Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Testimony - Part One

I have always intended to write my personal testimony, mainly because it really is something I want my kids to know and understand when the time is right in their lives. I never knew exactly how or when I would begin, until just a few days ago. I heard a song for the first time called Don't Laugh At Me by Mark Wills, and I knew this would be a good beginning point.

From as far back as I can remember, I was a child filled with anxiety. I can recall having minor anxiety attacks as young as age five or six, although I didn't understand that this was what they were at the time. My main fears were centered around death and dying. I can recall being given Valium for the first time at age nine when our family was away on a trip because my mom just could not calm me down. Because this was over 30 years ago, Valium was given to children in extreme situations like mine. This is not something that would be given today.

When I was 12 I had my first full blown attack of hyperventilation. I had been working up to this in small steps but I will never forget that first time. Of course, I was sure I was dying - that being my particular phobia. My parents weren't home at the time and my poor brother had to deal with his sister, lying on the floor, totally panicked because she couldn't breathe, freaking out over feeling tingly and numb, and lightheaded. I can still see it in my mind's eye.

Around that same time, I got it into my head that I was going to choke if I swallowed any food. An offshoot of my fear of death was my fear of choking. This was not totally unfounded - I had had two incidences where food was lodged in my throat for a short time and could not breathe at all - so this happening to a child with an obsession of dying (ie., not breathing) was even more traumatic.

It was around Christmas time. I can't recall how many days I went without eating but I'm pretty sure it was at least two. My mom took me to the doctor, who sent me on to see a psychiatrist in Regina (we lived in Melville at the time). This doctor told me that if I didn't eat within a day or two that I would be admitted into the hospital in Regina over Christmas. Thankfully, that was all I needed to hear and I remember eating my first, very small bite, on the way home from Regina.

Up until the end of the seventh grade, school was never really a problem for me. It was not one of the main contributors to my anxiety attacks. I was an average student academically; I was average looking; I was neither extremely popular or unpopular; I had friends. I excelled in athletics, and this is likely why I didn't mind school. I poured everything into sports; volleyball, basketball, badminton, track and field, and fastball were my main interests. I was considered the top player in some of the sports, and at least in the top three in all of them. Sports was my saving grace.

And then came the eighth grade.

I really don't know why things changed so suddenly, except to say that more of the kids must have hit puberty and were therefore at their worst. I did not grow an extra finger or develop some anomaly on my face. I still looked the same as I did in the seventh grade. I was not fat (then), in fact I was very skinny if anything.

It began when I was put into the homeroom of a teacher who had ZERO control of the class. As a result, she decided to put ME in between the two class JERKS to separate them. Now how totally dumb was that? Putting a quiet (because I really was back then), mousy girl in between two of the meanest boys was just plain stupid. I cannot list all the names I was called, or should I say whispered, some of them are too vulgar, but it was nonstop while in that room. I also endured endless poking and prodding on my back.

I was not at all like either of my sisters, and how I wish I was, really. Laura would have pounded the snot out of them (and probably won) and Lana would have slain them with a glance and scorned them with her words. I'm serious. Both of them were able to stop any harrassment very early because of their personalities. I was not. I might as well have written SUCKER on my forehead, for I became the target for these bullies and I hadn't a clue how to deal with it.

And my anxiety escalated. I began seeing a counsellor regularly. He recommended that the next time I was poked constantly on my back that I should stand up and deck the guy - seriously. Even if it got me into trouble with the teacher, because it would have been a small victory with that kid. So I tried. And I failed. I remember vividly enduring the pokes, trying to work up the nerve to hit him and finally doing so, only to have him see it coming and block it. And the tormenting increased as a result. The counsellor was dumb.

The worst incident happened on a day when our class was playing fastball outside during our last period spare. I was up to bat. Now remember - ball was my game, and I was very competitive. The problem was that Bully #1 was playing first base and Bully #2 was playing second. I had to make the choice to either strike out or hit a home run or I would be stuck on a base with the bullies. Striking out was not an option for a competitive girl like me, so I told myself I would simply belt it out of the ballpark. Well, it didn't quite work that way. I only made it to.......second base - with the worst bully of the two. The minute I stopped on that base the taunting began:

"You are so ugly, you are so useless. I should just grind you up like a toothpick and stick you back in the ground where you belong! You know what you are? You are a living abortion!"

And something in me broke. I took off running toward the school with my teacher shouting at me to come back. To this day I don't think she said a word to that kid, honestly. I ran into the bathroom in a different wing of the school, went into a stall, locked it and sat on the top of the toilet and cried. I stayed there until the first bell rang. I stayed there until the second bell rang. I stayed there until I was sure not a soul was left in that school. And then I finally crept out of that bathroom, peeked down the hallways, and ran home from school, at least a half hour later than normal.

I informed my mother that I was not going to school the next day. She didn't force me - which was wise. She waited until I was ready, which was the next afternoon. I knew I had to face it eventually, but she let me come to that conclusion myself.

I entered the hallways of the school the next afternoon, only to be met by Bully #2. The first thing he said to me was: "Where were you? Out getting an abortion?"


When I heard that Mark Wills song the other day, all of this came rushing back. And I said to my mom, who happened to be there at the time, "You know, as hard as all of that was, I would much rather be on the receiving end of a bully than to be the bully, any day."

I think of my kids, my daughter in particular who unfortunately has some of my more vulnerable traits. And the mother in me prays and hopes she never has to face that kind of thing; however, the woman in me realizes how it shaped me, I believe, into a better person than I would have otherwise been. And I know it would for her, too, if it ever happened.

Looking back, it was only a very short time after that that I found Jesus. Or should I say Jesus found me. And I wonder.....would I have looked for him as intently had it not happened? I honestly don't know.

Part of the chorus of the song, Don't Laugh At Me:

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't take your pleasure
From my pain

I thank God from the bottom of my heart that He used this incident to get my attention. I'm also thankful that, to my knowledge, I have never gotten pleasure out of anyone's pain. I pray to God that I never do.


Anonymous said...

Seriously, ever thought about writing a book? You have such a way with words that just grips a person. I was totally in your shoes, feeling the pokes and hearing the taunts...
I'm very thankful for the person you are today, even though you had to go thru what you did. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more.

Darla said...

I don't know what to say, Rachel. I didn't expect such a compliment, so thank you. I do have plenty more, believe me.

As for writing a book - well, to be honest most of the time I'm not totally satisfied with how I have written my post. I can think of only about a half a dozen posts that I'm totally satisfied with, so I would have a lot of work to do to ever get to that level. But again, I thank you for your very kind words.

Laura said...

This post has brought me back to our childhood and I remember so vividly everything you are writing about! Some of it I never knew about until years later...luckily for the two bullies, because I would've "pounded the snot" out of them as you put it!

What you went through as a child and what you endured from the hands of bullies, is I believe, the very foundation of my very strong feelings of distaste towards what bullies do and the cowardice they promote.

Thank you for sharing and opening up your heart to us...makes me thankful to know the only ONE who can truly heal and mend the battered soul of a child, or adult. Cannot wait to read the next part, even though I know your story!

Darla said...

You know, Laura, I was truly amazed because as I wrote that post last night I didn't shed a tear. It can be emotionally draining to bare your soul, so I was very surprised. It shows me how very much time and GOD can heal all wounds.

Yes, I wish you would have wiped the floor with their faces - it would have made the ending that much more interesting, and one for you to tell your kids and grandkids!