This part covers grades 4 through 8 of my life.
Chapter 5: When words are all you have
There is literally no photographic evidence that I even existed during my 4th grade to 8th grade years but, of course, I know I must have because I am here now. Typing this so that a hundred and something teenagers have an example of what it looks like to write about their “growing pain” years. It’s difficult to place yourself in time when there isn’t anything tangible to shake something loose from your memory. But, I am going to do my best.
I remember 4th grade was the first time I ever felt awe for a teacher, maybe that was when my unconscious mind decided that I would become a teacher. I remember my mother had done my hair one morning and she pulled the ponytail too tight. I complained to her and she said I was being too sensitive, that I had to have everything perfect, that it was my fault. She hit me hard on the head with the brush because I started crying and I wouldn’t stop. I went to school crying that day and Ms. Erving pulled me aside and showed me an incredible amount of compassion. She actually listened to me and then she helped me fix my hair. I was so afraid I was going to get in trouble with my mother when I went home that afternoon and my hair was different. I know now that fear was unfounded, since she was never home when I got there. It was always just my father and the bottle.
5th grade I remember as the year depression hit. I would always sleep in class and Ms. Allen, my teacher, thought I was on drugs. I knew a lot about a lot of things at that age but I didn’t know anything about drugs. I just knew I felt sad. I had no energy. I didn’t feel like I could do anything. I didn’t want to do anything, so I just slept. I got a perfect score on the state mandated standardized test that year. My teacher was baffled. I wasn’t.
6th grade year is a complete blank but I remember in 7th grade I got to be in a play. I was in theater arts and the teacher cast me as the crazy lady. I didn’t think anything of it because I was so young and naïve at the time. But, the school counselor pulled me aside after the play and asked, “do you know why you were cast in that role?” I told her because I was good. She said, “have you questioned why you are so good at playing the role of a crazy person?” I mean, ouch. What kind of cruel person takes that kind of dig at a 7th grader? Fortunately, 8th grade year we had a better school counselor. I actually felt like I could talk to her and she would listen. She was incredibly kind. Maybe she is the reason I decided I wanted to be a counselor, so that I could help people feel heard.
8th grade year is also the year I got pulled out of school for two or three months. My parents found out that I was talking to the school counselor about my life and they found out that I was cutting, so they freaked out on me. They unenrolled me, my mother wrote me a scathing note letting me know just how disappointing I was as a daughter, and then she didn’t talk to me for the rest of those months. I was grounded and wasn’t allowed out of the house. I sometimes snuck out to go to the church down the road because they had a youth group and I desperately needed human contact. When I told the youth director and his fiancé why I was never in school, they called CPS on my parents. My parents tried to play it off like I was being home-schooled but I guess they were forced to put me back in school. They threatened me with private school but I knew they could never afford that so I went back to public school. Nothing changed.