Adrenaline baby, they made me this way!
Born to be raw. Or driven insane?
My childhood has always been familiar with a dramatic, darker, secretive side. The thing that would shape, or perhaps mess me up the most, were my traumatic night-time experiences. The home I grew up in became my threat at night. I never felt secure. When evening approached I became very fearful because I was so afraid of going to bed. To be alone. Because sometimes indeed, I was completely alone. My young parents just put me to bed and then went out to party, leaving me all alone and scared at the flat. Children are helpless. They are so dependent of the adults that are meant to take care of them, love and protect them from harm. We all know that small children need constant observation, and constant protection to make them feel secure. They need love, security and understanding. And yet, so many do not get that.
At night I knew I could be all alone, that they were not here to protect me from any harm and the primal fear I felt was just overwhelming. You know when kids wake up at night and cry for their mommy to come? Well, when I woke up during the night I was all silent. Because I was too scared that if I cried for my mum and no one would come, the monsters around me would realise that I was all alone and take me. Because the “monsters” as I called them, something sinister and threatening from other dimensions, were lurking in my room… watching me, whispering to me… and it was terrifying.
One night I woke up and I quietly crawled out of bed in the dark and then I quickly ran across the hall to the safety of my parents bedroom. And when I came to the bed, I realised with shock that it was empty. I turned on the light and there I was, completely alone in the flat, in the silence. Over time, my constant fear started to affect me of course. I felt very unprotected, threatened and isolated at home. I started to have nightmares and when I woke up from them, I didn’t feel any better. I learned very early that I was very much on my own and I was often in deep thoughts, sometimes fearful the whole day because I dreaded the night so much.
When they would get ready to go out and my beautiful mother would curl her hair and put her make-up on, I begged “please don’t go, I’m scared all alone”… I nervously asked them almost every night “are you going out tonight?” And sometimes they would say ”no”, but then I realised that they went out anyway, thus I learned that I could not trust them. When they were out, I didn’t sleep, I was lying awake, scared and sweaty until they returned. I was too afraid to sleep, too afraid that I would die. That the house would burn down or that somebody would break in. Or that the monsters around me would kill me. My adrenaline was pumping like crazy… my survival mode and alertness rocket high.
Thus a lot of my creative works is about threatening houses, abandoned and run-down buildings, because they terrify me.
I lived in different countries when I was young and we enjoyed a lot of exotic holidays as well, which I absolutely loved. I liked to see new exciting places, to take in all the intense experiences. Indeed I think it inspired my own nomad spirit. I love to travel, I love to be on the move and explore new arenas. But wherever we went and stayed, and even though it was awesome to see all those places, at night I was still often left alone. At private houses, at motels, hotels… all alone and scared again. Sometimes I would just get up and sneak outside, walk around on my own in the night. I must have had a special guardian angel or something that watched over me.
I was very sensitive and emotional. I could see and feel things others around me could not. When I saw upsetting, injust and sad images on TV or in a magazine, I would take it very to heart. Yet I was often treated quite insensitive and aggressive by adults and it made me feel even worse. I felt isolated.
My great fears slowly but sure turned into great anger and I began to fight back on all levels, humans and the monsters. I had no choice really. I wouldn’t take any shit from anyone… not even when I was scared shitless. I became curious, cheeky, rebellious, and I pushed the boundries placed around me. Areas the other children didn’t dare to go or get into because it was not allowed, I explored. I felt compelled to do so.
There were quite a few people that reacted very strangely to me. I was just in my own world, playing, and yet, people made strange comments, like for example my friend’s father would say to her ‘your friend Andrea is such a little sex bomb’… I was six years old and had no idea what a ‘sex bomb’ even was. A cute, different little girl that I was, I had my share of pedophile encounters. This is when I learned my slogan. Those worms said ‘oh be nice to me, you are a good girl, aren’t you?’ And I said angrily “Let go or I scream… I am no good girl! I am my own girl!” My self-preservation instinct kicked in more and more. I just wouldn’t give in to the things I didn’t want, no matter what someone said or threatened me with… I was no ‘good’ girl, I never rolled on my back for anyone. Independence and strength, yes, I had to learn it the hard way.
When I was 8 years old we had a complete family make-over. I learned about higher class culture, classical music, etiquette, poets… and I met a lot of snobbish old ladies. Yep, I can behave very nicely! I loved it. Fancy restaurants and old-fashioned, pompous cafés were just my thing (still are, I might add). I enjoyed reading poetry by Goethe, and other old classics. My step dad had a vast library of old books and I spent hours in that room, reading through them.
So now we lived in a big and scary flat, very central in town. And everything was supposed to be nice and very conservative. The ironic thing was that, being quite central in town, also meant that there was a rich variety of eccentric and strange characters living around us. Also the red-light district was not that far away. Now I was 10 years old and I would go out on the streets to play and curious as I was, I started to talk to some of the weirder characters in the neighbourhood. The old diva around the corner with her lilac coloured poodle, the transvestite couple across the street, the communist students in the next house (who kindly took over my rabbit when he became too big for my cage…), the flashy dandy dude with his Porsche two blocks down or the old man who played German marching music and walked up and down his living room in his old uniform. They all invited me into their homes and fed me cookies… or organic brownies. I became very skilled in communicating with adults.
Walking, observing and exploring the streets has always been a part of me, something I still do. I could walk endlessly through unknown towns and streets, exploring and taking in the atmosphere, the smells, the buildings… and I see so much.
Soon I would also walk down town to the red-light district. I always had a fascination for big, dangerous dog breeds and in this district, naturally, I met quite a few of them. Since I was not shy at all, I went up to the heavy guys that sat outside in the sun and boldly asked them if I could take their dogs for a walk. They were laughing and said I was not strong enough to hold them. But they allowed me to stroke the dogs, and sometimes I was even allowed to hold the lead when the owner walked next to me. In other words, the pimps, bikers and gangsters were very nice to me.
Soon those guys would also invite me inside to their bar, where I would get free drinks or an ice cream. Of course after a while I saw quite a few unusual things going on there, dodgy deals being made in that bar, however, I didn’t really understand the nature of their business back then.
My mother had no idea what I was doing outside and where I was hanging out to ‘play’. One time we were shopping and I met one of the pimps and he said ’hi’ to me. My mother was perplexed and then she was appalled and said I was totally forbidden to speak to ‘bad men’ like that…
The girls in my neighbourhood never liked me and there were many mean girls that wished me ill and bullied me. They were typical cowards, hanging out in gangs to make themselves braver and thus coming after skinny little me to beat me up. I was always scared to meet them in the streets. Once I was just about to get beaten by those girls, when one of the pimping dog-owners I knew came to my rescue and kicked those girls arses… Which was pretty hilarious to see. The guy told me I really needed to learn how to defend myself and that he would teach me a few tricks.
Human psychology is a strange thing. Because the ironic thing about our psychology is; the pain and fears we experience as children can turn into our needs, our desires, obsessions, even into our pleasures. Experiences that we just keep exploring further and further.
The early childhood fears I experienced always did stay with me. They never went away. The early drama, the night-time fears, the aggressions, sadness and disappointments that shaped my earliest days had indeed set their mark on me. Because a part of me started to like dramatic experiences. I started to seek it out, almost looking for bad situations and bad feelings to hit me. I would grow more and more daring. Thus I was ending up in bizarre and dramatic situations and it somehow gave me some gratification.
I started to live a kinda double life. Nice and educated at home, wild party girl outside and a sad little girl in my room who read horse books and dreamed of better places far away. I didn’t like being at home. I loved to be outside, exploring the area with my dog, meeting new strange people all the time, walking the streets at night in the rain to go home, and the older I got, the more I did of that.
I hang out with way too many shady boys. Piles of coke, guns and money on their messy coffee tables was nothing unusual for me to see. None of those guys would ever come over to my house, naturally. They were my secret. So my parents again had no idea about the bad company I kept. Of course they were not stupid and suspected all the time that I might be in bad company. I often had a very strict curfew because they didn’t trust me. They found out once, when the phone rang in the middle of the night and it was a prison guard asking my mum if she was Andrea and wanted to accept the ‘one allowed phonecall’ from ‘her boyfriend’… Yeah she wasn’t too happy about that one.
I joined my thug friends sometimes when they went out raiding, trading, dealing or starting a fight. And when we were caught by the police, the officers always let me go, just friendly advising me to stop hanging out with ‘petty criminals like that’. Even though I was just as much involved at times or had drugs on me. I always seemed to get away with everything.
One could say that I liked to hang out with bad boys because it gave me a thrill. My friends had quite the big crush on me. I could ask them anything and they would do it. But there was another much deeper reason why I was hanging out with them. We connected in being different, in being misunderstood. We wanted a tribe, a place to belong. I was very aware of the broken homes they lived in. A lot of the guys I met came from terrible, messed up families with abusive mothers and fathers. Parents that were alcoholics, parents that didn’t care at all, parents that had beaten the shit out of them. I had a deep sympathy for the guys, a deep compassion when they told me their tragic stories. They had a right to be full of rage, who could blame them? Their childhoods were far worse than mine ever was, and in a strange way this made me feel much better about myself.
I moved on to do the most daring and indeed the most stupid things. I loved everything fast; fast cars, motor bikes, race horses, fast carousels… everything that was like flying I would try, pushing my limits to see how far I could go. I would stand on the roof top of a high hotel building and walk up and down the edge, trying to keep my balance. And then I tried to do the same under the influence of LSD, which is pretty much insane. My friends pulled me down again and called me crazy. However, my goal was to be so in control of my hallucinating mind, that I could function like normal with it.
From eighteen and nineteen on, I would test my skills even more. I was carefree and confident after all, I knew my instincts and I wasn’t timid. I would provoke grown men in bars with cheeky comments just to see how far I could go before they would want to come over to beat me up. Or I got into the car with a chap who I instinctively knew had bad intentions. I sat behind him on the back-seat, pretending to be very drunk, cheerfully chatting about stupid things. When he was about to make the turn into the woods, I quickly pulled a knife from my bag and held it to his throat and said “yeah I wouldn’t do that… keep driving on and drop me at the next nightclub”. He didn’t expect that at all and quickly drove on to the place I wanted. I got out of the car and disappeared into a large crowd. I put myself quite a few times into such risky situations, simply because I wanted to see how far I could go… before getting out again. I also did it because those arseholes deserved it. And every time I got out, I felt an incredible rush.
I had a few turbulent affairs with guys from criminal undergrounds and would sometimes end up in involuntary and bizarre situations (some of the kind you see in Tarrantino movies yes). Indeed I played the wrong game with the wrong people once and when they caught up with me they didn’t behave like gentlemen, to put it mildly. But when they finally let me go, I felt a strange sense of satisfaction. I didn’t think of myself as a poor victim of assault. I had simply lost the game. But I survived. In a way I felt reborn and it gave me a real kick. —
Now, people might say that someone like me had a death-wish… but I never had a death-wish. In fact it was the opposite, I had an intense life wish! The reason I did all those crazy stunts was because I wanted to feel truly alive. I wanted to feel more than just human. Besides, deep down in my mind, I knew that I was simply brushing the edge of death, that I would always survive. I knew by now that I had some damn good guardian angels. I might get painful experiences yes, but I would survive this. Every bad experience made me stronger. They were vital lessons learned. Every time I survived something unpleasant, it brought me closer to feeling REAL, high-passionate life. I celebrated my life and counted my blessings. I don’t regret any of them.
I have calmed down over the last years and stay out of trouble. Erm, no… still manage to end up in bizarre situations from time to time….
So was I simply born different, unable to lead the ordinary, dull and sedated human existence…? Or did my early childhood experiences trigger my instincts and open my mind to develop those high alert senses that I have? That I don’t know. Maybe a mix of both.
The dreadful feeling of fear and loneliness still haunts me today from time to time and I will never get rid of that feeling. I had to fight so much harder from the start, but because of that, it made me very independent. It made me go beyond any conventional comfort zone, totally able to just do my own thing. It gave me the courage to always seek out new and intense experiences.
Because of my own childhood experiences I have great empathy and understanding for children and their needs. They made me want to help and inspire others that had similar childhoods. I inspire young girls to be confident. I approach those who seem sad and try to make them feel better. And I promptly interfere when I suspect abuse or neglect somewhere, indeed I have kicked quite a few abusers arses in the past.
If you had upsetting childhood experiences, don’t let them limit or even ruin you, instead use them to understand and help out others. The greatest disease of our society is apathy. People seem to be unable to look further than their own nose. And don’t be afraid to kick some arse if you need to. 😉