School Days: Anxiety & Fitting In

Different at Primary School

Wherever I go in life I never feel like I fit in.

I’ve always been a bit different. Ever since I started primary school I felt out of place. During break and lunch I was equally happy to play on my own as with others. In fact I would often go off on my own if a game wasn’t interesting to me. I think I probably came across as a bit of an outsider. I think other kids would think my games silly or not want to play them. I was always off in my little fantasy world, dreaming about flying and winged horses, unicorns and magic. To me this was totally natural. I was never interested in sporty games which I guess would isolate me a bit from some of the others.

I never struggled in school either. I don’t think it was really until middle and high school that the other kids would start to tease about being a teacher’s pet. I never intended to be a teacher’s pet. I don’t think I ever really was one, it’s just that the others would see me as a bit of a know-it-all/goody-two-shoes. I didn’t mean to be like this, I didn’t set out consciously to irritate other kids. I could be a bossy kid which always gets on other’s nerves. I liked to help other people with work, but I think I’d go a bit overboard. If we ever worked in groups I liked to be the leader!

Different Beliefs

Two of the main reasons I’d get picked on were for being religious (went to church every Sunday with my family) and I was a bit podgy- not fat, not then. Just a little overweight. I still remember how horrible it felt at playschool, when all the other kids were dressing up and I was the only girl who couldn’t fit into the pretty ballerina tutu. I wanted so much to be the fairy!

I guess, when I was a kid, I would have wanted to be popular and for everybody to like me. I wanted to be pretty, wear fashionable clothes, have fashionable toys that everybody wanted to play with. I wanted long, blonde hair that I could wear in long braids (I had a stupid boys hair cut that my mum made me have- I hated it). I wanted beautiful dresses! I just wanted to be liked by everyone! I didn’t want other people to talk about me meanly behind my back- who does? I didn’t want people to pretend to be nice to me.

Fears

Another difference was my anxiety and sensitivity. I found teachers fairly terrifying! I hated displeasing anybody, but the punishments were what I feared the most. Even something like being told off in front of others was a trauma-inducing thought! School really scared me. I would often have “stomachaches” or “earaches” and Mum would let me stay home. I never realised when I was a kid that I suffered with anxiety, but now it is obvious to me that I did. I dreaded going to school: fear of other kids mean-ness during breaks and the teachers’ anger during work time was enough to stop me sleeping. Summer Moon from My Bipolar Bubble has written a great post on Separation Anxiety and Bipolar in Kids which really resonated with me.

Do I think I had Bipolar symptoms back then? I don’t know. I definitely had separation anxiety though and anxiety about school. I’d be upset more easily than others and hurt by comments or criticism.. I cried quite a bit!

Different Passions

At high school I started to learn that it was a bad thing to know the answers or to be good at music or art. It made me different. Was I arrogant about it? Was I boastful? I don’t know? Maybe I was, though it was unintentional. I soon learned to keep quiet.

I loved dancing, but dancing is what all the popular girls did and I never fit in with them. So that made me not like dancing so much- well not the social group anyway. I used to dance at home a lot, to all sorts of music, often classical (this was during ages 11+). I definitely got the feeling others thought I was weird for liking classical music. I tried not to hide it, just because I loved it so much. I was passionate about it- certain pieces of music would move me to tears, even at the age of 11. I didn’t want to hide something I loved so much. I wanted to listen to classical music all the live-long day! And watch ballets- I loved watching ballets. I’d dance around the living room pretending to be different characters in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I would enter a whole new world. It was magical and helped me to love life, despite hating school. There was always ballet and music- I’ve never lost my passion for them. I’m still convinced I was a dancer in a former life!

The First Bipolar Signs

I think my first Bipolar symptoms cropped up in high school. I remember getting very hyper and talking a-mile-a-minute. I’d get loud, precocious, silly, really giggly and hysterically laugh. I’d find it hard to calm down. Other times I couldn’t stop crying, usually when I was at home alone in my room. I’d sob silently, about nothing in particular sometimes, other times because I felt very alone and helpless. Sometimes I thought to feel despairing and terrified was normal, well it had pretty much always been normal for me. Other times I thought I was a freak. I always thought that maybe I’d be happier if I just fit in better with the others, then I wouldn’t get teased. I thought that there was something “wrong” with me for liking the things I did, for not being someone who people liked. I felt defective and this feeling I still carry with me today. I can tell myself I’m perfectly normal until I’m blue in the face, but the feeling of being defective remains constant. Maybe it’s starting to lessen a bit. Other times I feel like I was born on the wrong planet!

Still Different…..

Even now I don’t fit in with “regular” folks my age. I used to wish I liked the fashionable music and clothes, and liked clubbing and drinking and having a huge group of friends, just so I could fit in. But I’ve tried so desperately hard to like these things and fit in with “popular” people that it’s made me utterly miserable. Why do I desperately seek the approval of others? It seems so silly sometimes. I want to love life, not hate it by being someone I’m not, just to fit in. So I’m going to learn to love my differences and to shout about them, rather than hiding behind a rock the whole time.

Similar posts: Free To Be Average; Bipolar & Perfectionism Part 1; Perfectionism Part 2; Bipolar Disorder & Trauma.

Check out Separation Anxiety & Bipolar in Kids by Summer Moon on My Bipolar Bubble.

Photo Credits: Violin by Maya via freedigitalphotos.net; Child in Autumn by chrisroll via freedigitalphotos.net.

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12 thoughts on “School Days: Anxiety & Fitting In

  1. Summer Moon

    “School really scared me. I would often have “stomachaches” or “earaches” and Mum would let me stay home.”

    This line right here made me take a sudden and deep breath. I often was sick as a child with both of these, especially earaches. I actually did get those very often, but there were also times when I faked those earaches so that I didn’t have to go to school. The same with stomachaches, which I rarely ever had. What I did have during these times though, was an intense feeling of fear and basically depression. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I’ve reflected back over my childhood these past few years, I realize now that I experience depression symptoms which were a result of anxiety that I also didn’t know I had. So, this line I quoted, hit home strongly. I hated feeling like I needed to fake illness to stay home from school, but it was a survival thing. And, I didn’t even realize it was that at the time. I just knew that if I went to school, then I’d not be able to handle it.

    I’m so sorry that you hid so many of your passions as a child. I wish we could have been friends as kids, ’cause you and I would have had fun playing in our fantasy worlds together. I was made fun of a great deal due to my wanting to play make-believe games, and not ‘sporty’ games. I would bug my cousins at family gatherings and ask if we could play various games that were all based around the make-believe in my head. But, they would just laugh at me, ’cause they only wanted to play ball games, board games, and other ‘seen-with-the-eye’ type of games. One of my cousins even said to one of my nephews who I grew up with, that I was too old to be playing in such a way. My nephew relayed that to me and it really hurt. I loved playing my fair share of the games they all played too, but they never matched up with what was in my imagination. I do remember a very good friend of mine in third grade, though. She and I would play such make-believe games. She had a quirky personality that I loved and we both clicked due to our quirkiness. But, when she moved away in sixth grade, I lost that companion. Due to that, I began to hide my imagination even more than I already did at school. She helped me to let it out at school, ’cause she couldn’t care less about what others thought. I admired that. But without her, I lost that courage. But my love for it never went away, as you know.

    I think it’s so awesome that you would dance around playing Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. I’m glad that you had that outlet at home. I think that’s what saved me as a child, that I could at least go into my world at home. I’m still not sure when the bipolar started exactly. I know for sure that in my late teens/early twenties it became noticeable. However, I don’t know if I showed symptoms at a younger age, My doctors seem to think I probably did, but even they can’t know for certain since we can’t go back in time. But, I can relate so much to what you say about crying for no reason and feeling as if I was nothing during high school. I always saw myself as so different from my peers, and also like the black sheep in my family. I just felt as if I didn’t belong. I felt as if I was a mistake and that I wasn’t supposed to be here. Then, there was the opposite side of my personality. I too would laugh quite hysterically, and become a chatterbox (which was opposite of my ‘normal’ personality). I’d often be told to calm down, which I hated! That would make me angry. So what you say about your symptoms in high school make me wonder about me too. I know it isn’t going to help me in any way to know if I was bipolar as a teen or younger, but I just wish I knew for my own knowledge.

    This is such a wonderful and heartfelt post, Rachel. It really made me think and reflect more. It’s so hard to confront our past pains, let alone write about them, so I love that you did just that here. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us! 🙂

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Hi Summer- thank you so much for sharing so much with us all. I think you and I would have been good buddies at school :). A lot of what you’ve written here sounds exactly like me: feeling like you didn’t belong and that you were a mistake- can totally relate.

      I never thought my overactive imagination was that different until middle school (maybe 7-8 years plus). I think the other kids were getting older and becoming more into pop music and fashion when I still preferred these imagination-based games. It was seen as a sissy thing. I always enjoyed writing stories too and drawing- I guess that’s how I channelled it all when it became less socially acceptable. You must have really missed your friend when she moved away.

      I also had ear trouble like you- had my adenoids out when I was about 7. But yes, I would use this to stay off school too. The work never bothered me- just feeling so scared! How funny we share similar experiences! And that we both survived by retreating to our fantasy worlds!

      No problem for mentioning your post- I loved it! I really connected to it and it inspired me to write more about how school was for me. So thank you!

      Reply
  2. Jen

    Bugger fitting in! I understand the desire to want to fit in, I do feel the pull on occasion, unfortunately. I subscribe to daily quotes from the goodreads site and I have recently received a couple that are pretty apt –
    ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.’
    André Gide
    ‘We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.’
    Robert Fulghum
    ‘The time to make up your mind about people, is never.’
    Philip Barry
    And my favourite, which doesn’t really fit your post, but it made me smile –
    ‘Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.’
    E.L. Doctorow

    Fitting in, I think, is overrated. Look at those we want to try to fit in with, I mean really look. Clubbing, drinking, sleeping with anything with a pulse, listening to the most god-awful ‘music’, not to mention watching, discussing and even admiring ‘celebrities’ make absolute asses of themselves on television – yuk! “Regular” and “Popular” people are generally dull losers!

    You be you, you’re ace! Not a fake, show of a person, afraid to be sober and truly know themselves. It takes guts to be who you are, and you do it so well xxx

    😉

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      That made me laugh! Thank you! Yeah I think I’m starting to realise it’s way better to live as I really am- if only I’d come to that conclusion sooner!! You’re so right about the celebrity culture and “god-awful” music- that made me laugh too! I get the feeling you’re one of the courageous in life who is born with that inner strength that says to hell with what other people think. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m learning :). Love your attitude! 🙂 I need a bit of that! 🙂 xxx

      Reply
      1. Jen

        Easy to say, I’m still working on it in all honesty. It was kind of you to call me courageous, I’m still working on that too 😉 xxx

  3. projectwhitespace

    Rachel, if I could know you personally, face-to-face, we would be good friends. I love that you were moved sometimes even to tears at classical music. I don’t think I have the passion for it that you have, but I do from time to time get moved this way by classical music. (My music was different than my peers growing up too, like Paul Simon (and Simon and Garfunkel), Enya and pretty much anything ethnic. I also loved Native American singing and chanting. Who listens to that in high school?
    I am glad you are going to shout your differences. That is what is beautiful about us, and it’s what makes the world interesting. Don’t be afraid to share the “different” you. You go!
    Why do I get this feeling that you are SO close to finding your “thing”? I just really feel like you are right there. Maybe it’s because I see you searching. And it wasn’t till I searched with PASSION that I finally found my “thing.” I searched even when it was driving my hubby nuts! Don’t give up Rachel! Keep searching. Keep being sweet, wonderful and “different” you.

    Reply
  4. rachelmiller1511 Post author

    Bethany- you really do know me incredibly well! You’re right- I’m sure I’m on the cusp of finding my thing in life and I’m so excited for it to arrive. It’s kind of like waiting for a massive gift. I think I had to make the space in my life for it to appear in.

    I love Enya too (I often play some on the piano, it’s nice and easy!) and there was this album called Sacred Spirit that I used to listen to that was based on Native American chants! Think I was a Native American in a past life- one of my favourite films is Dancing With Wolves. I love how they revered all of life- wonderfully inspiring.

    Thank you as always for your fantastic support!

    Reply
    1. projectwhitespace

      OH MY GOSH! First of all, darn wordpress didn’t let me know you responded, so I am SOOO glad I came in here. Ok, I OWN Sacred Spirit, and I am the only one I know who has ever heard of that one! In fact, I lost it a while back, and I just happened upon it again a couple weeks ago, and bought it again. I LOVE that CD and when I was in the Air Force (like, 15 years ago), I used to chill out in my dorm and listen to it non-stop. I’m so excited to know someone else who has that CD. Ok, sorry to go nutsoid on you, but that is just too much. 🙂 When I get home, I’m gonna listen to it in your honor.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Being Honest With Myself | Working Through Emotional Disorder

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