The thing about shit stuff happening to you when you’re a child is that it doesn’t just fuck up that one thing. It fucks up everything, in variously different ways. Your relationships, how you see yourself, your inability to trust, how you then behave when you become a parent, just... pfft. Everything.
That’s what it does, see. It’s not so much about what actually happened to you, as what surrounds it. Firstly, the circumstances that allowed a young child to wander off from her siblings whilst on holiday. And then what comes after. In my case, I was never asked what had happened. My parents were annoyed with me. I told them ‘I went looking for you, I got lost, I met a man, but he wasn’t very nice.’ And that was it. I was missing for forty minutes. And they left it at that. As a sign of how seriously they took it, I got accidentally separated from them again a few days later. I got told off.
Subsequently, years later, I found out that they guessed that something had happened to me. But they didn’t ask. To them, they didn’t ask because they worried about upsetting me. But at the time, I took it as a lesson. They didn’t ask, because they didn’t care. That’s quite a big thing to take in at such a young age. I know I never thought of it like that, children can’t articulate their feelings in that way. But moods, feelings, suggestions have a way of sinking their hooks into your mind, and distorting the way you view the world and your place in it.
They didn’t ask, because they didn’t care. They didn’t care, so they didn’t notice how I changed. They didn’t make the connection when their loud, stroppy, confident youngest daughter, unfazed by anything, became a girl who cried and clung to her mother every school morning for the next four years. The girl who refused all invitations to play at friend’s houses. The girl who wouldn’t attend sleepovers.
The girl who, when asked how her day had been, replied ‘don’t worry, I know you’re busy.’ Not accusingly. Just with a shrug and an understanding smile. I was six. Still makes me cry to think of it. I don’t even remember that conversation, that’s how unimportant a moment it was to me. A dagger through my mother’s heart though. The girl who used to get into her parent’s bed every night. The girl who asked her sister two questions. ‘How many months does it take to have a baby? And how many months is it since we were in Tunisia?’ The girl who escaped into reading instead of staying in the real world.
The thing is, I can look back on all of this now. I can understand that my parents were trying to protect me, in their own way. But by trying to protect me, they reinforced the opposite. I thought they didn’t care. I thought that the people who should have loved me most, who should have protected me, who should have cared, didn’t. And I just accepted it. I wasn’t worth caring about. I’m not worth caring about. And I can be as logical as I like about things, I can tell myself that’s not true, I know it’s not true. I do know it. But it doesn’t change the fact that to the core of my being, I am not worth caring about. That's me, that's how I feel, that's how I've spent most of my life feeling, and that's why I'm not robust, that's why I'm oversensitive, that's why I get so hurt and disappointed when I cautiously trust people and then they let me down, or hurt me, or ignore me. Because it just reinforces that.
And I’m not writing this for attention, or because I want people to swoop in and shower me with affirming things, because firstly, your words won’t change what’s in my head. And then I’ll have to pretend that you’ve made me feel better when you haven’t, and it’ll get all awkward and you’ll offer to listen if I want to have a chat, and I don’t because there really isn’t any point, but I’ll thank you again, and then we’ll feel a bit uncomfortable, and nothing will have changed. I’m writing this to get it out of my head, where it’s been sitting for a bit too long. I have other, happier, better things to write about. But until this fucker gets fired out there, all’s cheerless, dark, and deadly.