Social Isolation in Texas
Kids need routine and stability. They need friends and the opportunity to develop interpersonal relationships that will help them function in society and succeed in life. I want to explore how the social isolation I faced in my youth helped inhibited my ability to function in life.
After my parents divorced, my mother removed me from school and the few friends I had. We traveled to the other side of the country to live with my grandmother in Texas. I was going through puberty… that confusing journey through adolescence, and I was destined to travel that road without the benefit of friends, peers, or normal relationships.
I was damaged already, from a lifetime of abuse and trauma, and in Texas, I became an odd young man, struggling with self-harm, insomnia, and anxiety. Every night, I ritualistically dropped 10-pound weights on myself, punched myself in the face, and cut myself… I even hit myself in the groin. My mom showed concern with my behavior, but didn’t know the full extent of it, and didn’t act.
While my phantom peers got ready for school every morning, I obsessively ran for miles on the dirt roads of a forgotten town. When they were doing their homework at night, I was scribbling feverishly in one of my journals. At night, while they slept peacefully, I was engaging in self-abusive rituals that would follow me into adulthood.
We lived there for a year before packing up and heading north to the vast woods of Maine. My mom enrolled me in school again, a year behind the other kids, and I struggled to fit in with kids who weren’t sexually abused… and hadn’t developed the habit of talking to themselves in the middle of the night. The social isolation I experienced nurtured my psychological disorders, and I had trouble fitting in.
I saw a movie about Tarzan, “The Ape Man,” and I remember thinking… That’s me!
Another Year of Isolation
In Maine, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and my stepfather couldn’t find work. After a year of struggling to make friends and have normal relationships, I was removed from my new home and brought back to Texas for another year of hell. Again, I did not go to school and the social isolation added depth to my awkward nature and paved the way for severe Social Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia.
The second year in Texas was worse. I had additional anxiety from losing a second set of friends and the profound knowledge that my mom was going to die. My symptoms worsened and I perfected the art of hiding them, so my mother wouldn’t have to worry about me. I survived by losing myself in obsessive-compulsive routines and rituals.
Eleven months later we moved back to my original hometown in Massachusettes. I attended one more year of school before my mother passed away. My scars and muscles made me a popular oddity but, socially inept, I avoided the normal dating, sports, dances, and parties that filled my peers’ schedules. I did well academically, spending most of my spare time in the local library, but I couldn’t make human connections. I dropped out of school when I turned sixteen.
I grew up in a hostile jungle, like Tarzan.
I learned how to maintain constant vigilance throughout the night and hide from predators. My father saw me as, just another male to threaten and bully. My sister perverted our relationship and filled my life with shame and secrecy. My mom kept me fed and groomed, made me smile, and loved me. She made me feel safe with her protective embrace, but neglected to nurture my ability to feel safe without it.
At seventeen years old, orphaned and homeless, I had the social skills of a boy raised by apes. I learned many things from my family, but how to live with people wasn’t one of them.