“Everything is fine.”
...on the status of things at home, her answer: “Everything is fine.” In that generation, any answer to the contrary was deemed high treason in the dysfunctional family code of secrecy.
The 60’s ushered in the new terms “learning disability” and “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood” (now ADHD), and with special education being what it was, few rank and file educators were well-versed in the new nomenclature.
LBJ’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (EASA) in ’65, made federal and state monies available which amounted to warehousing those thought to have a disability. In many cases, arbitrary assessments by the classroom teacher had students plucked and bussed to an old school building across town.
Though ‘arbitrary’ did not always translate to inaccurate, many of my warehoused peers had far above average intelligence. Some benefitted greatly by having what amounted to quality one-on-one time with teachers dedicated to their craft. The attachment dynamic forged by this first wave of 'special' educators was heartfelt and life-long.
Because of above average grades and an ability to merely act “normal”, I was spared the stigma of the warehouse. Instead, I secretly acted out more so at home. For me, the trade-off to feeling regulated was worth the risk of punishment. And secrecy, combined with behavior difficult to keep secret, had double the excitability factor. Children are resourceful and very adaptable, in retrospect, I was choosing aberrant behavior out of a desperation to feel.
For those regulated by risk-taking behavior, combining two risk taking behaviors makes perfect sense when too much is never enough. To my cross-wired mind, starting controlled burns with the gasoline reserved for our lawnmower felt ‘normal’.
Shame Based Identities and My New Normal
Shame-based identities common among friends and peers, along with their risky behavior, made it easy to conflate normal with healthy. Unconsciously, I accepted the notion that being part of a group, any group = “normal", but being ‘part of’ a troubled sub-culture of peers enabled a misguided conclusion: Sameness = healthy as well.
Thus the term, acting out.
At this early developmental stage, my ‘logical’, but ‘frightening’ behavior was establishing a well-worn neuropathway.
Without any meaningful intervention, my young "neuro-plastic" mind was becoming hard-wired to and through my behavior. As I graduated into the hormone fueled realm of adolescence
where kids like Holden Caulfield became unstable and detached, I was thriving, so I thought.