A shoeless, seven year old girl walks around the chicken pen in he New Zealand yard. The lithe and imaginative child steps on a thorn, sending searing pain through her body that forces her to step out of it, or so it seems, and she realizes that she is going to have a different type of life. The girl is me and I have disassociated from myself for the first time.
Living in Canada, everything changes for me when I am ten. I develop an intense fear of heights but what I find even more alarming is my conviction that I will die within a year. It never occurs to me to discuss my impending death with my parents or anyone. I am secretive.
I also have a magical world where I can make thinks happen - wonderful things! I perform rituals on the sidewalk, touching and tapping so that I will be famous when I grow-up - a beautiful movie star. Working my sidewalk magic, I tap, touch, I count, I dream.
The notion that I will die in a year turns my magical world into Hell. I walk and think about preventing my death. The sidewalk holds the answer - touch certain places four times and never step on a cracks. If I step on a crack or think I have stepped on a crack, I must do a ritual to erase this mistake - cancel it out. I get down on all fours and erase the spot with my hands, counting, counting, counting, counting. All numbers have multiples, as a child it was four but as an adult it would be three.
I drink my water in gulps of four at the sink. Carefully I spill the water out and refill the class four times. Usually, I am careful to hide my rituals from others but when the urge to perform them overpowers me, I am held hostage and must act. It is actions that will save me from my imminent death. One night urgency holds me so tight that I am forced to perform my water drinking ritual in front of my mother and eight year old brother.
They laugh. I am a bit of a clown, playful and always doing unusual things, in my "right" state of mind. Hearing their laughter, I do not understand why they cannot tell that this "thing" is hurting me. It hurts to be pulled to do this and that and feel that I will die if I cannot act. The preventive magic snowballs and my rituals balloon in number. Sometimes I can resist the urge to act and the urge passes, but more often I am a slave to my rituals.
And then something happens. I do not remember what but equilibrium is reestablished within and I am "normal" for almost six years or so I think I am normal, whatever that is.
At sixteen, I begin having anxiety attacks. I am dying in the streets, mall, classroom - everywhere but home. I am save at home behind closed doors. My heart is defective, I decide, and will beat so hard that it will brutally break through my ribs and I will die. It smashes like the hooves of a racehorse below my ribs sending adrenaline speeding through my body. When I panic, the attacks are short and jolting. Things do not look "real" anymore. All of the colours are brighter and my senses seem heightened. I feel like I can fly and so light that I am no longer in my body. I have disassociated. And, this, only makes me feel more anxious as I flee from myself.
Knowing that I am mentally ill, I research psychiatric illnesses. I cannot quite come up with a self-diagnosis but I think I may be paranoid schizophrenic and definitely certifiable. The fear of being locked up in a mental hospital convinces that I must at all costs keep this secret.
At nineteen, I develop anorexia nervosa. It takes me down fast because I am not overweight to begin with. After dieting for ony six months, I am hospitalized for the first time with this illness. I am hospitalized two more times after this.
During my late teens, my rituals have their hooks in me and are like a noose around my neck. I surrender myself to them for a few hours a day.
During my 20's, I am diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, obsessive compulsive disorder and 20 something phobias. I do not do well in "talk" therapy. I am secretive.
Medication helps. By 30, I can function well enough to hold down a job and have a university degree. I am well liked by others and have many interests. I am good at my job, showing empathy for others. For several years, I work as a special education teacher. When I am not working, I prefer to be alone.
I am underweight for all of my 30's, barely menustrating. I look anorexic. I only eat certain foods at certain times but I manage.
In my early 40's, I become addicted to running. Addictions come easily to me. I end up with stress fracture in my hip and it turns into a full blown fracture. By my mid 40's, I have broken both my hips. The fracturing most likely connects to my eating disorder and certainly to excesssive running. I did not know I has low bone density.
I am relatively young to be walking around with a hip replacement and pins and screws in the other hip.
Reading this, one might think I have never known joy or really even lived, but I know joy and I have lived, just differently.
With pain comes a certain type of wisdom. Pain has been my instructor in life. Wisdom comes to us by different paths. Suffering is one teacher but there are others. Pain forced me to seek answers, knowledge, solutions and with this came the gift ofwisdom. A good teacher forces a student to look beyond them for answers. Pain was my mentor, my best teacher, a type of teacher that I aspire to be.