Why I Deliberately Screamed for the First Time Today
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I’ve always loved roller coasters — the excitement, thrill and shot of adrenaline that makes my heart race and butterfly wings tickle my insides. What I love the most is the scream that starts in my toes and escapes before I can catch it. I feel completely free because screaming belongs on roller coasters. It’s the only time I let my voice be as loud as it can be. I leave the park and wonder how many years it will be before I get to scream again.
I try to willfully scream at the top of my lungs, but it catches in my throat and my mind stifles the sound. My screaming is a raised voice — not even a yell, shout or holler. I imagine scenarios that would require me to scream, but worry that when I really need to, I won’t be able.
Growing up, I had no voice of my own, no words I could use to express the depths of my sadness and fear, and no way to scream for safety. Words were weapons in my home — threats of harm for telling the truth, for having the desire to be a child, for being seen. “Shut up, be quiet, stop talking” were always followed by: “or I will knock the shit out of you; beat the shit out of you; kick the shit out of you; slap the shit out of you.” The cruelest adage of all is “children should be seen, not heard.” I tried to be as silent and invisible as possible at home.
Since I couldn’t use my voice, I scribbled my thoughts and feelings in a notebook. It was an escape. Those same words became a prison when they spilled out of my dad’s angry mouth when he read them out loud to me. My words became painful to see and hear so I buried them deep inside where they could be as noisy and chaotic as they wanted. On the outside, my words were controlled, quiet and mumbled. My dad would say, “Speak up! I can’t hear you.” His directive was confusing and dangerous.
As I grew older, I found my voice and began writing again. It took a long time to feel confident enough to stand by my words and let them be heard. But I still couldn’t scream, no matter how many times I tried. The part of me that kept me safe, kept me quiet. That served me well as a child, but not as an adult. I told myself that I was safe, even if I screamed at the top of my lungs for the world to hear. I didn’t need to be afraid of my voice anymore.
I’m 47 years old and I deliberately screamed for the first time today. Those who are afraid of their voices will know what a victory that was. The first time I screamed, it was like inhaling smoke. My throat burned and I had a coughing fit. I screamed again to be sure it wasn’t a fluke. I did it for a third time and I felt free. I screamed the word I was never allowed to say as a child: “No.”
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash