I Was Suicidal as a Child, and the Adults Around Me Did Nothing
After years of abuse and no support, I had reached my limit
No one showed up to my 11th birthday party at King Arthur’s Castle the summer before I entered sixth grade, my last year of elementary school. My birthday party became the foreshadowing event of the loneliest year of my life and the beginning of my lifelong battle with obsessive thoughts and suicidal ideation. The combination of my parent’s divorce, abuse by my sixth grade teacher, and the subsequent neglect of the adults at my school created the perfect storm, a catalyst that unlocked a shadow within me, unable to cope.
There was a myriad of obstacles to avoid at the venerated private Southern Baptist school I attended: bullies, tattletales, handsy authority figures, and, according to the school’s the mission statement, Satan’s temptations. I’d been run over by my fair share of each since my first day as a four-year-old pre-K student. The inappropriately affectionate founder of the school was a particularly gruesome obstacle to avoid up until 1992 when the church board decided his obsession with little girls was a better fit elsewhere. He died in prison where he was detained for his “love” (his words) of six brave little ladies who came forward as adults—and certainly countless silent others.
The abuse I suffered was heartbreaking and astonishing. It was hard not to blame myself. How could I have let it happen to me? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why didn’t I tell an adult?
My sixth-grade teacher’s total assault on me was unprecedented, and the inventory of attacks is long and tedious. At times, the strikes were the emotional equivalent of repeated wet-willies, like her insistence on calling me “Jennifer,” despite my mother sending her a copy of my birth certificate that displayed my legal name: Jenny. In tears, I pleaded with her, “Please don’t call me Jennifer again!”
She smirked and responded, “When I’m angry at people, I like to call them by their real name.”
Many of her raids could be compared to advanced torture techniques, cruel and unemotional. Like the time she overheard me talking to a fellow classmate about how I wasn’t…