I am nine years old. S — is standing in front of me, with J— and B— beside her. J—‘s family don’t want to buy a copy of the school class photo’. That’s my fault, because it’s not a class photo’ because I’m in it, and I’m not supposed to be in that class. I’m in the wrong class.
In the days before PhotoShop, S— and J— wish that they could scratch me out of it. So do I. I wish I could erase myself completely from everybody’s lives. Everyone hates me. Even my teacher standing less than a foot away doesn’t respond as the slap S–strikes across my face echoes over the playground. The whole world hates me.
I fight tears, fight for control, as this scene is laid before me in psychodrama last week. I must stay in control. I must not cry. I am not nine years old. S— is not about to hit me for calling her a name, in despair because nothing else has made her stop. I’m OK. Really. I’m OK.
I do cry, safely alone, later in the week. And then I can go to work, and get on with work. Or try to. I’m dissociating at my desk. But that’s because of the anger over our workload that is fire-balling around me; anger that I don’t want to be drawn into. I can’t concentrate. But that’s because I’m worried about next week. Isn’t it? I’m shattered.
Surely, I’ve processed stuff that happened over 20 years ago.
It wasn’t not your fault, S —. You were nine. The adults let you down.
I am trying to believe that what happened when I was a child was not my fault. But I genuinely can’t. I am bad, bad, bad. Bad now, and I was a horrid child then. The chant persists, through my attempts at marking, I want to die. My head pounds with the impossibility that it was not my fault.. I am bad. I curl up, wait for sleep. Wish I could erase the pain. Or myself. Or both.