Recovering Childhood

She sat comfortably in a leather chair. The room looked cosy and was dimly lit. And a feeling of familiarity. As if the room was designed in a way to make people feel comfortable. To make them speak their hearts out. And so did she. In there a voice had asked her her story. And she had obliged.

Her story comprised merely of disappointment, gloom and regret. She was born some 20 years after her siblings. That meant they were busy with college studies when she was of playful age. Even their mother was working. So she had no playmate. All she ever played with was her own self. And the few toys she had had.

The biggest disadvantage of being the youngest sibling is that your clothes are not new. They are passed on from the elders to you. And sometimes they are not even your size. She never asked for new clothes but when she saw her friends all dressed up she yearned for the same. She thought when she would grow up a little she would get her own new wardrobe. Alas! That remained a dream. She had to wear the older sibling’s clothes much more longer than she had anticipated.

But all these were minor things that occur to all such kids who have an older sibling. What had hit her was the loneliness. She had no one to talk to. So she took refuge in mirrors. And even for that her sister used to scold her. “What are you doing? Standing and looking at the mirror all day? What does it serve you?”  So she started talking to the moon. Maybe because moon has patterns which make it look like a human face. That period was the start of talking to her own self. The lonelier she felt the more she talked to her own self.

Siblings are thought of as support. But it was different for her. Maybe because they were elder, they found her problems ridiculous. But they were not ridiculous for her. And it killed her to see that her siblings laughed when they saw her crying. Sometimes she had trifles with her friends. So when she turned to them for help, they laughed back. She probably never stated her problem again. This later triggered her to write a diary. A daily diary. And her siblings used to steal that and read it. Spying maybe. But they would not bother to talk to her or play with her. Instead spying seemed easier. Further breach of trust.

She was later not allowed to lock her cupboards or room. Her room would be searched in her absence. And everyone did so separately. She never really knew why. What could a 14 year old hide? This might not have been so complicated if school life had been a little more stable. There friendships were formed and broken in a matter of days. And nobody really liked to keep up to each other. Friends could have been a support but they never were. So the loneliness followed her everywhere. Absence of one could have been managed but absence of any kind of support was way different. It meant she was alone even before she was ready.

Among other things and scoldings, what bothered her was the lack of appreciation. Whatever she may do, however good her marks, she was never appreciated. All they ever said was, “Why are you lagging behind?” “Why did you lose marks?” “Why is your handwriting so bad?” Her hard work, her problems or anything related to her was not their concern. Their concern was results. And the worst thing about results was comparison. “Look that girl fared more than you.” “Why can’t you top your class?” These questions stung like needles. They made her feel so worthless. A zilch. This made her hate the girl she was compared to. What was in her that her parents loved her more than their own daughter? Why could they not love her as much?

Sometime later she made a big decision. She wanted to go live in a hostel for higher studies. After a month of negotiation, counselling and counter counselling she was approved to go. Maybe she didn’t realise how significant the consequences of this decision could be. A new phase. They say you can grow only outside your comfort zone. And so did she. In some ways. There were many things that she got better at. Shyness. Lack of words. Blah blah…. The list could go on and on. But it also elevated some of her fears too. The fear of being replaced. Back home there were many things happening which she was unaware of. And when she did come to know of it, she felt bad. She was clearly been replaced and apparently she was not needed. And there her fears took root.

In her course of study she could rarely visit home. And the days when she could she was made to feel like a zilch. The taunts of other children being better had not ceased. And they probably never would. Back at college all her professors looked at her with admiration but at home all she could see in eyes was dissatisfaction and rejection. As if she could never satisfy them whatever she did whatever she tried. Her family’s approval, their consent and appreciation meant a lot to her. And that was the most difficult for her to achieve. This triggered her emotional instability.

Amongst all this loneliness and unappreciatedness she was an easy prey. Talking to strangers and confiding in someone on social network was easier. Even fake sympathy and a kind word was enough. Not that she walked away astray but it did affect her. Sometimes her online friends were her only solace.

She understood her parents had gone through a lot but now they did not have to. They gave her a good, luxurious life but they forgot about emotional needs. They forgot a child needs a playmate, a confidant. But for her both were absent. In their bid to fulfil needs they forgot a 7 year old would be frightened to be home all alone. That for a child so young it was fearful to be alone, not fun. They did not realise the lack of appreciation and the constant comparison had rendered their child instable and insecure. That she constantly felt the need for attention so that she may feel someone’s affection and love. That after years of growing up she would still feel insecure and alone. That she would have to take sessions with a psychologist to recover from her childhood.

She was always surrounded by an aura of melancholy. Her moods would suddenly shift. And at times she broke down for no immediate reasons at all. She might not have found a solution but she did vent out her disappointment.

What was striking in her story was the statement, “I remember, once in childhood we were discussing America. We thought that if children are not happy there with their parents they can ask for another parents. I was young but I still wanted a different set of parents. 20 years later I still desire the same.”

Hearing stories was not any easier for a psychiatrist too.

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