I started this blog as an inspirational tale of two people who hadn’t had an easy time in life, but who (I hoped) would keep punching back and eventually find fulfillment in whatever it was that made them happy. Like most of my ideas, this one soon became abandoned in the back of my mind. Even when I had the desire to write, I wasn’t sure if I still had all the log on information or that we had any more followers left. (When I was on blogger I would pour my heart out in every post and not only not receive any comments, but no VIEWS. It soon became just a reinforcement of my belief that no matter how much I might have to say, no one cared.)
But now I’m afraid I’ve come to the end of my rope, a giving up point if you will, and before I can fully process that for me life was always destined to consist only of cats, tears, wistfulness, YouTube videos and trips to the grocery store, I need someone to hear my story.
When you’re young they tell you that you can be anything you want if only you put your mind to it and that if you just keep trying everything will work out for you. What they don’t consider is that some of us are born on the fringes of society. Not quite normal. Never totally included. They don’t tell you that if you are different you will have doors slammed in your face constantly throughout your life. You won’t be afforded the same support network. You won’t have same chances as a normal person (and yes, there IS such thing as normal). This isn’t the story about how every opportunity in life was shut down for me. That would take too long. This is the story of the LAST door that was shut to me and my pain in accepting the life that has always been meant for me.
I am a shut-in. A cat lady. An obese 37 year old virgin. The type of person that society easily makes fun of on internet forums and even the most intelligent of TV shows. One of the few groups you don’t have to be “PC” for yet. Someone you can make fun of without feeling guilty, because they’re just freaks, right? Who cares anyway? I don’t live in my parents’ basement but for seven or eight years after I lost my job I was so depressed and despondent that I lived in a shack in my mother’s backyard. Close enough, right?
I have always been different, but it wasn’t always so obvious. I didn’t speak in school until I reached third grade. Even I didn’t understand why and none of the adults seemed to think it was serious enough to look into. One teacher joked at Open House that she wished she had a class full of me. Selective mutism isn’t something you just get over in a day (at least for me), so I continued struggling with the social aspect of school.
As middle school approached, the other kids made it clear that I didn’t belong and that I should keep my distance. I was enrolled in a Christian school for sixth grade and that’s when the hard-core bullying started. Nowadays, bullying is recognized for the outright soul-crushing abuse that it is, but as with everything, this enlightenment came too late for me and it was just kids being kids at the time. I was shoved down the stairs, had pudding poured on my head, was poked, beaten, verbally tormented and then made to see the school counselor about why I wasn’t making any friends.
Worst of all I think was the exclusion. Every P.E. I would lean against a wall and watch the other kids play four-square. I remember distinctly looking at my reflection behind them one day in my yellow gym shirt and green gym shorts and thinking to myself “this is how I’m going to remember myself when I’m old.” The thought was so terrifying that I impulsively decided to get in the four-square line, telling myself that it wouldn’t be as big a deal as I was imagining. All talk immediately ceased when I joined the line and everyone just sort of stared at me. Then a huge discussion broke out about how I never talked or raised my hand. How I always sat by myself and didn’t have any friends. One kid spoke up, “She’s like Laura.” I perked up at that thought. Laura was a girl in the other sixth grade class who was very quiet. As long as I was like someone, I thought. “No she’s not,” another kid said emphatically. “At least Laura expresses herself.” Having had enough, I finally walked away in tears. The next day I was back to leaning against my wall watching the game, order restored in the universe.
I didn’t stop trying. I was sure that if I only tried hard enough and waited long enough I would have a life somewhat resembling everyone else’s. You can probably pretty much guess that I didn’t have much luck with friends and relationships. I spent most of my twenties trying to make to make friends online, reading self-help books and crying every Saturday night when I knew everyone else my age was out beginning their lives.
When I was 25 I finally accepted that I would never get married or even have a relationship somewhat resembling marriage. I went on one date with a guy from work and was so anxious I avoided him afterwards. “I at least deserve to know why,” he wrote me in a note he slipped in my cubicle at work. “I don’t know why but it’s not your fault” I replied simply in email when I got home.
I recognized that the world was closing in around me and that since I wouldn’t have a traditional life, I’d need to make another way. I had some ideas, but the one I kept coming back to was foster care.
Both my mother and grandmother had been foster parents. I had heard horror stories from different kids about how they were abused and neglected. One girl’s father had murdered her mother right in front of her. Though many had problems, they were at their core just like any kids and wanted and needed the same things out of life: love, acceptance, peace, stability and happiness.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I needed someone, that was clear. I was long past the age where living alone made me feel grown up and independent. There were times I longed to cook a meal for someone or to have someone to tuck into bed. And it was possible that I could do some good for someone else. Foster care might not have been my first choice, but if I had been born “normal” I might not ever have even thought of helping a child I wasn’t related to. The whole thing finally made sense. This was why I had been through so much. If I hadn’t, I might not have empathy or patience for a child who was different. If I’d lead a different life I might have judged a birth parent who might have turned to drugs to dull some unending ache they couldn’t explain.
I became very excited about this prospect. I would have things to look forward to for Christmas, Easter. I could shop for their school clothes and experience being a “mother” for the first time. It was true that I had helped with many of my mother’s charges before and had helped to raise my now twenty year old special needs sister (also a former foster child), but I hadn’t really counted those as “mine.” If I raised one of these children to adulthood, maybe I would have someone around as I aged, someone who I would be able to talk to with on an adult level the way I couldn’t with my sister.
I admit part of my desire to pursue foster care was selfish. Isn’t a desire for motherhood always selfish? You can’t give a reason for wanting to purposely have a biological child without using the words “I” or “me.” As a society we tend to put mothers up on a pedestal and some of that is justified, but let’s not forget that anybody can be a mother (or so I thought). I was going to do it right.
As excited as I was about the prospect of fostering, something nagged at the back of my mind. See, any time something good is about to happen to me, something happens to prevent it. I’m not exaggerating or being paranoid. The biggest example I can think of is that after losing my post office job ten years ago, I almost got a job I really wanted as a mail carrier. After I had completed the training and everything I was informed that they couldn’t hire me because I had an old record on my driver’s license where I didn’t have car insurance (which, trust me, is about as bad as murder in the law’s eyes). I guess I could just sense something bad about to happen.
I went ahead and completed the necessary classes to become a foster parent, called PRIDE. I drove the hour out of town each weekend and attended the nine hour classes. I bought a fire extinguisher, my mother’s friend gave me an old baby bed and I was assigned to and met with a case worker. Almost everyone I knew thought it was a wonderful idea. An old neighbor even gave me three hundred dollars to help with the expenses of gettting lisenced. My father was the only one who seemed to think I shouldn’t do it, but he’s another story. My mother had to stop fostering when she married him, so I hadn’t expected him to be on board. He’s slightly racist (used to be very much racist), zealously religious and very button-down and proper. “That’s a 24 hour a day job,” he warned. “Just like with any parent,” I replied. “You could get one like Erica,” he said, meaning my sister who has displine problems to say the least. “Kids who are severely effected go to therapeutic foster homes who are specially trained to handle them. I would only be getting babies under three since I live in a one bedroom apartment,” I answered. Starting off with babies didn’t seem to be such a bad idea anyway. I would work my way up to helping kids who most people wouldn’t want. “You’d have to change diapers,” he tried one last time the last time we saw each other, as though 99.9999999% of women don’t have children and eventually have to change a diaper. “I just want to be as normal as I can,” I finally told him, which was uncharacteristically more candid than I usually am with him. His doubts only made me want to prove myself even more. I would not allow my life to be a succession of runs to the grocery store and Netflix movie nights. I was going to do something important and meaningful. Everything looked like it should be fine, but I was still worried.
Back when I was filling out the forms for foster care that pretty much asked about every aspect of your life, I paused at the place we were supposed to list our medications. I take a lot of medications. For health-related issues such as high cholesterol, but I took several prescriptions for my lifelong depression and anxiety too. I knew that I would need a note from my doctor because of the psychotropic medications I took. But surely that wouldn’t be a problem, would it? They couldn’t discriminate, could they? I had been punished enough for my problems and it was time for things to look up.
I had recently switched doctors at the clinic I went to. The new doctor’s name was Dr. Mormon. He was very serious with plaid button-down shirts and his hair combed over to one side. He reminded me of my father. He specialized in treatment resistant depression so I was a little excited about the prospect of his helping me. Not that I felt too bad in particular, but I had just never experienced that night-and-day difference that most depression patients describe when they are on medication. I had another theory too though. What if I wasn’t completely happy because I was unfulfilled in my life? Most people wouldn’t be happy with only their mother and their sister to talk to. Some people would commit suicide over just that.
I went along with the regimen anyway, though, which consisted of Lamotrigine, Latuda and Cymbalta with Trazadone to help me sleep. Although I still felt like my same old self on these medications, before my doctor’s appointment on Monday I had been having a good few months. I don’t recall being in a bad mood or crying once during that time. As I’ve said I functioned fine in life regarding the basics. I had had my own apartment for about three years, had a job working from home about that same length of time, and had been told by the government six or seven times (!) that my depression wasn’t severe enough to qualify as a disability. I did everything that was expected of an adult. I just needed something to make me happy.
I went into my appointment last Monday only marginally nervous. Because life has knocked me down so many times I am wary any time I think something good might happen, but I had foolishly let myself believe that he would write me the doctor’s note and all would be well.
I brought up the subject of foster care before anything else, because I wanted to stop worrying about it. I explained that I had already finished with the requirements but just needed a note from him about the medicine I take.
Before I had finished my request I knew what the answer would be. His eyes shifted to the other side of the screen (as I said, I never met this doctor in person). “Kids are stressful” he began. I knew it. I KNEW IT. My eyes began to fill with tears.
He told me how he had been a child psychologist for six or seven years and that many of those kids had been foster kids. I tried to tell him of my experience in the matter. That I had been around them ALL MY LIFE and that the special needs kids are sent to special foster homes and that I would only be allowed to take babies under three. But it didn’t matter what I said. The more I talked the more I cried.
I asked why. I had been in his office three or four other times and had remained calm and composed while we discussed my medication and had never given off any signals that I was unfit to do anything that any other adults could do.
“But look at you now. You’ve been in my office for two minutes and you’re crying.”
I wished I could have reached through the screen and slapped him. I mean, I wasn’t going to get what I wanted anyway, so why not? How would YOU feel if some cold, unfeeling, clinical person who didn’t even know you or your story used their power to smash your one last remaining dream for your life in front of your face with no REAL reason and then used your resulting tears as further proof that they were right? It’s like a policeman proving that a man is violent by punching him in the nose and waiting to see what happens next.
“Why do you want to do this in the first place? Is this just about having kids?”
I did my best to answer for a while but I finally said “I give up” and fled the room in tears. I guess my modus operandi hasn’t changed much since that day in sixth grade when I finally got the hint that I wouldn’t be included in four-square.
Doctor Mormon is very upset that you just ran out. He went ahead and filled your prescriptions and we’re going to make another appointment for next week. Are you taking your medications on time? Are you taking them at all? You’re bored? Dissatisfied with your life? Have you tried the Hope Center across the street? It’s free and there is a different talk there every day at three and there are also board games and coloring pages. If you decide not to do anything to help yourself that’s your choice to make. Don’t say we didn’t try to help. Do you have any plans of harming yourself this evening? If you were going to kill yourself, how would you do it? No, I can’t promise I won’t call anyone to take you to the hospital. Don’t you think you can be happy without kids? Well, yes, I do have kids and I’m not sure how I would feel…let me just put Tina on. Will you give Tina a chance?
I didn’t want to speak to Tina. She is the super-professional one. All she wanted was to make the appointment for next week, which you have probably guessed by now that I refused.
I contacted CPS (who I was licensing through) immediately and told them what happened. See, I’m way, way too honest. I shouldn’t have told them I took medication in the first place, and when, out of frustration, I mentioned this on the phone, the worker said, “You shouldn’t say things like that. Now I don’t know what else you aren’t going to be honest about.” She said she would forward the information to her supervisor, but didn’t sound too promising. Because most people on medications DO get approved for foster care, I think she thought I must really have something wrong with me.
You know what I’m not honest about? Nothing. Because I have nothing to hide and have never done anything. I will never have any of those memories that make life worth living after we have lost everything else. I won’t have anyone to comfort me as I take my last breaths. No one will want to read the twenty or so volumes of diaries I’ll leave behind. No one will have any true memories of me (because Erica tends to remember things differently than they really happened). No one will remember me as anything but a good (quiet/awkward) person.
People who are different are often placed in boxes by society, away from view, certainly far away enough so that we don’t get close enough to see that they have the same wants and needs and have feelings just like anyone else. This is where we are supposed to stay and anyone who tries to venture out too far into Normalville gets the hook soon enough. So we stay in our lane strictly in Freak City because we don’t belong anywhere else. We aren’t capable of doing anything more complicated or meaningful than keeping ourselves from crashing too hard into the huge wall that divides the two worlds. After a while you see that it’s best to stay inside the Freak City box because to peak into that other world, that more ideal world where the trees are green and you can look above you and see the blue sky peeking through the clouds and hear the friendly shouts of your neighbors saying “Come on over, You belong”…it’s hard to see how wonderful that world must be, knowing you belong in the smaller, darker world where it’s so stale and lonely that it’s sometimes hard to even breathe and where you can’t see where the road you are on is headed. You have no control over your vehicle. You just know that there will be bumps and crashes along the way until you finally can’t go anymore. Then we finally really will be all the same.
The night Dr. Mormon delivered my soul-death sentence, I went to HEB because food is my drug of choice. On my way to the front I passed by a t-shirt with the words, “I Can. And I Will. Watch Me.” printed on it. Years ago, around fifty disappointments ago, I would’ve taken that message as a sign to fight for what I know is right until my dream came into being. Because let’s face it: what happened wasn’t fair. Anybody can see that. But now I know my place. I stay in my box. I’ll let these unfair proclamations about my competency as an adult of average intelligence fall down on me barely noticed and woefully tolerated, like a summer rain. And I won’t show my face to the normals again unless I absolutely have to.