I’ve been reading a lot about the link between childhood neglect and abuse and depression and crime.
While I never used to want to admit it but, as a kid, I really was that delinquent who came from a broken home.
At home, things were always messy. In primary school, class started at 12 pm but I would rarely arrive on time. My parents were always in some sort of fight, sometimes involving knives. Always angry and loud.
I would arrive at 1.30pm most of the time. Sometimes 2. Seldom on time.
It never dawned on me until later that back then, most of my friends were like me: broken children from broken homes.
Like me, their parents were also constantly fighting. A few of their parents eventually divorced.
One boy I was particularly close with often came to school with scars and bruises, sometimes on his eye, always on his hands and feet. His father had beat him because he didn’t do his homework (but really, I think because he was angst about his marriage).
When his father had beat him, he would wear long pants and a shirt with long sleeves. When he was better, short pants and short sleeves.
He told me about his family. Even at that age, he knew his parents were not happy together. He told me if his parents really were to separate, he didn’t know who to choose – his dad or his mom – because he liked them equally.
In my heart, I often wondered the same, even though I never shared my thoughts with him.
He always cried in school. I comforted him. But I never asked did the same. I couldn’t bring myself to be so vulnerable in public like him.
Because of how close we were, some people thought that he liked me or vice versa. But it was much worse than that.
Romance never crossed our minds. The only thing that glued us together was our scars.
And it was that way until one day he told me his parents were really getting a divorce and he was moving away.
At that age, we were all thieves. Every now and then, we would show off to one another what we had stolen.
Pens, erasers, notebooks, play cards, pencil cases – all the things that children valued most.
In school, we stole from our friends, classmates, teachers and even seniors.
What I stole in school I kept away from prying eyes and showed them off at tuition class.
At tuition, I stole from my tuition mates and showed off what I stole in school.
We didn’t need to steal. Most of our parents could buy for us all the things we stole.
But we stole anyway. I don’t really know why we stole but according to some studies, some people steal not out of need, but because they seek a sense of control.
Maybe that’s what happened with us.
Eventually, I changed school and lost touch with all the boys.
But I lived in a small country and a few years later, I was in the same school again with some of my childhood buddies.
Though we no longer talked, I observed one thing in common of all the boys: they all – each one of them – became men who abused and cheated on their girlfriends.
At one point, I even had to comfort the girlfriend of one of my childhood friends who happened to be my classmate in English class.
She cried often because she felt he was neglectful.
‘A* doesn’t seem to appreciate what I do for him. I even cook him breakfast every morning.’
I asked her if she thinks he’s seeing someone else behind her back.
‘Break up with him and find someone better,’ I told her. She cried.
She cried for three days and then she told me, ‘I dumped him.’
‘Good,’ I said, encouraging her on. Inside, I felt terrible. Imagine asking a really good girl to breakup with your childhood buddy. But I knew she could find someone better.
She eventually did and married him.
This is only one out of the many abusive behaviors I’ve seen of my childhood buddies. Each of them left a trail of hurt women behind them.
And then, there’s me.
I would like to think I care about people.
But I don’t think I care about them the way everybody else does.
My care is never unconditional. When I care about someone, I need them to show me that they care about me too. Not in any way they like, but in the way I prefer. Or I don’t want it.
I know, on some level, that this isn’t the way it works. We should just let people do what they want.
But on another level, I can’t help it.
For many years, I didn’t really know why I was this way. I tried many methods to change myself but I always felt anxious.
I always fight with people I care about about how they don’t care about me. Or not enough. Not little fights, but big ones.
I always want control or I feel unstable.
I’ve lost a lot of friends and important relationships in my life because of this.
I always knew this was not a good thing to do but it felt right at the moment.
I always regretted it later.
After some self-reflection and reading, I realised that some of this baggage may stem from what happened in my childhood.
I’m not trying to diagnose myself, but to find a new place to look to find some answers and possibly ‘improve’ myself for the better.
To the outside world, I think I look like most of my childhood buddies – neglectful and uncaring. But inside, I think we are all struggling to be like everybody else. To love like everybody else.
But we need more time to heal the scars first.
Some scars may never heal. We need to be okay with that.
We need to grow up and stop giving our childhood fears or whatever happened in a time when we didn’t have much control over our situations too much power over us today.
I haven’t met my childhood buddies in a long time. But I hope they are moving towards the light at the end of the tunnel and that they can finally love someone without hurting them.
Edward Scissorhands is one my favorite movie characters because he’s one I can relate to a lot.
With hands of scissors, he can’t help but hurt himself and other people. But if he tries very, very hard, he can actually be quite gentle and not hurt anybody. It just takes a lot more effort than other people.