Thursday, August 31, 2006

warning: dickensian childhood interlude

My childhood was pretty extreme. There's layers upon layers of sickness that went on. None of it happened for a reason and none of it made any sense. My only job was to survive it and then get as far the fuck away from it as I could. And thats what I did. But I'm still living with a couple physical reminders of it that crop up now and then. And I resent it like hell.

Between two mentally ill chronic smokers and the stress and chaos they generated, (not to mention catholic school) by the time I was six I had asthma. I remember it's onset and I remember the doctor who told my parents that it was psychological.
First of all, they thought it was very funny to teach me to explain 'it's not catching, it's only psychological' to people. Ha! yes, thats high comedy. Taking advantage of a kid is ALWAYS high comedy.

They wasted no time spreading the word. Every teacher I had knew 'it's only psychological'. It was in my school records. Every gym class I was forced to attend I was reviled by whatever barely literate health nazi happened to be teaching at the time and made to participate, conspicuously, until I damn near passed out to the jeers of the entire class. Jeers that went on all day long.

Being an object of contempt everywhere you go, and being accused of lying when you are genuinely sick is really not a good way to grow up. I was a normal looking kid. I was smarter than average. And none of that mattered because I was already branded as a snivelling liar and hated for it. I remember having attacks in school to a chorus of the entire class singsonging 'faker! faker!' And of course the teachers did nothing. Of course.

Asthma doesnt look like anything much worse than a cold from the outside. You're just out of breath and coughing, to the outside world, and to them all that means is that you are lazy and out of shape. And the cure for that is forced activity!

There was a Doctor on television at the time named Lendon Smith, a supposed expert on child care. He is the one who really popularized the notion of the neurotic, substandard wimpy asthmatic kid who literally made himself sick to avoid stress and gain attention.
How I hate that phrase.
"You're only doing it to get attention. You're just trying to get attention"
The LAST motherfucking thing I wanted at that point in my life was attention. Attention was the enemy. If people paid attention to you, you'd get treated like shit. I most assuredly did NOT want attention. I hated having asthma. It was like I was being betrayed by my own body.

Asthma is slow suffocation. The tissue in your lungs swells and loses elasticity. Every breath you take you have to force and think about. Your lungs hurt. The breath you force in has to be forced out. Gallons of mucous form, and capillaries in your eyes and chest burst from coughing and trying to breathe. Your lungs simply will not expand and your windpipe is narrowed and full of snot. And it gets worse and worse and worse. You can't talk without gasping for air. You cannot walk across the room. The headaches are intense. Your hands and feet tingle from lack of oxygen. And it HAPPENS WITH OUT WARNING AND WITHOUT AN OBVIOUS TRIGGER.
And it commonly happens in the middle of the night when you are sound asleep.

That's what turns my parents out. I would have needed the involuntary impulse control of a buddhist monk to program an episode like that.Much less repeated episodes.

Despite what they saw and heard, my parents were more than happy, suspiciously relieved, in fact, to take the word 'psychological' to mean 'all in her head, nothing really wrong with her'. What makes it heinous is that they acted as though it was the expense...but when I moved out I found out that all my medical care had been free through CHAMPUS through my 21st year. Career military dependant.
I was denied FREE medical care.

Now that I am their age and have spent some years away from their sickness, I know, without any more conforting doubts, that the reason they did this is because they really didn't like me or being parents very much. And that as extreme and dramatic as it sounds, they hoped I'd die so they wouldn't have to do it anymore.
Thats the truth, whether anyone wants to hear it or consider it or think about it or not. I know it. I was there. I'm there now.
This is the kind of white trash, waste of skin bullshit you see on COPS or SERVE AND PROTECT. And thats what I grew up with. Those were my parents. They had a nice house and wore clean clothes, they'd spend whatever it took to make things LOOK good, but that was my parents.

I don't even want to know where they're buried.


  1. YAY etc.
    Well FN as I said better out than in.There really is nothing I can say that wouldnt sound trite and annoying....
    But it sounds horrible

  2. speechless. My father didn't want to be a parent but at least he just ignored me.

  3. christ. that's heinous.
    how old were you when you were finally really diagnosed? were you speaking to them at the time?
    i cannot believe how people can treat their own children that way. vile.

  4. Phew! that was heavy. Dunno what to say really. I hope like Beast said it helped to let it out but thank you ;)

  5. beast: it sucked. its over. thats what i'm trying to for it to STAY OVER.
    gse: thats just as bad. having someone deny your entire existance? fucker.
    claire: about 22. every doctor since has noted that had things been treated earlier i would not have the trouble i do today.
    frobi: yeah, shit. im trying to quantify it out of existance so i'm not revisiting it every time i get the sniffles.

  6. All that you've said about the "asthmatic kid" makes sense for me of how my brother was treated. He too had asthma and the gym teacher made him do extra laps around the track until he dropped. Yeah, real funny. Assholes.

  7. It's possible for us to have access to therapy and medicine combinations that help us deal with psychological wounds from parental neglect, whatever its form. Thank heaven.
    But to have to deal as well with a physical reminder through life?
    You do realize (of course ya do!) how marvelous are your achievements?
    Forgive me missing the right tone here -

  8. At school I was friends with a girl who suffered asthma attacks, and I was usually assigned to be with her when she had the attacks (she would be dispatched outside the building so as not to interrupt the class with her tiresome ways). Distressing to watch, but fortunately she used to recover from them after a short time. I can remember one of the teachers saying "she probably does it as an excuse to get out of lessons". As a joke. The good ole days, eh?

    As for the parents, saw and interview with Sopranos' creator David Chase the other night. He was asked how he felt after his awful mother and father died - was he sad, or was it a release? "A release" he said without missing a beat. Amen to that.

  9. You should have claimed to have "just psychological" dysentery as well, and shat in their bed on a regular basis.

  10. mj: i saw it happen to other kids too. and whether or not you 'believe in' asthma, it tends to exist anyway. im sorry about your brother.
    ara: all i want is for the useless rage to go away. they're dead. it's over. and thank you.
    betty: thats true. the constant vigilance stopped. i hadn't realized it was such a big part of my everyday life until it stopped.
    tim: i figure outliving them and flourishing was the less laundry-intensive option. anyway, catholics don't poo. it's a sin.

  11. I'll never understand why we can't just recognize and process our childhood wounds and thus make them heal forever, dammit. Clearly, your parents and the other adults in your childhood dealt you some major psychic blows. God knows how they got so fucked up, but thank heavens you have risen above that treatment. Spunk and Courage, thy name is FN.

    BTW, I'm glad you're angry. Rage at the people who did this to you if you must, but love yourself. Don't ever let it turn into despair or feeling you did something wrong. And as you indicate, living better than they did is the best revenge.

    BTW, I've found that whacking the hell out of punching bag or pillow helps when things are feeling less "over" than I'd like them to feel.


  12. Having witnessed asthma attacks, I wonder how on earth *anyone* could have labelled that gut-wrenching gasping and fighting for every breath as attention-seeking. Good for you that you're getting out all your anger.

    My BF has suffered from asthma his whole life, but luckily his dad was also a sufferer, so there was fellow feeling. Don't know how his dad managed in the days before asthma was really recognised as a condition, though. They had a good doctor early enough that BF's asthma has been under control for years, though he still takes two lots of drugs via inhalers every day. He tells the story that his younger sister used to be jealous because he couldn't sleep flat, and had to sleep sitting up! It certainly isn't something I'd be jealous of.

    (Incidentally, I've been lurking for a while without commenting before - great blog).

  13. danator: im just trying to sweep up the last fragments. i put in my time on the couch for this shit. and wore the fuck out of my daughters little league aluminum baseball bat smacking dirtclods and pillows doing it.(())hugs backatcha
    tamburlaine: retroactive hellos!
    geeze, didn't you pick an 'up'
    kinda post to come in on. it isn't always this grim here. mostly its buttsex, gardening and being disgusted with the preraphaelites.

  14. Wow, really I've got nothing.

    And as has been said, ya know, there isn't much to say. BUT, I think you're pretty damned fantastic. All around.

  15. It's always nice for me to hear someone else pointing out that just because they are your family doesn't mean they are people you want to spend any time with. Most people (thankfully) have no idea.

  16. i do, i want to know where they're burried. so i can dig their rotting, smelling corpses out of the ground, decapitate them, and display the pieces on some national monument (disneyworld perhaps?) with a sign that says "child-abusers take note."