As a kid I was told that I had strange reactions to things. I’m not crazy about this label, but it’s kind of true. If I bump my head I get angry and have been known to stomp and throw things. A normal reactor would probably cry or at least say that it hurt.
I would get so overwhelmed on Christmas morning when I would come down and see all the gifts from Santa that I couldn’t even speak. I would feel shaky and anxious and unable to play with my new toys and I could never decide which present to open first or which toy I wanted to play with. I would get so worked up that I’d often go sit in my bedroom and cry.
I’m bad at funerals, particularly when I’m close with the deceased. I detest all the public mourning and feeling like I should be behaving a certain way when all I really want is to hide in my bedroom in my pajamas and have everyone leave me the hell alone.
When Gil and I got married, everyone was shocked when I said I didn’t want a big wedding. I wanted a private affair with just Gil and me. We were the ones pledging our love and commitment to each other. I felt it was only necessary for Gil and me and whomever was marrying us to attend. This didn’t go over well. We had a big wedding anyway to please our families, and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t stick to my guns and have a ceremony that was at least closer to what I wanted.
As I look back at times when I’ve been told that I reacted unusually, I notice that most of the situations are highly emotional. The reality was that on Christmas morning I was VERY excited, so excited that I couldn’t take it all in.
I took my vows to Gil seriously; I was madly in love with him and felt like my heart was going to explode through my chest. The multitude of emotions were vast — excitement over officially starting our life together, anticipation — we’d be officially moving in together after two years of a long-distance relationship, fear that we would be terrible at marriage, but mostly I felt love in an incomparable way.
After years of therapy, education, and simply being me and understanding myself better every year, I’ve determined that my reactions might have something to do with ADHD and anxiety.
I’m a strong reactor, but I’ve learned that some of my reactions are not socially acceptable.
When I was a kid, if I was excited or happy, I would jump up and down and sometimes tackle the person nearest me. Seriously, it was a full-body experience.
My mother is a proper Southern lady who is chronically appropriate.
As you might imagine, she was less than thrilled that her dainty, overly-monogrammed Southern-Bell -in-Training daughter preferred rough housing and high fiving to dress-up parties and etiquette.
I learned early on that my mom did not approve of my boisterous personality, and that I was expected to behave like a lady.
Not only did I not like the things my mom expected of me, I honestly just didn’t get it — the social niceties and expectations. It seemed that even when I tried I got it all wrong, so at some point I shut down and just got really quiet.
It’s taken over thirty years for me to be able to decipher and articulate my feelings. I certainly couldn’t do it as a child.
I think my “strange” reactions were more the result of anxiety. I was terrified of screwing up.
To this day I can’t seem to process emotions quickly or on the spot, so I have a “strange” or “incorrect” reaction in public and then I must have adequate alone time in order to figure out what I’m really feeling, deal with the feelings, and move forward.
My mom was always big on us wearing nice outfits and going to church as a family on Easter. Naturally she expected a delightful demeanor to go along with our pretty, new clothes. Unfortunately for her, she birthed children not robots.
I remember once when I was around seven, an older lady in the church came up to my brother and me and told us how nice we looked. She asked if we were having a good Easter and I said, “Actually, I hate Easter! These tights are itchy and my toes feel all squashed and sweaty.”
Of course my mother was appalled. She could have had a sense of humor about it, but no. It ruined her entire week and she made sure that we practiced keeping our emotions in check. “For God’s sake, Vivianne. It’s like you have diarrhea of the mouth. Is it so hard to just shut up and smile?”
“Why should I smile if I’m miserable? That’s just like telling a lie. If I had said ‘yes, thank you’ when she asked if I was having a happy Easter, I would have been telling a big fat lie right there in God’s house.”
“I have never met a more impossible child!!’
That’s what I’m talking about. I grew up in a family where appearances were more important than having your feelings validated. At least from my mom, but bless her heart, she was a minister’s daughter so shutting her mouth and smiling was what she was taught from day one. My dad was different, and I felt comfortable telling him how I felt about things, but he made me mind my mother and he yielded to her in social situations because it was easier than hearing her gripe. He encouraged me to do the same.
It’s interesting now that I have children of my own. I’ve probably gone to the other extreme. I’ve taught my kids to be polite, but at the same time I encourage honesty. We do our best to talk about feelings at home and while I now understand how embarrassing it can be as mother when your children blurt out things like “Why is that man scratching his penis?”, I also try to never make them feel crappy for voicing their feelings or asking a sincere question. We also go to a church that values authenticity over fancy outfits.
I’m telling you all of this because I always have odd reactions to blog awards.
I am BEYOND grateful and honored when a fellow blogger thinks enough of my writing to nominate me for award. I started this blog because I needed an outlet. My marriage was in shambles; I had two toddlers and felt that they were too old for me to have postpartum depression, but I was certainly struggling with something. We were dealing with the death of Gil’s dad and trying to close his business. The death of my father-in-law brought up all kinds of emotions and I began to see that I still had not dealt with my own father’s death. My mom had had her worst depressive episode to date and had to be hospitalized. To say we had a lot going on was an epic understatement.
Writing has always been my go-to artistic medium, but sharing my pain through blogging has been more healing than I ever imagined. Hearing simple statements like “me too” or “Yes! I completely get this” were as helpful as any professional therapy I was getting at the moment. I received emails and comments from people thanking me for sharing my pain so openly.
I felt less alone.
What began as something I did for myself to cope became a conversation. Readers became friends. I was inspired to read their stories. Writing offers perspective. Sometimes I lack the words or the energy to compose what I’m feeling. When this happens I read others’ words and am comforted.
Back to the awards. I’m like the little girl on Christmas morning version of myself — excited, but overwhelmed and in all honestly I feel a bit unworthy. I also feel like I’m gonna botch up the thank you note. Remember I’m from the South — we learned these damn etiquette rules early.
The guilt that I feel when I receive an award hits because at times in the past I’ve ignored various awards altogether. I was probably off in my room being overwhelmed, and then I got distracted and forgot I even got an award.
So…IF you nominated me for an award in the past. THANK YOU!! And I am truly sorry that I didn’t follow the directions and do whatever I was supposed to do way back then. I promise I was grateful, just overwhelmed. I’d love to say that I will go back and accept and try again now, but I know myself well enough to not make promises I might not be able to keep.
Today, I am honored to accept The Beautiful Blogger award from Tempest Rose over at Nonsense and Shenanigans. Check her blog out and if you think you don’t have time, you HAVE to go to see her AMAZING gorgeous red hair in her profile picture.
OH MY GOSH! It’s the hair I have in my dreams.
But really you should go and read about her life. Her writing is honest and she makes you think. I have only read a few posts, but I can not wait to sit down with a cup of tea and devour the rest. She’s opinionated, creative, and has oodles of life experiences to pull from that make for fabulous stories.
Thank you, Tempest Rose, for this award and for all the kind words.
Again, here I go again with the guilt. This post is way long already and I need to sleep, so I’ll have to continue and nominate others at a later date.
Oh, and I should probably get an award for the worst Southern Belle ever. If the results of my Buzzfeed quiz mean anything, I’m only 35%. I tried to link to the quiz, How Southern Are You? but I couldn’t find it, but I didn’t search that hard. It’s late and my meds have worn off. Frankly they weren’t working that well today anyway. Feel free to search Buzzfeed and let me know if you find it. I took it a few months ago because, you know, I just couldn’t say no.