30 votes

When was the first time you felt different?

All of us know the feeling; some of us have felt it more intensely than others; some of us have to continue to live with it daily.

When was the first time you really became aware of it? What did it feel like? How did it play out?

22 comments

  1. monarda
    Link
    When I was way younger, like elementary school, I don't remember feeling different, but I do remember feeling this deep need to make other other people feel like I belonged. I wasn't really liked,...

    When I was way younger, like elementary school, I don't remember feeling different, but I do remember feeling this deep need to make other other people feel like I belonged. I wasn't really liked, but I did have friends. We moved a lot so friendships were fleeting. Home was bad.

    In middle school I started being put in "behavioral modification" programs, aka places where crazy kids went. I remember getting out and starting at a new school, and I guess some kids overheard the principle talking to a teacher about me, and that's where I got the moniker "Crazy Monarda." That's when I first felt different. And I totally played into it. I became "Crazy Monarda." A bunch of jocks would be bullying me, and I would just fly at them, fists flying, screaming the most obscene things. I became a scrappy little girl that seemed to justify everyone's judgement of me.

    And it totally shaped the direction of my life. I think that playing into being crazy allowed me to be judged on my own terms... hrmm. Like you can judge me as this person I present, and hate me or laugh at me, or lock me up, or whatever, but secretly I am this other person that you do not know, so your judgement means nothing, Hah! The reality is that the judgement bore down on me like a mother fucking mountain. And I kept this fragile, hopeful, loving being locked inside, while this wild, angry, hateful person screamed obscenities at the world. The consequences were significant. And the experience of those consequences, further separated me from my peers to a point that I have only met only one person in "real life" who has experienced some of the things I have experienced.

    Unfortunately there are other people who have experienced sexual trauma like me. And it shapes all of us. But I guess in polite company we are suppose to not talk about it because it is shameful. Well it shaped me too. I was trafficked by people who were suppose to protect me, and being the scrappy little girl I became, I ran from all the fucked up shit and made my own life in sex work where I exploited myself instead of being exploited. And I guess I am supposed to feel ashamed about it all, but there were some good times, and I can never talk about it, because I should be the victim and sad if I want redemption. So these huge blocks of time of my life are never open to discussion when socializing. BUT SOME OF IT WAS FUCKING FUNNY!

    So I think I am not different in that we all have our private selves, but sometimes, starting all the way back there in middle school, I think I am different and no one loved that little girl, and there's no acceptance for who she was and what she became. People like me well enough, but funnily enough most people think I am a prude. I don't share me out here in the world.

    24 votes
  2. Atvelonis
    Link
    I had a relatively sheltered childhood. The first time that I felt as though I was different from my peers was right after getting to college, when the imposter syndrome slammed me in the face. I...

    I had a relatively sheltered childhood. The first time that I felt as though I was different from my peers was right after getting to college, when the imposter syndrome slammed me in the face. I had gotten into a highly ranked liberal arts institution, and it felt as though literally everyone around me was miles ahead in every conceivable way. It didn't help that the Dean of Admissions, in his welcoming speech to the first-year class, listed about a hundred "interesting achievements" that people in my class had made: started a successful international charity, been the first author on a major work of astrophysical research, worked on important political campaigns, been the first in their entire community (in rural Africa!) to go to college, etc. Nothing I had done was on there, and that made me feel pretty bad, and a little terrified.

    It was far from a competitive environment, but in the moment, with all of these insane accomplishments whirling around my head, I felt as though my presence at this institution was a mistake, and that I was doomed to fail. I was a legacy, and I was applying ED, giving me an unfair advantage in the admissions process. I had done relatively well in school, but my academics certainly weren't my hook. For various reasons I felt as though I hadn't really earned either of my recommendations, and that I had largely advanced in my extracurriculars by circumstance. The only achievement that I would say I had actually earned was Eagle Scout, and even for that, I had the socioeconomic means and familial support (however vague) to pursue such things as a teenager.

    Things have more or less worked out since then, thank God, but I'm never going to forget the feelings of ultimate insignificance and inadequacy I went through at the time.

    13 votes
  3. [2]
    Akir
    Link
    I'm surprised to hear how many people have sad childhood stories like my own. I also was an outsider from a young age. I grew up in poverty with a single father who worked too hard to have much of...

    I'm surprised to hear how many people have sad childhood stories like my own.

    I also was an outsider from a young age. I grew up in poverty with a single father who worked too hard to have much of an affect on my early childhood. My older sister essentially was my parent.

    But if there was one point where there was a definite change in how well accepted I was socially, it was when I went to the fourth grade. And things changed dramatically for the worst. Simply put, I changed schools and the children at the new school bullied me. These new kids were some of the worst behaved ones I had ever seen; Midway through the school year, the teacher had left on maternity leave and the kids were so mean to the new teacher they actually managed to make her cry once. I adopted to my status by avoiding contact with most of my peers. It wasn't perfect, but I read a lot of books and expanded my horizons in my solitude.

    Going into middle school was a whole other ballgame though. It actually started off good enough, but tweens are frankly terrible people. I couldn't just be a loaner anymore because people would actively target me. I've been fat for as long as I can remember so I was an easy target. It got so bad that I would find myself blanking out and going into uncontrollable rages.

    Those rages got me in trouble, of course. I was expelled from at least one school, and was forced into diciplanary schools multiple times. If you guessed there was even worse bullies there, you win a prize!

    The bullying only really stopped at around the end of my Junior year of high school. Strangely enough, coming out of the closet seemed to make people respect me more (which still baffles me to this day, since this was before things like "It Gets Better" and TV PSAs with washed out teen idols telling you not to use "gay" as a derrogitory term). By senior year, I actually liked my classmates, who had not only started to respect me, but were downright interested in my thoughts and oppinions. Heck, I even had friends.

    But today I have a difficult time dealing with people in general. I find socializing difficult and I honestly don't see much point in making friends outside of work. While I wouldn't say that I lack self-worth, I have a hard time believing people see that I am worth investing in, and I find myself avoiding inserting myself into other people's lives even when it seems they want me to.

    13 votes
    1. anahata
      Link Parent
      Retreating to online communities (where one has absolute agency over whether to participate or not) is a very popular coping mechanism for those who don't meet their culture's expectations. I...

      I'm surprised to hear how many people have sad childhood stories like my own.

      Retreating to online communities (where one has absolute agency over whether to participate or not) is a very popular coping mechanism for those who don't meet their culture's expectations. I thought I was an introvert for 30+ years until I started socializing with people who actually treat me well.

      10 votes
  4. [4]
    Diff
    Link
    I was born with a cleft lip and palate so odds are I've always felt this way.

    I was born with a cleft lip and palate so odds are I've always felt this way.

    10 votes
    1. sublime_aenima
      Link Parent
      My brother was born with a cleft lip and palate. I remember when we were kids, he was on the news for having something like 30 surgeries while he was so young. Now that he’s grown, he always has a...

      My brother was born with a cleft lip and palate. I remember when we were kids, he was on the news for having something like 30 surgeries while he was so young. Now that he’s grown, he always has a beard or goatee to hide it. He faced lots of stigmatism as a kid, but now that he’s older most people don’t even know.

      10 votes
    2. [2]
      Kuromantis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yep, this is now the most terrifying person I have ever seen. But on a more serious note, did you get surgery as a baby? Do you still have it today?

      Yep, this is now the most terrifying person I have ever seen.

      But on a more serious note, did you get surgery as a baby? Do you still have it today?

      1. Diff
        Link Parent
        Did get surgery, by like age 5 my palate was closed up for the last time, and my last surgery was at age 19 to rearrange and reinforce my jaw. I'll have one more this January to remove a support...

        Did get surgery, by like age 5 my palate was closed up for the last time, and my last surgery was at age 19 to rearrange and reinforce my jaw. I'll have one more this January to remove a support plate from the right side of my face that's been bothering me because it's sticking out very slightly near my right eye. Not visibly, but I can feel it.

        Overall, super fortunate that it turned out so well. For the most part the only thing you can see now is that my nose is very slightly uneven, I have a scar tracing where the cleft lip was (hidden by a beard except in odd lighting), and I'm missing 2 teeth there (after the jaw surgery, only one tooth worth of space is missing). Other than that, my teeth are fairly straight, my bite is even. According to the surgeon yesterday, it's holding steady and not trying to drift back where it was, which is a big concern in these cases.

        Past the visual though, I'm a lot more patched together. Left side of my face has a decent amount of scar tissue under the surface and is a little less willing to participate in facial expressions. The roof of my mouth has nerve damage, I can't feel anything there except for sometimes when it just aches. I'm not sure if this is related or not but my ears just ring endlessly across so many frequencies despite me using hearing protection religiously and listening to music at like 1/8th the volume of what I've heard from the people around me the past few days.

        3 votes
  5. [6]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    It was probably on the first day of school, if not earlier. I'm autistic and was intensely so as a toddler (to the point of actually banging my head on the walls at home) and in school, I was the...

    It was probably on the first day of school, if not earlier. I'm autistic and was intensely so as a toddler (to the point of actually banging my head on the walls at home) and in school, I was the odd one out. I was great at math, but I was always quiet in school, still used diapers up to when I was around 8, always made a fuss when I lost something, and I was favorited by the 'direc-tress', who also had an autistic kid. I received a medal on first grade, an astronomy book, and her good grace in general,and I was notably gullible and impatient which singled me out as the main target to do stupid shit to and prank, meaning I was incredibly fucked up from 2nd grade and onwards, I remember when break started, I walked aimlessly around the courtyard until it ended. In 3rd grade two people took my pencil case and threw it around and I made a huge fuss. It only really stopped when I stopped crying and making noise about it, which was only on 6th-7th grade. (Maybe this is why I barely remember anything in my childhood, repressed memories are a thing.) Now I'm about to leave 8th grade and things have practically stopped and I forgot it all, although I still feel pretty different because I primarily watch English, rather than Brazilian content, meaning i still watch completely different channels from them and I'm still pretty bad at social interaction, but most problems have faded away and now I'm just your typical 14-yo who's bad with friends.

    Tl;dr when did I not?

    10 votes
    1. [5]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      If you're watching English content, what do your classmates watch? Also, welcome to being a teenager, it sucks for everyone. Just remember, nobody else really knows for certain if they're doing...

      If you're watching English content, what do your classmates watch?

      Also, welcome to being a teenager, it sucks for everyone. Just remember, nobody else really knows for certain if they're doing things correctly either. Especially us adults.

      5 votes
      1. [4]
        Kuromantis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        They watch Brazilian content, I forgot to say that I'm from there. Essentially I feel 'different' because I watch English channels and talk to people who speak English (which is not a lot of...

        They watch Brazilian content, I forgot to say that I'm from there. Essentially I feel 'different' because I watch English channels and talk to people who speak English (which is not a lot of people in Brazil) ever since the very beginning, which means everytime someone asks me what YouTubers I watch I almost never answer properly and when they ask me if I watch a YouTuber they watch I often don't even know who they are.

        Going in a tangent The average user on Tildes is probably a upper middle class, 20-45 year old American/West European, while I'm some 14 year old Brazilian with one working parent who makes minimum wage (Brazilian minimum wage, which Is 245 dollars per month, although most things here are made by Brazilian companies, so it feels like 1k per month), meaning the people I talk to in a daily basis are different to me in practically every aspect of their lives.
        4 votes
        1. [3]
          zara
          Link Parent
          Have you ever thought about starting your own YouTube channel?

          Have you ever thought about starting your own YouTube channel?

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            Kuromantis
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            No, I don't really think there's any real room left in YouTube for new channels except in niche topics like, say, mobile game reviews (which seems like a topic that would attract a large audience...

            No, I don't really think there's any real room left in YouTube for new channels except in niche topics like, say, mobile game reviews (which seems like a topic that would attract a large audience but no) or rhyme breakdown channels or topics dominated by a single channel, like what geography now or syrmor do (although I would be a great candidate for one of his interviews) If it was about the life I described in my comment it essentially becomes a storytime channel but with slightly cooler stories, something I don't really like. (also the comment I wrote is hardly enough for a video, let alone an entire channel) A commentary channel would be very interesting to do although commentary in general is pretty well-saturated.

            2 votes
            1. Akir
              Link Parent
              I wouldn't sell myself short if I were you. I subscribe to a lot of different niche channels that aren't professionally produced. One of them has only been around for about a year and is entirely...

              I wouldn't sell myself short if I were you. I subscribe to a lot of different niche channels that aren't professionally produced. One of them has only been around for about a year and is entirely shot and edited on her phone, and she has nearly 500K subscribers and multiple videos with 1M+ views. Another has 70K subscribers and has never actually been on camera once in his videos. The most important thing is to have regular content at consistant quality and a good personality.

              2 votes
  6. [2]
    reese
    Link
    The first time I felt different was in the first grade, when a number of things happened around the same time: For one, I kept receiving comments that I wrote as though I was left-handed despite...

    The first time I felt different was in the first grade, when a number of things happened around the same time:

    • For one, I kept receiving comments that I wrote as though I was left-handed despite using my right hand.
    • When I stayed at friends' houses, everyone noticed that I rocked back and forth anytime I played a video game or listened to music. It wasn't uncontrollable, it's just that I didn't realize I was doing it. If somebody told me I was rocking, I'd realize it and stop. The subconscious urge to rock didn't fade away until my mid-twenties.
    • It was suggested I take a cognitive test since I couldn't pronounce words or write worth a damn. Subsequently, some folks at the school said I was borderline, which I guess meant that I was stupid, but not necessarily mentally disabled. My mom fought for tutoring, so I received speech therapy to eventually stop pronouncing banana as "to-nana." As for writing, eventually a tutor wondered what would happen if I used my finger to impress letters into shaving cream on a desk. From that point on, and I'm talking about a single morning, writing came easy.

    Based on other peculiarities not listed here, people have repeatedly suggested that I might be on the autism spectrum. I don't reject the label, but I question its applicability and utility to me personally. I have a weird form of intelligence where pretty much all of my decisions are dependent on intuited, creative solutions and accurate future predictions gifted to me from my subconscious mind. I receive plagiarized solutions when I'm a) asleep, b) meditating, or c) high (the latter is not a regular occurrence). The thing is, our rational world demands explanation, so I feel as if my subconscious mind is testing the conscious, guiding and challenging it in a sort of mentor-student relationship.

    To go off the rails and fully indulge myself on the Pulpit of Crazy, I firmly believe that my subconscious mind is autonomous and functionally separate from what I perceive as myself, in that I do not believe it has physical locality, nor that it's "mine."

    And honestly, this is why I further conclude that I'm not that different from anyone else, minus some wiring. I think we're all lying to ourselves, denying an inner voice society has conditioned us to dismiss as noise. I think my predisposition toward considering what that voice has to say threw a wrench in my social development.

    10 votes
    1. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Maybe it's the other half of the brain talking to us.

      To go off the rails and fully indulge myself on the Pulpit of Crazy, I firmly believe that my subconscious mind is autonomous and functionally separate from what I perceive as myself, in that I do not believe it has physical locality, nor that it's "mine."

      Maybe it's the other half of the brain talking to us.

  7. patience_limited
    Link
    I was never unaware of difference. Thanks to hyperlexia and status-conscious parents who were only too happy to show off their prodigy, it was always clear to me that I wasn't like the other kids....

    I was never unaware of difference. Thanks to hyperlexia and status-conscious parents who were only too happy to show off their prodigy, it was always clear to me that I wasn't like the other kids.

    I can't recall a time before reading, and I've always been excessively aware of patterns that others are seemingly blind to.

    Both children and adults were dull, confusing, unbearably noisy, and usually cruel. Mostly, I spent as much time away from people, and with books or animals and nature, as I possibly could. It's difficult to say how much this sensitivity was autistic-like or just a consequence of neglect and abuse by parents who were odd and ill themselves. I was basically raised by sympathetic librarians.

    I got jumped a couple of grades when starting public school. This was helped along by difference number two, non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia. I didn't have the worst symptoms, but I was 160 cm in height by age eight, and easily passed for much older than my chronological age. So I was academically and physically precocious, but had meagre social skills.

    Public school was predictably nightmarish for a hulking, clumsy, socially retarded tomboy who spoke in Encyclopedia. I wasn't a particularly appealing, loveable, or charming child, never managed to have more than one semi-close friend, and I got more difficult and hostile with adolescence. Militant atheism from age 5 didn't help; I could barely restrain my contempt for grown people who still believed in invisible friends, or overlooked how inconsistent and irrational their holy books were.

    There were some half-hearted attempts at intervention, but mostly the adults were satisfied as long as my grades were good.

    To make a long story short, after many, many unpleasant bumps, I've managed to achieve a fairly secure and functional adulthood, with a spouse, friends, satisfying hobbies and broad social engagements.

    I don't know what I would choose to change about the circumstances that brought me to where I am now, other than to say that I'm glad to live in a time where there's greater understanding and community for people like me.

    9 votes
  8. anahata
    Link
    A better question would be when I've not felt different, and I don't think that's ever been the case. Growing up for me was a cycle of going to school where I was made fun of throughout my entire...

    A better question would be when I've not felt different, and I don't think that's ever been the case.

    Growing up for me was a cycle of going to school where I was made fun of throughout my entire grade school life and going home where my parents fought a lot, lots of yelling, and the TV was always blaring, always so loud. I hid in my bedroom on my computer or with video games or books (rarely, when it was quiet enough, like when people were out / asleep). What I didn't realize at the time was that these experiences were shaping me, subtly and insidiously, and that they were actually traumatizing. I took toward being nocturnal during the summers because it was the only time I could get some quiet. I should've realized that this was actually a deeper problem than just "anahata wants quiet".

    Add to this an existing mental health situation (autism / Asperger's) and it's proven very difficult for me to make friends throughout my life. I didn't have any until the past year. Acquaintances, sure, but friends? No, not really. As mentioned elsethread, I retreated online for socialization. The problem with this is that there are a lot of ghosts online, and people I'd formed bonds with would routinely disappear. Again, I wasn't realizing it at the time, but this probably is the cause of my issues with attachment and abandonment. Now that I'm making friends offline, I am extremely wary of doing so online, and fully expect that anyone I talk to in an extended capacity is going to vanish eventually.

    All of this--the trauma and attachment issues and autism--have led to a lot of dissociation and repressed memories. I don't have a lot of memories of my life (a poem or two about that coming to a ~creative near you soon). That said, as you may be able to tell from my username, I've taken a deep interest in yoga after briefly experimenting with it as a child. @monarda's description is particularly apt:

    And I kept this fragile, hopeful, loving being locked inside, while this wild, angry, hateful person screamed obscenities at the world.

    While I was never wild, angry, or hateful, I wasn't very friendly. But I always wanted to be the hopeful, loving person, and the concept of anahata is that everyone has that existence inside them, regardless of the trauma they've experienced. I have a hypothesis of trauma which states that it either makes one hard or it makes one soft. What I mean is that people either become aggressive and hostile--at least unfriendly, at worst sociopathic. I've seen this in someone I game with, and sometimes I manifest it myself when I'm triggered. Alternately, trauma makes one soft. By this I mean extremely sympathetic, empathetic, caring, understanding, and forgiving, so much so that (in my case at least) it can push people's boundaries a bit too far. I don't want anyone to experience what I did, and so I go out of my way to be as kind to people as I can.

    I haven't even gotten into any real details about how I don't fit into societal norms because this comment is already 500 words and I've only really covered my trauma growing up. But, given the autism and the lack of patterning and love during childhood, I have a hard time forming friendships or relationships, a hard time with facial expressions (my own, not others'), I tend to overintellectualize things, and so on. I work from home because I don't feel comfortable in an office and I'm sure that's not a coincidence.

    In addition to all of the above, sometimes someone says something and I need to take almost a week off from some social interactions. It's a relief to see younger folks so aware of mental health, and the thing that I like most about the current generation of teenagers and younger millennials is that they have made discussing mental health normative and acceptable--perhaps because we all know anxiety and depression if not other issues as well. I wish I had that awareness when I was their age, and I salute them for being so self-aware.

    8 votes
  9. BuckeyeSundae
    Link
    I don't tell this story often. In the fourth grade, I moved from Catholic school, where I was relatively content to test the teachers and institution's boundaries of what was acceptable, to public...

    I don't tell this story often.

    In the fourth grade, I moved from Catholic school, where I was relatively content to test the teachers and institution's boundaries of what was acceptable, to public school. That switch came with it a massive drop in academic expectations from the teachers that I struggled to understand, and very intense obsession with my difficulty with "R"s. Namely, I flipped between rolling them with a lilt or missing the mark entirely with a w sound. I didn't think I sounded different, but the speech therapist sure seemed to think someone did. None of the other kids commented, so I figured it was some adult.

    Then I found out it was my parents.

    Our relationship was already growing strained. I'd call it a difference of personalities, but that wouldn't really do it justice. I insisted on independence that my parents claimed to want to foster; my dad was a his-house-his-rules sort of person, and would take violent measures to ensure that clothes came out of the dryer right-side out. (I was old enough to know that clothes don't always come out the same way they go in. The spinning force can twist some loose items, and I resented being accused of things I didn't remember doing.)

    I also had discovered a deeply aggrieving mismatch between my view of my parents' expectations of my academic performance ("we're paying a ton for you to go to school here, so you better get straight As or else), and their expectations. That was in an episode the year before where I begged my teacher to revise my grade over my first B+ (Social Studies; goddamn state capitals).

    So the event in the fourth grade, by itself, was the first time I noticed I was different in an appreciable way, but I had been growing suspicious about this sort of reality for a little while. And I was increasingly frustrated about why it seemed like everyone was trying to force me to conform. I was different. That wasn't in itself a bad thing. It was the feeling of betrayal by people who were supposed to trust and support me that I found difficult. That's a feeling I got over for one of my parents. The other ...

    Well, that's a work in progress.

    5 votes
  10. zara
    Link
    I've never not felt different simply because 1) I'm a very specific kind of mixed-race, 2) both sides of my family each have their own complicated histories [neither of which were ever properly...

    I've never not felt different simply because 1) I'm a very specific kind of mixed-race, 2) both sides of my family each have their own complicated histories [neither of which were ever properly explained to me] and 3) I'm female so I get to face all the bullshit stereotyping that comes with being a girl.

    4 votes
  11. kfwyre
    Link
    I don't have time at the moment to adequately respond to everyone here individually (though I wish I could), but I want everyone who has responded to know that I greatly appreciate your honesty...

    I don't have time at the moment to adequately respond to everyone here individually (though I wish I could), but I want everyone who has responded to know that I greatly appreciate your honesty and insight. This is a difficult topic, and your responses have made my heart both sink and soar. Thank all of you for speaking your truths and sharing your lives, challenges, insecurities, and triumphs with us.

    4 votes
  12. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    My earliest memory is of walking up the school corridor to my new classroom. I was being promoted a grade at school. According to my mother... A few weeks after I started school, I had stayed in...

    My earliest memory is of walking up the school corridor to my new classroom. I was being promoted a grade at school.

    According to my mother...

    A few weeks after I started school, I had stayed in the classroom during one recess. My teacher was reading a newspaper at her desk, and I was standing opposite her, looking at the paper. The teacher thought I was just looking at the patterns on the paper - until I looked up and asked her what a "polly-tik-ian" ("politician") was. Not only had I been reading the newspaper, I'd been reading it upside-down.

    I was 5 years old.

    They promoted me a grade after that.

    (I don't remember reading the newspaper. I only know that part of the story from my mother. I just remember walking up the corridor to my new classroom.)

    That marked me as different forever. I was always the youngest, smallest, and still the smartest, kid in my class.

    I literally can't remember a time when I wasn't different.

    3 votes