My 30 Year High School Reunion

2015 is turning out to be the year of completions for me. I went to my 30 year high school reunion on Saturday night. My experience of other boys at high school was challenging for me and on the way to the reunion I felt a bit triggered and reached out for support to a friend who had been tormented at her school by bullies.

"Strive To Survive" Was More Like My Experience
“Strive To Survive” Was More Like My Experience

The very first guy who spoke to me was one of the guys I remember bullying me in high school: He bought me a drink and we had a fun conversation.

Later on I was flirting with a girl from our sister school, and she goes “You’re really cool. Where were you in high school?” I thought: “I just wasn’t myself back then; I never felt safe to just be me”.

Then later another guy said “I told one of the other guys a few days ago that I’m going to apologise to Graham Stoney at the reunion for laying shit on him at school.” He was clearly embarrassed about it. We’d both been carrying that for 30 years. I said I was open to hearing his apology, and he said he was really sorry. I felt that he meant it too, and was getting complete himself. We shook hands and I thanked him. Then he told me that he had hated school and wasn’t dealing with things, and we talked about how isolated we all had felt and how nobody was really coping. But as boys we all just had to suck it up, pretend we weren’t hurting and fend for ourselves by beating up on the smaller kids, just like the bigger kids beat up on us.

One of my last conversations was a bit unnerving, with a guy who said I had ignored him at school, and that he didn’t mind putting shit on people weaker than him. He still had that bully energy and I didn’t hang around him long.

A lot of the guys remarked that I’m now taller than them, and I had grown. They hadn’t mentioned that at the 20 year reunion and I doubt I’ve grown much physically since then; but I have grown a lot spiritually/psychologically.

I came home thinking that completes the chapter of my life about being bullied at high school and the story that other men aren’t safe for me to be around and aren’t interested in connecting with me.

Mum’s Birthday

I woke up with a headache this morning, and ended up spending most of the day in bed. I’m not entirely sure what that’s about, but I don’t think it’s purely coincidental that it’s my mother’s birthday today.I haven’t spoken to my mother for most of the past year, after a big argument last August where I realised just how I unsafe I felt around her. As I mentioned in my last post, that change the little this week when I discovered that she had been rushed to hospital in an ambulance with a suspected heart attack, and I decided to visit her.

In the past I have always found my mother’s birthday, and Mother’s Day the most stressful days of the year. I remember feeling anxious as a child on these days, because Mum often seemed to be in a really bad mood. I recall the fear that I felt waiting for the right point in the day to try and present the gift that I had bought her. More often than I would’ve liked, she seemed hostile and unreceptive. I think this is where my anxiety about gift buying came from.

Perhaps my body is remembering the internalised fear I felt on these days. Fortunately, today was a little easier because my father had organised to take my mother out to a birthday concert. I decided to call my mother this morning to wish a happy birthday, not so much because I felt feelings of love towards her, but because I’d like to be the kind of son that would do that anyway.

The other possible reason for waking up in the headache this morning, was that a friend of mine came around last night to interview me for an assignment that he is doing for a subject on attachment theory as part of the counselling course he is doing. The interview was all about my experience of early childhood, primary school, high school, adolescence and the major factors that impacted my development, such as my family origin, religion, and relationships with other people while growing up.

I wouldn’t say I felt particularly strongly about anything that I talked about, given that this is well trodden ground but I’ve been over and over again and again in the countless hours of therapy and other emotional healing workshops that I’ve done. However, I did notice myself feeling angry whenever I talked about times that I had been shut down, conditioned, bullied, abandoned, rejected, criticised, suppressed, or told to do what other people wanted rather than what I wanted. There were also times when I simply didn’t feel safe around people like my father when he was angry, on my mother when she was launching into vitriolic attacks on other people.

Perhaps there is still some buried anger connected to the tension that I feel in my head most of the time. I’m not exactly sure what to do about that, exploring it seems to just make it worse, and what I really want to do is just move on with my life and leave the whole thing behind.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to really leave my family behind, because birthdays and other family events occur with monotonous regularity, and I don’t feel like celebrations when they are triggering headaches for me.

I don’t feel at all comfortable about resuming my old relationship with my mother, where she felt entitled to say whatever she wanted to me and I had no recourse when I was feeling hurt or upset about what she said. If my body is going to respond with tension headaches every time I see my parents, it just doesn’t seem worth it to me.

At the same time, I have a very strong sense that I’m really not myself. It’s like the headaches I’m just another way of defining the old comfort zone that I used to live in, that doesn’t represent who I really am. I think a big part of this journey is learning to accept everything about myself, including the parts that I’ve been taught in the past to suppress.

I feel pretty despondent about it all today. But I’m also tired of whining about it, so I’m heading off back to bed. I love that blissful floaty feeling that I get while I’m asleep. I can feel it coming now.