Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Move

Simple statement: We moved from Santa Cruz, CA to Indianapolis, IN when I was 8 and 1/2.

Only recently have I realized what a huge impact that had on my life.

Of course, moving is hard to do. For anyone. Especially for kids. But the farther, the harder. The younger, the harder. Although if you're really young, it actually might be easier. My sister (obviously) also moved from Santa Cruz to Indianapolis. But they were 3 and 1/2 and 1. Their memories of Santa Cruz are scant (or nonexistent) and filtered through the memories of a toddler. So in some ways, my sisters and I have very different lived experiences of moving.

I know we talked about moving in advance, because duh, my parents are not total psychos. I also know because this was during the time my sister Leslie was obsessed with the concept of death and talked about dying all.the.time. And one of my mom's favorite stories is when she was explaining the move to Leslie she said something along the lines of "we're gonna pack up all the toys and all our stuff into a big truck and we're going to ride in the truck with the kitties and we're going to drive and drive and drive, and then we're going to sleep, and then we're going to drive and drive and drive, and then we're going to sleep again and then we're going to drive and drive and drive and then we'll be in Indiana!" And my little death-obsessed sister said "And then we die?" And my mom freaked out and screamed "NO! NO ONE IS GOING TO DIE! STOPPING WORRYING ABOUT PEOPLE DYING!" and that pretty much was the end of her death obsession that had gone on for months. I can't recall specific discussions, but I'm positive we talked about moving and what that meant.

But I also know that a) my parents don't do emotions all that well and b) they do not have an OCD brain like mine.

Both of my parents were raised in homes where emotions were both ignored and dangerous (in the sense of vulnerability). And as happens in families, my parents weren't equipped to deal healthily with emotions in their childhoods so they passed many of those ill-equipped coping skills down in their family (though with many more improvements over what they had).

I also had undiagnosed, untreated OCD. And I was good at hiding a lot of it. As I've been learning over the past few years, this is the story for many kids with OCD. We don't realize that our fears are disproportionate to most people's. We think everyone obsesses and worries and compulsively does things. It's not until much later, and after much hiding, and much affect on our lives that we realize we're actually very, very different. To compound things, I lived in a family that didn't do lots of touchy feely "let's talk about emotions" and we were a pretty different, not-so-mainstream family. My parents knew I was quirky and different, but in my family nonconformity and quirkiness were (mostly) celebrated. My parents are free thinkers, and my mom is an artist, and my dad is very much an aloof sort of guy (mostly because he's trapped in his own web of anxiety and fear). So between my hiding my worries and my parents focus on different things, my OCD ran rampant and unchecked, and my parents discussed the move with me, but didn't tell me ALL THE THINGS an OCD child needs to think about, worry about, prepare for, etc. etc. etc. And to be completely honest, I don't know any parent could have really prepared me for that move. Medication and therapy probably would have helped, but hindsight is 20/20.

Things that had a profound impact on me related to the move, in no particular order:

My cats almost died of heat stroke in the middle of the desert. They were fainting and gasping for breath and my mom and aunt had to rush them into a rest stop and plunge them under the water faucets.

One night we stopped to sleep in the back of the truck (our Mazda B2000; not the moving truck!). I was out of sorts and a nervous wreck and I peed the "bed." And I happened to be sharing the bed with my entire family. They were not happy. I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

Right before we got to Indiana, my cats were freaking out. I let Patches out of her carrier and she was so terrified she peed all over me. Cat pee on me + aforementioned peeing the bed = OMG meltdown.

My mom went to work full-time for the first time in my life after we moved to Indiana. Having a stay at home mom in Santa Cruz to a working mom in Indiana likely made me romanticize childhood in Santa Cruz and associate Indiana with the first loss of my mother I experienced.

I became a latch-key kid in Indiana...sort of. We lived with my aunt for the first year in Indiana. She worked night shift as a nurse. I came home after school and let myself in because both of my parents were at work. I was technically not without adult aunt was in the house. But she was sleeping and I pretty much had to have my hair on fire to wake her up without feeling like I was going to be in trouble. So mostly I felt alone and that was scary.

I got a prank call that first year from some creep who was asking me if my parents were home and generally scaring the shit out of me. I remember being terrified and all the adults in my life acting like it was no big deal. The event is very foggy, but the terror is/was not.

I was the weird kid at school. I carried Bay Area surfer culture language with me. I said weird words, I didn't know what a lot of Hoosier-specific words meant. I spent all of third grade trying to learn a new world of Hoosier heartland values, language and culture.

There was a tornado that passed very close to my school that first year. I remember crouching in the hallway at school and thinking I was going to die. I moved to Indiana and now I'm dying from a tornado that is going to hit my school. Great. That was my first experience with tornadoes and it was terrifying. Tornadoes are still one of my biggest fears.

It snowed the week before Halloween. We had to wear sweatsuits under our costumes. I used to be a baton twirler in a leotard and now I was a lumpy princess who was freezing to death. No one prepared me for that shit.

Dry, dry weather and central heat = nosebleeds. Terrible, terrible nosebleeds. Blood gushing from my face. That was terrifying.

My parents bought a house! That was great! But now it was a big house and I'd never lived in a big house with my own room at the opposite end of the house from my parents. That was scary. And this house was in a new school district. Another new school.

I grew up with my cousins on my mom's side. They were my first gang/crew/peeps. In Indiana I didn't have any cousins. My aunt/uncle had a niece on my aunt's side and she became my loosely defined cousin. We spent time together, but lived farther apart and went to different schools so it wasn't the same. This was pre-Internet time so I lost close contact with my cousins for a long time. That was a significant loss.

There's probably more bits and pieces along the way. But these are the major ones that stick out for me. These things have shaped my life in significant ways. I'll keep unpacking these things in the future. Both in therapy, in my life and on my blog. OCD makes everything harder.


Andrea Mox said...

Thank you for sharing more of yourself. I continue to be amazed and inspired by your resiliency, and love you to the depths of my soul.

nazrafel said...