I was just thinking of the fire incident and thought about the times I got in trouble at school and how that coincided with major abuse issues. Abuse details have been left out.
We’re going to start in the 3rd grade, way back in the third grade. I had a messy desk in school. The teacher said to get out a pencil so I rummaged through a bunch of papers, making noise in the process. The teacher scolded me for making so much noise trying to get a pencil. She went on and on about the desk then finally into the lesson. I had to get back in my desk for something ??? and caused more paper noise pollution. This time she came to my desk and emptied all the papers out and threw them away. The desk was empty. At the end of the lesson I put the pencil back in the empty desk which was slanted just a little. When the pencil rolled along the slant, it was like all the blood in me drained. She came over to me and let me have another tongue lashing. Well, that was it. That was my threshold public humiliation.
I got up and kicked my chair back, turned my desk over and ran down the hall. The teacher chased me and so did the janitor. I ran outside because I was going to go to my mother’s office. Once outside I realized I didn’t know how to get there. I was standing on this round patch of grass where the flag was. The principal and teacher acted as negotiators to get me back in the building. After the stand off I finally agreed to go inside. As I sat outside the principals office I could hear them discussing what they should do. The teacher suggested they call my mother but the principal said, We can’t call her mother, her mother is crazy! They talked to me for a little bit then I returned to class. They were right, my mother was crazy. When she came up there, dressed in her business suit, she wasn’t loud or boisterous, just frightening…. crazy!
In school I was spared a lot of the difficulties other children had as far as being made fun of all the time or being left out, bullied. The 4th grade was the year for being bullied. That didn’t last very long because I started throwing punches myself. Unfortunately I started bullying others that year. I beat up kids and chased them home with children laughing as I did it. You know what? I am certain there are many, many other former bullies who ache inside because of what we did. In my adult life I’ve run into two of the three victims and was able to apologize.
We remember what we’ve done. We remember how cruel we were and many, many of us are truly sorry especially since we didn’t have a full understanding of the impact our behavior had on others. I didn’t continue to bully others after the 4th grade. I wasn’t brutally teased other than in the 4th grade. High school wasn’t traumatic the way I hear it was for others. I’ve heard horror stories about high school, but I didn’t have those experiences. The vast majority of my trauma was at home.
The next was the 5th grade. I was in gym class and we were doing the first 10 min or so of warm ups. I really had to use the restroom so I asked for a pass. The teacher said no, finish the stretches. I did a few sets then asked again with the same answer. I said, “Look bitch, I said I have to use the restroom. I’ll be back.” Once I realized what I said I ran. I was running down the hallway and heard over the loud speaker, “Faith Austin, please report to the principals office.” I was in the closet in my homeroom. My teacher came and got me and took me back to the gym teacher. The teacher said I cursed her out. I said, no then repeated what I said. The gym teacher said I was dropping f-bombs. When asked again the teacher put it this way, “Are you saying this adult is lying on you?” I said, “Yes.” I was told to look at the teacher and tell her that, so I did. I looked at her and said, “Why are you lying on a child? I didn’t say that to you.” I really didn’t. That principal, Dr. Ruby, was not afraid to call my mother. I got paddled. I didn’t flinch. She must have thought I was insane. I felt my mother had betrayed me by letting the principal paddle me.
It was my first day at a new school. I was in the 6th grade and assigned to sit beside a young boy. That boy called me the n-word. I punched him dead in the face. Everything in the room stopped. Everyone stood shocked for just a second. I pulled my chair out and sat down. He and I were friends later in the school year. Turns our we both love the German language.
The 8th grade my two best friends and I were sometimes very bored. One day I turned to my best friend Kim and said, “I want to go to the store for a Snicker. Do you want to go?” We walked out of class, then out of school, to the drug store 2 blocks away, then returned to school. We did this a hand full of times during that year.
The 11th grade my mother beat my 3 year old brother so badly with a dowel rod that I thought she’d killed him. I called child protection services on my mother. Just like that he was gone and I’d not see him until after he was an adult. The 11th grade was when I set fire to my papers on the school desk. It was the year I went to foster care and found out what safety really is.
I read back over this and shake my head. There are so many details left out. I think the most important lesson to take away from this entry is that abuse affects every facet of life when you’re a child. My grades were usually very good. I was in accelerated classes no matter what school I was in, but I wasn’t a happy child. Many teachers knew “something” was wrong and called to have our home investigated…. so we’d move. There are so many details left out of this entry and about how a child survives abuse by dissociation. A child can appear normal in public and look normal in public but has no idea what normal is because life is anything but. Early life lessons are the hardest ones to forget and to undo. We all have work to do on ourselves. Your work will be different from mine. My work includes continuing to survive childhood and early adulthood. I’m trying to become whole again, to fuse a fractured and divided personality.