I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem all my life. I don’t remember much of my childhood, but the memories I do have are mostly negative. I remember walking home from elementary school, my stomach in knots. There was a much older girl* who would wait for me to pass by, then she would taunt me as I did. I have no idea why she got off on picking on me, but I dreaded the three blocks I had to walk home from school. She wasn’t there every day or even most days, but in some ways, that made it worse. I never knew when I’d see her, which meant every walk home was a chore for the first block. I don’t know how long this went on until one day, I just burst into tears as she yelled whatever it was she chose to yell my way. She immediately stopped making fun of me and wiped away my tears, saying I had pretty hair. She didn’t bother me after that, and to this day, I have no idea why my crying affected her so much. Thinking back, my guess would be that she had an unhappy life herself and took it out on me. My crying reminded her that I was a human being and not a punching bag. Alternately, she might have thought she was teasing me good-naturedly, that we were buddies of some sort, and was mortified when I started crying.
I didn’t have many friends in elementary school. I was always the weird kid who’d rather read than play. In addition, I grew up in the suburbs in Minnesota in the eighties, so I was one of only a few nonwhite faces at my school. I don’t remember many instances of outright racism except the occasion chant of ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these’ with the accompanying pulling of the eyelids, but nor do I remember many overt expressions of friendship, either. I was a lonely kid, fat, awkward, highly intelligent, and hiding a dysfunctional home life. I felt like an outsider for so many reasons, and I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be friends with me. I wouldn’t want to be friends with me if I weren’t me, so why should anyone else? I spent as much time in my own head as I possibly could because I hated the world around me. I was seven when I realized I would die one day. It simultaneously terrified and relieved me. I couldn’t imagine being alive, and, yet, I couldn’t imagine living for very much longer.