Behind Closed Doors: Never A Freak

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It never fails to amaze me that, no matter how much a person has moved on, grown, developed and changed in to something or someone unrecognisable from their former self, it can only take one little thing to take you right back there. I was reminded of the AOW ‘Unworthy‘ post, and wanted to share what knocked me sideways today.

Let me put this post in to context. Twelve years ago, I was at high school, chronically depressed and a self harmer. I had a group of friends (emos, I believe was the term bandied about in those days) and we muddled through together. Then I got poorlier, the self-harming got dangerous with a suicide attempt or two, culminating in a stay in an adolescent psychiatric ward. All the while this was happening, this group of friends cut me out. Just stopped speaking to me. For a desperately unhappy girl it all but tipped me over the edge. Lunchtimes were spent on my own, in the teacher’s room, toilets, on bad days at home, and on the worst days in bed unable to face anyone at all. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic or sorry for myself, and who hasn’t been through some teen angst, but they really were the very worst of days and I could never understand my friends’ decision to cut me loose, save that I was unhappy and probably not much fun to be around.

Twelve years on and I am a happy, moderately successful (not so young anymore) woman, with wonderful friends, married to a divine man and living a content life together with our adorable (rogue!) cats. I am usually found with a smile on my face, and if I ever choose to share my teenage experiences, people are usually shocked. All in all, life is pretty sweet.

Today, at work, a new member of staff was introduced to me.

It was one of the girls from high school.

At first, I didn’t recognise her. After all, who expects such a blast from the past to be standing in your office at 10am on a Wednesday morning while you’re stuffing your face with a chocolate biscuit? Then, I did. We exchanged pleasantries and adknowledged we knew each other from high school, but no more was said in front of our colleagues and she continued with her tour.

And I was left alone in my office, shaking like a leaf. And after I calmed myself down, I wondered why, WHY, after twelve years, can someone still have that effect on me? The fact is that I am a senior member of staff, liked by my colleagues (so I am told, at least!) and certainly not the one with anything to prove. So why do I immediately feel at odds with myself again? Like I am right back there, 16 years old, in the toilet stall at school, with a razor blade. On a very bad day, back when I was unwell, I cut the word ‘Freak’ in to my leg. I can still make out the word, now. And today, for the first time in a long time, I felt that was justified.

I would like to say, I am not suffering from depression anymore in any acute manner, nor carrying around such unwelcome thoughts about myself, and chances are, this girl never realised the profound effect that their actions had on me, and would likely be aghast if she knew. But I was stunned at the strength of my own reaction.

I have to accept the chance that even though she is only on a temporary contract, she may be taken on permanently. I got past these feelings once before and I can damn well do it again. I may even extend an olive branch and invite her for coffee, knowing that she must be slightly cautious at best, and nervous at worst, at working alongside me.  But then, I don’t know if I can be that bigger person- and whether even part of it would be sadistically to satiate my own curiousity about her and the group of girls I know she still sees. I suppose part of me still does like to hurt myself.

I’m afraid this post doesn’t have any resounding conclusion or message. I don’t know myself how this will play out. I know I am not that 16 year old girl anymore, and she won’t be either, and so we will work together as colleagues would and should. I suppose I need to remind myself, I’m not a freak. And I never was. I am not unworthy.

Categories: Behind Closed Doors
10 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Chirsty
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t know you but I want to say with passionate conviction that no, you are damn well not unworthy. There is so much strength in those last two paragraphs. I can feel it, and I truly hope, if even only as a small flame to be sheltered and fanned, you do too.

    As an aside, once, 15 or so years ago, I was also the opposite side of the coin: a close friend once divulged her struggles with bulimia, and I cut her off. Point blank. I lost her and my best friend ostricised me for doing so. I can’t justify it, but suffice to say that huge swaths of the above could have been written by me, about me. And at that time I couldn’t think of a way to take on that extra flood of secrecy and pain given that my head was rarely above water and I was sinking. I felt sure I would drown us both so I cut her loose. Whether I think it was the right thing to do now is irrelevant, then I couldn’t do anything else.

    I can’t say what to do, but I want to send so so much love your way. And I want to let you know I think you are very brave, and inspiring.

  2. Crysta Campbell
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I have that same reaction to the people who bullied me sixteen years ago. I found myself shaking like a leaf when I met an old colleague who gave me the day from hell and caused me to cry my way home. I felt sick, terrified of her reaction to me, worried about spending an entire morning in her company. But gradually the feeling subsided and I felt better.

    It was probably partially the shock of seeing this girl again that made you feel that way. And also partially the strength of memories coming back to you, reminding you of such a bad period of your life. It’s like your past slapping you in the face when you least expect it to.

    You weren’t a freak as a teenage girl, you were in pain. And you aren’t a freak now nor are you unworthy. If you can offer her an olive branch, then that’s great. But if you can’t, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s hard to disassociate memories from the people that gave you them.

  3. Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Anon, I think this is an incredible post and one that most of us can relate to. I had a horrid time at school too, not to the extent that you did, but whenever I come across any of the girls now I realise that things they did fifteen years ago should never ever impact on what I feel now. Because otherwise, they have WON. Don’t let her.

    Alternatively, the moral highground thing to say is: chances are, she has no idea how much what she did affects you. Kids at that age can be so thoughtless. So don’t assign too much meaning to it.

  4. Kandra
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A very brave post, and you are worthy. I think it is true that people do not know how or to what extent their actions/words affects us. I was bullied at high school and spent many a lunch hour in the toilets. It was a main group of 4 girls, but they were the ‘in crowd’ so had the support of the year group. When I bumped into one of them a few years later yes I too was betrayed by my feelings which took me right back to those dark days. When I asked her about the other girls that she was so close to, she said they hadnt seen each other for years and could hardly remember one of their names! It took me by surpirse as their names and faces were etched so deeply into my memory! But in the longer term it helped me to let go, because I really realised it was the past and didnt need to have any place or meaning in my future unless I gave it to it.
    Be strong, you have love and support behind you. You are worthy.

  5. Katielase
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    This is such a brave and powerful post. And yet I hate reading it, all these posts about how we doubt ourselves and what we are. I find it awful to be looking around at this incredible community of women (metaphorically, I am not stalking you all, honest), and wondering who has looked in the mirror at themselves and thought ‘freak’, because I can categorically say that you are not. You are fucking fantastic. I can tell because you’re here, because you write so bravely, because you’re so strong. Because there is no such thing as a freak, you’re an individual person. And a goddamn brilliant one at that.

    I can completely understand how people from school can make you feel like you’ve regressed to a person that you aren’t anymore. However, that person you were? She was still great. Look at how strong she was, look at what she coped with and came through. She was ace, and so are you, and if you ever feel like you’ve gone back to that place, come here and be reminded how awesome you are.

    K xx

  6. Katy
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    School does that. You’ve changed so much since then but those people will always see you as the 11-year old you were when you first met. No-one, whatever they were like at school, can stay like that forever. I think that’s why breaking away, to uni or a job or whatever, is important. You might have been super popular and had the best friends in the world but it’s still nice to have people only know you as you are, now, and not what you were.

  7. Rach M
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Brave and powerful stuff. Again I wish that somehow we could stride across time and space, and all have known each other then – just to know that there were other people feeling like you do. I have been blown away by how many AOW posts I’ve read thinking of how much it resonated with me, that I felt at the time, growing up that I was the only one like that, the outsider. Good luck Anon. Xx

  8. Hannah
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Anon – I have nothing but awe for you – you are so brave to write this and I know that you have the strength to deal with all of the feelings that this has brought back to you…

    Sounds to me like you have so much to be proud of – both in your personal and professional life – I know if may be hard, but really try to remember and focus on that

    …and you know that we’re all here rooting for you in the background and sending virtual hugs and high fives!


  9. Sharon
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    What an incredible post, you are so brave. Echoing Hannah’s comment above sending you lots of virtual hugs. I know that the you you are now, and the you of 12 years ago (sorry not great grammar!) are definitely fabulous and very much worthy, and we’re all here rooting for you, however you handle the work situation x

  10. Anne
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    One way in which your maturity shows (and the difference between you then and you now) is that I would put money on the fact you wouldn’t have been able to write that post back at school. The fact you can see it quite clearly, even through all the emotion, almost says it all. Not that it gives you any answers… but maybe a sign that you’re not still the same person.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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