I’ve always wondered if I suffer from a mild post traumatic syndrome or if I’m mostly just depressed or anxiety filled. I decided to write this because I have a crying reflex that is completely out of my control when I’m in certain situations. It’s embarrassing, frustrating, mortifying in some cases and it opens the door to be openly mocked (“oh, heeere come the tears!”, “oh what? You going to cry now?!”). I want to go over my childhood to be open about why I am an emotional mess when I’m in frustrating circumstances.
When I was born, my parents were very active in the military peace keeping program and routinely left on a rotating schedule every six months or so. One would go to somewhere like Rwanda and then as soon as they got back the other one would leave for somewhere like Bosnia. This routine continued for about 6 years of my life straight and eventually the tours became less and less but the situations and war zones that they still went to were not any easier to cope with.
I remember being very little maybe around two and both my parents were sent away on courses so I had to be looked after by my babysitter for about three weeks. It’s weird thinking back to that time because, I can feel right now how I felt then; is this my life now? Why aren’t I at home? Where are my parents and are they okay? Are they ever coming back? Even though I didn’t fully comprehend their job and what they had to do for a living, I somehow just knew that what they did was potentially dangerous.
When we moved to Trenton I thought I would be welcomed by my new Kindergarden classmates as I knew the school was close to the base and there would be kids who would be in the same situation as me. I quickly discovered that being a half anglophone/ half francophone that I would not be accepted by the fully french students. They didn’t talk to me and avoided me like the plague just in case my English rubbed off on them or something. I was ostracized for something so menial and I still feel like I missed out on developing good social skills because of this. In the six years that we lived there I barely made an acquaintance, I was routinely picked on or made to feel invisible.
My home life in Trenton was a strange way to grow up as well. We lived out in the country where there wasn’t anyone to really play with so I played by myself outside or in my room for the most part. My brother was born about a year after living there and I honestly don’t remember him playing a role in my life until he was about 3 or so. I vividly remember him at this point in time because, out of his own feelings with our unique situation, he took the role of little brother to a bullying level. I think it was his way of getting my attention, because I think up until then I ignored him for the most part. Instead of thinking of him as an instant friend, I always thought of him as in the way and I hated that at that young age, he was able to be socially accepted by his peers and of course he was the baby and got more attention from my parents. It sounds silly to me typing that out, but I really think that was the base to my reasoning.
I spent a lot of time alone, I was very quiet, and I liked to stay occupied. I did a lot of puzzles, reading, playing with my barbies and things like that. I also know that I was very quiet because I was conditioned to be by my parents and care givers. If i was too loud after or before school I would get shushed, told to play in my room and told to be quiet. I’d be told things like “Mom and Dad had a long day, they need quiet and alone time”; so eventually I just learned to be quiet until they came to me to talk. The only time I felt it was okay to speak freely was at dinner time, but by then I didn’t want to talk anymore; dinners were always so insanely quiet, it still drives me insane to hear people chew because that’s all I heard at the table growing up.
Another big part of my childhood was babysitters; we probably went through about 5 babysitters in the six years that we were living in Trenton. I only really liked one of them, there was always an issue with the other ones…
One of them had no interest in the kids she babysat, she only cared about her three children. She’d brush my long hair without stopping for knots, ripping out chunks at a time and yelling at me to suck it up when I’d groan in pain. She spanked my baby brother for dirtying his diaper, which leaked onto the couch. I was almost hit by a car trying to save her son who was sitting in the road while she gossiped with neighbours; I pushed him out of the way and we we’re both alright, she yelled and punished me for “almost killing her son”. A car almost backed into me while we were out for a walk and she yelled at me for not noticing it. Keep in mind I’m about 4 years old in all of these scenarios. I finally told my mom what was happening there and she took us out of there immediately.
The next babysitter was also very focused on her own children but she did take the time to make sure we had activities to do and things like that. What I distinctly remember about this woman was that she scared me, I didn’t feel like I could ask her for anything and she was very condescending to me. I was in the first grade at this point and her house was across the street from the school and I had to walk to and back from school by myself, she never accompanied me which I don’t think my parents knew about (they might still not know). My first grade teacher was just like her, she’d yell at me in front of the class for things like yawning without covering my mouth or chewing on my hair (this was my preferred nervous tick). I became so scared of her that I refused to ask her to go to the bathroom for fear she’d criticize me in front of the class. My mentality was if I provoke her when I don’t even say anything what will she do if I open my mouth and talk? I still had no real friends and no support at school or at my babysitters so I ended up routinely pissing myself. I’d hold it all day as best as I could and eventually it would just happen out of my control. I vividly remember getting a recess detention and thanking the lord because I had just peed myself and I didn’t have to get up so no one would notice. I sat in my own pee for at least 2 hours, ran to put my snow pants on when the last bell rang and waddled as fast as I could back to the babysitters. When I got there she just rolled her eyes at me, and said “uh! again!?” as she took off my snow pants. She made me sit in a corner in my wet pants on a towel until my parents picked me up. They were obviously offended by her lack of action and we never went back.
The next babysitter was a woman who I only vaguely remember. We stopped going to her because she was really weird. They had a pool so we would bring towels and bathing suits and swim after school which was fine. One day I forgot my absolute favorite Pocahontas towel (I was very emotionally attached to things at this point). The next day as my parents were picking us up, I asked the babysitter where my towel was because I wanted it back. She kind of laughed and giggled and said that it had gotten lost. I asked how and became emotionally upset and her son who was about 7 or 8 piped in that they had been robbed and all they took was my towel. The babysitter backed up his story and made an elaborate story up about how the “burglar” climbed through a second storey window, took my towel and then left. We never went back to her after that incident.
In third grade, I had mastered holding my pee in all day, I wasn’t having accidents anymore and I was developing some small school friendships finally. Nothing life long lasting but having people to just talk to at school without me feeling constantly rejected was great. The babysitter at the time was also pretty normal, it was her son that made things weird one day when he decided to play “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with me. He showed me his penis and I then refused to show him my privates, as he was trying to pull down the front of my pants his mom walked in and lost it on him. Of course, being the nice and good babysitter that she was she told my parents about the incident and again we never went back.
The last babysitter that I had was great, I still have her on facebook almost 20 years later. She only took care of us for about a year before we were posted to Petawawa.
When my family moved to our new hometown, we were in a really nice suburb with lots of kids around to play with. I again expected to make a lot of friends with similar parental experiences as me, but I found out pretty fast that it was only maybe 1 in 20/30 kids who had one parent actively going on tours. As far as I know, me and my brother were actually the only ones to have two parents touring to war torn countries.
I remember my first week of school, I was very socially stunted and I didn’t make an effort to reach out to the kids in my class. At recess I would hang out alone or I would find someone who I thought was my age and play with them. I think this demonstrates how stunted I was, because the kids I was seeking to be friends with were all in grade one while I was in grade four. On an emotional level I honestly felt like I was their age and I felt accepted by them. One day, a student in my class took me aside and told me I was hanging out in the wrong part of the school yard. All the grade four students hung around the monkey bars and she brought me over there. After that I never tried befriending younger kids, I ended up making some school friends after that and that helped a lot.
My relationship with these four other girls was really odd looking back on it. I could never just be happy to have them around, I was always anxious and accusing them of not really wanting to be friends with me. I was always suspicious that they were against me and didn’t actually like me at all. There were a couple incidents that happened where I think I was validated for thinking that but for the most part they we’re just normal 9/10 year olds who weren’t plotting against me every chance they got. I very much denied myself true friends because of my past at the other school; I always thought they had an agenda against me when they really didn’t.
In Petawawa my parents each went on a couple tours in the four years that we lived there. I remember crying a lot but being more extroverted in making new friends and trying to seem cool. All my friends were girls and when my mom was away, my dad didn’t really know what kind of advice to give me. I again feel like I missed out on developing better social skills because no one understood what I was going through. The only real time I felt understood with the military lifestyle was when I would get called out of class to go and meet with special force Councillors who would gather all the students with parents away on tour. We would make crafts, letters, drawings that would all get sent away to them and while we were working away on them, the Councillors would ask us how we were holding up and what we thought they were doing over there and why it was important for them to be there.
After grade four, my parents decided that I was mature and old enough to babysit my brother before and after school so we didn’t have to deal with crappy babysitters anymore. I honestly still think that was the best decision they made and it boosted my independence greatly.
At the end of grade seven my parents sat my brother and I down with some chocolate milk and told us we were moving again. I was so happy to be moving somewhere new, I wanted another do over. I learned that every time we moved I got better socially and made more friends because of it. I was excited to get out of Petawawa and leave everyone behind. I think that’s also odd because I had made strong bonds with a few of the original girls I first made friends with and I couldn’t wait to leave them in my dust. I think that through everything I still felt like they weren’t my friends at all and that they wouldn’t blink an eye when I moved. I actually have them all on Facebook now and I’ve run into a couple of them in the last few years. We’re not good friends or anything but it’s a constant reminder that they could of been.
Our last move (which I won’t name because I still live in town) was just like the move to Petawawa. I made friends with the neighbourhood kids and quickly realized that in small towns you’ll never fit in as an outsider. I was kind of popular the first year because I was new and at the time there hadn’t been a new kid for years. After that though no one cared about my “newbie” status and I was left to fend for myself in high school. You could only be in a certain clique if your parents were friends while they were pregnant (honest to god). I’m actually witnessing the cycle now that some of those girls who wouldn’t let me be in their group as kids, are now pregnant and I’m assuming it will be the same thing with their children.
I won’t go into too much detail here because it was pretty basic; it was awkward, embarrassing, fun, horrible, normal and weird as fuck. I think just about every teen could associate with what I went through in high school because it was so textbook.
This is basically what my entire childhood came down to, are these details above. If you’ll notice I don’t mention my extended family. Although they played a role it wasn’t anything besides weekend visits and things like that, they really didn’t have anything to do with shaping me as I was growing up. My grandfathers had passed away between when I was born and a year old; I only saw everyone else once or twice a year and I come from a small extended family that you can count on two hands. After being exposed to what its like having a close knit big family through Hunter; I also feel like I was deprived from developing skills to connect to my family outside of my parents and brother. I still can’t just pick up the phone and call any of them, or meet up with any of them outside of family gatherings. They don’t reach out to me beside the odd birthday card and that’s about it.
After going all over this, I think I may be an irrational crier because of all the obvious pent up frustrations that I have. Between my parents working in dangerous environments and being aware of that; my inability to connect to others, my distrust of others including peers and adults; never feeling secure because of all the moving, and the pressure I put on myself to be the most respectful, thoughtful, responsible daughter/person that I could be to make things easier on my parents or people I was and am involved with. The last thing I want to be is a burden to anyone.
So whenever more frustration, conflict, arguments, confrontations, etc. come up in my life, it sends me over the edge and I can’t help it. This makes me feel like I’m losing more control which makes me even more emotional, which makes me cry more, which embarrasses me, which makes me more frustrated, which makes me cry harder and repeat.