No one can make me…feel bad about myself if I don’t let them. We’ve all heard the Eleanor Roosevelt quote before. But sometimes, I confess, I let them get to me. This week, particularly, I had one of those triggering moments.
What is a triggering moment? It’s the moment when something happening in the here and now throws you right back into the past. Usually the event is a negative one, which is why survivors of rape or abuse or other horrible past events try to avoid these triggers at all costs. The event may have happened eons ago, but the emotions and the reactions to the memory seem like they are happening in current life. That’s why articles about strong emotional topics often come with a “triggering event ahead” messages.
The memory this week came from left field. It happened while reading the article about the small town girl who is elected to the Homecoming Court as a prank by her fellow classmates.
In a flash, I was back in high school. Sitting in religion class, with the priest in the front of the classroom. I sit on the right hand side of the room and I can see the boys on the other side of the room snickering. I hear the dreaded words and know that they’re talking about nominating me for prom queen as a joke. Because I am fat. And loud. And obnoxious. Honestly, I don’t know if the last two reasons applied, but it was definitely for the first.
In my mind I see Father J. realizing something is going on, but not doing anything about it. After all, fat girls who are being picked on deserve it. I mean, I dared to be fat! Even as I write this, I feel that horror and sadness all over again. Of course, at the time I laughed it off and turned the other cheek.
But I didn’t go to prom. I never felt safe in high school. In a Catholic high school it was clear that my emotional needs weren’t a concern. Don’t get me wrong, this was the 1980s and people weren’t that concerned about mental health in teenagers.
Horror and sadness weren’t the only emotions I felt that day. There was also hope. Hope that after being in school together for so many years, that someone realized I was beautiful underneath it all. That I was worthy of a crown and a scepter and a sash. (I don’t know if the prom queen actually got those things, but in my day dreams she does.) I wanted some validation and some reassurance that the rest of my life wasn’t going to be full of taunts and teasing.
For me the triggering moment passed rather quickly. Because I am beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I was a lot more beautiful when I was 18, golden haired and youthful. There was no “underneath it all.” Still, knowing what I know now, almost 30 years later, I can be swept to that sad place in an instant. I still wait for the taunts.
I know no one can make me feel bad about myself if I don’t let them, but sometimes I accidentally let them.