I knew my childhood was lonely and there were some bad experiences, bad practices, and a few bad people. It wasn’t until I got into counseling and watched my therapists gape that I began to realize just how unhealthy and abnormal some parts of it were.
All these years, I have carried forth the belief that I am a bad person who needs to root out the selfishness, anger and general badness in my heart. But as it turns out, maybe I’m just human. Here’s just one story.
The door lock
My dad died when I was six, and my mother remarried when I was nine. During those three years in between, my mother was afraid for the two of us to be alone in our house, which was way out in the country. Our bedroom doors were very old solid wood with glass doorknobs and old-fashioned keyholes. They didn’t lock. One of the things that made my mother feel safe was to install a little safety chain on the inside of her bedroom door. You know, the kind you see in the movies, where someone opens a door (usually a front exterior door), but a small chain stops it from opening fully, and the homeowner has to almost close the door to unlatch the safety chain and let the visitor come in. She had that on the inside of her bedroom door. It was silly, but I understand the comfort it brought her.
What I don’t understand is the same kind of safety chain she installed on my adjacent bedroom door. It was on the outside of my door.
Think about that for a minute.
She always said it was so that she knew I was safe at night. But it seemed really weird to me. I think she actually wanted to keep me in my room, since I was one of those pop-out-of-bed kind of kids who had trouble falling asleep. Never mind the safety factor if there had been a home fire, or the convenience factor if I needed to go to the bathroom.
I don’t remember ever trying to open the door and being unable to do so. But that chain bothered me every time I looked at it until I left home at age 18, though.
My therapist said there are certain memorable stories from his practice that stay with him, and this is definitely a bizarre one for the memory banks. That remark was really validating for me. No other counselor had ever batted an eye at this story before, and I have wondered, “Am I just making a big deal out of nothing?”
I wondered that a lot, growing up, actually.
I still have that sense of self doubt right down in my essence, coiled protectively around my spine. Like it would cripple me to remove it.