The Perfect Kid Syndrome (AKA Signs of Abuse People Often Miss)

I’ve been thinking about this lately.

As the few of you who actually read this blog know, no one ever noticed when I was being abused. And I guess blaming people for that is natural, even though deep down I know it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not really — the only person who’s at fault was the man who raped and tortured me for those years. Still, in my case, there was an aggravating factor for people not noticing, that is more common than most of us will realize, and that’s what I want to call attention to.

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was hyperactive (though not ADD or ADHD — I was tested and passed okay) and apparently I was just too smart for my age and got bored easily. So, I was creative and got into trouble quite a bit. My mom was called at school often enough, and I was grounded all the time. Mind you, I wasn’t a bad kid, I just wasn’t an easy kid.

Then, when I was ten years old, this man came into my life. At very first, I don’t even think things changed very much, but, soon, oh, but they did. Teachers, parents, school counselors are often ‘trained’ to look for the classics signs of abuse: children misbehaving, grades dropping, acting out for attention. But what when the complete opposite happens? Because that’s what happened to me.

Things at home were not easy. The man who abused me beat my mother and myself, and sexually abused me. I guess the way I found to get some kind of “control” was to fix everything else in my life, because, all of a sudden, I became the perfect child. No more being hard at school, no more being “creative”, bored or anything. I was a model kid in behavior, grades, everything. Maybe if someone had look at the more subtle signs — like how I’d have major breakdowns at a 90% in a science test in 4th grade, they’d seen something was wrong — but they must have been so pleased with my ‘maturing’, they attributed it all to perfectionism and my changing to growing up.

And that’s how my abuse went unnoticed for about two years. I didn’t act out or misbehave or got bad grades. I helped with special projects, aced most tests, got involved with extra-curricular activities and had never behaved better. People were impressed and proud. Not once anyone even thought to ask if there was something going on with me.

Even after my abuser left, this went on. By then, my mom went into a depressive spiral, and it was up to me to do things at home, pay bills, take care of my brother, get us food, for years, or these things wouldn’t get done. I was as perfect of a teenager as a teenager can be. I never defied my parents, I never screamed or argued or acted out — I did everything I child could possibly do to be… perfect. Did I mention I got great grades? Yeah.

By the time I was in 10th grade and couldn’t handle the pressure, I started cutting myself. I think it was the first time someone first realized something was off with me. My friends caught me and begged me to stop. (Though, I remember I religion class in 7th grade that was about drug use that I was so tired I kept my head down, some kids started asking if I did drugs — AS IF, I was perfect, remember?).

The other day, I was talking to a student of mine, she’s about my age, and she was telling me how she went through eating disorders and no one ever noticed. How she tried so hard to be the smartest in her class and the perfect kid or attention, but that never worked. And I told her that the hardest thing is being with people every day that don’t notice what you’re going through. And, then, I told her, that she was the first one in my class I noticed, because she was smart and quiet and perfect, and she reminded of myself. I guess because of I went through, I’m wired to see things different, to pick up on different signs.

What I mean is, many times, people, especially kids, are going through things, and we won’t even realize, because they don’t have the ‘standard’ behavior expected, and that just breaks me. I wish there was more awareness to the different kinds of behaviors we could possibly expect — though I know everyone reacts to different things their own way.

Anyway, I think this is it. I know I hardly ever write here, and people rarely read this, but I hope it can help at least one person.




Falling off the wagon (AKA It’s never only one cut)

Eight years.

It’s been eight years since the last time I lay awake at night imagining the blade sliding across my skin, the blood dripping as it did. I was sixteen then.

A lot of people will tell you that thoughts of cutting will linger for a long time before you actually get to it. That wasn’t true for my first time. The first I did it, it was something so in the spur of the moment, I wasn’t thinking through it. I was so angry at myself I wanted to shred my body to pieces. So, I did.

What’s interesting about that impulsivity is that now, eight years later, I still want to shred my body to pieces when I feel that way. After that first time, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop. Cutting became a way of release, a way of feeling something when back then I didn’t feel much, and I suppose a way of feeling in control.

I didn’t stop until my friends found out. Once I had a breakdown at school and started scratching/hurting my arms in class, and, as I didn’t have anything to cut with I asked my fried to borrow her scissors and went to the bathroom to do it. As I walked out of the stall, a friend was there, and asked me, “What did you do?” I told her, “Nothing, there was a loose end on my pants.” But she didn’t believe me, so, I showed her my cut. She cried. She told people at school and threatened to call my mom if I didn’t stop.

I ended up at the principal’s office that day, begging them not to call my mom, saying I’d never do that again, promising to talk to someone. To my friends, I said if my mom ever found out I’d kill myself. They wrote me many letters, begging me to stop, saying they loved me and didn’t want me to hurt. After that, I was mostly scared to cut myself again. But, buy, did I want to.

I never cut on my arms because I didn’t want people to notice. I was never a neglected kid that could get away with it. I had to cut on the inside of my thighs. But I liked the pain of cutting on my arms better. I did, a few times, because once in a while you can say you bumped into something.

I didn’t want scars, either, though I guess if I’d done my arms over someday I’d just cover it with tattoos.

As you know, I’ve been having a really hard time lately. And it’s not just falling into this horrible depressive pit, it’s also the self-hatred that comes along with it. Did you know that self-harm is directly linked to sexual abuse? Yeah, not really the discovery of the century, I know. But, still, a great percentage of self-harm victims have been sexually abused. Like me. No wonder we hate our bodies.

For the past few months, I’ve been having desperate urges to cut. Maybe this is what I should have felt like years ago, the idealization before actually getting to it. It’s something screaming inside of me, something that tells me I need this to survive. It’s something stronger than me. Some days, I can’t think of anything else but a blade sliding across my skin. And how great it would feel, how much I deserve it, how badly I need it.

I look at my thighs feel literally disgusted. I feel fat and unfittig, and I want to slash them to shreds. I look at my body in the mirror and I feel like it shouldn’t even exist. And it needs to be hurt. And cut. And cut. And blood.

Eight years.

Gone down the drain as I slid a blade across my skin. It bled. I promised myself it would be only that just one time, but as someone who used to cut all the time, it feels it isn’t possible. I thought cutting once would make the urges go away and make me feel better, but they grow every day. And I don’t know if I can fight them anymore.

I’m bleeding so much inside. I need to make myself bleed outside, too.