best not to get in people’s way. My past has taught me to err on the side of being too nice and too friendly. If I am considered “nice” and “friendly,” people will like me; if people like me, they’ll stay close to me, and never betray me.

Yeah, I’m a pretty pathetic person once you get to know me. I’ve been crushed by loneliness and depression for so much of my life that it’s almost more normal than normal. Almost everything about me is a coping strategy–my helpful nature, my humor, my writing, my music, even my gaming. Everything I do helps me deal with the horrible fear of being lonely as I once was, even as I’m surrounded with people who care about me. I live in fear of the ill-considered remark, the unintentional slight, the momentary mistake that leads to someone leaving my life.

With the help of my beloved, my friends, and my family, I am starting to dig out from under this loneliness…but it’s going to take a long time to free myself from these choking vines. But I hope one day I can see others as purely friendly instead of as potential enemies, and be rid of this loneliness at last.

Exercise: Not My Idea of Fun

notmyideaoffun
I’m currently 5’8″ and nearly 300 pounds. Yep, I said it. And traditional exercise, which has been touted as THE way for me to achieve fitness, is not fun for me, for a variety of reasons:

My Beefs with Traditional Exercise

  • Boring – nothing to think about but how much pain I’m in, how much this stinks, how much I’d rather be doing ANYTHING else (such as getting a root canal)
  • Isolating – none of my friends do any kind of exercise that I can get into, and none of them do what I’m interested in
  • Painful – everything hurts/gets sore very easily, and I hate the breathless, about-to-die feeling I get

A Little History: I USED to be a Thin, Active Little Girl

To understand how and why I’ve ended up this way, you have to know some of my background. I’ve been a fat girl longer than I was a skinny girl, but I do remember the days of being bone-thin. I was tall and fairly lean through most of elementary school–I played basketball during the school year, swam a good bit during the summers, and played both outside and inside. I also didn’t sit down to dinner long enough to really eat much, though I never went hungry, either. (As an extremely selective eater from early childhood, I chose foods based on texture almost more than taste, and ended up eating from a very limited palate which has persisted to this day.)

What Changed: Emotional Associations with Exercise, Onset of Puberty, and Injuries

Starting in fourth grade (age 10), however, my level of activity began to change, albeit slowly. I was cut from my basketball team because I had lost much of my speed to a foot injury and hadn’t really improved my playing skills. But to be honest, I had started losing interest in playing sports–I knew I wasn’t very good at physical activity, and I was beginning to be picked on for it. I just never was fast enough or quick-reacting enough, though I could pull off a surprise basket on occasion. As a result, I started doing more indoor, sedentary activities with my newly freed time.

By fifth grade, I had the basics of my adult hourglass figure in place. But fifth grade was also the year I entered weighing about 90 pounds and left weighing 145 pounds, with little to no change in my diet and regular P.E. exercise just as I had had for the previous 5 years of elementary school. This same body change has happened to all the women in my extended family–rapid weight gain and a radical body shape change around puberty, much more significant than other girls’ body changes. (I have wondered, in the years since, whether some form of endocrine imbalance or some form of hypothyroidism might be to blame, but most doctors seem not to know what we’re talking about, despite having a body of anecdotal evidence covering several lives and at least four decades.)

With womanhood barely a year away from me at age 11, puberty had thus backhanded me with an entirely new body–one I quickly learned to hate, just about as quickly as the other kids learned to tease me about it. My “muffin top” and “rolls” earned me so many jeers and so much physical abuse that I eventually quit trying to do much in P.E. at all. (Wouldn’t you have, if every time you so much a dribbled a ball some idiot would run over to you, grab the ball out of your hands, and smack it against your stomach hollering “FATTY FATTY FATTY! HAHAHA!”) Exercise, as a result, became less associated with fun and freedom, and more associated with pain, humiliation, and anxiety.

I gained about 10 pounds a year after puberty’s horrible 50-pound prank, and by college I battled to stay around 230-240 pounds. Several incidents, however, led to even walking being painful; going to class in the ice and snow led to repeatedly injured ankles and knees, which I could not get treatment for without having to WALK to the campus infirmary. (Explain that one to me!) Having always had weak ankles and flat feet (thanks to heredity), the injuries did not heal properly, which has left me with constant pain while walking. I even have a handicapped sticker, one which I am grateful for but wish fervently that I did not have to use as often as I do.

Would I Like to Exercise? Yes! Does Any Exercise Interest Me? NO!

The thing that annoys me the most about traditional exercise is the heavy emphasis on pointless repetition of mind-numbing activities. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be “training muscles” and whatnot, but it is as maddening to me as doing 30 identical math problems for homework. It’s a huge attack of “same stuff different day”–there’s nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing challenging mentally.

And, if my brain is not kept busy, then its only remaining focus is the condition of my body–you know, the straining muscles, the joints in pain, the sweat in my eyes. If exercise is repetitive (and most of the traditional programs out there are), then I end up tense, anxious, and eventually angry that I’m wasting my time doing this stuff and I’m going to waste even more time trying to recover later. (Keep in mind, I have a lot of injuries, so my body normally takes a longer time to recover from exercise anyway.)

How to Solve This?

An ideal exercise routine for me would be:

  • Fun – keeps my mind as well as my body busy
  • Social – involves friends and family as part of a get-together
  • Less painful – I know exercise is going to hurt, but it doesn’t have to hurt this much!

Let it be known that just walking on a track like a rodent in a wheel doesn’t cut it for me, nor for most like me, I’d imagine. I and other people in my same condition want more out of exercise than just doing 10 reps of this and 10 reps of that for an hour or so. Doesn’t that make sense?