Emotional Miming

Hello my dears!

I was a weird kid. I fully embrace that. I knew it at the time, but didn’t necessarily understand why. There were a lot of reasons, sure, but the big focus in the early teen years would be that I was fully taken by untreated OCD and had no clue what was happening to my brain.

Everything in my head felt completely rational. My doctor told my parents I was a girl and girls were just dramatic, OCD or no. To everyone around me, I was a very smart kid with wasted potential and a flair for bizarre behavior.

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When I entered middle school, shit got real. You know what I’m talking about. For anyone, middle school is hardcore. Hormones and small towns and I don’t understand how anyone makes it out alive.

There was this teacher who had taken a liking to my older brother. My bro is my polar opposite in every possible way. Where I’ve never met a stranger, he suffers from crippling shyness. This teacher had reached out to my brother and tried to help him in a way. The teacher had a habit of teasing kids, and students either really liked him, or completely hated him. My brother absolutely hated him.

When I arrived in 7th grade (that’s the year our school started middle school at the time) I got to see the teacher interact with my brother and even though it was bonding with my brother through picking on him, I thought, “Okay, here is a guy who looks out for his students. That’s good.”

As things got worse for me, I started looking for help of my own. By 8th grade, I was circling the drain, mentally and emotionally.

I hit a pretty cliche depression. I sort of gave up. I stopped eating. Lost a looooot of weight. My clothes became all black but I don’t remember making a conscious decision to wear the color. I would have stopped talking to people if anyone talked to me in the first place. I failed every single class because I stopped listening. I sat and read so I didn’t have to listen to anyone telling me how stupid I was, how no one liked me, how I should kill myself.

There were other kids in my class who had problems. One guy broke his arm. The teacher who had looked out for my brother loaned the guy his laptop so he could do his homework in class. Another kid had parents who announced they were divorcing on the kids’ birthday. (Maybe fuck those parents. Wow.) This was a kid the teacher hadn’t liked and spent a lot of time sort of picking on him, but when this happened, the teacher organized the other faculty and threw the kid a birthday party by the end of the day with cake and presents.

He could see when people were hurting, and he cared, even if he was kind of a prick most of the time. He was a football coach, and had that sort of cliche coach personality. Well-liked, but was sort of a bully at times. But for the kids he liked, he went all out for them. They were his people and he took exceptional care of them. Occasionally, he would see someone outside his circle of popular kids, and take in a stray.

I had other things going on outside of an untreated crippling mental illness and fucktacular teenagers punching me in the face between classes, but I won’t talk about them here.

My low day came when I tested out the mechanics of hanging myself in our barn with a jump rope and the beam on the ceiling broke. In my mind, I couldn’t even end things properly. Hardy har, universe.

But I didn’t really want to go. I wanted someone to see that I was floundering and had gone from a happy, good person to a complete wreck and give a shit.

So I sort of glommed onto that teacher. I desperately needed him to see whatever it was he saw in all the other people that made him want to help them, and help me.

I mean, sure, I could have just said HELP ME, but I was thirteen. Subtly wasn’t yet a quantifiable life-skill.

Alas, his favorite students were the very kids that were punching me in the face. I heard them in his office making fun of me at times and him laughing along. I understand teachers needing to keep the packs happy and fit in. My new-found desperation made me all the more of a target. I was not making good life choices at this point.

For months, I was flailing around as one big cry for help.

He laughed at me one day and said he knew I had a crush on him.

Lord.

I became desperate. I flailed to anyone at that point. Any teacher. Any adult. In the after school specials, some grown-up always sees the kid in need and steps up, right?

Not so much. I’d been labeled the love-struck flailer and everyone patted my head and chuckled as I went off to get stuffed in a locker.

Around this time, I’d run out of books to read (Seriously, I read every book in our library. Super small town.) and I started writing my own.

Also around this time, because the universe is heeeeeelarious, I broke my leg and was wearing a cast up to my hip. I was sporting crutches and the school had to assign very irritated other students to carry my lunch tray because I had no friends to do it. Weeeeee.

This book I wrote, I was doing it on loose-leaf paper and kept it in a Jurassic Park folder that I carried with me at all times. I was a super cool kid.

Anyway, by this point, I had 138 pages. I will always remember that. 138 pages.

I’d been given pain medication for my leg, and was called into the nurses office from class to take pain medication. This was the teacher’s class that I had been desperate for a little life-saving attention the last few months.

When I got back from the office, everyone was giggling. Someone had taken my folder, and all 138 pages of that book I had written and thrown it around the room. Pages were everywhere. People were stepping on them while sitting at their desks. Tearing them with their feet. Kicking them around.

And there sat the teacher. At his desk. Grading papers, trying not to smile, pretending he didn’t know what was happening.

Being stubborn as fuck, I gimped around the room with my crutches and my giant ass cast that seriously went from my ankle to my hip, and crawled around until I got every single page back up. I didn’t cry. I didn’t react. I didn’t make a sound as people picked up pages and shredded them inches from my face as I dragged myself around the floor.

It took almost the entire class and the teacher never stopped grading papers to help, or make anyone help me.

That day, I realized I was on my own. There was no white knight, no after-school special teacher, no hero swooping in to save the day.

It all sounds really pitiful, and I’m not going to lie, that shit makes my stomach hurt to think about, but that was a big moment in my life. I learned a lot that day. It took me years to get my OCD in check, but I learned exactly who I was during that 8th grade science class.

When I first joined Facebook, I got a few Friend Requests from people I knew in high school. And I mean like, four total. But one day, I damn near fell out of my chair when I saw one from that teacher.

I actually messaged him because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he would ever do that. Maybe he wanted to apologize? Maybe he felt bad all these years later? Maybe he wanted to offer to foot some of my therapy bills because seriously that was a super traumatic day?

Nope. He totally thought I was someone else.

I never did tell him who I was. I thought about it. I still think about it. I wonder what it was about me that made me not worth saving while some of the other kids were up to par. Could he explain why he decided I wasn’t as important?

There’s nothing in his potential answer that I would want to hear. He was a young teacher, I was a thirteen-year-old-kid. Ain’t a one of us had a clue what we were doing.

I don’t remember how old he was, but I know he was in his mid-twenties-ish. I think now about my maturity level in my mid-twenties and if I’d had to be in charge of a random teen’s mental well-being by way of emotional miming.

I’d like to think I would have picked up on it and saved a life, but who the hell knows? That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone.

And as weird as it sounds, this is one of those instances where I should probably be grateful for the scar. I doubt I would have my particular brand of confidence if it hadn’t been cast in that fire. Sure, it might have been a little more relieving to have someone take my hand and lead me through the rough patches, but I wouldn’t be me without all of it, so.

I’ve got interesting stories to tell, at the very least.

I feel oddly compelled to apologize to him, actually. I’d like to think we were all just doing the best we could with what we had.

Although, he could have maybe not been a huge dick when whoever threw my book around the room threw my goddamn book around the room. I mean, really.

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He probably owes me one for that.

I hope you all are having wonderful weeks,

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Emotional Miming

8 Comments

  1. I had a teacher kinda like that once, except I didn’t flail around him, because hiding was my thing and I was damn good at it. But it upset me no end that he gave so much attention and support to the noisily broken ones and ignored everyone who “seemed” to be okay. Because a lot of us weren’t.

    I’m grateful for the “refiner’s fire” too but yeah, there are people whose roles (are lack thereof) are hard to forget. Love how you’ve processed this and made yourself better because of it.

  2. Damn, what happened to you was horrible! I used to write [fan fic] and share with friends during middle school and cannot imagine the feels if someone had strewn my writing around the room or shredded it.

    Trial by fire sucks >.< Even if you do end up sort of appreciating the benefits.

    As always, thanks for sharing, Summer 🙂

  3. You are way too generous! That teacher was negligent in every possible way. I can’t believe he didn’t stop once, if for no other reason than to ask what you were doing as you crawled around that room when you weren’t supposed to be. I want to find him and feed him his own balls with chopsticks and straight wasabi. I’m so angry on behalf of 13 yo Summer. I’m sending her all my hugs and love and attention. And I give you so much credit for growing into the positive and delightful person you are. I just love you in every way!

  4. Fizzy, you made me cry. Like for reals cry. In the office. Co-workers stopping by my desk, asking, if I am alright. I lied, saying it was just something in my eye.

    Anyway – being an abused kid with lots of issues and no one to turn to, I relate more than you can imagine. This was such an honest, raw and emotional thing to write and I love you for it. I still need to find my balls to do it as well. You are super awesome.

  5. Hiding was my thing as well. My third grade teacher flat out told my mom she hated me. No pretense, no pretending. She hated me. All of the “bad” kids had charts where if you were good that day you got a sticker but if you were bad she’d write something nasty. I was often “bad”. I opened my cupcake before everyone else had gotten one. I passed a note that simply said “thank you for letting me borrow a pencil”. I used a pen. I had a hairbrush in my desk (bitch never gave me back my Jem hairbrush). She allowed the other kids to bully me – encourages them even.

    And once a teacher stands by and lets a child be bullied it doesn’t last just that year. No, it follows them through their entire school career. As long as the same kids are in classes together it carries on.

    I was so excited to move from elementary school to high school. First day of school a kid announced on the bus that I had AIDS. Where there does the fresh start.

    Like you I was the “odd” kid. I read a lot – “bookreader” or “book-a-day-girl” were some of my nicer nicknames. I liked “weird” stuff such as old movies and Broadway. It’s cool to be a theatre kid now but not when I was in school.

    I didn’t really find my voice until I went to college. I had opted to go to an all women’s college because I was pretty much afraid of men by that point. It was the best decision I could have made. It was such a small and safe place that I really started to feel like I could be myself. I was finally comfortable in my own skin and I had a voice that I wasn’t afraid to use. Nobody made fun of me because I misinterpreted a Canterbury Tale or got upset because I understood Shakepeare’s “bugle” joke in Much Ado About Nothing.

    I owe Cedar Crest College and it’s staff a lot and I will always look at it as my true birthplace.

  6. Hey Fizzy,
    I loved your post. And I would really like to be able to respond with more than just “I loved your post”, but it seems my mind is all a jumble at the moment.
    Okay. Breathe.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I love that you’re so real and honest. Your sarcasm makes me laugh. I look forward to your posts. And I am jealous that I am not a beta reader.
    Also, if your story had been made into an after-school special, I would have been on the edge of my seat the whole time. And in tears when you had your life changing epiphany. I would have pumped my fist and shouted “Yeah!”
    – Vance

  7. All I have to say is that I feel you on so. many. levels and brava for being one of the survivors.

  8. What a sad and wonderful post, Summer. Your post should be a mandatory part of all new teacher training. You’re right, I was a principal and some teachers have no clue the power for good and evil they randomly use/abuse. It makes me sad to think of all the kids like you I couldn’t help. The scars are real and life-altering. It’s one of the reasons I pursued the job, but it’s like trying to catch thousands of butterflies, too many get past us. I’m sorry your young self lived these days and know that they inform everything good you do with your life.

    Best Wishes,

    Sherry
    @SherLHoward

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