So. But sometimes I still like to use my blog as therapy. Writing is a great therapeutic tool.
And so you see my daughter, my oldest daughter, my firstborn, this one that turned me into a mother . . . she turned 14 in May . . . 14?! How can this be? Yes. 14. And this turned my head around and whipped my mind around in circles and kind of kept me up at night in reflective thinking, flashbacking to some kind of memories and aching and wondering how such silly old memories could still seem to hurt so much, remembering and wishing I didn't remember some things. Then wondering how she and I are so different and our experiences will be so different (of course, because we are different), but then how we might be the same, and how can I be her mother, how can I best help her through these years, and why were they so hard for me, why were they just so hard and what was I supposed to learn from them . 14 was a transformative year for me. A hard year in a lot of ways. Much of this was through my own dumb choices which I recognize, but which I was blind to at the time, I guess. Who knows. What do we really know at 14.
I turned 14 in the middle of 8th grade. I had already had 5 so-called "boyfriends" (eeeeek, please please remember that little clause about not judging too harshly). I'd had a boyfriend attempt suicide. A friend who had been raped. A few friends who used drugs (although I had never had it offered to me). And one of these so-called boyfriends who did clearly only want "one thing" - he asked for it as his Christmas present. Nice. I had my older sister call and break up with that one for me - because I was very clearly mature enough to handle this on my own. hahahahahahah.
I also got mono at the end of 8th grade which meant I was very sick for what felt like forever. I ended up in the hospital for 3 or 4 days with abscessed tonsils that had to be drained. Then towards the end of that summer when I was 14 I had to have my tonsils taken out, which was awful. So it felt like I was very sick that entire summer.
Anyway, I don't know how others would have described me at that time. I guess I was shy? Insecure? Self-conscious? That sounds pretty typical of a teenage girl, but I think maybe it went beyond that.
You see, I had a problem with talking.
Let me explain.
My first "boyfriend" was in 6th grade, but I've told my kids that we didn't even talk, so it hardly even really qualified as a relationship. And that's no exaggeration. I mean I did not exchange words with this poor boy, ever. I even called him one night (our one and only phone conversation) and we said hello and then sat on the phone listening to each other breathe for 20 minutes. I kid you not. I'd like to say we share equal blame for this, which I suppose must be true to some extent. But I just don't really understand it. Why didn't we say anything to each other?!? How did that even happen? I don't know. And then the thing is, this kind of thing kept happening throughout my relationships. So I began to see that it must be me.
It was excruciating.
I think all of my so-called boyfriends had given me lines at some point such as "you should talk more" "why don't you talk" "you're too quiet" "what are you thinking" (except for the boy who I never actually talked to). These words would swarm around my head like bees and buzz so loudly I couldn't hear anything else until I couldn't even hear any of my own thoughts anymore and I would clam up even more than I had been before. Teenage Kristen Rule #1: If you wanted me to talk, don't bring attention to the fact that I wasn't talking. Some of the time, until they brought it up I wasn't even aware that I "wasn't talking". It was just comfortable quietness or listening to them talk, or laughing, or whatever. But then. Once I was aware. Then it always became awkward self-consciousness. Which I hated. Was I talking enough? What if I wasn't? What if I was too quiet? Was it not ok to be quiet? Other times, usually when I was very emotional, I would have so many thoughts and feelings and something would happen where I would physically shut down and I could. not. talk. I could not make words come out of my mouth. It is very hard to explain - but it's almost like standing at the edge of a high diving board and just not being able to make yourself jump off. I would be frozen. Shut down. One of those things. Anyway. And it just kept happening. So I knew it just wasn't one other person who felt like I didn't talk enough. It was me. As a 13 and 14 year old girl I felt very acutely that something was wrong with me.
Summer after 8th grade. 14.
My first church youth conference. I had a boyfriend who was going. This was a boyfriend who would take the phone and play basketball with it sometimes across the room sometimes when I wasn't "talking", just throwing it into the trash can over and over, and I would sit in silence. I remember that. Why did I sit there? I don't know. I can't remember if we had broken up officially at that point when we went to youth conference, maybe we had. Maybe we were kinda sorta getting back together. I don't remember all the details. We were riding in big charter buses to drive several hours to a college campus for the conference. I sat next to him. He leaned his head on my shoulder and slept. I really liked him. I thought I did. I had a heart that liked too much too early and yearned to be liked - and I mistook all sorts of other things for being liked in return. How could I have protected myself? This is what I ask myself. Maturity would have helped. Self-confidence... Why didn't I have any? I don't know.
At any rate, as things went on at the youth conference my 14 year old self felt like I was being given very clear signals that this boy still liked me and we were very much still together. There were unmistakable signs. Clear actions on his part. At least the first night there were. And then the next day there were various workshops to attend etc and I felt like he ignored me completely. We didn't go to workshops together like we could have. Or go eat meals together at the cafeteria. I didn't see him anywhere, although I tried. He didn't try to see me. I felt discarded. He didn't talk to me again for the next 2 days of the conference.
The last night of the 3 day conference there was a dance. I was tired of feeling so confused and sad and used. I waited around at the dance for him to show. He did. He didn't ask me to dance. I gathered every bit of courage I had and asked him to come with me for a walk outside so we could talk. Because we needed to talk . . . . didn't we? Because I needed to know why he'd been ignoring me. I needed to know where we stood. I needed to know why he had acted (very clearly) that first night like he liked me if he really didn't. Oh my poor little 14 year old heart.
So we walked down a sidewalk and sat down on a bench. I had words in my head that I wanted to say. So many words. Like a huge puzzle of words. I had to say them. I had to. They were exploding out of my head, but it felt so hard so hard to get it out of my mouth. And we sat. We sat. The silence. The longer the silence built, the harder it became to say anything at all. What was wrong with me? What was my problem?!? He started picking flowers off of a nearby bush and dropping them on the ground and crushing them beneath his shoe. I watched. Agonizing. And we sat in silence. And I felt paralyzed. I wanted to speak. I wanted him to speak. I couldn't get any words to come out of my mouth. Nothing. I felt like I couldn't even move. I don't know how long we sat there. How long could it have been....? Finally he said something like "well, if you're not going to talk, I'm going to go."
And he stood up and walked away.
I looked at the crushed flowers on the sidewalk by my feet.
The next morning we boarded the buses to go back home. All of my friends, including this boy, somehow ended up on a different charter bus than me. I don't remember how that happened, as we had all been on the same bus when we had come. As if I wasn't already feeling crushed and heartbroken enough (and also hating, hating myself), for some reason this added to it. I sat in a seat by the window, overwhelmed by such overpowering feelings I could not even deal with it. It wasn't just the sadness, although there was that. It was the self-loathing - this not being able to believe what had happened, not wanting to accept this part of myself, this way that I was, this thing I did. Then the rejection. And feeling alone. And the happy noise of the bus all around me but not being a part of any of it. And it was too much. It was too much for some part inside of me that just broke into pieces. And it was then, on the way home from youth conference on that bus, there in that window seat, sure that no one was paying attention to me (and they weren't), that I first self-harmed. I won't go into details because you really don't need to know. But I feel like this was the age (if not before) when I began having depressive episodes. This was definitely the beginning of one. I feel like they continued ever since although I didn't recognize it as such until much much later.
And I hope you don't feel like I am placing any blame on this particular boy or what he did, although rejection can certainly play into triggers for this kind of thing. My goodness, I can only have very vague and compassionate views of what goes on in any 14 year old boy's head. And certainly I am very forgiving of any poor boy who did his best to like/love me back in my teenage years. Sigh.
And so, that was one of the defining turning points during the summer after my 8th grade year. Along with having mono/being hospitalized with abscessed tonsils and then getting my tonsils taken out. It was just a bad summer.
My problems with talking, by the way, continued to plague me well throughout my dating years, even into my marriage, although Zac has been able to patiently work that out with me when I would shut down over the years. It's been a hard long process even with him, which I am somewhat embarrassed to admit. But he never told me I didn't talk enough or that I was too quiet. So that is to his credit.
So, you may think I am making a bigger deal out of all of this than I should. I certainly don't see any point in comparing what should be a big deal and what shouldn't. And this is just my story, one part of my story - I can only tell my own and what it meant to me. I look at my sweet daughter, my 14 year old daughter, and I know she will have her own story to tell, which will not be like mine (in the time since I first started this post, she has gone to her first youth conference!!). And I hope I will be able to help her navigate through her own. I hope she will not have to suffer in the same ways I did. I hope she will be confident and will be loved and love when she is more ready. (So far there has been no mention of any boys (fingers crossed).) But I also hope that there was some purpose to what I have gone through. That there is some reason for it all in helping me become who I am.
This is only one little story of me being 14.
It is hard sometimes to think about.
But it takes out some of the sting to tell it out loud.
(me second from left, a couple days before I was hospitalized with the abscessed tonsils. I got very sick very quickly. This is pictured with my siblings and visiting cousins)
"If I don't write to empty my mind,
I go mad."
- Lord Byron