Five years old. Bumbling over my own two feet, I stood in the door way: arms outstretched. I would break both respectively before my sixth birthday. One, climbing off of my parents’ arm chair and slipping on a sheet of newspaper. The second, jumping for the monkey bars and missing by an inch and three quarters, nothing to break my fall but my tiny, chubby, outstretched arms.
I twist my little hands back and forth, staring. Staring at my palms, my knuckles, my finger nails, the tiny, sparse hairs, even. ‘Are these really my hands?’ I contemplate in all my childishness.
Padding past my bedroom door and into the bathroom, I use the edge of the bath to climb onto the sink. I almost knock over the big bottle of bubble bath; the one with the plastic fairy glittering on top. I had never used it, or at least I couldn’t remember using it, because my mother told me that my skin was too delicate for it. It caused red rashes and allergic reaction. She kept it for me because I liked the fairy glittering on top. Staring at myself in the mirror, I wonder: ‘Is this really my face?”
White blonde hair, bobbed just under my newly pierced ears. Cheeks round, chubby and rosy red to match rosy lips. Eyes green and eyelashes long. I prodded fingers too young for nail polish at my baby-soft skin.
I am five years old and my first bout of derealisation has wrapped itself around my consciousness like a mother with a warm blanket. I would not know this was a this was a symptom of anxiety until fifteen days after my nineteenth birthday.
I can call to mind my earliest memory. It was a television show about bunny rabbits and vampires. I watched it on our old television, next to the front window. We only had a vcr player then. I used to watch Mulan and Toy Story daily. I could have been two years old the day I watched the unnamed bunny rabbit/vampire show. I could have been younger. I still slept in a cot, I know that for sure.
I remember it in flashes of colour and the melody of the music. It had to have been several months before the huntsman spider, which I remember being just as big as I was, chased me from my bedroom and cornered me against the wall. The poor thing was probably trying to find his way out. Instead, he caused a tiny girl a life-long fear and wound up squished under her father’s shoe.
I went to sleep some time after (or some time before) wishing for my next life.
I’ve no idea where someone as small as I learned about reincarnation. But I knew what it was. I knew it would happen to me. By the time I was two years old, I decided I was already fed up with this life and I began hoping for the next. I knew that in my next life I would be a beautiful princess in a castle. I knew it. So small, I was, and already wanting to be dead and gone. I did not fear the idea; did not cry for it. I was simply a dreamer, ready for my next great adventure.
When I was six years old, I shared a bedroom with my eight year old brother. We did not get along. I told my mother to tell him that I said “good-night” to all my toys every single time before I went to sleep. I told her that I would have conversations with them. I told her to tell him not to tell me off, or shush me, or make fun of me.
I lied about talking to my toys. Even I thought that was silly. But I knew that every night before I went to sleep I would slip into a magical daydream. I dreamed of Hogwarts, or vampires, of bunny rabbits, of fairies. I dreamed of running barefoot through forests. I dreamed of driving Mario-Kart cars with the boy in my class I had a crush on. I dreamed of following Father Christmas on his sleigh up to the North Pole. I dreamed of magic every night, before I went to sleep. And I lied to my mother, so she would tell my brother not to tell me off, or shush me, or make fun of me in case I talked by accident.
Fifteen years old. Crying silently into the pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had already read it five or six times. Maybe seven. I wasn’t crying for loss of the characters. I was crying because the boy behind me struck my thigh so hard a blood vessel burst. His best friend had thrown an orange at me the week previous. I got into bed after the hour-long bus ride. And I curled up in the warmth of my imagination. Wrapping the blanket of comfort around myself, I padded over to my bedroom mirror. Liquid eye-liner chosen because Kohl ran at the mention of tears; I winged it out because that’s what the politically interested, indie-music-listening girl (who trained me on work-experience) did. I wanted to be her. Strong and opinionated, with bright red hair.
I prodded at my soft, make-up powdered cheeks. Fingers long and slender, now, and nails blackened by my favourite varnish. Long eyelashes obscuring green eyes. Sandy blonde hair, waist-length, and tucked behind one ear (adorned with many more piercings).
I looked in the mirror, and wondered: ‘Is this really my face?”
Like always, I tried to hold onto the feeling. The one where the universe suddenly seemed unrecognisable. Where my face, the room I stood in, the mirror I stared at were all completely alien. The one where I finally felt like a fantasy, my childhood dreams realised, a new character in someone else’s story book. When I came back down from my moment, I would always be a little bit relieved. Not at the reintroduction to reality, but to idea that I wasn’t really there for a moment. That I was as fictional as my day-dreams before I went to sleep.
It’s fifteen days since my nineteenth birthday. Still allergic to most forms of bubble bath, the fairy glittering atop the plastic bottle is long gone. The blood vessels are still broken purple, adorning my left thigh like tiny tree-roots – a constant reminded of the boy who decided to hit me simply because I was wearing shorts that day, and because he believed he could. My nails are still black and my liquid eye-liner winged. But, now my stories are typed as well.
Today, I found out that this thing I have been experiencing since infancy is actually a symptom of anxiety. It is called derealisation. And I wonder what it says about me, that I have been finding a symptom of anxiety comforting since before I could understand the weight of wishing for reincarnation before my own life had even begun.
This piece of writing was created in the Winter of 2015.