The Digging Deep Project is honored to work with a range of guest authors. Here, educator and counselor Holly Arnaud describes the perspective she has gained by looking back at her difficult childhood through the lens of time and education. You can find more of Holly’s writing at TheCounselorCorner.com.
I was raised by a parent who had late onset paranoid schizophrenia in his 40s. Looking back, though, the fear and paranoia associated with this mental illness had been present and growing in leaps and bounds throughout my entire childhood. Because of this, I saw the world was a big bad place that always had something or someone to fear, run from, hide from, or to be aware of. In his mind, everyone had an underlying motive and you could not trust anyone, not even family.
I came to understand later that your teenage phone conversations with friends being recorded and played back to you to be questioned about is not exactly normal. Coming home from school to find your father’s head covered in aluminum foil to make sure satellites couldn’t read his mind is not exactly normal. Constantly taking roundabout roads to make sure no one is tailing you is not exactly normal. Watching your parent being worried each moment that he was doing something that would be displeasing to an all powerful god it not exactly normal.
As an educated adult now looking back, I can make a list of hundreds of things I witnessed that stemmed from the paranoia and schizophrenia, but as a child, it was all completely normal to me.
I don’t blame my father—he certainly his own issues and the brain can be a fragile thing—but one of my constant companions was fear induced by it constantly being drilled in, both through someone modeling it and by providing a perspective of something or someone is always out to get you.
It wasn’t until I hit my 20s and after my father had been committed to a mental hospital under the Baker Act (where they can make you go involuntarily if you are deemed at risk of harming yourself or others) that I commenced on my journey to form my own perspective. The ironic thing about fear is that when you live with it for so long and it inundates you, it either breaks you or you break free from it.
The latter of which happened to me.
I was not a rebellious teenager by any stretch of the imagination. But that rebelliousness hit later. And I rebelled a number of ways, especially as the one person who dogged me to be on constant vigilance was no longer in the capacity to do so. For a time, I flung all cautiousness to the wind, kicking fear directly in the teeth. If it something I had been afraid of before, I was all the more resentful toward it.
With the help of therapists and my own personal work, I have moved past that, but I cringe when I see others living in so much fear that much of what they do or say is inundated with that fear. Here is what I have come to see as lies and the truth that emerged instead:
- Lie 1: The world is a big, scary place.
- Truth: The world is beautiful and diverse. There are so many interesting places, people, and perspectives.
- Lie 2: People are out to get you.
- Truth: Although there are some people that make choices to harm others, most people aim to do the best they can with what they know. Despite what the media constantly feeds us, most humans are more than willing to help when it comes down to it.
- Lie 3: Your childhood is to blame for how you are.
- Truth: Most of us have come to realize as adults that our childhood is not normal. Time, learning, and perspective as adults gives us knowledge to be able to look back and to hopefully see things more objectively. The majority of parents I know did the best they could with what they had. As an adult, each of us has a choice to become aware and break away if that is our desire.
- Lie 4: The world is getting worse and our youth are nothing but snowflakes, crybabies, or _____ (you fill in the blank).
- Truth: I have had thousands of students throughout the course of nearly 20 years in education. If anything, they have given me hope. As a whole, I have found them aware with the desire to strive for change and grow themselves.
I am not saying that we should be unaware of the bad things that exist in the world. There are dangers and we should absolutely be knowledgeable about them. However, I don’t want to make the choice to live in fear created by lies. I make the choice to live bravely according to the truths I now know.
Digging Deep accepts guest posts on many topics from a wide range of experts, patients, health care practitioners, and others who work with sick children and teens. We welcome your perspectives and stories to share regarding ways to support the emotional needs of children with health challenges and the families and professionals who support them. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a guest blogger.