“Can I go to the bathroom, please?” My fourth grade teacher nods and I make my way across the courtyard to the female restrooms.
There are 5 stalls and 2 sinks and I am alone in the bathroom. It smells like sweat and Lysol and mold. I breath a sigh of relief that I am alone because my stomach hurts so bad and I know I’d be embarrassed if anyone else was in the restroom with me.
I sit down on the toilet and tears start to form and I start to pray. Please not right now. Please please please. I want to go back to class. The physical pain in my stomach is now familiar—it happens every couple of weeks and sometimes in chunks of days in a row—but I don’t have a place for the emotional pain to go.
Eventually, physical pain passes. Without a physical reminder, I shutdown everything else. Sometimes, though, my emotions lingered. My amazing 4th grade teacher had a rule that anyone could retreat under her desk, no questions asked, if they needed to. Lots of girls used that space to cry after getting in tiffs with each other. I used it, without ever telling anyone why, to cry safely. Physical pain was just the trigger and that desk was my safe space to let some of it out when I could no longer hold it in for a second longer. I remember wishing I could go under the desk everyday, but I only used it a handful of times out of fear that eventually I’d have to explain why I needed the space.
Today my stomach hurt just like in 4th grade. As soon as it started hurting my brain jumped to that elementary school bathroom, and I prayed without even thinking, the same words I used to.
And then I felt alone, very much needing to cry, and feeling like I didn’t have access to my safe space. I needed someone to find me in the bathroom or under the desk. Those emotions are storming inside and I just need to get to safety to let it out.