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5) Childhood and Adolescence: The First Symptom

What my parents kept telling me during my childhood was: “Stand up straight!”, “Moreno, straighten your back!”, “Lift your head, don’t look down!”

When they said this to me I become aware that I always looked down, and I made an enormous effort to stand upright. But an erect posture took a lot of effort and felt unnatural to me; after a little while I couldn’t help slumping into my usual posture again: gaze downward and head forward, imprisoned between my shoulders.

Since I was a kid my clavicles were in an elevated position, and my shoulder blades tended to stick out.

A posture like that made me shyer and more reserved. It was posture that determined my behavior and not the other way around, as the psychologists I consulted asserted. After all, it is a commonplace to assume that behavior determines our posture. A person with rounded shoulders and a lowered head is generally considered “bashful” by everyone.

At school I was reserved and solitary, and I had difficulty making friends. I often chose the desk furthest away, where I could concentrate on my own thoughts. Everything costed me a great effort.

I had no interest whatsoever in reading or mathematics lessons. I had so many other concerns. I had to use my energies to keep my head in an upright position.

Besides, it was hard for me even to breathe. These problems can’t be fully understood if they haven’t been experienced on themselves. In short, due to my poor back, I was condemned to be a mediocre student, to be ignored.

In the middle of the fifth year I was forced to leave school, as it had become extremely difficult to study. In any case, with great determination I did succeed in finishing school in the next year and obtained my diploma. I began the year with an accident I will remember forever, in which I was the protagonist in an exchange of words with the electro-technology teacher.

The teacher step into the classroom and began to look through the list of names of students who failed last semester tests: “Ciro failed Science, Giovanni failed History…” He realized however I didn’t failed any test.

He was quite amazed by this and immediately opened his eyes wide, then stood up from his chair and said, “Ah, we have to congratulate the only boy who passed without failure: “Moreno Conte, stand up!”

When I stood up, I said ironically: “Teacher, I need to specify you don’t find my name on that list because I flunked and I didn’t pass to next grade.”

I will never forget the laughter of my fellow students.

Another problem I had to deal with since childhood was allergy and respiratory problems. For this reason I always breathed with my mouth open.

I breathed with my mouth open as I was not able to close it. Once again friends and relatives never failed to tell me to breathe through my nose and to close my mouth.

Even though breathing is something so natural, why did I have to suffer so much? Why was everything so hard for me.

It was a continual struggle, a huge and crazy effort for me to achieve the two things that a human being is genetically programmed to do: stand up straight and breathe. Well, I just couldn’t do it!

I breathed with my mouth open and my muscles of mastication were poorly developed, and for this reason I suffered more than most people from allergies, as I could not filter the pollen in the air properly.

How many paper hankies did I go through? My father, my aunt and my granny know quite well. Wad after wad, to dry a nose that I couldn’t breathe through and that whose only function was to collect mucous. In other words, it was a real disaster.

Year by year I limped along, trying to find a solution in sports, medicine, psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, posturologists, homeopaths, osteopaths, and hundreds more…

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