There are only two things I avoid telling people. One: I rarely indulge myself in talking about well, my real feelings. And two: I have yet to tell people about the things I felt as a child. Let me tell you that I have become an expert at these things. I can deflect better than Wonder Woman can ricochet bullets with her gauntlets. It is rather annoying for my therapists.
Here I am. Doing both.
What in the world am I doing?
Telling you, reader, I suppose, about the way I was when I was young. Telling you about how I felt.
When I was a child I was afraid. All. The. Time. Not just normal fear either, consistent horror-movie-esque fear that permeated my existence.
And what was I afraid of? Honestly, probably everything. Growing up poor, there is a lot of anxiety that permeates a household. There’s scarcity and insecurity that accompanies poverty and that can be felt even when you’re young.
I was also frightened of my body, of what it was. I wanted so desperately to be thin, for instance, that I had developed anorexia by the first grade and was repeatedly hospitalized for it through elementary school. My fear of food, of being fat, made me destroy my system.
But it was more than that. I had difficulty going places, being around people. I developed sleep problems early; too scared to close my eyes in the dark. The TV had to be on at night or else the anxiety would crush me.
All this fear drowned me as a child, and even worse was that I was too afraid to express it. It’s not something that’s fully left me, even as I’ve grown up.
Books didn’t save me per say, but reading did ease the burden. Reading, especially reading fantasy, allowed me to imagine a version of me that wasn’t afraid. I could be someone else, somewhere else, and I could overcome the worst of it.
Reading gave me the blueprints to a new personality. Even if I didn’t feel brave or confident, I could pretend. I could present myself as someone who was. Someone that wasn’t cowering under a heavy cloak of fear and insecurity. Little by little I built myself from words on a page.
Then I got the notion to start telling my own stories. As easily as words flowed into me, they have come spilling back out in spurts. Now I build fantasies for other people. I’m still frightened, all the time, but stories prop me up. Sometimes I’m able to give up my fears in favor of the power and the unbridled joy that comes with storytelling.
Books built me into my own hero, brave enough to face the worst of it.