Little Children Don’t Always Tattle-Tale
I can trace my first experience with secrecy to when I was about 5 years old. A neighbor boy I didn’t know too well wanted to play a “game” involving taking off our pants, and he told me not to tell. He was around age 8. I didn’t tell on him and I’m not sure why. I may have been afraid of what my mom would do because she said, “Don’t ever let someone touch your private parts.” I may have thought it was my fault. Maybe I thought he’d get in trouble, and I didn’t want to get him into trouble. I still don’t understand what happened there, but I wasn’t the kind of child to ask questions or talk about things.
When I came across pornography at age 8, the friend I was with told her mom, and her mom called my mom. I remember my mom walking into my room while I played with my little ponies, and she mentioned something about getting a phone call from my friend’s mom and asked if there was anything I wanted to talk about. I didn’t make eye-contact with her, I remember that. I must have said “no” then she closed the door behind her. After that I felt like I had this “dark secret,” and I felt I had two dark secrets I couldn’t tell anyone. Looking back, I understand these are common experiences just in talking with friends and family, unfortunately, but I was always scared to talk to anyone about what I went through.
Grade School to High School
I would mark that I did my school reading every day, so I could watch TV or earn a pizza. I cheated on a test in second grade because I wanted to get the answer right. I lied about eating my brothers sugar-crystal science project because I didn’t want to get in trouble. These are common feelings! We all have pride and we’re all selfish. It’s just part of the natural man.
Eventually, these lies lead me to change my behaviors and habits. I wanted some type of approval from my family and friends. It seemed that many people around me obsessed over relationships. Whenever I’d see a certain family member, they’d ask me how all of my boyfriends were doing. I would always blush because I didn’t understand why I didn’t have any boyfriends. My family would tell me I was smart and pretty, but I didn’t believe this was true because everyone else told me how pretty everyone else was.
From my perspective, as a fourth and fifth grader, the boys liked the girls who weren’t so tall and awkward. They liked the girls who were more “girly,” and I dressed like a boy sometimes. I liked wearing baggy jeans and a plain white Tee or add a button up shirt, and leave all the buttons undone, like my brothers and many other who followed the 90’s grunge trend.
All of my friends seemed to have their own boyfriends, and on TV, it seemed that by having a boyfriend, I would gain approval, friendship, and popularity. I made this promise to myself that I would become popular no matter what it takes to kind of get “revenge” on my friends for abandoning me in fifth grade. Maybe I got this idea from films like Never Been Kissed, Clueless, She’s all That, Miss Congeneality, or the Princess Diaries. I’m still not sure where it came from, but I pursued it.
I began cursing, piereced my navel, changed the way I dressed. I “went out” with boys in middle school just to have a boyfriend, and I continued this pattern through my sophmore year. I began drinking at age 15 and experimenting with others substances until age 17. My mom pulled me out of high school which was one of the best decisions she could have made to help me.
I didn’t go to Senior Graduation, but I graduated high school. I remember on the day of graduation, I had one friend message me. Out of the people I considered my friends, I had one person message me. I remember feeling shocked and empty, but at the same time grateful for this one friend. In my experience, it’s rare to find a genuine friend whoe is honest and has integrity during high school, I know I didn’t posess these qualities.
I still kept in touch with my high school friends. At age 18, I went to a party where my friends were going to college. I wasn’t going to drink that night, but I had one or two beers. The police showed up, and I hid from them. They found me and questioned me. They asked if I had anything to drink, and something inside of me knew I could lie and get away with saying, “No.” But for some reason, I chose to be honest. I went to the local correcitonal facility and spent the night there. I remember the song “A Child’s Prayer” coming to my mind. I sang it, and clung tight to my knees in a sitting fetal position on the cold cement bench.
In the morning, my dad and uncle showed up. I had made a phone call to a friend when I first arrived to the facility, but I didn’t realize the beginning of the message when the answer the phone is something like “An inmate at ‘XYZ’ Corrctional Facility wants to speak with you.” She and her mom called my mom, which really hurt my mom that I wouldn’t call her. I just didn’t want her to know. I’m still not sure why, but whenever I did something wrong, I just didn’t want my mom to know. Maybe it’s because “she raised me better.”
I was fined $500 and had to enter into an addiciton recovery program. I also had to start seeing a psychologist. I can’t say the psychologist helped because I felt he was blaming my mom for my choices rather than helping me to see my own choices for what they were: rebellion, secrecy, and trying to self-medicate from school bullying. I had also developed an eating disorder around age 15, so I didn’t realize this may have influenced how I was processing and making my decisions too.
After the Addiction Recovery Program, I thought I was good. I wasn’t interested in drinking anymore. I moved out into my own apartment with a friend, but I was still dealing with my eating disorder (e.d). I would spend many nights up late exercising or tyring to purge the food. I would starve myself, and I would go on intense diets. I followed one diet when I learned my friend had lost 15 lbs in 2 weeks. We went on it together, and it required a 2-3 day binge then for 27 days we ate 500 calories. I lost 20 lbs, but less than two months later I had gained over 30 lbs. I continued to gain weight until I gained close to 55 lbs (and to think I just wanted to lose 10 lbs to begin with; 10 years later, my hair is still thin and brittle).
Ironically, during my time of extreme caloric restriction, I felt to quit my job at a restaurant I was working at. I didn’t follow this thought (which I now recognize was the Holy Ghost trying to guide me) because the thought didn’t make sense. “I have bills to pay! I can’t quit my job!” Several months later, I found myself in a room with my coworker, Tucker* and his friends, and they were doing drugs. I just wanted to leave, but apart of me wanted to stay. I had already put my two weeks notice in at this point at the restaurant, but at this point I had already met Tucker’s friend, Jake*, who got me a job where he was working.
From this point, I began waking up at 2:30am to exercise rigorously, so I could go to work by 4am, and do an online class through the summer. I was hardly sleeping or eating, and I was overexercising constantly. Towards the end of summer, I met a coworker, Dan* from my new job, who was also living at Jake’s home and who was also friends with Tucker. I eventually went back to drinking and began dating Dan on and off for close to 5 years.
To this day I can’t help but wonder, “What if I followed that prompting to quit my job at the restaurant?” Another thought that came was “What if I had chosen to live at home and go to school to save money?” I can’t say I felt super good about moving out because I was still struggling, but I never once prayed to know what was best for me. I just wanted to be independent. So, there is no “what if.” There’s only, “Now I know, I just need to remember to listen.”