Why Am I Crying?

Toward the end of elementary school and continuing through middle school, I started crying all the time. Sometimes, there was a clear albeit insignificant reason — I failed a test, I spilled milk all over my binder, or maybe someone laughed at me. Many times, there was no reason. One second, I’m filling out a worksheet; the next, I’m the Bellagio fountains, a total disintegration of my emotional apparatus with no explanation. The teacher would freeze and scan around for a possible cause of the meltdown. My classmates would look away, glance at me, and look away again, grinning nervously, excited to discuss the mental illness being exhibited. And seeing my classmates see me cry only heightened the intensity of my breakdown. At the zenith, my face turned bright red and shiny with wetness, and I pulled my whole body into a ball in my seat. I’d think, ‘I have to fade away now. There is no alternative.’ The very notion of continuing to exist after crying in class seemed unthinkable.

No one else in school had this problem. The counselors were baffled. The teachers discussed my behavior during meetings, but could not understand it. My parents barely grasped the scale of my neurosis. As I grew older — 12, 13, and even up to 14 years old — the crying became less and less appropriate. The teachers finally instituted a policy where if I sensed an imminent eruption of emotion, I could step outside the classroom to regain my composure. I was supposed to stay just outside the door. Instead, I would flee aimlessly through the school, clutching my face, looping around in circles until my breathing slowed down.

My mom often received calls like this:

Me: Hey, mom.

Mom: Hey, what’s going on?

Me: Mom, I have to transfer to a new school. There’s no recourse.

Mom: What happened?

Me: IT’S ALL FALLING APART AND I’M LOSING MY MIND AND I CAN’T DEAL WITH ANYTHING!

Mom: Um, okay, what happened?

Me: *incomprehensible sobbing

Mom: Honey? Honey, you’re going to have to calm down. Just tell me what happened.

Me: I dropped my portable chess board.

Mom: You brought that to school?

Me: And all the pieces went everywhere.

Mom: Okay?

Me: And then I started crying in front of everyone, and now I can’t go back to class. I can’t go back there after that happened.

Mom: We can maybe see if there’s another school in our area. Would that make you feel better?

Me: I’m dying! I want to die!

Mom: You’re going to be fine.

Me: I have no friends! I hate it! I hate everything! I want to die!

Mom: Brad, how are you calling me right now?

Me: I broke into the librarian’s office and used her phone.

Mom: Eugh…

The school assigned me a mentor, a former NASA employee and model train enthusiast, who would eat lunch with me on Wednesdays. Sometimes he brought me chicken strip dinners from Sonic, and one time, he brought me a Star Wars space pen that wrote upside down and underwater. His wife had been my remedial reading teacher in elementary school (it took me a staggeringly long time to learn how to read). I don’t remember what we talked about. On Tuesdays, I went to some sort of group therapy session filled with other fucked up children who scratched arms and punched teachers. All the while, I seemed to perpetually find myself sitting in the counselor’s office, describing half remembered details of some breakdown or psychotic outburst. On her desk were Rubik’s cubes, beanie babies, and kitten figurines — all tonally incongruous with the bone chilling tales being told in that office on a daily basis. Sometimes I’d tell the nurse I couldn’t deal with shit anymore, and she’d let me take a nap on a cot in the back room.

In the sixth grade, I played the role of Oliver Twist in a musical medley extravaganza organized by the choir department and performed in front of the student body, their parents, teachers, and staff. This event, this blight upon my memory, this noxious black stain on the time-space continuum, was my own personal spiritual apocalypse.

Knowing I had a tendency to choke under pressure, I memorized my lyrics obsessively and practiced constantly. When I stepped up to the mike, the first line of the song was “Where is she?” The other two kids playing Oliver — our choir teachers couldn’t pick just one — had just sang, “Where is love?” but on that third verse, I needed to sing, “Where is she?” This wasn’t confusing. “Where is she?” Not difficult at all. But in that instant, a self-destructive region of my brain betrayed me, and so I sang instead, “Where is love.” This was followed by a long silence save for eerie unaccompanied piano music. Then I said, “Oh shit,” into the microphone.

And now I began crying. I heaved, wheezed, squeaked, melted — and the breakdown accelerated to total nuclear holocaust so quickly, the audience could scarcely believe what they were seeing. I turned to the choir teacher at the piano, and I saw her mouthing the lyrics to me, eyes wide and insistent, fingers pounding piano keys. I opened my mouth and warped it to mimic the shapes her mouth was making while I expelled air. What emerged from my lips were not the correct lyrics, but a deranged rambling nonsense song composed by The Hills Have Eyes family band as an inspirational ode to all the children who’ve ever forgotten what words sound like. This entire time, still crying.

Next we transitioned seamlessly into the big dance number in which all the orphans performed choreography I’d never completely learned. During rehearsals, I could fade into the background. ‘No one will notice the one orphan who’s a little off time,’ I thought. But now, who could miss the orphan who’s not only a terrible dancer, but is also howling with tears? I danced like a lady who’s forced to dance at gunpoint or like a fat alcoholic who’s just found out his wife died, but then his favorite song comes on the jukebox. The audience was in awe. Here at last was the real show — watching a child’s fragile psyche unravel before their eyes. TC mark

image – Upsilon Amdromedae

More From Thought Catalog

  • Patrice

    I wish you would have continued this… I liked it a lot, but felt seriously let down that you cut it off (in a strategic aim).

  • macgyver51

    #firstworldproblems

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      How adorably dismissive.

      • macgyver51

        You bet your ass I am. This is nothing but whining. Join the rest of us in the real world.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Bitter at the internet, too? Man, you must be having a rough day. Have a cookie & a nap, buddy!

      • Lo

        Then why are you even reading TC? No srsly.

      • macgyver51

        There’s some good stuff on here. Then there are writers who either write about being incredibly pretentious, self centered, complete basket case drama queens, or all three at once. When this drivel stops showing up, I’ll be happy to go back to simply reading, enjoying, and occasionally commenting.

      • Lo

        This “drivel” is humanity. Thought Catalogue writers generally do a fantastic job of relating to the insecurities and embarrassments or joys and successes of many likeminded people. While this may not apply directly to you, and while it may not be the most mature of attitudes, (ahem, he’s writing about his middle school self?) it is a situation that many idenify with. Maybe it is a First World Problem, but what the hell else is a good basis for a lighthearted, but interesting, article than our own inconsequential troubles? 

      • macgyver51

        I made a lighthearted jab if you recall, it then turned into the Nuremberg trials.

      • Lo

        True, I may be over-attacking for the one little comment. I just find myself getting frustrated because so so many people go on about TC having unimportant or self absorbed articles, and I just don’t understand why they continue to come back for posts under the same categories. Some of us genuinely enjoy them.

      • Lo

        True, I may be over-attacking for the one little comment. I just find myself getting frustrated because so so many people go on about TC having unimportant or self absorbed articles, and I just don’t understand why they continue to come back for posts under the same categories. Some of us genuinely enjoy them.

      • guest

        One good way to find articles you like is to screen them by their titles.  A lot of articles on TC tend to have pretty self-explanatory names – like “A List of All the Types Guys You Will Have Ever Slept With Based on Their Shoe Size,” or you know whatever.  I suppose you clicked on “Why Am I Crying” thinking, oh man this looks like something I’d like.  Or maybe you clicked on it just so you could be a cock to a stranger.  C’mon, man, I mean . . .

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        In other words, because s/he hasn’t found anywhere else to troll. Yet.

    • http://twitter.com/AmyBarkham Amy Barkham

      STOP IT. I was born and raised in the Third World and would bawl my eyes out if I humiliated myself in front of an audience. 

      • macgyver51

        So would I, in middle school. I’d laugh about it as a grown human, not write on it like it still haunts my dreams every night.

  • http://twitter.com/WTHKristinity K

    This is brilliant: “The school assigned me a mentor, a former NASA employee and model train enthusiast, who would eat lunch with me on Wednesdays.”  Hahaha. However, the remaining parts of the entry is sad. You’ll survive though. Crying helps, but it’ll never be the solution. ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

      I’m cool now, but thanks for the concern.

  • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

    Is this a true story?  I thought I was the only one.  Well, not the ONLY one.  But I’ve never met anyone else who had this problem.

    • http://www.tinacris.ca Cristina

      I have this problem too. And I haven’t grown out of it.

      Sigh.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

        Seems like this “condition” is slightly more socially acceptable for girls.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

        That sounded bad. Let me start over: I’m sorry if your problem is anywhere close to what I described.

      • http://www.tinacris.ca Cristina

        I think it’s a milder form. Like maybe I cried while I was in the middle of quitting my last job.

        But tears do not equal sadness in my world. Tears = overwhelmed.

        It’s really confusing for boyfriends. Phrases like “I’m not mad” don’t really make sense when the person saying them is crying.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

      True story.

      • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

        oh my god you are my brother in humiliation

      • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

        I am a girl, which probably did make it somewhat ‘better,’ but it was so out of control and bizarre and psychotic that it was in no way accepted/acceptable, you know?  so much time in the counselor’s office, she used to get super frustrated and angry with me, too, for not being able to stop being crazy

    • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

      True story.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Did you grow out of it? Do you still do this? I need answers!

    • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

      I grew out of it pretty quick after middle school, thank God.

  • Batman

    I can’t remember the exact circumstances but I’m glad you grew out of it told that floppy guy in class a few years back to suck it instead of bursting into tears when he was a dick about your paper.  Glad you kept writing, also.

  • anonymouse

    okay so i doubt this is at all an “appropriate” response to this article but just thought you should know i laugh-cried pretty much the whole way through this.  so thanks i think.

  • Sophia

    I cried a lot too in elementary and middle school, and actually I’m in college now and I still cry. For me it’s out of frustration from not understanding something; when a math concept was confusing in high school, or when I’m at office hours for chemistry I’ll start crying sometimes. It’s embarrassing, but I’m not really sure how to fix it.

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    I kind of just want to hug you.

  • Keltydennis

    Oh wow, someone as messed up as I was as a kid. I didn’t cry much but I was so intensely neurotic and obssessive. Once my mom lectured me for not doing homework and I burst into tears because I had spent the past two hours methodically tapping a little sculpture of three bears on each of the bear’s heads so that none of them felt left out. Yeah. This was a great article, thank you.

  • drea

    I used to cry all the time in elementary school. It got to the point where I said I got hurt or just made up reasons I was crying. Humiliating.

  • Donkey

    I laughed until I cried. You know who this is…

  • bopbah

    (pat pat) it’s ok brad. :)

  • Your Friend

    Perfect and, sadly, hilarious.

  • Mackenzi

    I want to read this in novel form.

  • http://twitter.com/LaceMangle Halie Smith

    ….It took you a staggeringly long time to learn how to read? 

  • danielle

    brad pike, you are my new tc crush

  • danielle

    brad pike, you are my new tc crush

  • danielle

    brad pike, you are my new tc crush

  • C.E.

    You are my favorite TC contributor. Hands down.

  • C.E.

    You are my favorite TC contributor. Hands down.

  • C.E.

    You are my favorite TC contributor. Hands down.

  • C.E.

    You are my favorite TC contributor. Hands down.

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