The time has come to get into the part of this journey that I have not been looking forward to – my childhood. Nobody in my family is fond of me writing about these topics, the least of all me. But alas, I have BPD and the typical reasons for someone to have this affliction start from the early home. In this post, we will see which five memories are the first to pop up for me and if there are more negative or positive ones.
Among the first memories in my mind is the fear of losing my keys. I was quite the air-head when it came to the little possessions I had, still am, actually. I would keep losing them, as I have to these days, thank God I don’t need a key right now (we have an electronic code lock). I don’t know when it started, but my father began to go ballistic over the loss of keys.
Well, I say ballistic, but it was more of a low growl than teeth in your shin kind of behavior. It was enough to make the child, Maria, sufficiently scared. It didn’t help that this panic was enforced by my mother, not that she meant to do so, via the stress and search of the missing keys.
One particular day I had done something I shouldn’t have and went to the top of the one proper hill in my town. That in itself wasn’t the issue, it was the train tracks without any intersection or crossing in the middle of the woods that I had to go through to get to the hill. And, as you might’ve guessed, I managed to lose my keys on that hill.
We searched, panicked. I don’t know if my mother was stressed out as much as I was, but I know I was freaking out like no tomorrow. I still don’t know why I was so terrified of losing my keys. I only know that my father was very displeased with me whenever it happened. Not once did I get bursts of fury for it either, I don’t think. But to this day, I’m terrified of losing my stuff.
I used to be a swimmer from a very young age. So young in fact, that my first memory of it is from a competition – I and my cousins couldn’t make it to the end of the 25 m pool without grabbing the ropes. After that, many of the images in my mind revolve around my father yipping from the sidelines with his prominent voice, me looking at the people swimming on each side of me as well as taking glimpses at my father to know what to do better (it was usually my kick slacking). I never hated swimming, but it was all I knew. I gave up being a scout for it and kept practicing 5-7 times a week until I was about 14 years old. For what purpose, I still don’t quite know – I never wanted to be an athlete.
It got to a point where I went to practice even when I was sick. I once had about 40 Celsius fever when I got home, and after the door closed behind me I collapsed on the floor next to the toilet. I don’t remember what happened after that. I only know that I was extremely happy because I had broken my record for the 50 m freestyle earlier that evening, maybe even got some rare praise from my father.
When the two groups in town merged, and my father eventually got kicked out (or left, I don’t know) of the coaching forces, I felt empty. The only reason I had been going to the arduous hours in the pool was him, after all. His absence left me cold, unmotivated and I suppose a little bit abandoned. I quit swimming soon after he left the scene.
May the disapproval of my family reign down on me for talking about my experiences so openly with the world. I am finally done being afraid of them, their judgment, and their cries of broken pride. I am sorry father, for I will sin against you, though I never promised not to write about you, to begin with. I’m writing about my life, and you are a part of it.
A two-liter glass bottle of beer, a known brand in my country. They don’t make it anymore, at least I don’t think they do. It was a common sight every night in our house, that and the cans of the bitter stuff I couldn’t understand why anyone would bother to enjoy for leisure. I would know, I got to taste a tiny bit from the cans while hauling them to the empties.
Too many flashes come to me when I see alcohol these days. My father being carried home by his friend. The fear in me, the hurt in him, when at new years even I dare not hug him because I am afraid. The pain and hurt of the denial when I am an adult and all the damage has been done already. To this day, I get anxiety from intoxicated people.
Mind you, not once has he been terrible or aggressive towards me when drunk. But witnessing the switch from a cold man into a man who seems to be more vulnerable, is not an easy thing for a child to handle. Stability in the parent’s behavior, consistency in the emotions and moods, I think that would’ve made me feel more secure and safe.
My father loved to fish. I don’t know if he does anymore since we are so estranged these days, but back when I was a kid we used to go to my cousins and do this small hike through a swamp with wooden paths to get to a lake. I loved those days. They were filled with Fanta, Sprite, and numerous times of my lure getting stuck in the waterlilies.
Before I got to start casting with the real deal, my father gave me his rod and tied a nut at the end of the line. He then told me to go to the side, not to hit the Volvo he was working on, and urged me to try casting the line. I think I was very joyful, as when I remember these things I am filled with deep sorrow – the sorrow of not being able to cast the line with my father anymore. And the weirdly sweet taste of fresh caught and smoked pike, I wonder if I’ll ever forget it. I’m certain I won’t forget the murky waters, nor the precision with which he knocked out the catch all the while watching out for the hooks and teeth.
The only scary memory I have related to fishing is not a bad one either. I think my father might’ve saved my life, and considering the situation it would be understandable that he was upset. You see, we went fishing near a water power plant. It was a river in the middle of town. I cast my line and yanked on it. It did not budge. I told my father I had gotten stuck, and yanked again, at which point he roared at me to stop and jumped forth with his knife. He cut the line, and at that point, I noticed I had cast it around the powerlines. I’m still trying to replace the lure, he said it was his best perch catcher. I’ve not found it to this day.
Learning to drive a bike
The last of my five memories is my bike. It was beautiful, a flaming red apparatus for freedom and independence. I learned to drive without my helping wheels on the parking lot of my childhood home. It was a terrifying ordeal and when my father finally let go of the back of the bike to let me try my shaky wheels by myself, I got confused and scared. And I came to a halt and forgot that I need to set my foot down so I wouldn’t fall on the asphalt.
Another time we were headed around the small lake nearby, and when the sandy walkway arrived at a small field, I saw fit to steer into the ditch and vanish out of sight. The laugh of my father echoes in my ears, and the huffing, puffing angry little girl’s voice groans at him. How dare he laugh at my misfortune! I was fine though, and I think we finished our bike trip.
That first bike was glorious. I was very proud of it. And as I grew older, I don’t think I wanted it to be sold, even if it probably was to get me a new bike. Years later, those flaming red wheels of freedom came back, from another town, from a person who called that they had found my bike. My father had carved the info on it, in case it ever got lost.
From this quick look, I conclude that there was a 3 to 2 lead on memories that entice negative emotions in me. The fear of losing my keys, the fact that swimming was my life for the better part of my childhood, and the scars from alcohol. And not only that, the order I wrote them down in is the order they popped into my head. Meaning that the first three memories I recalled were all from the shadows.
Another interesting point to note is that none of the memories relate to my mother. Why don’t I have more memories of her? Why is my father the prominent one in my mind? And why, when I try to recall memories of my mother, are the first ones of them also shaded in darkness? Also curiously, one of the two scenes that came to me included alcohol as well, not that my mother drinks much, to begin with. At least I don’t think she does.
My estrangement from my family, my parent’s separation, and the seclusion of my father from the things I loved doing because he was present, undoubtedly affect me to this day. It took me a long while to understand that I hate uncertainty and not knowing the reasons why. Why did we stop going to the cousins to fish? Why was I so afraid of my father’s wrath if I lost the keys? And why, for heaven’s sake, why did everything end so abruptly and without any reason given to the child that was scared and confused?