THE CRUSH WHICH CRUSHED ME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In my senior year of high school, my school hired a new college adviser. His name was Mr. Berger and he was 32 years old. He was a cool guy and lots of students spent time hanging out with him in his office.

I spent more time than most, much of it alone with Mr. Berger. We developed a special relationship. He flirted with me. He talked about his outside life. He told me about breaking up with a girlfriend. He cried to me when a friend committed suicide. He began to talk like he planned to have a relationship with me after I graduated.

Mr. Berger with me in the background

I was over the moon. I thought I was madly in love with this guy. The age difference, 14 years, was nothing to me. My parents were 26 years apart in age. My mother was 18 when she met her future (first) husband, who was then 33. Over time, my originally skeptical parents and friends came to believe that Mr. Berger really did have serious intentions toward me beyond school. I floated through the school year.

As school came to an end, I think Mr. Berger started to get cold feet about me. I was not only a virgin, I was also a naïve romantic. I clearly saw any ongoing relationship with Mr. Berger as ‘serious’. I don’t think Mr. Berger was ready for that. However, instead of letting me down gently, he hit me over the head with a sledge-hammer.

I don’t remember how he told me that ‘we’ were not going to happen. I do remember crying on the phone with him and begging him to meet with me to talk about it. He said he’d pick me up at my apartment building and take me for coffee. I waited in the lobby. He said he waited for me outside the building and then left. Another groveling phone conversation involving crying and begging.

My senior yearbook photo

The final blow came in the last few weeks of school. Mr. Berger chaperoned a group of seniors (not including me) on an overnight trip. Afterwards, I was told that he was seen canoodling with the one girl in the class I had serious issues with. I think he was sending me a message. I got it.

I was beyond crushed. Devastated is too mild a term to describe my state. I lost all confidence in myself. My self-image went into the toilet. I felt betrayed, played and humiliated. As well as heartbroken.

I had a horrible, depressing summer. When I started college in the fall, I started getting physical symptoms including dizziness, rapid pulse, palpitations and extreme fatigue. These symptoms were later diagnosed as part of a major depression, which in turn, affected my thyroid gland. I was barely functional. I believe that the ‘trauma’ with Mr. Berger triggered this depressive episode, which lasted over three years and colored my entire college career.

I almost didn’t write about this incident. I find it cringe worthy how little self-esteem I had. But I decided to share the story because, for better or for worse, it was a pivotal event in my life. I was probably just a depression waiting to happen. But it’s still humiliating to have been plunged into years of mental illness by such a relatively trivial event. I guess it is what it is. And I was who I was. For better or for worse.

17 thoughts on “THE CRUSH WHICH CRUSHED ME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. i am so sorry this happened to you. he, being older, should never have lead you to believe something that was not going to happen. it wasn’t your fault at all, you were just picking up all of the cues to the otherwise, that he put out there. it is not surprising that it took the toll on you that it did and it was brave of you to tell your story. i’m glad that you are here now and we all have a chance to read your words –

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    • I really believe that he initially did want a relationship with me after school. But as the time drew near, he realized he would end up in a “serious” relationship with a naive and fragile virgin. I think he just chickened out at the end. Even my parents interpreted what he said to me that way. I don’t think he was intentionally leading me on the whole time. That would have made it even worse!

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  2. He had no business flirting with you, or “canoodling’ with any of his students. He sounds like a relatively immature fella, looking for a bit of fun, and when it turned intense he walked away from it. I don’t wonder you were hurt, devastated, and possibly embarrassed about the whole thing. Im also amazed he kept his job. =)

    He behaved badly, and took advantage of your youth, your age, and your innocence. Not a nice man. You did nothing to be ashamed of, and he did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wasn’t ashamed of anything I did with Mr. Berger. I was ashamed that I reacted so catastrophically to the rejection. Many people have serious depressions triggered by real traumas. This was a pretty wimpy trauma. A very first world trauma. It obviously didn’t take much to push me into depression territory!

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    • Thank you for being so supportive. I almost didn’t write this blog because it seemed to me like I overreacted to a common place rejection. But to me, the pain and humiliation was so real! I guess most people have had a trivial but painful event in their lives that took a long time to get over.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First love is not trivial. IMHO that is. My first ‘serious’ love, like yours, ended very badly. The first time we broke up, I went through many of the same things you described when your advisor dumped on you. I was heart broken. You were lucky. You had an ethical crush at least – mine wasn’t and we endured years of a twisted relationship before I finally had enough (35 years later) and told him to beat it. But I remember clearly the anguish and hurt that only a girl of end of teenage years can feel and the damage it did psychologically to me. First love is awful, but you’re absolutely right. It does shape our ends. We endure the fire and become something stronger because of it.

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    • You make a good point. First love really is a big deal. And for me it was much more than a school crush. It felt like love to me. And in many ways he did me a favor by NOT breaking my heart even more after a real world relationship. My parents always thought he was protecting me – from himself! He knew he would screw me over and how devastating that would be for me. So maybe he wasn’t too bad a person.

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  4. These days, that “adviser” would be fired and not rehired anywhere. THAT is exactly WHY those relationships are not allowed. For him, maybe it was “no big deal,” but for you, crushing. Any first love, when it breaks up, is crushing … but in this case, even worse because it’s so public. But I think in those years, we are all very emotionally tender and rejection is devastating.

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    • He was very careful not to do anything that was overtly illegal or improper. It was all subtle innuendo. But to me it was a real love with a real man. I know he stayed in his job for several years. I think he learned a lesson with me and probably never let himself get too close with any other female students. He wasn’t really a predator – if he had been, he would have dated me for a while and dumped me with no compunction.

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  5. You know Ellin, however painful that experience was, I think we all need to have our heart broken, at least once, just to know that life will go on. It would be so nice if we could just skip those episodes but Sh*t happens and we have to learn to move on. Thank you for sharing.
    Leslie

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    • You’re right about the positive after effects of heart break! I didn’t learn my lesson though. I married someone who repeatedly broke my heart over our 25 years together. But each time does make you stronger and better equipped to face the next crisis of the heart. I’m much stronger now because of all I went through, starting with my high school crush.

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