When I get emotional, I don’t talk. I process. I go within and examine my pain. I ask the questions, “Why am I feeling this way?” and “What is this about?”
Three of my students have been placed in foster care. They are siblings and one has been separated and placed in another city.
After learning the details of the situation, it triggered and stirred up many memories from my abusive upbringing. I remembered my interviews with judges and CPS workers. I remembered having to go see Protective Services while they photographed my injuries and bruises. I remembered going to the judge and him granting more visitation time to my father after seeing the proof of what happened to me while I was there. I remembered being threatened by my mother if I were to call CPS on what was happening in the house with her. I remembered daydreaming about being removed from the household. I remembered feeling like I had no choice but to remain silent while the social worker questioned me at school and the therapist grilled me in the evenings once or twice weekly. I remembered my mom telling me not to discuss family business with anyone at the school. I remembered my dad telling me not to tell a soul what was happening in his house. I remembered being caught between both of them and having nowhere to go for help. I remembered being the same age as my students and having to hold all of that emotion and information within my little body and keep my mouth shut.
Thinking about how their guardian could do the things that she allegedly has done, I realized that I have had some thoughts that are extremely brutal in nature. I have had them since I was a kid. I didn’t understand at the time where they were coming from, but this situation has cleared that up for me. I remembered asking my mom to put a steak knife in my throat and spin it around when I was seven. I remembered fantasizing about being told to cut the grass with scissors. Those thoughts were unexplainable and as I got older they did not stop. I learned to push the thoughts away and choose happier ones instead. I learned to make choices and decisions that were the opposite of things my dad would have done. I have become the parent that my parents never were. However, until this crisis arose, I never realized how much mental and emotional healing work I had to do in order to accomplish that feat.
It is still difficult to discuss deep feelings of vulnerability and emotion, even with people that I know love me and I can trust, but writing has always been therapeutic.
Being a teacher is hard for me because I once lived a life that is similar to the lives of the students in my classroom. Although it makes it easier for me to connect with and understand them, it makes it harder for me to support the system that employs me. For me, the gaps are so obvious. I can see clear as day where we are coming up short and why. However, who am I? In the grand scheme of things, I am no one. The decision-makers and stakeholders have no interest in what my views or opinions are. They don’t care if I’m hurting. They don’t care about keeping our kids from hurting. They only care once things have already happened and they are no longer in control. It makes them sad, but they don’t do anything different. The system remains the same…. no matter what. In many ways, I feel that my career is my new abuser. There is nothing I can say, nothing I can do, and I’m better off if I just put my head down, do what I’m told, and keep my mouth shut.
If you are in my inner circle, please don’t ever take it personal if I stop talking for a little while. It’s just the way I have learned to cope. It is the only way I know to remain safe and keep my sanity.