The first time I knew something was wrong with me I was talking to a friend in my kindergarten class and the teacher called my name and asked me to stop. I kept talking. I already knew what she was teaching. I wasn’t interested. I was bored and talking to the little boy next to me was more stimulating. She called my name again. This time her tone was different. She didn’t understand me. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t listening. She didn’t ask. She just led me to the hall and picked up the paddle. And she swatted my naked bottom three times. I walked away confused and shamed. Shamed for being different. A different she didn’t understand. For not being respected enough to be asked why I was talking. And each tear that fell as I walked back to my seat from the hallway bred seeds of shame, rejection, and misunderstanding.
I knew I was different when I couldn’t read in the 3rd grade. I knew I was different when my classmates were soaring ahead of me. I felt dumb and other. I could see the letters. I could see the words. I knew they had meaning, but the meaning wouldn’t connect in my head like learning a new language. One kid liked to point out what I couldn’t do and he was so convincing the other classmates fell in line behind his witty words of harm.
I knew I was different when I created such vibrant stories in my head that I started to believe they were true and I would lie to my friends in order to see their reactions. I would base my next lies off of what they believed and over time developed a system of lying that was so intricate and psychologically well developed for a 6th grader that I convinced my class I was pregnant just to see if they would believe me.
I knew I was different in high school because everyone feels different in high school… but I knew I was different because of the way people would cock their heads at me and whisper in tones they thought I couldn’t hear, “There’s something wrong with Andrea… but I am not sure what…” They would shrug and no one asked. No one asked what was wrong with me. The few who tried didn’t understand why I felt alone. Rejection. So completely other. “But you are well-loved Andrea. You have a great family Andrea… I don’t understand Andrea…”
I knew I was different when I was in a fight with a boyfriend in his car. He’d promised to marry me and he was taking back his promise. I was volatile. As my hands and arms were swinging and my mouth was screaming and my eyes burned and my pulse raced and my body shook with a rage I didn’t understand. A rage that was fueled from something deeper than this initial rejection. I detached from my body and it watched my limps pound away with rage almost in slow motion. And I thought, “this isn’t me. What am I doing? This is horrible. Only horrible people would do this.”
I knew I was different as I was escorted down a dark, erringly lit, abandoned hallway in the dead of night. Lights flickered and there was a jerking beep as the social worker buzzed to be let into the metal doors end of the hall. I knew I was different when I was escorted into a room and asked to remove my belt, my shoelaces, my jewelry then escorted into a dimly lit brown covered room with multiple beds that crinkled from the stiff waterproof covers underneath. I knew I was different when instead of fearing death as I usually did, I sat there welcoming it. Begging for it. Reviling in the drugs they game me that shut everything off. I just wanted to be shut off like a toy robot. The love of my life had just told me he didn’t love me anymore… that I was too complicated. That I was too unstable. That I was too much. And he told me he had found someone else. And the abandonment that began around the same time my heart started beating in the womb beat louder and louder and louder until the pain inside and the rhythmic thumping in my head made me want to die. Yet my own hands couldn’t do what they had done to everyone else around me… induce harm. They were lifeless and uncooperative. And I was so angry.
And so, I thought I wasn’t worth living.
I thought I was a horrible abuser.
I thought there was something wrong with me.
I thought that I was lying to myself about other memories and emotions I had.
I thought that I was shameful.
And I knew I was different.
This is the adoptee fog. For me. This is how it looked in my life… with the whispers that something was wrong with me. With the misunderstanding. With the questions on why I couldn’t remain stable or keep a relationship or a job or stay at the same college or do anything for any amount of time. Why I couldn’t move over hurdles or humps.
Yet to the naked eye there was no reason for my behavior. There was no logic or sense behind it.
I knew it.
Those around me saw it.
And both parties were confused and tilting our heads at my life. Both misunderstanding and beguiled by the two different personalities that made me.
But no one asked the right questions.
And I didn’t have the right dialect to describe how it feels to have your heart, your body, your mind, and your soul being suspended in air as they are in a constant state of being sheered and ripped apart by invisible forces. A constant state of pain and death.
And so, I was different. Of having my body living in this state of hypervigilance and control so that the multiple different pieces of myself wouldn’t be broken or loosed from their state of gravitation and sent exploding in all directions. I must keep it all together. And if I couldn’t, then I would die trying.
This is the fog that I was in before I heard the word that reached down like the hand of God and touched the very core of my gravitating existence and brought life back into my thumping heart. That brought breath back into my lungs and feeling back into my limps. A word that changed the inertia of my gravitational pull.
And now I am on the other side. Slowly pulling back in the pieces of myself and weaving their frayed edges back together again. Thread by thread I weave and stitch and mending. Re-aligning my center of gravity as I attach the fibers.
And it’s the story that I hope becomes my legacy.
Not the shame.
Not the disabilities.
Not the lying.
Not the abuse.
Not the mental illness and thoughts of suicide.
Not the volatility of “what’s wrong with Andrea.”
But the artistry of weaving.