I have no one to talk to, and it’s my doing.
I wish I had someone close to talk to. It hurts so much.
I want to watch the universe expand
I want to break it into pieces small enough to understand
And put it all back together again
In the quiet of my private collection
It feels like an out of body experience
But something gets lost from a safe distance
Now I can’t put my mind to rest
And I can’t help but second-guess
Living behind this one-way mirror
I’m hypnotised by this anomaly
Such strange uncharted territory
A white flag waves in the dark between my head and my heart
My armour falls apart
As if I could let myself be seen, even deeply known
Like I was already brave enough to let go
And now I want to generously lose this energy
That I’ve been hanging onto so desperately
I finally feel the universe expand
It’s hidden in heartbeats
Exhales and in the hope of open hands
“Yeh, uh, I like you.”
“Thanks, I like you too. But we barely know each other, so for now, you like the idea you have of me.”
“That’s always the case though.”
“This has been nice. The nicest time I’ve had in a while.”
“It’s crazy to me, that, you say you’ve never had a friend or an SO.”
“Guess I’ve one-upped you on the eccentricity and weirdness.”
“It makes me wanna look out for you, and like, iunno.”
“I’m struggling, in multiple ways…”
“How to phrase — how much of my internal situation I should make external.”
“Sleep on it then? Take the time to formulate your thoughts?”
“It seems to me that, a guy would be lucky to be your SO.”
“I don’t think so.”
“(Shrug) Just seems that way to me.”
“Maybe it’s just because I’m weird and tired but I feel like…”
“Chatting with you has been interesting, and relaxing, and comfortable, and, not lonely.”
“Same for me.”
Soon after, the silences crept in more and more. Hours became days, then weeks became months. Conversation got more sporadic and spread out.
The End: A Year Later
“Could I go over a social situation with you and then hear your insights on it?”
“It isn’t a current situation or anything, it’s from the past and I’m just ruminating. It occurred to me that the person in question in this scenario was from X as well and I just thought that you might have some insight, but I don’t mean to say that all X-ians are the same or that you represent all of X, just whatever take you have on it would be good. I also have not formed the words to it yet so it’ll probably take a long while for me to spew all.”
“Okie dokie. INTJargon, let me just say that you’re a very considerate person, much more so than me. I’m not as sensitive to other people’s emotions or thoughts. I’m not sure how much I can really help you, but I’m willing to try.”
“I’m just prefacing more so for my benefit.”
“I would have said what I said without the preface.”
“This person was a stranger. I was meeting a group of strangers for the first time, as it was for everyone else as well. No one knew each other beforehand.”
[5 minutes pass] “Words are so hard.”
“It was a d&d group I wanted to try, and that was our first meeting to discuss the game and settle some things, like where and how often we’d be meeting and all that, especially since I was a total newbie while the others were more experienced with playing the game. I think I came across to the others as pushy and manipulative, because of the way I communicate and my preference for being decisive on matters.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It can take a few runs to get in to the swing of tabletop games. People expect it. Just make sure you’re not trying hard to ‘win’. Sorry for being a bit terse but I have to run now. I’ll write some more thoughts later, and please feel free to keep writing.”
“That isn’t the issue, I’m nowhere near done yet.”
“Oh okay, well, I have to go.”
“Write it all out and I’ll read it all, okay? I’ll get back to you later. I want to help if I can.”
“K, it’ll take me really long anyway.”
“For instance, when the DM asked if we’d like version A or B of the game, I was the first to state that I’d prefer version A. The X-ian INFJ guy followed by saying he’d rather version B, but the majority of the group went with A and he was a little disappointed with that. And my other comments like “Please do not make it longer than 6 hours. That’s too long. You’ve played for x amount of hours before?! Continuously? Wow. I can’t.” I think it became a little like I was the one deciding things and calling the shots and getting others to agree with me, which irked the DM and him, especially since I was a newbie. I also corrected them on certain facts that they got wrong which they didn’t appreciate and found rude instead, probably exacerbated by how I did it, which was an immediate frown at them and a “No.” So all this just made us get off on the wrong foot, and the INFJ guy didn’t think too well of me and didn’t like me all that much. Now comes the part during that first gathering that I’d like to hear your thoughts about:
I’m just more direct in my communication and I’m quite upfront with what I like/dislike and want/don’t want especially when decisions are being made and they affect me. I had wanted to purchase the d&d guidebook so I could read up on it and learn more about the game and the mechanics beforehand, but it didn’t seem available locally when I searched online before the gathering. The DM said that he could send us the PDF copies but I still wanted the physical book because I thought it’d be a nice collection and I was really excited about playing the game. I even went on to purchase special dice and dice bags and all that later. The only place I’d found it available was on Amazon, but I think because of the weight of the hardcover book, the international shipping charges were really high and it cost almost as much as the book itself. So I essentially had to pay double for the book just because of the shipping. I told them that and asked if they knew anywhere else I could get the book, but they had no other ideas either. Then we were discussing when we could start playing the game. I tried to urge everyone to start asap because I was really excited and couldn’t wait to start but some of the others had other plans. The INFJ guy mentioned that he was going on vacation the following week and that he could only start after he’s back. My ears perked up because, in my mind, I thought perhaps there was a chance he was going back home to X for a visit and I could get Amazon to deliver the book to his family’s home instead which should cost much less since it’s within XYZ, and he could just pass the book to me at our next meeting. I forgot what exactly I asked him; it’s been a few years. But I didn’t explain that whole thought process at all and asked something along the lines of, “When/Where are you going?” He knew I was looking to jump at an opportunity and replied curtly, “I’m not going to get the book for you.” I was taken aback and didn’t say anything, to which he took as a triumph that he’d caught me in my manipulative move.
I found out later that he was just going to Y, but I think what he thought was that I was going to ask him to search around for bookstores on his vacation to see if they carried it and to buy it for me. Maybe it’s because of my lack of explanation as I didn’t say anything about what I was thinking, or maybe there might have been some cultural differences, I’m not sure. Because Z-ians typically are quite happy to help others with acts of service (not me personally, but that’s the usual), even with helping others get stuff from other countries on their vacations. It’s not so much a necessity but at least an “I’ll try to keep a look out for you”, you know? And actually, just a couple of weeks later or so, someone else I knew (a local) announced that she was going to visit her sister in ABC and asked this whole chat group we were in whether we wanted anything from there. What a contrast. I asked if I could deliver an Amazon item to her sister’s place, she gave me the address, and a month or two later, she came back with the book. It doesn’t take much, does it? As long as you’re comfortable providing me the address, all you’d have to do is get the package when it’s delivered and put it in the luggage and pass it to me the next time? There’s no cost other than carrying it. But he thought differently and mistook my intentions for something malicious.
So I was wondering if you have any insight into this matter. Let me know your take on it. I’ve thought about this incident countless times over the years and maybe you’ll be able to point some things out that have not occurred to me at all. Another’s perspective instead of just my own, you know? The time stamps show I’ve been at this for almost 2 hours.. Words just come so easily to me.”
“It sounds like he just didn’t like you, and maybe not even that, maybe he just felt comfortable being blunt and straightforward with you since you seemed to be that way with him. He kind of sounds like a bit of a dickhead either way. (Hugs) You spent two hours writing this, and you’ve been thinking about it for years. It doesn’t seem like this really warrants being that important to you? This seems like something you should let go, and like it isn’t worth feeling anything negative about.”
“I doubt I was very helpful, but it’s no problem.”
(A few days later)
“I think we should stop. Thanks for everything, INTP.”
“What? Why? Did I do something? Please don’t just ghost me, that would be really really hurtful. If you don’t want to talk to me anymore, at least give me a reason why.”
“I’m pretty upset. I’d really appreciate it if you would message me.”
“No, it isn’t you.”
“It’s just me.”
“That’s not an explanation. I can’t stop you if you never want to talk to me again, but I like you a lot and I’d be really sad if you did. I understand that you feel like this is being caused by some problem on your end, but if there is something I can do on my end to preserve our friendship, I’d like to know.”
“Withdrawing’s what I do, I’m sorry.”
“That’s not fair. This doesn’t sound like something you want to do. This sounds like something you think you need to do. And I can’t see how withdrawing from our friendship is going to make you happy or be a healthy choice, so how can I possibly feel okay about this? You’re a kind person, being able to chat with you is something I cherish. If you really just don’t like me, then I understand, but you haven’t said anything to me to make me believe that. Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Withdrawing from your personal connections is a really big warning sign of emotional distress. I care about you. You matter to me.”
“I’ve always been this way.”
“Why? You still haven’t told me why.”
“It’s just how I am.”
“I’m so stressed out about this. Why did you decide that you had to withdraw now all of a sudden? What changed? I’m worried about you. Please talk to me.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.”
(A few days later)
“INTJargon, are you doing alright?”
(A couple of weeks later)
“Hey INTJargon, I hope you’re doing okay.”
(A few days later)
“Heya, I hope you’re doing okay. It’d be cool if we could chat a little sometime, but I understand if you don’t want to.”
“Thanks INTP, I just have nothing much to talk about.”
(A week later) — Conversation sparked, and then this came up:
“Do you think I misunderstand your personality?”
“Do you feel like I have a good understanding of you? In relative terms anyway.”
“I’m not sure, I was actually about to ask you a similar question, just with more sad undertones to it.”
“What were you going to ask?”
[Minutes pass] “I feel like you’re writing carefully, based on the little ‘INTJargon is typing…’ popping up and disappearing.”
“Yes, that’s how I type and talk and think.”
“Of course. I brought it up just to show appreciation for it, and to indicate the level of attention I’m giving you.”
“But anyway, if you identify as a 5, do you understand the 5’s way of retreating into their shell and being completely cut off from everyone and everything external?”
“Yes. For me, when I’m very distressed, it manifests as a desire to curl up and die in a small secluded space. When I was a kid and I would feel that, I’d wrap myself up in blankets and lock myself in my closet.”
“I’d run to my room and lock myself in but sometimes my parents would get me before I could shut the door and I had to push my furniture around to line them up from door to wall so they wouldn’t be able to open the door with the key.”
“Haha, I did that once or twice too.”
“Lots of intrusiveness, which is a big thing for the 5s.”
“That really affected me a lot. But what I was going to say was: …”
[Minutes pass] “Are you just teasing me with the typing notification now?“
“I’ve been on this path for a very long time and I’m just letting you know that our communication will come to an end soon and that it’s nothing to do with you, it’s all on me; you’re the last one I’m still in contact with now and, soon, I’ll be in full shutdown mode, disconnected from everyone and the external world — the way unhealthy 5s fall and disintegrate. So thanks for everything, INTP, it’s been really great getting to know you and talking to you, and I hope things work out well for you.”
“I’m not okay with this. I don’t want you to fall and disintegrate. I want to support you. Why are you treating this like it’s inevitable? Why are you acting like there is no hope of anything changing? INTJargon, I care a lot about you. You won’t be able to push me away. I’ll always be waiting for you to come back, and I’ll always be glad to see you. Obviously, I don’t want it to even come to that if it can be avoided. It’s so unfair of you to write all of that, and then not give me a chance to respond. Please just acknowledge that you’ve seen what I wrote here, at the very least, whenever you do read it. You’re the kind of person I want to be close to.”
“Why am I treating this like it’s inevitable? Because inferior Se, because it’s always been this way, because it’s how I see things happening. Once things are cut off, I don’t ever come back, I’m sorry.”
“You can take a step towards being more healthy. What is driving this? I still don’t understand. Is it anxiety? I want to understand. For me, when I would retreat, it was because of stress or anxiety, or pain. Or all three. So please tell me why you’re retreating now, or at least try.”
“I don’t want to be healthy; I want to cut myself off and fall and disintegrate.
Depression, anxiety, the fearful-avoidant attachment style, and going down the unhealthy levels of the INTJ and the 5.
I’ve always been in retreating mode — that’s how a 5 is. We emerge from our shells sporadically for short periods at a time, only to scurry back into our shells to investigate our findings and to research from afar. Only the healthiest of 5s are at ease with being one with the external world.
The escalation of my level of retreating has been at its worst, or at its second worst, depending on your perspective. I think it’s because of my giving up in totality. I don’t wish to even try to emerge from my shell anymore, or to engage with anyone. I just want to be removed from it all.”
“I wish I mattered to you the way that you matter to me.”
“You do matter to me.”
(The next day)
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. You’ve been nothing but kind and caring and patient towards me. I was just upset. There haven’t been many people in my life who treat me the way you do. You’re special to me and you always will be.”
“You’re special to me too. But we’ve been fading for a long time now, haven’t we?”
“I haven’t felt that.”
“That Gotye ‘Somebody I Used to Know’ just started playing on the radio, ugh.”
“That’s kind of funny. INTJargon, have you needed more of my attention?”
“It’s okay, INTP.”
“I’m happy to give you more. I’m kind of insecure, and I know you don’t like to be proactive about that kind of thing. So, it’s hard for us to communicate, but I’m willing to put in effort to overcome that, because you’re great, INTJargon. Honestly, you’re really great. You’re clever and witty and fun. I like spending time with you.”
“Thanks, but I think it’s a little too late. The fault isn’t yours, it’s mine.”
(A few days later)
“I think it’s time, INTP. Thanks for everything and I wish you all the best.”
“I don’t understand why.”
Seven months later, I got deleted. And that really stung. I was sobbing for days on end. But it’s my fault really, it’s my own doing. I sound so childish saying all this. It’s all still so painful.
I build walls to protect myself.
I build walls to safeguard myself.
I build walls to see who would climb.
I build walls to see who’d even try.
These walls I’ve built serve me no longer,
For I’ve become my own prisoner.
At a recent course I attended:
- ENFJ instructor: “You have an aura of calmness.” ✗
- ENFP instructor: “You’re very calm.” ✗
- (How strange. Others have made these comments before but it still surprises me to hear it to this day.)
- INFJ coursemate: “If I want to learn curse words, I know to go to ENTP coursemate and not INTJargon.” ✓
All I do is just read old conversations and weep. It’s all still so painful. I’ve read and reread thousands and thousands of pages, and there are many more thousands to go. It’s all I have. When I’m done, I’ll go back to the beginning and reread them again.
I have to remember that I’m nothing special. I may be different, but it’s easy being different. One just has to not follow the herd and go against the grain. But I’m not special or better or more intelligent than anyone else. I can slip into thinking that way in my arrogant moments. I have to remind myself that I’m not special at all.
- Do you perceive intimate relationships as dangerous?
I wouldn’t necessarily term it as ‘dangerous’ per se, but definitely scary, nerve-racking, anxiety-inducing, and overwhelming. It feels so vulnerable and exposed and intense and open to hurt and pain.
2. Do you sometimes become frozen or immobile in relationship with others — times when you feel you cannot move in any direction whatsoever?
Yes, I become paralysed when it gets too overwhelming for me. I’m unsure of what to do or say, how to do or say them, and my voice may not even work. My mind’s just racing through the inner turmoil and my heart’s pounding from all the emotions and anxiety.
3. Do you often struggle with mixed messages from other people (for example, “Come here, go away”)?
I think I tend to give off mixed messages more so than the other way round, but yes, I tend to perceive mixed messages from others as well, even if it might not be so.
4. Do you sometimes experience an inexplicable fear when you reach a certain level of intimacy with others?
Yes, because now they could really hurt me deeply, because now I could — am going to — lose them eventually, because now they’ll see just how damaged and unlikable I am and not like me anymore, because they’re too good for me and I know I should let them go so they don’t get bogged down by me. And I’ve never come close to this, but the next scary part is when it gets physical. I don’t know how badly I’d react to that, but it’s really scary and anxiety-inducing for me.
5. When others approach you unexpectedly, do you have an exaggerated startle response?
I guess so, more so internally, I think. I’m not sure how much of it is external. Because what do they want from me and because of social anxiety.
6. Have people complained that you are too controlling?
They used to but not in recent years. I was and can be controlling, but I’m too exhausted for it right now, which I guess is good in a way as I’m not as obnoxious.
7. Do you often expect that the worst will happen in relationships?
The worst? I don’t think so, but I am fearful of it, that it’ll become that way. I always expect that the relationships won’t last for long though, because they never have and I’ll never let it last. It’s a pretty bleak self-fulfilling loop.
8. Do you feel close relationships may trigger dysregulation that is difficult to manage?
I’m not sure what dysregulation is, but from just briefly skimming through this and this, I don’t think so. I just get overwhelmingly sad and/or anxious, and it’s very much internal — I don’t really react externally or have emotional outbursts. But I guess it does trigger a lot of internal turmoil that’s difficult to manage, if that counts.
9. Do you struggle to feel safe with your partner, even when a big part of you knows they are trustworthy?
Yes, I’d think so. I have trust issues.
10. Do you often disconnect, dissociate, or become confused in relationships?
I don’t identify with dissociation at all and I find it hard to comprehend what exactly it is. I don’t think I become confused in a bad way, I just think deeply about and question certain things that perplex or interest me. I think I do disconnect though, swinging from hot to cold and giving that “come here, go away” mixed message.
11. When it comes to past relationships, do you have a difficult time remembering them or discussing the feelings you experienced?
No, not at all. Discussing my feelings may be difficult but in the sense of whether I trust the person I’m discussing it with and how much time I have to process my thoughts and feelings and put them to words.
12. Do you sometimes have substantial memory blocks — periods of time or significant events that you can’t remember?
13. Do you experience unpredictable sudden shifts of state (for example, switching from joy to happiness to fear and anger)?
Internally, yes, and more so to sadness and anxiety and fear. There’s a lot of internal turmoil. Like the few people I met whom I clicked with instantly, I was aware of how happy and excited and comforted I felt about such a rare find, to meet someone else who’s on the same wavelength, how special they are, how special it was. But then I’d be overcome by an intense sadness and emptiness as well, picturing the end before it even begins, knowing that the end of the relationship is just round the corner, knowing that it wouldn’t last. Then the social anxiety slips in and takes over, and I worry about and agonise over every thing I say and do out of fear that they won’t like me the more they get to know me. I’d be fearful of them hurting me too, be it physically, emotionally, or verbally. And all of this inner turmoil is in the span of one conversation.
14. When triggered, do you become stressed or confused by complicated instructions and arrangements?
Yes, but I don’t think it’s any more than the average person’s reaction to such when they’re in distress.
15. Do you sometimes feel set up to fail and unable to solve problems?
Yes, all the time in a way, because I set myself up for imminent failure. I’m never good enough.
16. Have you experienced deep longings to connect with others and then inexplicably want to get away from them?
Deep longings to connect with others — always, all the time, 24/7. An inexplicable want to get away from them — sometimes, but it’s complex. Maybe it’s when I feel like they’re pushing for something that I cannot give or am not comfortable with giving at that point in time. Maybe it’s when I feel too overwhelmed or too sad that I don’t want to burden them or annoy them by repeating my same sad loops over and over again to them. But a lot of the time, I feel like it’s them who want to get away, even if it’s just for a short break (which logically and rationally, I know is fine and normal, but emotionally, I take it as a rejection and I’m extremely hypersensitive to rejection — which is my issue, not theirs), because I’m too intense and sad all the time. And then I feel that if I really care for and about them, I should stay away from them and seize things between us for their benefit, because they’d be better off without me.
Excerpts from The Power of Attachment:
They can also “escape when there is no escape” by dissociating and disconnecting from pain altogether.
Internal Conflict and Confusion
The disorganised adaptation comes with a lot of confusion — cognitive, emotional, and somatic. This makes sense when you consider that the fundamental issue with disorganised attachment is that two major biological drives are in constant conflict. We’re instinctually driven to connect with others, but we’re also programmed to avoid danger and to survive. When there’s excess fear in our original patterning, we can feel that relationships are fundamentally dangerous, and yet we long to connect. Often this shows up in ways that are difficult for us to understand. One minute we feel available for intimacy and connection, and then in the next we feel triggered or terrified that something is going to go horribly wrong. The intimacy itself may trigger the feelings of threat from our original attachment scenario. When this happens, we can get stuck in approach-avoid dynamics that are quite confusing to us and to our partners. As I mentioned earlier, the attachment system is always operating. As we gradually rely on our partners more and they depend on us, we become each other’s primary attachment figure and feel more trust about not losing the relationship. As our attachment system recognises the other person as more permanent, this can connect us to our memories of our other primary attachment figures. Sometimes the beginning of the relationship works well, but with disorganised attachment there can be a trigger for danger when intimacy hits a certain depth. Suddenly these intimacy triggers pop up, and we’re frightened of our previously comfy partners. Most of the time, this involves body memories that don’t have any particular story attached to them. All of a sudden we feel terrified of someone we also love deeply, and this can be incredibly confusing to everyone involved.
Overwhelm and the Freeze Response
The freeze response is a hallmark of disorganised attachment, but it is also common in people of all attachment styles who have suffered significant trauma. When the attachment system is at odds with our survival instinct, it’s a recipe for experiencing a freeze response. You may have heard of the freeze response referred to in different ways: Peter Levine uses the term “tonic immobility,” and Stephen Porges calls it a “dorsal-vagal freeze.” In this highly charged condition, part of us wants to move forward, and part of us wants to move away. Imagine trying to drive your car like that! You put one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake and what happens? The engine revs and revs, but the car is working against itself, nobody goes anywhere, and you could burn out the engine over time. From the outside, it just looks like somebody sitting in a car that isn’t moving. They might even look relaxed. But when you examine the situation closely, you see that there’s an incredible tension created from contrasting impulses. The sympathetic nervous system wants to act strongly and defensively, and the parasympathetic nervous system is trying to put the brakes on. A freeze response might look stationary and passive, but it’s a state of incredible arousal. It’s an extreme state of being “stuck” that’s typically fraught with fear, dissociation, and immobility — even paralysis. In this condition, it isn’t uncommon for people to lose their ability to hear or speak (the cranial nerve that activates the voice box and/or the inner ear can actually shut off). At the very least, people who live with this adaptation can have difficulty communicating their distress and staying present when it happens.
Play with perceptions and perspectives change Stand in a different position and things look different Peer at it from a different angle and you have a different perspective Water runs through hands Slips through fingers Finds new curves Carves its own path Try and grasp it — it just slips away So you contain it Keep it hostage in a bucket That way it can never flow away It stays stagnant It remains contained In cars, I look out the window At the world passing by At the people Wondering about their lives Their stories Unable to reach them But am I really looking at them and at the world When all I see is a reflection A reflection of my thoughts, my perceptions, my views A metaphor for my life Observing behind a glass panel Unreachable Untouchable A strength and a vice A strength is in and of itself a weakness A weakness a strength I am here but I am not I am on this earth but in a world of my own, encased in glass I walk through crowded streets but I roam alone I toe the line, always in limbo Neither here nor there Just in between Safe from hurt but hurting from safety The walls I’ve built to keep the hurt out Are now walls that keep the hurt in That contain the hurt Like a bucket of water Stagnant Never flowing Contained Like a disease It shouldn’t be released It should be kept contained Kept away So I roam the streets Walking round the loops in my head Looking at my reflection on the glass panel With the world behind, in the distant background
“So my read on you huh? You don’t like letting people get close to you, which is why you don’t want compliments. However, you aren’t completely against it as you give compliments out, just not accepting them yourself. Close at all?”
“First one, not quite, at least I don’t think. But that shot right through my core, mind you.”
“I wasn’t trying to offend you.”
“It wasn’t offensive, just accurate. The first one, both are true, but not linked.”
“You don’t want to let people close to you because you are afraid of them leaving or hurting you?”
“Many, many reasons.”
“That may be one.”
“Bad relationships in the past?”
“Relationships in the broad sense, yes.”
“So you don’t want anyone to get close to you because you were hurt by friends or partners in the past. And you’re afraid of opening up to people because you feel like they’ll just leave again.”
“Not just that, but for many reasons.”
“Is that the main reason?”
“Good question. I’d say no.”
“Afraid of getting close to me?”
“It’s not a simple answer.”
“It’s difficult. I could get you to define what exactly you mean, for one.”
“As in hard to explain, or difficult for you to talk about? I mean in general, try to explain? It’s okay if you fumble your words or whatever.”
“It’s both hard to explain and difficult to talk about.”
“I won’t force you.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s just fear alone, and not just you but everyone in general.”
“Well I’m here for you, if you’ll let me be.”
“I wish it were that simple.”
“It can be if you let it, y’know?”
“Don’t think it works that way.”
“Because it’s more complicated than that, it’s much more complex.”
“Explain it to me.”
“If it’s that simple of an answer, there’d be less suffering in the world and people would use it as a quick fix to their problems.”
“Sorry if I’m being annoying.”
“Ok. […] What’s up?”
“Thinking; I always am.”
“About what you said, and why, and how, and leaps to other connections.”
“It’s how my mind works.”
“I like it about you.”
“That, I will take. Thanks.”
Conversations like this make me cry so much. The few people who read me so well. I don’t know how they’d go in person; they’d probably be cut short. I’d be overwhelmed and would just run off, or my voice wouldn’t work and I’d just be frozen, unsure of what to do or say but with my mind and heart racing and fighting back tears.
As I became more anxious and fatigued with these night panics, I also became extremely self-critical. I always felt like I was ugly, fat, or out of style. I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to pick out clothes to wear. None of them ever seemed right and I would end up in tears crying and complaining to my mom. I was on a roller coaster emotionally. One look from a friend that I interpreted as critical, or an action I thought was a personal snub, would send me into a downward spiral of self-loathing and disgust. If I received a compliment or a good comment from a teacher, I would find myself on a short-lived high, but somehow I never felt like I owned the compliments I received.
My journal from this time is full of entries where I berate myself for not being smarter, or cooler, or better at having friends. Everything is my fault, my failing. Why else would I feel so alone even when I am spending time with friends? Why else would I be so afraid of things everyone else seems to take in stride?
Interestingly, I can remember that I continued to feel strangely superior as well. There are entries in my journal in which I remind myself that I am not like everyone else, that I am special, different, wise, unique — and that is why I always feel alone. I continue to feel like a heroine in my own story. And I tell myself that I was meant to be misunderstood, to be different, because I was meant for greater things. However, these words and ideas I used to comfort myself grew harder to hold on to.
The column of words is complete and I take it uncertainly up to Mrs. Williams’ desk. She reads it quietly out loud. “This is a poem, Sam.”
I smile despite myself, pleased, proud, but still disbelieving. “Really? You mean everything I have been doing so far can be turned into a poem just by changing the way it looks on the page?”
“Not everything. But sections or paragraphs where you use imagery to describe scenes or thoughts and feelings — that can be poetry.”
I let this new revelation wash over me, sink in. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme? It doesn’t have to be about love or anything like it? Poetry is a concise way to express feelings or describe the world around you? I am surprised by the idea. I reluctantly believe her — what I write is poetry already.
I am old, the sun has set,
it is time for me to fade into the background of life;
Death has given me his cloak to wear.
Do not worry, for his cloak is warm, and the chill north
wind can no longer harm me.
I can feel my soul as it is pulled from me and
taken to a place where it can be at
It is time. My breath becomes the falling
breeze, and my body the solid
stem; my arms become the branches
reaching to a higher grace, and my
hair unfolds into leaves of light.
I have entered the forest of
eternity and stand as a tree should.
A sigh passes from my lips,
and all is still.
I am old,
and the sun
In the article, Dr. Baum explains how students can be both incredibly gifted and incredibly disabled. At one point in the article, she describes this type of student and explains how they typically go unidentified as learning disabled:
The second group of youngsters in which this combination of learning behaviours may be found are those who are not noticed at all. These students are struggling to stay at grade level. Their superior intellectual ability is working overtime to help compensate for weaknesses caused by an undiagnosed learning disability. In essence, their gift masks the disability and the disability masks the gift. These students are often difficult to find because they do not flag the need for attention by exceptional behaviour. Their hidden talents and abilities may emerge in specific content areas or may be stimulated by a classroom teacher who uses a creative approach to learning. The disability is frequently discovered in college or adulthood, when the student happens to read about dyslexia or hears peers describe their learning difficulties.
I decided to slip off my shoes and wade out into the water. It struck me, as the quiet liquid inched up over my knees, around my thighs, and up to my hips, that for the first time, I am really living my life. I am not just watching people from the shore, but I am swimming with them.
She found her place. I’m still waiting to find mine.