Early Years

I was born in North Adelaide South Australia. My parents had married two years before, and built a house in the Adelaide Hills. It was a two-storey, standard brown, AV Jennings home. I had an unremarkable birth, apart from the fact that I was four weeks late. I had almost no hair, and then subsequently grew into a blonde haired blue eyed somewhat charming looking baby. According to my mother, I was an easy baby, I slept a lot of the time, so much so that my mother had to wake me up to feed me.

My childhood home was on a large block of land. My earliest memories would be of standing on the balcony overlooking a valley, or perhaps standing knee deep in soapy water in the toilet after having written in crayon on the toilet wall. Like any 70s house my house was a myriad of shades of brown orange and green. The lounge room had wood panelling, orange curtains and an oil heater at one end. I always remember running down the hall way from the bathroom to sit in front of the oil heater to keep warm while I put my pajamas on before it went to bed.

My bedroom was upstairs, it door opposite the front door of the house. I remember my bedroom. It was like a zone, a zone where strange things happened. In my bedroom, I used to swear I could fly. I would have such vivid dreams of flying that I used to wake up and stand on the end of my bed and try and jump off and fly. We had a cellar in the base of our house. You could open a door in the kitchen pantry and walk down dirt to steps into a clay soil cellar. As a child I’d often dreamed that you could walk down those steps and into the cellar and then out to a magic land – the cellar opened up into a broad expanse of park with a river flowing through it.

From an early age I could lie in bed and see things floating in the air, small particles, to this day, I don’t know whether it was my imagination or whether I could really see small things, floating through the air. I would quite often lie in bed with my eyes shut and press on the back of my eyelids until I could see spectrums of colour almost like Mandalas or Mandelbrot sets. In the in my bedroom at night I would also see things floating at the end of my bed in and frequently I saw a Tikki floating at the end of my bed. The tikki didn’t worry me, and after a long time it almost became comforting. My inner worlds became more preferable to the outer world, which became more and more pressing.

The outer world was a loud bright and full of expectation and I quickly became an anxious child. When I was only 17 months old a baby brother was born. This baby was loud, big and had lots of hair. I don’t think I liked being in the same place as the baby. But the baby and I would end up being good companions until the third came along. Were we like two peas in a pod? Not really, but we would end up growing up, to be two people couldn’t understand each other better. He was as loud as I was quiet he was as impulsive as I was cautious.

School Years

I remember a great deal of detail when it comes to the physical environment at school but not so much to do with the people and the social interactions. I could still draw you a detailed map of my first school but the people are an intermingled concept.I felt a great deal of worry regarding most things and some things a young girl isn’t usually aware of – such was my enquiring mind. It is not typical for a seven year old to be worried about a myocardial infarct (heart attack) but I was. I devoured information of quite an academic and adult nature but lacked the skills to process it or relate to it in an appropriate emotional sense. This disparity between my social/emotional and intellectual development seems to me (in hindsight) to be the source of many of my difficulties.

Amongst my peers, especially in my early school years, I had few if any constant relationships with any individuals and was fairly easily led. I remember being in the library or the art room during breaks, usually pursuing personal projects.

A number of times at my first school I was approached, usually by boys, and asked to do things that were socially inappropriate involving ‘rule breaking’ and exhibitionism. I wasn’t so much bullied during this time but exploited because of my social naivety.

The give and take of friendship was an elusive concept; things just seemed to occur around me. People used to come up to me and say ‘you are my friend now’ and just as easily walk away and say ‘your not my friend anymore’. I was left standing there thinking ‘and the point to that was?’ My parents arranged ‘play dates’ including a disastrous joint birthday party with a girl called Mary. Mary was a pretty, popular, blue eyed girl with blonde ringlets and not very nice to me at school. Party guests followed her around and had a marvellous time, while I sat there uncomfortably feeling distant and isolated like I was on the outer, trussed up in scratchy pink fabric and pig tails longing for shorts and a t-shirt and a bit of peace and quiet.

I was an anxious child, and experienced a great deal of physical discomfort because of this anxiety. Frequent stomach pains, shortness of breath, palpitations which are common with panic attacks. These panic attacks would often occur at times of transition such as going from the classroom to the ‘withdrawal’ room for T.V. time or ‘Health Hustle’ – a physical fitness routine to music -Note: 25 kids dancing around you to a song called ‘popcorn’ can be terrifying if you have sensory integration problems and poor body awareness.

High school was the domain of unwritten rules. Who and what is in or out. Who ‘owns’ a particular patch of the yard or particular toilet cubicles. How cool is your uniform when worn below the knees – well I’ll tell you it is not at all cool – actually just long enough to cover your underwear was apparently about as cool as you could get. I was punched up a number of times because I didn’t realise that just by looking like I did or walking somewhere in particular I was breaking these rules. The main perpetrator of these punch ups was a girl not much older than me.

At school I learned that Teachers were not to be questioned even if you thought there was a great injustice being done. I learnt that even though I was often harassed by certain boys it was not ok to punch them in the face to stop their advances. I learned being academically gifted opened you up to suspicion and ridicule rather than respect.

I achieved well in subjects I was interested but could just as easily lose interest and have my grades drop from an A to a D because there was nothing engaging about the topic or it did not fall within some parameter associated with an interest of mine. In year 12 I was somewhat obsessed by prenatal development so I painted pregnant woman and foetuses in art class, did a photography project involving a pregnant young woman and then her baby, wrote my biology paper on a foetal condition and wrote poetry about birth in English class.

You can imagine that my mother was quite worried about this particular fascination as she thought I may well want to go out and make my own baby. But that notion was farthest from my mind, I was fascinated by the biology and the symbolism involved not by the need to breed.

I often ask myself how I got through high school and the answer is that someone saved me. Someone cared enough to point me in the direction of the world outside and what it had to offer and said just to bide my time until I could get there. He did also introduce me to some great ways to pass the time – Science fiction novels and Dungeons and Dragons. This man was my drama teacher and his classroom became campaign headquarters and haven for the geeks and the nerds.

People need allies in school and I was lucky to find some in what seemed like a sea of oppressors. Surviving high school took courage and determination and that fact that I came out with and education is nothing short of a miracle as I believe that that they truly did not want people like me to learn.

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