January 8, 2020


I have an experience that has been bothering me for some time that I wish to unload here. Getting it out in small black letters on a screen, instead of the concurrent explosion of audible syllables blaring at my brain and ears, may be of some help. Or so I hope.

I was 17 and in a High School Government class. The teacher was known for his hard-assed demeanor. He was a tough one and straight to the point. He had a strict attitude and a definite black & white viewpoint. No room for error or a form of understanding he wouldn't/couldn't comprehend. He was harsh, to say the least.

For one project we were to do a class debate. Our grade mattered on how much we spoke on the subject. (I forget now even what it was about.) We would get a passing grade if we contributed at least once.

I was, and still am, a shy, anxiety-filled person. I loathed public speaking and did my best when it was required. My brain was racing during those moments.... when our 12th year mock debate was occuring and every time my mind, ricocheting.... panicking.... begging itself to function, grasped a comment/thought that made sense someone else asked it/presented it and I was left to rethink and rebuild my muddled brain.

The clock was ticking and everyone had spoken once. Except me. Teacher knew it. Students knew it. I was being observed and my mind went even further from establishing any sort of coherency, let alone keeping its cloudy eye on the subject. I felt like a cornered animal.

That is when he screamed at me "WHY DON'T YOU EVER TALK!"..... I shy-smiled it off and looked down. I was strawberry red.

Kids giggled a bit. I tried as well. I still had no words. So I just let it be.

That was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I wanted to become chalk dust and brushed away. A scrap of paper lost in a corner. It sticks with me to this day because with my panic and anxiety disorders it is haunting. He had no right to single me out like that, let alone yell in that way. How would that encourage anyone? It's been 21 years and I'm still traumatized and confused over this.

I often wish I had gone to the principal and reported him. I'm not weak. I'm not undisciplined. I just know right from wrong. And mental illness is not wrong. It is not a choice. It needs to be better understood.

Think before you speak. 

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