This is another… personal-type post, I’ll make my way back to less self-turbulent posts eventually, I promise :)
One day, in 3rd grade, right before lunch, our class was so terrible that our teacher started yelling at us. I proceeded to cry right through lunch while my classmates tried to comfort me, telling me it was most certainly not my fault, assuring me I was probably the person who contributed the least to the teacher’s irritation, and explaining all the ways in which it was all their own fault. I suppose the crying may have made them felt slightly guilty.
But they were probably pretty puzzled too, because I knew all that, and I’m pretty sure they knew I knew all of that. I knew that she didn’t direct any of that yelling at ME, I knew I was like Miss Good Student of the Year, I knew there was no reason for me to be crying, I knew I was probably making everyone feel worse, I tried to stop it. It just… didn’t work. It was a very puzzling day.
Looking back on it, I can hash out some parts of the mystery. That was probably simply the first time somebody had yelled like that [intent matters] around me in elementary school and so the first time this particular… quirk? stood out to me but… I was already set to act that way way before that particular incident.
See, my parents yelled loudly and fought a lot when I was younger. Maybe at first it was an attempt to get them to stop fighting, since I seem to recall sitting down at a table near them, putting my head down and crying - in hopes that they’d be concerned enough to stop fighting (not that it worked; eventually I figured out it would usually worsen the fight). But I think in the end, it was just something that made me really sad; and so raised voices and yelling directed at specific things would just automatically trigger tears. Now looking back on it, I can draw the dots between my memories. Classical conditioning, ya know.
(also, when I was younger I always assumed the constant, explosive fighting was normal, now I’m reconsidering that notion. So if you read this, I really would appreciate if you could tell me… was anybody else’s family like this?)
After that though, things went more smoothly (as far as my memory serves), I didn’t cry on the slightest provocation, things were good.
Until freshman year, when I joined band. That was when the constant barrage of yelling started again, except this time it was always directed at me. I was miserable freshman year, I considered it an accomplishment when I went a week without crying (which honestly, I know and remember this because it didn’t happen until… maybe halfway through the spring semester). Time spent at home was torture, after thanksgiving break I was completely convinced I wasn’t about to survive winter break. Every day was acutely painful, I had to wake up extra early to get my dad out of bed and slowly, cautiously, coax him towards the car in order to make it to 0-hour every day, I dreaded the drives to school and back home like nothing else. I learned to check my baggage in at the door every day, way before we were told to do so at leadership camp.
The night before our first performance, the night before UIL state, the candlelight ceremony, the band banquet… the happier I was when I left school, the more painful it was when I cried myself to sleep those nights. I didn’t return to the UT band camp the summer after freshman year, like I was so sure I would. I didn’t go to DCI that summer, even though I thought it was the greatest thing ever, I didn’t dare to do anything outside of the “normal” band kid box. I couldn’t show excitement of any sort at home, everything had to be perfectly bland. I couldn’t even fully relax during band activities, somebody might have taken a picture. I can see how some of my most painful defense mechanisms may have developed now.
And I started crying on the slightest amount of provocation again, especially where my dad’s voice was concerned. Like a repeat of 3rd grade, I first really noticed how easily I was set off at school (different circumstances though, this time it was when my connections teacher wrote an “89” on my grade sheet and I actually started crying). It was a good thing Mr. Russell didn’t yell at me freshman year.
It was also right about then that I started developing my “can’t play in front of people, can’t think straight when I think people are judging me, utter fail any time anybody I care about walks past me” issue. And to anybody that knows me, you know the aforementioned definitely still plagues me today. I can’t play piano nearly half as well when I think people are listening, I did extremely well teaching marching at leadership camp until Mr. A walked by (when I proceeded to march away from my group) and my Stubernic cadenza utter fail when Mr. Russell happened to stop and listen… still scares me.
It’s not just that. ALL of the marching band backlash still plagues me today, crying included. It’s still scarily… easy for me to start crying. Whenever I actually feel something, frustration, anger, shame. It makes me sound so fragile.
But it’s okay, I’m a master among master at defense mechanisms. I have defensive walls so high, sometimes I’m not sure anybody can breach them. I’m unparalleled at hiding excitement, stifling happiness. At hiding emotions, at being untouchable, at acting. It’s harder to get hurt this way. At least that’s how my brain probably rationalizes it. It’s been proved right much more than wrong.
At dinner today, it took about .2 seconds for me to retreat inside my own little ball from the moment my dad’s voice raised and about a minute of markedly higher decibel levels for me to start crying. And yet it only took about 5 tissues for everything to be cleaned up and by the end of it I was already talking to my dad normally again. I get better at the whole process every time.
And to be honest, THAT alarms me.