No One Taught Me
I traced the dotted lines on the Xerox papers like everyone else. Up, down, over, around. I was taught to write letters.
Later I was taught how to match up certain letters to turn them into words. I was shown how to take those words and form sentences. Arranging sentences into cohesive paragraphs was a task practiced for years.
The way I saw it, the objective was to be understood. Reading was a way to understand, and writing was a way to be understood.
That’s why I started writing about my feelings and emotions.
When my teacher read those words she sent me to speak with the school counselor. The counselor eventually called my parents and they took me to a therapist. No one approved of the words I was writing. No one understood my emotions. It seemed no one wanted me to share them either. No one taught me what to do with them.
That’s how I learned that emotions belong on the inside. I believed in adults. I thought they had everything figured out and would tell me everything I needed to know. I trusted them.
But I couldn’t hold back the words. They spun around in my head dying to be flung onto paper like Pollock’s paint.
So I tossed them onto lines and shut the books, burying them under mattresses and in folded clothes. I feared someone would discover my thoughts exposed in those spiral-bound pages. But I assumed no one cared enough to look for them.
Part of me wanted my words to be found and read so that someone might understand. I longed to feel known and acknowledged. I was crying for help on those pages but even I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t recognize it because I didn’t comprehend what emotions were or what was normal and healthy and what was toxic and would eat me alive.
When cutting my skin began to give me the same emotional release as writing words, a switch flipped. With a new secret on my conscience, the blank pages filled with descriptive imagery of my new found companion.
In the beginning, I saw beauty in what I was carving on my flesh. The permanence of it never occurred to me, it was all about the moment.
Emotions didn’t stain the pristine pages of journals anymore. I was finally writing about what was happening on the outside instead of the inside.
That should make my teachers proud. But I knew I couldn’t show them this writing either. Without having a reason or comprehension, I determined that those cuts should make me feel shame and guilt.
So I covered them up too. I became the expert at managing my emotions with physical pain, and only sharing it in words tucked away for no one but me to see. But every day, I sprawled out in that discomfort and chose it to be my protector. It shielded me from feeling emotions I didn’t know what to do with.
I can’t help but wonder why no one taught me what emotions were. Why didn’t they teach me to recognize what I was feeling? Why didn’t they teach me to feel my emotions before letting them go?
I can’t beat myself up for not knowing what to do with these feelings. After all, no one taught me.
inkMend is a writer’s safe space on Medium to express experience with pain and write to heal from trauma. Inspired fiction, poetry, and non-fiction/memoir welcome.