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.

Love,

“Abby”

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