I’m sure that this stems from my early upbringing in Kenya and several rather traumatic incidents that I’ve then built upon, plastering over the cracked foundation to form the mess of a person I am today. I call this blog Emotional Maintenance for a reason.
Example of a rather traumatic incident: I was at an outdoor party with the Aunts and Uncles. My father was one of 20 some children - there were a lot of Aunts and Uncles. My parents weren't at the party, I'm not sure why, but it was just me and his family of millions. I do remember I was small and quiet and everyone else was tall and loud and colorful – both in clothing and language. I was not the only child but I was the only .5er – in both color and citizenship. A .5er is someone who is half and half, in my case half white/half black, half American/half Kenyan. It was not generally seen as a good thing. In fact, growing up there was a little like being an animal in a zoo or circus. I was often poked and prodded and laughed at while folks called me names I couldn't repeat. As I said, not generally a good thing. As result of my .5er status at this party, I was shuttled from grown-up to grown-up for moments of passive supervision where they would talk about me or over me or just ignore me until I wandered away.
Somehow I ended up in a corner of the outdoor space next to an old dirty man, his clothes in tatters and, even though he had fewer teeth in his mouth than mine and none of them were clean, a warm and friendly face. Despite his generous toothless smile, not one grown person would shake his hand or talk with him. A large swath of space surrounded us but no one was actually watching us. I stood next to him, waiting for the pointing and laughing but he just smiled, his eyes happy and bright. I was unsure of my role. My mother had drilled into me the need to be polite to elders but when other elders were being rude, I was confused. So when he held out his hand, gummed his smile in my direction and spoke to me gently in Swahili, I took his hand and shook.
And instantly my world became a hurricane of noisy color and clucks of shame as the Aunts suddenly surrounded me, picked me up and hauled me off to the nearby faucet. What followed was painful – both emotionally and physically. My hands were scrubbed with boiling hot water as the Aunts screamed at me in a language I knew then but cannot speak now. My mother has said she was never told about the incident but when I shared it with her years later, she suspected that the happy toothless man likely had leprosy and the Aunts were trying to wash it off me.
I am a few decades removed from the Aunts and the hot water screaming but I’m still traumatized by the experience. And several others my dear relatives were kind enough to share with me. Years have passed but I still remember what they taught me that day. I remember that is where I learned that sometimes really bad things happen and then people point and stare and scald you with hot water and scream at you.
And yes that is a trite way to put things but I have a degree in Medical Self-Diagnosis. I'm able to put things in whatever way I'd like to in my little brain.
Let's look at what this incident has manifested into in my grown-up life, other than preferring to primarily work with knee biters or by myself. I’m pretty sure that - other than thinking I’m Robin Roberts - people are not looking at me but I ALWAYS feel like they are. ALWAYS. That I’m being judged, watched, scrutinized for error and that when I do screw up, the Aunts or the adult version of them, will descend on me, scrub me clean with boiling hot water while screaming my list of things done wrong.
If I stay inside, I’m sure to stay clean and dry. See, Agoraphobic.
I have issues going to the gas station because of the one video I saw where someone drove off with the hose in the tank and the station exploded. And that other video where the person drove into the tank and it exploded. Eating alone in restaurants traumatizes me. I’ve knocked over the sugar and spilled my coffee and accidentally hit the waitress and she almost dropped the tray. And people looked and pointed and laughed.
Crowds of people make me hyperventilate. Parking lots make me hyperventilate. Grocery stores make me hyperventilate. Leaving my house can make me hyperventilate and turn around and go back inside.
My name is ej and I am a mess. And while this may be an overdramatized reason for why I am the way I am, I am pretty confident in saying that it is my honest opinion I should stay off this list of phobias or I may never get out of bed.