Bonjour. My French still sucks. I’m fairly certain people have given up on speaking French with me.
“Juh suisse Amerycane”
Today has been rocky. I had my first, “oh my god I need to leave Corsica or go back to the States or go to hell because I am an insane person and no one loves me” moment since arriving in Europe. I have those thoughts fairly often, but not necessarily all at once.
Before delving into the nonsense that set me off today, I must reiterate that this isn’t about the French kid. He’s triggered it, but so have dozens of other people. He’s a manifestation of something inside me. He’s part of a pattern I have yet to break.
With that out of the way, I will detail this experience for your entertainment value and to reassure you that I am, in fact, a 12-year-old girl.
Let’s call this French boy “Gorgonzola.”
So Gorgonzola and I have been playing a little game all week. It’s called “who can be a bigger dick?” and sometimes “who can deny the other person’s existence for the longer period of time?” This game involves throwing food, throwing wine corks, resting bitch faces, and a lot of shoving. The ignoring worked for a few days. When he saw that I was countering his ignoring with more ignoring, he threw rocks at me. I decided to cut the shit and confronted him by some eggplants.
“You know, at the end of the day, it’s really your loss. It doesn’t have to be this complicated.”
“My loss? Like lose? Or lost? What have I lost?”
“Fuck never mind, I don’t know how to say it in French. Listen, all I’m trying to say is that we don’t have to play these stupid games. I’m not asking anything from you.”
“Games? What games? I play no games.”
And the conversation went on and on like this, which is what happens when people who don’t speak the same language have sex.
He said the reason he was ignoring me was because he didn’t want to be teased by his co-worker. “Are you serious?” I squeezed a lemon on his back. He laughed.
I was fully intending to have sex with Gorgonzola again until being informed that he was talking behind my back. I went into crazy girl mode, blasted Black Eyes on my headphones on my way to pick strawberries, confronted him in the field, and left him there, confused. My emotions are so extreme that a good portion of my actions don’t make sense. I feel hurt, I freak out. There’s a very, very angry person inside of me and said anger is often directed at the wrong people at the wrong time. They don’t know my truth, so they don’t understand it. I’m a wild animal. I’m a dissected body on display.
Yesterday, my head was clear and I was happy, so I tried to make amends with Gorgonzola. I made him a paper crane. I leaned on his shoulders. And then I pushed him into a shelf, feeling like a child and assuming I had the strength of a child, forgetting that I am a large, strongish human. It went about as well as you might expect. I apologized. I said “let me make it up to you,” falling into “I fucked up so I’ll make amends by having sex with you” mode.
He responded, “this is an illness, isn’t it?”
“Is this a serious question?”
“Haha, I guess there’s some truth in it.”
“Well, yeah. I guess it is.”
We talked in the kitchen. I told him I have PTSD. “Oh. Usually people who have this experience don’t like sex, I thought.”
“It goes both ways.”
We kissed on the step by the kitchen. He said I was like the feral cat in the window, moving close then running away. He said he wasn’t taking behind my back. He said he ignored me because I was ignoring him. He said I don’t have to hide who I am because of other people.
And then I went back with him to his room, barefooted. He walked ahead of me and refused to shine his light when I was stepping on sharp rocks. I told him I was going back to my cabin to change. When I came back, he was curled up in blankets and pretending to sleep. I laid next to him.
“Can I have a pillow?”
“No. You took my shoes without asking. You can’t have anything.”
“I did not take your shoes. I was barefoot.”
“You’re lying. You took my things without asking.”
“What the fuck.”
I kissed him. He said, “ugh why do you smoke so many cigarettes?”
“Can you just say one nice thing to me?”
“Okay… Good night.”
And he proceeded to turn over and go to sleep. I left. My German friend came to my room and said, “why do you like people like this? Why don’t you stop?”
“I don’t know how.”
He fell asleep next to me.
I woke up this morning, feeling angry/stupid/dirty/used. I went back to ignoring Gorgonzola. At lunch, I made a “make like a tree and Leif” joke and he said, “ah but we can’t make this Leif leave” or something along those lines, and I poured water on him. I called him a “little shit” in the way I call my friends “little shits,” but my crass American pet names are not so endearing outside of the states and my German friend said, “stop calling him names in front of us.”
I grabbed the dishes and left the table. Played some emo songs on guitar. Smoked a filter-less cigarette, glared and glared and glared at the world and inwardly at myself. I contemplated death. I could just die and then no one would have to deal with my mood swings and hyperactivity and constant idiocy. I thought about leaving tomorrow morning, maybe going to Italy or Japan, but certainly running away from myself. I told myself that I had ruined everything. It was too late. They had seen the real, awful me and hated it, maybe as much as I did. I was humiliated. Shameful.
I ran back to my cabin, ran past the German boy, kicked off my shoes, and bellyflopped onto the bed, breathing heavy and fast.
“Are you okay?”
Shaking. Sobbing. Curling into a ball. Mind racing. Hands gripping the pillow tight. Body numb.
(Side note: It is now Thursday. After writing last night, I got high and watched my cabin-mate, Jeep, impale a hornet on a pocket knife and then burn it alive in a candle. Then another hornet flew into my room and buzzed around my head while I hid under a blanket, until the German boy trapped it in a tupperware container and set it free. Guess which one of these boys is the vegetarian…)
The German boy sat on my bed. I sat in the corner, facing the wall. I proceeded to give the following monologue (this is obviously an imperfect summary since I tend not to voice record my emotional breakdowns):
“I am too insane to be alive. Everyone can see that I’m crazy — I see it in the way they look at me. This is who I really am. This is the part of myself that I don’t show to people — the part that I cover up with smiles and laughter. If I was real with people, I would never stop crying. People don’t want to see this. This scares them. This makes them leave me. You have no idea how many people I’ve either scared or pushed away– how many friends I’ve lost because of this. Even my brothers think I’m insane. It’s embarrassing. I don’t want to be this way, but I don’t know how to stop. I don’t know how to be normal. I’ve ruined everything. I ruin everything I touch. I turn everything to shit. I want to crawl into a hole and never come out. I don’t deserve love, so I find boys who don’t love me. I beg them to love me. They are my father. They are my mother. I am a child, pleading, PLEASE LOVE ME. PLEASE LOOK AT ME. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME.”
“Why do you think this? You’re not insane.”
“Because I fucking hate myself.”
And then I fell asleep.
What scares and saddens me about this situation is that I’ve been here many times before. This pattern is what keeps me from living with people. It keeps me from traveling with people. It’s what made summer camp miserable as a child. It’s what led to my refusal to go to school, the resulting stay at a “behavioral health hospital” as a 12-year-old, and the decision to put me in a special education class and have me ride the short bus because I was too scared of other kids to interact normally. Yeah, I rode the short bus. Get over it.
This is how I feel sometimes ^^
I am going to share a humiliating story from my third stay at a mental health facility because it applies to this situation. In it, I am 21 years old, I have just ended a month-long bender, and I’m living in a residential treatment facility with 10-15 other emotionally unstable people. I am sharing this in the hope that it provides you with some sort of solace or a sense of “crazy person” solidarity, and also to help myself understand what the fuck is happening and why. Oh, and this is from a longer work that I have yet to edit/finish.
Sam was an ex-marine who wanted to be a priest. He was short and stocky with cropped blonde hair that receded at his forehead. He dressed plain like a dad. He talked like a dad. He was quiet and calculated, a well-to-do twenty-something from an average family who craved something intoxicating.
Enter Leif, the peacock. I was glitter and rage, hot pink and neon green, sexual freedom and impulsivity. Despite — or perhaps because of — my erratic emotional state, I managed to attract a demographic of males who used me to satisfy their need for excitement. They were typically men who strictly adhered to convention – men who wore khakis and Birkenstocks with tube socks, who voted for Bush and still attended Catholic Church.
After Jason’s (hey, it’s me. Jason is the first boy I had sex with during treatment) discharge and the discovery of Bo’s (Bo was a rapist) unsavory past, I was left without the comfort of flesh and the distraction of daily sexual text messages. I wore desperation like a silk robe, making sultry eyes at anyone whose gaze happened to meet mine. Most of the time, I didn’t find my male partners attractive. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to hear the things I didn’t believe, the things I couldn’t say to myself. You are worthy. You are loved. You are beautiful. I didn’t understand the difference between sexual desire and honest affection — that the men who fucked me were not Gods. I spread my legs freely, assuming that someday, one of the boys inside me would turn out to be Prince Charming.
One day, Sam came to our second story apartment to exchange music. My acoustic guitar was leaning against the wall.
“Do you play?”
“Yeah, but I’m terrible.”
“Let’s hear something.”
I played him a song I wrote on my bedroom floor two nights before. He said wow. I said shut up. He said no I mean it. He said listen Leif I’ve really enjoyed our conversations lately and I think I like you but I don’t want to ruin our friendship and I would want to take it slow what do you think. I said oh that’s so sweet I think I might like you too this would make a good story ha ha the priest and the prostitute. He said I guess that’s funny I didn’t think about that yeah I guess that’s true.
That’s as far as we got. Word spreads fast in treatment centers. Sam told Daj that he liked me, Daj told Joni and Joni told Daj she was mad. Daj called Sam and Sam called Joni and Joni said, “Sam I like you, but was afraid to tell you.” Sam called Daj and asked what to do and Daj said he should call me. So Sam called me and said “Come to my bedroom, but sit at the desk, not on the bed because I don’t want staff to get any ideas.” I sat at his desk and he said, “I know I said I liked you and that I wanted to pursue something, but Joni likes me too and I’ve liked her for a long time, so…”
It’s my first semester of college. I wear hippie dresses and smoke weed under my bed. Evan calls himself a fascist. He takes speed and makes art out of tiny dots with his pens. I fall in love with him. The night of my first Franzia experience, I confess over a text message. He says, sorry, but you’re just a friend. I dry heave on the bathroom floor, my dorm mates on all sides, sobbing into their t-shirts.
I channeled heartbreak into rage. I smashed one of the apartment’s uniform white plates on the kitchen floor. I blasted Blink 182 and stomped on the ground above Sam’s bedroom. I walked through a park by Lake Michigan with Avigal and we collected sticks and leaves and flowers for an undesignated art project. At the apartment, we removed our findings from our plastic grocery bags. I glued moss to a square of cardboard to serve as grass. I glued sticks to the moss in the shape of a chair. I glued leaves to the sticks in the shape of a girl. I glued flowers to the leaves in the shape of a dress. Kimmie cut a one-inch piece of my pink-orange hair and I glued it to her head. On a scrap of paper glued to the cardboard, I wrote a quote from Old Boy: “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” When the resident art teacher saw it, she said,“That’s not a very positive message, is it?”
Sam and Joni were both in my primary therapy group, which met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Monday after Sam chose Joni over me, the three of us sat in the circle, trying not to acknowledge one another. Sam, who sat by Joni, looked at his hands. Joni bit her bottom lip. I clenched my fists hard enough for my fingernails to pierce the skin.
“I’m sensing some tension in the room,” David said. “Is there anything we need to talk about?”
“Everything is fine, David. There’s nothing to talk about. Sam is just a lying fucking asshole.”
“Leif, can you tell us what’s bothering you without insulting people?”
“No, David, I can’t.”
I watched as Sam’s face changed colors and a bead of sweat ran from his bald spot to his chin. He snapped.
“This is bullshit. You bring out the absolute worst in people, you know that, Leif? Do you want to take this outside? Because there is no way I’m talking about this in front of everyone.”
So we took it outside. Sam leaned against a concrete block as I cried and chastised, concluding with, “I didn’t even like you in the first place.”
Sam and I remained in the same group, but rarely addressed or looked at one another. Joni, the banker, kept her place beside him. Allison sat across from me, where she flipped me off on a weekly basis. Matt, the chronically disinterested schizoaffective basketball player, sat one chair to my right. Jeff, the beer-bellied redhead whose hatred for Allison rivaled my own, sat next to Allison. Emily, the anorexic whose stay at Yellowbrick had passed the one year mark, sat next to David on the off-chance she made it to group. And then there was me, the explosive one. I sat by the door, an empty chair to my left. The room was full of enemies of my own making. I didn’t trust anyone’s intentions. My paranoia had increased to the point that I’d flip, I’d run, I’d scream at the top of my lungs and then run back and wonder what I did wrong.
Here’s the pattern: I begrudgingly enter a situation where I’m in very close quarters with other people. I’m tame for a few days — I’m happy, hyper, alluring, whatever. Now, this can go two different ways. If a boy is involved, my sole focus will be on his existence. He may be fooled at first. He may see me as interesting, sensual, and unwaveringly happy… and then my truth starts to boil over and drown the flame. He’ll pick his clothes up off the bedroom floor, turn the light on, and leave me naked on my knees, begging. Or, if he happens to embrace my insanity and love me regardless, I’ll throw garlic at his face, drive a stake through his heart, and flee.
If I am surrounded only by women, I will become enmeshed with the most “mentally ill” of them, deny my feelings for a few weeks, and then explode. We’ll never talk again.
These are symptoms of an insecure attachment style. These are symptoms of C-PTSD and regular PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. These are symptoms of a fuckload of hurt. I know this. And maybe if I observed someone else with my history acting in the way I act, I would have some empathy. But I am awful to myself. I’m a cancer patient who blames herself for producing deadly cells.
But if I leave this place now, I am only feeding the conviction that I am insane and unworthy of love. I can’t afford to do that. The true act of self-love is staying put for the next two weeks and looking people in the eyes when they stare at me sideways. The true act of self-love is telling people what I need, taking time for myself, and sleeping alone at night.
Sharing myself publicly is somehow an act of self-love. I want to be understood. I want to help you feel understood. I want to understand myself.
I need to stop apologizing for who I am. I need to start apologizing to myself.