When I first heard about world war II and the Nazis was when I first decided that I wanted to help people on an emotional level. What happened horrified me, because everyone involved was human, these were people hurting people. I was five and wanted to be a psychologist. I wanted to help people that no one else could help and I believed I could. I believed I had special powers to see beauty, pain, and good in people that no one else could see. I believed that all people are inherently good and have the capability for incredible evil. So I could stop evil if I could just reach the good in each person.
Since getting into medical school and becoming an elite runner, I feel as though many people look at me differently and think I was always successful, one of those people that fit in. People don't see or know that for many years I was the family screw up. A big part of that is that I am ADHD and make people angry no matter what. Another big part is that my parents were both horribly horribly abused. While they did their best, when my mom lost her temper she would get incredibly violent and mean. And I would make her lose her temper. My dad would get distant/withdraw/go to work/ and occasionally get angry, but usually just disappear.
Yes, social services were called. Yes, we had neighbors threaten to call social services on top of that. Yes, I moved out of my house and slept in a park and friends' houses because my mom got so angry that she came close to killing me. And yes, that is all water under the bridge because I LOVE my family and I am one of the most fortunate people you will ever meet for having such smart, kind, hardworking, generous, and honest people as my family even if we all have our issues.
However,Yes, I was incredibly depressed and different and hid it all away and no one knew that I was broken inside. I didn't let anyone know how broken or suicidal I was. How much I hated myself for who I was and what I created in the people around me, most importantly my mother. The truth is years later, after I moved across the country to Oregon to find and define myself as something positive, to work through all that crap, my mom apologized. I forgave her. That is what made it imperative that I spend her last months with her when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so she knew that no matter what had happened, she was deeply loved. That she was still my hero for how hard she struggled to be the best person she could be. That I knew she was just an abused and hurt herself, but still very lovable. I knew that she tried her best all her life to be an amazing mother. That she gave me the gifts of learning and education and opportunities, even if she had the limitations of a fiery temper and impossible standards. I needed her to know that I forgave her for the years of abuse because that whole time she loved me and was being the best mother she could be. That makes her my hero. My tragic hero. That her struggle and many gifts define her as a person and mother, not her mistakes, not her anger.
This experience, these experiences, have made me privileged, have helped me develop a gift for seeing a different side of people, a beautiful side, that they may not feel as though anyone else can see. For example, over the years I have connected with several schizophrenics despite the idea that schizophrenics lose the ability to connect with people during their meltdowns. One time when visiting old housemates I met someone who had moved into one of the rooms and chatted with him for about 20 minutes. ~1/3-1/2 year later he had a schizophrenic meltdown that lasted about a week and was arrested by cops after having broken into some random person's car and was just sitting in the backseat. From jail he wrote my previous housemates a letter and about half of it was addressed to me. Another guy I met on campus and chatted with him during dinner. That night he broke one of my neighbors' windows trying to get someone to let him in to talk to me. My neighbor delivered the present... a bag of chocolates with his cell phone because he was being tracked by the cops, and needed to get rid of it, a strange present... I must make the disclaimer that this was not sexual, he was not hitting on me, he had mentioned a girlfriend in our earlier brief conversation, and it did not strike me as sexual. I have many other strange stories as well.
As a kid I used to have nightmares about my elementary school. One repeated nightmare is that there were aliens invading the school. One by one they were pinching those around me, my teachers, my classmates, my friends and family, making them into automatons as well. That one by one everyone else was losing their humanity, losing their ability to feel and love. All I could do to not get pinched, my only defense against becoming an alien like everyone around me, was to pretend that I, too, was an alien with no emotions. I always woke up barely having escaped being pinched and made into an alien like everyone else around me, but always retained my humanity.
My secret struggles have defined who I am. They have defined my ability to look into people's eyes and see their humanity. To understand what it is like to go to school with a smile on my face and try to make everything okay then return home to either a warm happy family or to running away and hiding and crying because my life may have depended on it. My mom always called me her sensitive little girl or her tender little girl. The shootings remind me of this and my vow to return as someone with the power and gift to help others who feel that isolation and alienation and searing pain and shame that I have felt most of my life for being different. Of my promise that I would help others, less fortunate than I, by seeing them, and helping them find a way to succeed despite their differences and disabilities and inability to fit in with society. That I would use my greatest gift, my ability to retain my humanity when it is too easy to feel completely broken and alone.