sagesaria: (surviving brb)
[personal profile] sagesaria
I have a story that I wish to tell everyone. Something that I’ve had on my chest for several years, and despite all my attempts at purging it it’s been clinging to me for dear life. I need someone to hear it, especially those dearest to me, because I feel it explains everything about me and how I interact with people and why I’m so easily broken by such little things. Maybe it isn’t everything, but it’s one thing I can pinpoint to for certain and say “yes, this is affecting me.” I’m tearing up even now as I’m typing this, and I haven’t even gotten to the real meat of the post. I don’t know if saying something now will fix it, but maybe if people understand where I’m coming from we can all move forward when I have my bad moments of feeling like I’ve ruined everything.

Once upon a time, in 2002, I started my freshman year of high school. This is probably the most important factor of the entire story, for multiple reasons:

1: I had never set foot in a public school before. Up until that point, I was homeschooled by my father. This affected me in a lot of ways; I was behind on what I was supposed to know by high school partially because the home school program we were using was out of date in a lot of subjects, but also because my father wasn’t a very good teacher. Not that I was a very good student either, but that was only made worse by the fact that I could only see him as a bully. He slapped me in the face and screamed at me when I froze on an answer more times than I care to count, I couldn’t talk back or even try to process the information I was given. I spent every single lesson we had in fear that I would get something wrong and he would lash out at me. He even grabbed my hair once to shove my face into a book to show me the answer was right in front of my face. And furthermore a lot of my coping methods for trying to learn were squelched very quickly. I wasn’t allowed to hold my place in a book with my finger, and no matter how apparent it became as I got older that I was terrible at mental math, he refused to let me use a calculator or even count on my fingers. And yes, I’m well aware that he’s likely reading this right now. I’m not going to go through the hoops to filter this post because I need people to see this. Point was, I was abused and frightened out of a lot of book learning that I probably could have used by this point, and furthermore for all his excuses that the way he was treating me was how I would be treated in public school, he didn’t prepare me for ANYTHING about how a public school worked. I didn’t know what a GPA was, or that cell phones weren’t allowed not even during lunch, I didn’t even know that schools still said the pledge of allegiance! And oh my God is this really only the first bullet?

2: I was on crutches. I had sprained my ankle literally a week before school started, just after I’d gotten my physical to enroll. Getting around the school this way was probably the second worst thing about going to school my freshman year, next to where I’m ultimately going with this. I got horribly lost and didn’t know I was allowed to leave a few minutes early if I was on crutches. I was allowed to take the handicap elevator since I could go down stairs, but not up, but it was on the opposite side of the building from all of my classes. Say hello to several weeks of showing up several minutes late to most of my classes and being too exhausted from hobbling around to focus for the first several minutes.

3: I had no friends coming into high school. Which isn’t to say I had no friends at all; I had a very close group of friends. They just lived far, far away and I only saw them about four times a year, give or take. The neighborhood I lived in was mostly older families, most of them didn’t even have children my age. The only person even close was my neighbor’s son Bobby, but he’s five years younger than me; he wasn’t even in middle school yet.

4: I had absolutely no idea how to talk to new people. You think I’m socially awkward now? You should’ve seen me when I was fourteen. Most of the people I interacted with were from my parents’ community, mostly older fandom. Convention-goers and the like. Our lives are *very* different from what most ‘mundane’ people’s. It took high school to realize just how uncommon the practices, opinions and nerdish knowledge of the people I grew up with were. Which meant I had nothing to talk about with anyone I was around the first few months of school, and when I tried to bring something up I was considered a weirdo.

So all in all, starting high school was *completely* foreign territory and I came into it scared, lost, in pain, stressed out and very, very lonely. I thought that I could at least cope with the latter; I had my best friends’ emails to look forward to when I got home and whatever happens, happens. I just wanted to survive the transition at the very least, and honestly looking back I wasn’t doing a very good job of even that.

So the second day or so of classes, I was sitting in the cafeteria by myself, eating my pathetic bologna sandwich from my nifty insulated lunchbag that I wish I hadn’t lost later that year, when an older girl surprises me from behind by saying hello and sitting next to me. She said that she thought I looked lonely and wanted to at least say hi. I appreciated that and while I felt awkward and we only exchanged a few brief bits of information – names, grade and all that – I was glad to have been noticed for once.

This girl’s name is Shaunita. You’ve probably heard me mention the name occasionally. Or at least one of you has for certain, ohhai Sword. Shaunita was my first friend in high school, and a classmate in my last period of the day; a basic drawing class. Shaunita was also the girl who ruined my life for the first semester of my freshman year.

As time went on, I met some of her other friends, and they essentially coaxed me into their little clique. I didn’t have much to contribute, but one thing I could was that I could sing. They liked letting me sing, and they always begged me to sing something for them at lunch. Looking back I realize that they were only really treating me like their personal jukebox, but at the time I just liked being liked, and I liked excuses to sing songs they’d never heard – mostly J-pop and Clam Chowder (group that used to perform at Darkover and Faerie Fest, though Faerie Fest wasn’t around yet). They practically treated me like a celebrity because they thought I was that good. They even gave me my own gang sign. I probably still have a picture of a couple of them doing it somewhere. And if there was anything good that came out of this mess it was that they encouraged me to participate in the school’s annual talent show, which ended up being a very educational and rewarding experience for me.

But if I tried to do anything besides singing, that’s when trouble began. They were always pressuring me about various things, like how I dressed and my social life, which admittedly didn’t necessarily bother me too much but it still should’ve been a warning sign, I think. But this is where my social obliviousness hit me hard. I would unthinkingly say something about my home life, something that I didn’t think was all that strange, and suddenly they were all on me asking nosey questions, demanding they know more especially if it was something they perceived as unhealthy or gross, and suddenly I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. But no, you can’t just say something like that and then not want to talk about it anymore, Margaret! This is important!

But the worst of it all was when my social obliviousness made me say something that in retrospect was insensitive and insulting. I’m not going to repeat any of it here because looking back I still don’t know why I said some of the things I did. But when I said them, oh my God did I get it bad. Suddenly five angry upperclassman girls were in my face yelling at me all at once, the one I slighted would start crying and exaggerate it to make me feel worse, and if I tried to backpedal they wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise or even try to apologize. How could you have not been thinking when you said that, you said it so slowly! What are you trying to say? They ganged up on me until I snapped. That was the only point when they would back off. I would run to the bathroom crying, then they’d all follow me in and suddenly it was oh no Margaret, don’t cry, come back, it’s okay, we can work this out!

So why do I single Shaunita out of all these girls when I had trouble with all of them? Well honestly I think she may have been an instigator for a lot of the mindset of the group, and like I mentioned above, she was in one of my classes; the last class of the day. So if anything went down at lunch, she was the wrath I had to endure at the end of the day. She would nag me and prod me and call me names, she would doodle on my artwork, she would get on my case for humming to myself or trying to ignore her. If I snapped at her to back off, suddenly oh my God Margaret why are you being so mean? I even tried to say she was provoking me once. Provoking you? Provoking you to what, burn the school down? Oh my God I’m telling a teacher!

At least my art teacher was the coolest teacher ever.

And on top of that Shaunita never let anything go. We could have a perfectly fine, civil conversation at lunch and then suddenly somewhere in the middle of it, completely unprovoked, she would casually chime in “Hey, remember when Margaret said…?” Instant uncomfortable. And if I said I didn’t want to talk about that and why did she bring it up, well, she couldn’t just keep it bottled up now could she. She just wanted to speak her mind.

I think one of the security guards at the school knew we weren’t compatible as friends. I think he even felt that those girls were nothing but trouble. So there was once a time when he tried to convince me to find some other group to hang out with. There was a time in there too, when they tried to kick me out, said that he talked to them too and that we weren’t allowed to hang out anymore. I was heartbroken and wandered the halls crying when I stumbled upon a very sweet older student, Lisa. She was a member of the school’s bible club and she was very sorry to hear that I’d had a falling out with my friends, and she invited me to sit with her friends. I was very quiet but I was glad she was so nice to me. I didn’t hang out much with them afterward – that day was another case of problems with my friends being ‘resolved’ because I cried; they invited me back into the group, security be damned. But through some circumstances I don’t fully remember, I did meet Lisa's sister, Diana. She was an absolute joy to see every day; she’d sometimes sit with me before my first period and we’d talk. She liked video games and anime, and finally I had something in common with someone! I managed to snag her email one day and we started talking more.

One day after I was especially fed up with my friends’ bullshit, and after I came home crying enough times that mom put her foot down and addressed that this friendship was fully and utterly abusive and unhealthy, I asked Diana if I could hang out with her at lunch instead. Of course she was glad to, but when the gang found out Shaunita turned into the biggest monster I’d ever seen her as. She gave me the cold shoulder the moment I said I was eating lunch with someone else, putting her arm around the other friend she was walking with and walking away as if to say they didn’t even need me, she and Diana got into a brief argument when we walked by – Diana was trying to defend me. I didn’t know this, but when I went to class after lunch, Diana and Shaunita got into a huge fight in the stairway after that, to the point where Diana lost her temper so badly that she almost pushed her down the stairs. All I knew was that my next class was spent with Shaunita standing outside the classroom crying, staring at me. I didn’t know what she wanted, I didn’t want to know. I tried desperately to ignore her. And then last period, she made that hour last for an eternity, accusing me of sicking my friend on her and nearly getting her killed, she called me evil and cursed the very name Margaret, she cried loudly next to me, she pulled out every single guilt-tripping abusive tactic she had.

And yet next day, I still sat and ate lunch with them again. And Diana emailed me after school apologizing to *me* for losing her temper. Honestly to this day I still could have kissed her for standing up to Shaunita at all.

Unfortunately save for the few details I’ve shared, a lot of that semester was a blur. A blur of tears and stress and on again off again friendship. The good news at least is that after that semester, I never ate lunch with them again. I never even saw Shaunita again. I don’t know what became of her. Diana and I had gotten Yu-Gi-Oh decks and she wanted to learn out to play, so we’d have lunch together a few times to play. Then I ran into one of my theater classmates Corey and started lunching with her and her friends Heather and Eve, the latter two of whom I see more of now than the former, but they were all very dear friends to me for the rest of the school year and beyond. Diana got a livejournal at some point when I did, too, and now we follow each other on facebook. Come to think of it, she’s another person who makes my facebook very hard to close. Everything she posts now makes me smile; she’s married now and has a darling little boy who recently turned a year old, and she’s unbelievably happy. She deserves to be. I hope every good thought she ever has in her life comes true because she deserves everything wonderful in the world. I honestly feel like I owe her my life for how she came to be my way out of that group of horrible people, and one of the few rays of sunshine in the cloudy, gloomy first four months of school.

But I’m getting off track. I’m telling this story because for all my hatred of Shaunita and what she and her friends did to me, I’m afraid that she’s still influenced everything about how I interact with people. I feel afraid to disagree with popular opinion, especially among friends, I feel like I have to justify everything I say. I once even wrote a whole paragraph in an email disagreeing with a point Corey made about something by saying “I don’t mean any offense, of course…” more or less. I was basically Fluttershy. I pretty much still am Fluttershy, come to think of it. Whenever there’s a big incident with me, or even a little one, I fall apart. I panic if I’m not being allowed to speak up. I feel like I have to beg and plead for forgiveness, I need to be sure that it’s really okay and that they don’t hate me, and that it isn’t going to be held over my head as emotional blackmail weeks later. Dumbbrain is the part of me that still believes everything Shaunita said about me, and it’s why I cling so desperately to the friendships I have and am absolutely terrified of ruining it with a simple word like it happened so many times that year. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I shouldn’t have said it. It’s okay right? You still like me, right? Is it really okay? Please don’t hate me! Please don’t yell at me!!! Oh God please just tell me it’s okay!!!

I also realized, thinking back, and I don’t know if this is necessarily related to Shaunita, but I tend to have a thought process about friendships that makes my anxiety about making mistakes even worse. You know how Sims and other such relationship bars in games have a numberline effect, so to speak? How if things go wrong, it goes toward the negatives, and if it goes right it goes up to the positives? That’s probably closer to how friendships actually work; mistakes happen but with enough time and patience we move on and we move to be stronger friends. But me? I have this mindset where I think others treat their friendship with me as permanent settings. Like, think of a stick or something, and my friends carve notches into them. If I’m a good friend, I get a notch on the good stick. But if I mess up, I get a notch on the bad stick. My behavior is permanent in their perception of me, and if I mess up too much the bad stick will be covered in notches, and I’ll have lost a friend because I’m such a horrible person. Somehow I feel like it can’t possibly be only associated with Shaunita’s randomly bringing up the past for no reason, but maybe it is part of it. But I don’t know what else it could be either. Or how to fix it.

I don’t really know how to end this post. I don’t want to come off as trying to hide behind my abuse trauma or an attention whore. I don’t even know what kind of help I can ask for from you who are reading this. I just wanted it known so that maybe I can make more sense of my brain and maybe we can all convince the part of me that’s still hearing Shaunita’s voice that she was wrong.
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