I’ve had this light pink stuffed teddy bear since I was a baby born in a Los Angeles County hospital. It was given to me during a hospital visitation by my new brother and sister. I was told they were in the gift shop and demanded my new parents that I have this one. My parents are actually my aunt and uncle. I was a preemie born during the height of the 80s drug epidemic and 3 months early due to drug addiction. During this time I had to withdrawal but gained a roommate. I formed a bond with this bear. Surviving a crazy risky birth and withdrawal is a fifty-fifty or less chance for survival. My time in the hospital was probably a lonely one – I was in an incubator, couldn’t deal with lights and sound, and had been poked alot with needles. Bear was probably there watching on. The good part is when I was eventually healthy enough to leave.
I started off small but my beginning didn’t stop me. As a toddler teething was intense. I’d chew on blankets and especially on the bears black plastic eyes and pink plastic snoot. My parents loved telling me about when I learned to talk and name things. I named this bear the only appropriate thing I could think of…so obviously – Bear. There was no question of who this little friend was to me. My family loved me and I loved them, but the need for Bear was like that of needing a limb.
As a little kid I brought that thing everywhere – through the house, backyard, stores, parks, restaurants, vacations in hotels, on camping trips and long car rides, and even amusement parks. There wasn’t a place I wouldn’t take him. (Yes, he was a he. I don’t know why.) My family didn’t mind that I was so close with this stuffed animal, but they did reserve their right to give me a lot of shit for it. I understand it now but the kid version of me felt differently. Imagine seeing your brother and father flying a box kite with a bear attached to it. While I was excited there was a huge kite in the sky over my house, I was immediately panicked at the thought of my bear flying away. I imagined that he’d be off on an adventure of fun only to land on the roof of a house or onto the freeway in the middle of traffic. I’m laughing now as I’m typing this because it’s funny and ridiculous. But you can see where the kid me was freaked out at possibly losing something that I loved.
As an older kid I didn’t make Bears presence obvious because, well, it would have been a socially embarrassing disaster. Preteens and teenagers are supposed to grow out of that, I guess. It was especially embarrassing when I came home to find my sister, her friend, my brother, and his girlfriend putting him into an unused (hopefully) condom, blowing it up, and flinging it around the house. As a precaution, I’d shamefully keep him tucked inside my pillow at home, and in a sleeping bag until other kids fell asleep at sleep overs. He was hidden but he was still the feeling of a home away from home. He was also a home when home didn’t feel like it should. My parents would fight and sometimes it felt like I was being bullied by my brother and sister. How did I make myself feel better as the youngest kid in a house that was being run by your older siblings? I formed a relationship with Bear. I loved him until I felt safe.
I always knew I was adopted because my parents never let me forget it. I was the adopted kid when introduced at social events. I didn’t look like anyone in my family and was also frequently reminded of this by adults at said events, and formed a habit of biting my nails, picking my skin, and seeking comfort in Bear. I also developed a weird sense of humor and learned to accept and appreciate people who were atypical and different.
As I grew up I kept Bear alongside my diary, under my mattress or inside dresser drawers. I kept my diary there because I had privacy breeches with nosy family members. After that event there’s still traces of reluctance to write out of being found out. I felt embarrassed for privately pouring out my heart and scared of honesty. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get my voice back. And here I am.
Every now and then I’ll still take Bear out, looking into his two, black, soul less eyes and hug him. Placing him back in the drawer is a little weird and conflicting for me. One reason being, because, I’m being myself, I’ll tell you the truth. I feel bat shit crazy for having a stuffed animal still, and two, that I still seek comfort in an inanimate object. Sure, its a wacky coping mechanism when shit gets tough, but it’s worked when I needed it to.
When I went off to college Bear was packed away in a box in the corner of my room. I spent alot of time trying to fill a pit of self-hatred with chain smoking and drinking, taking pills and snorting who knows what. I was also being consumed by a string of unhealthy relationships I attatched my worth and happiness to. They were jerks and I was too. After I graduated, I moved around a lot and struggled through thick waves of depression and addiction. I had friends and family I could call on but didn’t. Bear was there, in a box. At my worst, I remember coming out of a 24 hour sleep post bender and reached into the box. I took him out and laid down on my bed and cried.
Over the years I got sober from hard drugs. I still drink and smoke weed and I have supportive and genuine friends. I have stronger coping mechanisms and have spent time in therapy working on my shit. As I write this – Bear is stuffed into my cobalt blue dresser drawer with a rainbow scarf, some wool winter mittens, and a black poofy ski hat. Every now and then I’ll peek in there to check on him, asking myself if I still need Bear. Sometimes the answers yes and sometimes its a no. For the times its a yes, I’ll let myself think like I did as a child and imagine that he’s got all the answers. When it’s a no, I appreciate it.
Thanks for reading this if you got this far!
Did you have a stuffed animal or coping mechanism as a child? If you did, how long did you have it? What did it mean to you?