Ghosts From The Past

When I was aged around 12 I developed a facial twitch. The severity and frequency of this twitch would depend upon my anxiety levels at any given moment. I was a painfully shy and insecure young boy so it will come as no surprise that I was bullied at school about this by my peers. It was not the most intense or vindictive bullying I have ever witnessed but it had a massive impact upon me which I still carry to this day.

All I wanted at school was to be accepted and to fit in. My twitch, combined with my shy nature and chubby, unsportsmanlike physique, ensured that I did not. I was a geek, an outcast, not one of the ‘in crowd.’ I firmly believe that this is the reason I grew up with such a brittle, malleable personality. I have always been a people pleaser even if this has meant sacrificing my own beliefs and values in the process. I would always say yes even when every fibre in my body was screaming no.

This led to me getting into a lot of hot water in later life; hot water that almost scalded me alive until I was plucked from it at the eleventh hour. I kept bad company which led to bad behaviour. This has been a constant and recurring theme throughout my adult life. It is only now, many years and many wounds later, that I am learning to be more cautious when I approach new situations and people. I no longer dive in with both feet, wanting to be everyone’s new best friend.

I have to be constantly on my guard. The next disaster could be just around the corner. Fionnuala is a massive help in keeping my feet firmly rooted to the ground. She sees the warning signs long before I do and warns me accordingly. It is so easy to effortlessly slip back into old habits. The transition can be almost imperceptible, an osmosis that creeps up on you and before you know it – BANG – you are right back at the bottom of that slippery slope it took you so long to scale in the first place.

Here’s an example. Today I took my seat on the train for the daily commute into Belfast. Sitting opposite me was a middle aged lady. I paid little heed to her and started to read my book whereupon I noticed her head jerk ever so slightly. Then again a few seconds later. And again. I realised that the poor woman had a similar nervous tic to the one I had eventually grown out of all those years ago.

Within a few heartbeats I was transported back to my childhood self and gripped by an overwhelming urge to replicate the lady’s actions. It was as if my head was in a vice and the only solution to the compulsive thought was to succumb to it, to surrender to the urge. I was gripped in a panic and tempted to run out of the carriage, anything to escape the ghosts from my past.

I didn’t of course. I sat where I was, gritted my teeth and waited until the urge passed. And when it came to my stop I got off the train and carried on with my life. My exciting, vibrant, present life a million miles detached from those unhappy childhood memories. The incident left a lasting impression upon me and an itch that could only be scratched by writing about it. A lesson was learned on that train this morning.

I can never become too comfortable. I can never rest on my laurels and think that I’m invincible to my former flaws and weaknesses. All it takes is one slip, one stumble and I’ll be back to square one. I am still weak, still impressionable, still oh so easily influenced. If I can almost relapse following a brief encounter with a stranger on a train what hope would I have when confronted by larger, more vicious demons from years gone by.

I can never relax. I will never relax.

Do you still fear the ghosts from your past?

How do you fight them?

24 thoughts on “Ghosts From The Past

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  1. I can relate to this. When I was 12 I went from being a very confident child to a victim of bullying. Around that time I developed a strong habit of not looking people in the eyes. I had to work very hard to get to the point that I could look someone in the eyes when talking to them. To this day, if I am tired or not completely comfortable with talking to someone, my gaze will drift off to their shoulder. I only notice if the person says “Is there something on my shirt?” or “Is there something behind me?” or something like that. I’m also in the habit of talking to someone while facing a different direction or walking away, and it drives my husband crazy. I know that it is disconcerting to talk to people who have this habit because I’ve noticed it in a few others. One day I hope to stop it entirely but considering it has been 45 years I have chosen to forgive myself when it happens, and sometimes I explain it to the person that mentions it to me. I feel your fear and congratulate you for controlling your tic this morning.

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  2. Two of my four children have suffered in this way with ticks. My son seems to have overcome it as he has become more confident in adult life but my daughter is struggling with it a little at the moment. I think its often memories that trigger it and hold it in place. Must be hard to forget.

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  3. I agree with you, that we need to keep our guard up, and not conform to our past, because the enemy is quick to remind us of who we used to be. But for God….
    I tend to see this in the positive of how far God has brought you into Victory. You have come a long way, through a lot of diversity and your character has changed!
    Looking at it from a different angle, you could have compassion and encouragement for her, because you have walked where she has walked.
    “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” Genesis 50:20
    You have a lot of inspirational testimony to share based on all the experiences you have been through AND God’s redemption through them. Keep sharing, for God is using you at such a time as this, to share His gospel! Take care!!

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  4. Yep, I still fear them. Maybe not as bad as years ago, but it is still the same. Two things ultimately stand out for me. One was 8th grade bullying where I was voted the most ugly girl in the 8th grade. Yeah, the kid actually wrote that in my yearbook! And then the other was in 10th grade when I was raped. I do my best to no longer let those ghosts define me. It’s why I have titled my blog “The Sum Of My Parts”. It is the excerpt of a good book that reads, ” The sum of my parts are not equal to my whole”. It was written about someone who needed to be saved from their ghosts so that they could realize that they are a good person. I need that reminder daily! I need to be reminded I am not “damaged goods”. Just because I have ghosts I don’t need to let them define who I am today even though those ghosts are what helped shaped who I am. Sorry, I am a wee bit rambling now. I wish there was a ghost trap that would catch all of them! I think it is important to know your triggers and to try to have your ghost trap ready. It is great that your wife recognizes these for you 🙂 Good luck to you! Looking forward to your book by the way.

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    1. Thank you. Your story is a sad one but it’s important that you tell it in order to help young girls who may be facing similar battles. I’m hoping you will enjoy the book if I ever get around to finishing it that is lol.

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      1. Ty for your kindness. I try to help, but it is so hard to help people in the States sometimes =/ Mental Health is a terrible crisis here. Idk if Ireland faces the same challenge. You will finish; all in due time 🙂

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  5. What a lovely honest post … As far as I’m concerned, once bitten twice shy. I’m a bit of a cynic about most things sadly, and that includes therefore being wary of certain types of people because how I respond to them. I was bullied, because I didn’t fit in and I was socially hopeless with my peers because my childhood was spent in the middle of a field. This is probably why I have always enjoyed the company of older people as I feel safer with them. Seventy and above, and I’m actually not bad company. I dislike bullies intensely and yet I married one who almost destroyed me. What a foolish girl I was and what a long way we have all come, but you’re right, I think it’s right to be wary … wary of certain people and certain thought processes and for me, I have to be wary of my old friend, Betty. She’s always a little too close for comfort. K

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  6. My ghost? Well, I’m a stutterer. Way back in the stone age where I spent my childhood we didn’t have speech therapists. And if they did, we couldn’t afford one. My stuttering made me look stupid, embarrassed me a lot, and so I did the only thing I could do. I opened my mouth and kept talking. I listened to the AM-FM DJs and started imitating them. That helped.

    Then I got tossed in front of an audience, and what was a terrifying moment, turned into a change in my life. I slowly began to learn to speak correctly.

    Perhaps the biggest trick I learned was to pause and think before I opened my mouth. One of the most famous people who used this trick was Neil Armstrong. From what I’ve read of him, you’d say something to him and about the time you were sure he hadn’t heard you, he’d open his mouth and out would come a sentence so beautifully crafted, it would surprise you.

    You can read about my experience on my blog where I talk about being a public speaker.:

    https://williamablan.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/becoming-confident-as-a-public-speaker-a-very-personal-odyssey/

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  7. Wow i can relate to being in this same place right now. I’m reading “Finding Spiritual Whitespace” by Bonnie Gray and it’s taking me on a soul journey! You HAVE to read it. And as always, thanks for sharing your heart with us 🌳

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  8. I was always the new kid. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to acquire new friends and learn and grow in social situations, I turned a 180 and made myself a socially awkward, just try to make it through, hermit. Which yes, made me an outcast. So I never quite learned how to connect with peers. And has sadly carried on into adulthood. I can easily disconnect without a second thought. I force myself into social settings for my children and fake my fears so that my children will have the confidence I never had. But still trying to improve myself daily.

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      1. Yes! My odd paintings and my little writings about this and that are a part of me. Although, some (paintings), I realize, are quite dark to others, they are a part of my personal story of moments in my life, a journey to find peace within myself during moments of doubt or fear.

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