In high school, I hated pep rallies — but I wasn’t sure why.
I just knew I felt uncomfortable when the band was playing and everybody was excited and cheering. I felt oddly out of place. I never told anybody this, but I felt embarrassed of myself. I didn’t clap or cheer or whatever else the crowd around me was doing.
I felt horribly conflicted, although I didn’t understand that at the time. Part of me was excited by the music and cheering and chanting — but I was afraid to let myself go. I was afraid to feel anything. And that made these public displays of emotional frenzy seem very dangerous to me.
I felt coldly numb as I grew up. In middle school, some kids laughingly called me “Spockelroy,” which was someone’s clever mixture of “Spock” and “McElroy.” I was the brilliant rationalist who didn’t feel anything — and who never expressed emotions.
I understand why now.
The loss of my mother had hurt me more than I understood. My fear of my father’s unpredictable narcissistic rage was constant. I had learned that I got into trouble if I expressed my unhappiness.
I learned to remain numb. Not to feel. It was how I survived.