Friday, 21 August 2009

Playing Mummies and Daddies

To say I that I was an anxious kid would be to downplay the terror that tore through me each night and very often, in situations during the day. But, downplay it I do... I guess because my parents just seemed to receive it with a mixture of shoulder shrugging, eye rolling, 'she's absolutely bloody neurotic and hopefully she'll grow out if it', kind of concerned bemusement.

Those words.
They stuck.
They define me now. Not just then.

I did too.
Forget monsters in the wardrobe. We're talking real men here, lying under my bed with a 12 inch syringe of a lethal chemical which, upon being injected into the bloodstream, would cause almost instant paralysis. I would die in screaming pain without being able to utter a sound.
Overactive imagination? I think so too.

The hardest thing perhaps was that, instead of being able to take refuge in childish sleep, I was an incurable insomniac from the earliest age.
I was the night watch. Guarding the house. Responsible for the safety of my family.

It's a thankless task being a watchman while the rest of your world sleeps.

Lonely hours spent crunched up on the stairs, staring at the shadows.

Straining to hear.
Nightie pulled and stretchd over cold, bony knees. A leather bound volume of Shakespeare at my feet, a heavy weapon.

More neurosis.
It would appear that I believed that an excess of alcohol would cause a person to become dangerous. Thus, I thought that when drunk (which was an infrequent occurance) my dad would murder my mum as she slept. Whenever they had been out to friends' houses, I waited for hours outside their room to hear my mother's muffled screams.

I also believed that if people slept on their backs, they would swallow their tongues and choke to death as they slept.
Nobody else seemed to care about this. Nobody seemed bothered that my sisters might be suffocated by on of their own organs.

So I was responsible for keeping them alive.

Four, five, times a night I would tread on trembling tiptoes into their rooms and either suffer the heart stopping panic of finding one of them asleep on their back, or the warm rush of relief to find one curled up and sleeping on her side.
Each time I found them in the death position, I would gently place my finger under her nose to check that she was breathing.
Then I would carefully roll her on her side and tuck the duvet behind her.

Today my therapist listened to me explain the night time procedure of checking they were still breathing and said it was what a new mother did to her new baby.
She said I took on the mother role.
I felt winded by this. (No pun intended)!

I thought about this and thought about my watching the shadows and realised I took on the father role too.
She said it was like playing mummies and daddies, except for real.

I'm not sure I like the implications. But I was blown away by the understanding of what I was doing.

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