Looking back, I can pinpoint my very first depressive episode. I was in sixth grade, and I spent the first half of 1982 going back and forth to the doctor for episodes of throwing up. Several times a month I would go to the doctor for being sick at my stomach. We had no pediatrician where I lived; I went to the same doctor that my parents did—Dr. O’Kelly, the same doctor that delivered me at four pounds and fourteen ounces back in late 1970.
After a few months of this illness, he sent me to a pediatrician at a city hospital 30 miles away. After hearing my history, the pediatrician admitted me to the hospital and ran a battery of tests—barium swallow, stool samples, the works. I couldn’t do the barium swallow test because I threw up all the chalky drink on multiple occasions—not even a bribe to be able to go to McDonald’s after the test was enough to calm my system. Finally they thought to give me two anti-nausea shots, and I was able to finish the test after four previous tries.
On the plus side, as long as I was in the hospital, I was not going to school. All my life I was an honor –roll student and teachers’ pet, the daughter of a teacher, so the playground became my own personal hell on earth. To make matters worse, I was nearsighted, pimply, and thick around the middle, with long black hair that my mom used brush rollers on to give some body. Add to that the fact that my mom made all my clothes except my blue jeans and sweaters, and you have a recipe for disaster.
I was bullied, teased, and on one occasion, chased around the lot by a group of students until they backed me against the fence and yelled insults at me until Mr. Ervin noticed and put a stop to it. If I touched someone else’s hand, they had “Julie’s germs”. If they found out I liked a boy, they harassed him about being “Julie’s boyfriend” until he had no recourse but to punch someone out. And if I made a 90 on a test, I was teased about “failing” it.
The kids weren’t far wrong. I would feel like a failure. My parents demanded my best in school, and with me having a high IQ and being in the gifted program, nothing but near-perfection would do. I was always on the honor roll, and until ninth-grade biology, I always made A’s. But I wasn’t always the highest grade in the class, nor would I always make 100. And that was enough to get me grief at home, too.