Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I was going to do a long post today about my Grandpa McClain, who would have been 100 years old today. I was going to post pictures of Grandpa, but whenever I start going through the family photographs I got from my late father, I end up seeing pictures of myself as a child, and it's a child I don't know. There are hundreds of pictures of me in these boxes, and 99% of them are from before my parents divorced and the abuse began.

One of the least pleasant things about suffering abuse as a child is that it features lingering effects. My brother and I call it the gift that keeps on giving. There are times when I still hear the voice of my stepfather calling me worthless, stupid, and lazy. The bad part is when I hear it coming out of my own mouth when I do something wrong. I know it's bad when my own daughter chastises me for calling myself "Stupid," when I didn't even realize that I had said it out loud. You want to know how lazy I am? I've worked 23 years in a profession where working in the summer is optional and I've taken exactly two summers off without working summer school; the first year I worked full time, and the fifth. So when I hear the word "lazy" in my head, I know it isn't coming from me. This is one of the reasons I was hesitant to even consider becoming a parent. I had serious second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about adoption when my wife suggested it. The thought that I might terrorize a child in any way like what had been done to me frightened me to my core.

Today is one of those rare bad days when I really do feel worthless, lazy, and stupid. It's an almost paralyzing feeling that I can't get anything done. Ordinarily, I am confident to the point of severe arrogance. Just ask any of my friends--the few who can stand to be around me for any length of time. I know I am intelligent, artistically talented, and I was physically gifted at sports, at least at an earlier time in my life. But there are days like today when I can look at all the award certificates I won in school for math competitions (and I didn't even like math), all-conference sports awards, competitive scholarships, etc. and still think of myself as a complete loser. It seems like all the stuff I have accomplished was just part of fighting a losing battle for self-esteem. Things will likely look up for me tomorrow, because this feeling never lasts for long, fortunately. But I can say definitively that I know firsthand what depression is, and I have to say that I could really live without it.

I'm not sure how long it will take for me to sort through these family photos, but at this point, I'm not sure how much that really needs to be done. They reminded my dad of better days, but for the most part they just remind me of what could have been, and innocence lost.

No comments: