I don’t know much about the Peter Pan story other than what Disney have shown me. I’ve heard that the original J.M. Barrie story is much darker and I can understand how that could be: being trapped in childhood actually isn’t as halcyon as we’d think.
Yesterday I achieved greatness: I went into town. At Christmas time too! This involved a shower and catching a bus. As I was going where there were people I even put some make up on! All massive achievements for the current me. I was going to town to meet my neighbour and new friend, Gina. We’ve lived next door to one another for a couple of years and have lots in common so our paths have crossed and conversation is easy and we’re now friends. Now that’s no small thing for a BPDer like myself.
Anyway, scene set, I’m in town meeting Gina for lunch in a cafe. We’re gassing away as we do. I can discuss my mental health with her. She knows about my diagnosis and suicide attempt and is unperturbed by it which is a big reason that we can be friends. In the cafe I was talking about why the period from the start of November until January is so particularly hellish for me (largely it’s because of my parents). I was fed up talking in vague terms, after all I’m not actually trying to cultivate an air of mystery, so decided to fill in the gaps. I matter-of-factly explained that my mum is an alcoholic but she’s not just any old alcoholic, no! She brings her own quite staggering cruelty to alcoholism.
Without going into detail I explained that my dad often left to go away on overnight stays with work and I was left in charge of managing said alcoholic and looking after my 3 younger brothers. I explained that many people – from family right the way through to the police – had known what was going on yet no one had stopped it. I explained that I had done my best to care for my brothers but that, not long after my 19th birthday, I had moved out of the family home. I have always been plagued by guilt about this but, as I explained to Gina, the situation at home became untenable. Mum would destroy my uni notes, threaten to destroy my books, she’d scream like an outraged dying animal, she’d constantly go through my things (to find proof that I’m a dirty slut), sometimes she’d try to kick me out of the family home and finally…the cherry on top…death threats. So, really, I felt I did have to go. Selfishly I recognised that I was on a sinking ship and I could perish with the others or I could save myself. I chose to try and save myself and left. I have never really been forgiven by my dad or brothers for this because my choice also changed their lives. After I’d gone my dad threw my mum out and she went to live in a homeless shelter. Shame he didn’t do that when I still lived there.
So I explained this to Gina pretty much as I’ve described to you. Our conversation evolved to acknowledge that I had to grow up very quickly. Indeed when I was little I felt rather proud of my ability to rationally manage my knife wielding mum when all the grown ups would go to pieces. Go me! Gina’s very insightful and understood why my past experiences cause me trouble now as a parent. There’s the feeling trapped and reliving the past as well as the horror of realisation of how wrong it all was.
I looked at Gina across our small cafe table and I said “But that’s the problem. I don’t feel like a grown up at all. How could I? I never got a chance to grow up properly and now I’m trapped.” My voice was almost childlike when I said it.
This is what I mean by my twisted Peter Pan Complex. Because I started to behave as a grown up at a very young age it’s like the childhood clock just stopped, frozen in time. Now I’m 36. I look in the mirror and I don’t understand. I’m definitely a grown up but I don’t remember growing up. I know it’s a common phenomenon to not feel like a proper grown up. I understand that but that’s not what I mean. This is different. It’s literally like I’ve never passed a certain point of maturity. I’m not much more mature now than I was in my early years.
Oh I can’t explain it. I don’t have the words. Thing is I don’t want to be in this dark Neverland. I want to be in now.
“Once you’re grown up you can’t come back” – Peter Pan.