An Introspection of Control
The piece below is written by a very prolific 15 year-old trans boy. As an editor, hearing the voice of those who will be ushering in a new generation is imperative to our growth, our understanding of one another, and feeling confident that generations to come will do better than we have. Apollo gives me hope that the world ahead will be less judgmental, less abusive, and more loving.
Parenthood means allowing your child to express themselves, find themselves, experience their life—their way. The piece below was an assignment to write a narrative essay focusing on trauma. Apollo submitted it to be considered for publishing and his words are profound. May we always be mindful that trauma has many faces, many forms, and it’s impact on us all never looks the same.
Control | the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events
Part I | Kindergarten
“Let’s play a game,” the boy my age, whose name I hadn’t learned yet, told me as he pushed me to the ground below. The rain pounded against the clouded glass of the family’s house we were staying at in Seattle. I climbed up the old wooden stairs, which creaked with each step, and opened the door to the son’s bedroom, hoping I could make a new friend.
He had long hair that hid his eyes and a crooked smirk filled with uneven teeth. We built fortresses of legos and wore masks of our favorite superheroes, while we made up imaginary worlds in our head. Finally, he suggested we played a game and shoved me onto the stained carpet below. His hands wrapped around my wrists and his nails dug into my skin.
I squirmed against him begging to be let go, but his grip wouldn’t loosen. His eyes were hungry for power as his fingers sunk deeper into my arms, clawing for any leverage he could get. He laid there on top of my helpless body for hours as his calloused hands pushed my wrists deeper into the floor below.
People will do anything for control, even at the expense of others.
Part II | Third Grade
M, blonde with an overgrown beard and drained blue eyes, came home once again stumbling over his feet with the stench of beer on his breath. My mom looked down to her feet, staring at the floorboards, as she sensed the man’s presence before her. The wave of aggression and negativity he radiated could be felt from a mile away, and she had to force her smile in response to hide any weakness she held inside of her.
It began with gentle words, radiating a warm and calming atmosphere, but soon turned into a bitter fight filled with contempt. What started as a small flame soon became a wildfire. Screaming filled the house as their words filled with animosity bounced off the walls. The shrieking went back and forth when finally he screamed, “You’re useless! We’re over!”
A loud slam followed as he walked out of our broken-down house, while my mom fell to her knees as she broke down, sobbing. I couldn’t do anything, my muscles tensed and my eyes widened, when finally my feet moved without me thinking. and I sprinted to my room. My back hit the wall behind me as I slid down the floor in a puddle of tears. I felt trapped and useless.
How could I help? I wish I knew how to be the savior in this situation.
It’s human nature to wish to have control of a situation, even when there isn’t anything you can do, which makes it much harder to handle.
Part III | Fourth Grade
I walked my familiar path to school, expecting everything else to be as familiar, just like every other day. The orange leaves were crunching and cracking beneath my beat-up, blue tennis shoes. However, all this familiarity soon changed once I entered the school premises, only to be greeted by a field of whispers smothering the courtyard and the unsettling feeling of eyes lay on me.
V, my longest friend I’ve had, was waiting for me at the other side of the courtyard; her hair was styled the same as always; in a high and neatly tied ponytail, which was the color of gold. She was whispering to my other classmates with a mischievous smirk.
“Whatcha guys talking about?” I asked.
“I can’t believe you have a crush on her,” V responded as her laughter spread across the room. My eyes widened as secrets I told her spilled out of her mouth and laughter echoed among the corridors. My heart raced and my hands trembled.
What do I do, what do I do, what do I do? My legs froze like water in the coldest weather, and chills ran through my body as I shook and struggled to hide the humiliating noise of sniffling coming from my nose.
When people deflect their own feelings and find pleasure in taking control; they don’t see how damaging it is to take away the power of others’ lives.
Part IV | Sixth Grade
Hot tears ran down my face as their words full of malice pierced my heart. It was a cold winter day and I had finally returned home from school with my progress report. Written on it was all A’s except one single B+ that lied next to the word “Math”.
I stood up straight with my chin high and a dopey grin on my face as I handed my dad the paper. He ripped open the envelope and threw it carelessly to the side as he took the paper out. His face lied expressionless as his eyes scanned over the grades again and again.
He finally stated, “You got a B+.”
“Yes I did,” I declared as my smile deepened, but the smile wasn’t returned. He passed the paper to my stepmom who read over it the same as he did.
“You got a B+,” she repeated.
“Yes I did, that’s a good grade,” I uttered as my smile faded.
“We’re striving for great, not good.”
My heart dropped and my eyes began to flood as I stared into their cold eyes. I tried to make them listen, but my words went through their ears. I didn’t do enough.
No matter how hard I try, some people will never be satisfied with the results, and I can’t control the way they react.
Part V | Eighth Grade
My skin hugged my ribs as the light peeking through the window highlighted my bones. I looked in the mirror of the dimly lit bathroom for the first time in weeks. The person who lied in my reflection had dark, sunken eyes stained with tears, and a body barely strong enough to keep them standing.
It was the year where I replaced my lunch and dinner with a pack of gum and a million bottles of water. I craved control, I needed it, so I went to every length possible to sculpt my body the way I desired. But, my heart shattered the longer I looked at the person in the mirror who I barely recognized.
I dropped onto my knees as water flowed uncontrollably from my eyes. Finally, I managed to mutter out loud, “Th- this isn’t what I wanted.”
People will do anything for control, even at the expense of themselves.
Bullying, verbal abuse, perfectionism, eating disorders, feelings of displacement – these have affected more kids than we realize or talk about. Whether they are witnessing emotional abuse from one partner to another, or experiencing that among their peers, when do we as a society collectively say enough is enough?
The definition of verbal abuse is: a type of emotional abuse—is when someone uses their words to assault, dominate, ridicule, manipulate, and/or degrade another person and negatively impact this person’s psychological health. Verbal abuse is a way for a person to control and maintain power over another person.
In an article in Very Well Mind, they say, “Verbal abuse can impact every element of life, including academic performance, relationships, and success at work later in life. Just like any other form of abuse or bullying, verbal abuse has both short- and long-term consequences, including the following mental health problems:
- Changes in mood
- Chronic stress
- Decreased self-esteem7
- Feelings of shame, guilt, and hopelessness
- Social withdrawal and isolation9
- Substance use
When verbal abuse is particularly severe, it can impact whether or not people can see themselves as being successful in any area of life. Those who experience verbal abuse as children may experience feelings of worthlessness, difficulty trusting others, and problems regulating their emotions as adults.”
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