The Glass Cage
You know that hot, sickly feeling of regret that feels like your stomach just bottomed out and is leaking shame all through your body? I walked into the spare reading room where the principal sat looking morose. The supervisor that had led me in wasn’t smiling either which was rare for her normally glowing, Christ-like demeanor. While Mrs. Cook had a truly Christian attitude of forgiveness and tolerance about her, Mrs. Karack enforced the strict code of conduct to the letter.
I had been in this situation too many times to count. It wasn’t unusual by the eighth grade at this point for me to be receiving detentions for not doing my work or “mis-scoring” (as in ACE schools, students scored their own work). I went to this school five days a week and was subjected to eight hours of continual Christian doctrine. When asked if I go to church, I would say, “Yeah, seven days a week” because if there wasn’t work at school, I had homework and ranting car sermons from my father. Needless to say, I was tired of it but I couldn’t exactly reveal such blasphemy, as to be tired from being taught the “Word of the Lord” was tantamount to being disobedient and worthy of hell.
So, I sat across the table from Mrs. Karack as I waited for my sentencing. I honestly would have rather been beaten than made to feel like a worthless sinner, which was her forte. I had been in her office with the volleyball coach just as the season was ending. I had loved Coach Peters because he actually believed in my abilities which was something that I didn’t even get from my parents. He had rewarded me a ribbon toward the end of the school term for Best Effort, a ribbon which went mysteriously missing from my cubical and I still think the culprit to be the very tyrant set on “breaking me in” like a stubborn donkey as she coldly glared at me.
Mrs. Karack finally started to rip through me like a sheet of paper and I broke apart as she suspected. Is it me or did she seem to smile as I cried so hard I nearly choked? At the time, I cried because I believed I had failed God and my teachers because that’s the school wanted me to believe. I felt constant guilt because I couldn’t be happy because of this depression demon lurking inside of me. I was taught that depression wasn’t a chemical imbalance, rather that it was a faith imbalance. I tried to tell my mom, but it was just another excuse to stay home to her. I told the principal and it might as well have been an insult. “I think part of fighting depression is to believe that God will show the way and to have faith in Him.” she would say dismissively. “You need to pray and hope that things will change.”
I prayed. There would be days where I would cry at my desk and pray for God to make me happy. I would apologize over and over again for being miserable and wait for a miracle to happen. I fed the gaping hole inside me with junk food and sugary soda because I thought it would make me happy. In my darkest hours, I dragged the blade of a pair of scissors, slicing open my arms just to feel something other than this gaping chasm of loneliness and guilt. I was in a glass cage watching the happy, smiling people enjoying life while I slowly drowned in this never-ending church service. In chapel we learned hymns like “My Cup Runneth Over” and I sang listlessly, feeling so ironically empty and numb that I actually checked if I still had a pulse from time to time.
I thought of suicide on a daily basis. The only thing really stopping me was my fear of actually dying and fear of not being accepted into Heaven. I would be too afraid to kill myself, but I wanted to be dead. Better dead than being imprisoned in your own mind. My thoughts were constantly full of my parents fighting, my mom’s dismissal of my anguish, my dad’s constant criticism of my weight and eating issues, school work constantly reminding me of the Christian qualities I didn’t possess, the belligerent insults from my peers. Was public school really worse than this?