Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hang in There It Does Get Better... Eventually

Due to the recent attention on bullying, I feel the need to add my voice to the millions out there who have survived bullying and have nothing but love and support to those suffering.

You see the picture above? That was me in 8th grade and I was completely miserable after years of harassment. It started in 6th grade when my close female friends decided to take me down a peg by picking me apart with anonymous notes (this is before the internet or Facebook). I was fat, wore the wrong clothes, and hung out with undesirables. When I tried to get more fashionable clothes, my clothes were stolen during gym class.

The bullying moved from the girls to the boys who were a lot more physical with me like shoving me into lockers, stomping on my backpack, and stealing my crutches when I dislocated my knee. They also openly baited and harassed me in class by yelling stuff at me. My teachers did nothing. English and Math classes were the worst. We learned about the golden ratio one day and our assignment was to go home, measure ourselves and see how close we were to the ratio. It turned out I was spot on the ratio but I simply could not volunteer that information in class because that would have been like painting a bulls-eye on myself. Ugh, I can still remember that clueless teacher's name! I didn't say anything because I didn't have any friends left. I was really lucky to find a lunch table with other misfits and I still have a warm place in my heart for those kind souls who let me survive unprovoked.

What the kids who tortured me in school did not know is that when I got home I had a father who did the same thing. He told me I was a good for nothing bitch and beat me. In fact, I didn't speak up about the school situation because I had been taught that I deserved it. I also tried to kill myself with an Exacto knife in 7th grade. It didn't work obviously. Years later, I found out one of the lead bullies had an equally abusive father so we were opposite sides of the same coin.

What stopped the agony was probably a combination of things: I got so worn down I let my tormentors see me cry, my brother entered 6th grade so he drew some attention from me by being target practice for rock throwing assholes, and once I found out my brother was being picked on too, I finally spoke up and named names to the school superintendent. 8th grade was magically bearable! Speaking up is not a coward's way out. Yes, I do know that teachers turn a blind eye and will not protect you - which is why you need to choose that one teacher who seems to get it. Believe me, talking to a grown-up whether it's your parents or someone official, will help!

Another side effect of being bullied is that you don't speak up for other victims just so you survive. I still feel a bit of survivor's guilt about that. The emotional fallout is tough too. The last time I was ever bullied was when I was 13 after a bunch of therapy I am finally getting over most of it at age 33. So yeah, it takes a while to unpack all the internalized pain and wrong lessons learned. But it does get better and life is totally worth living! In high school or in college, you meet great people who get you and survived similar situations. And being different isn't a bad thing anymore. In fact, all the weirdos/outsiders wind up banding together so you are never alone. When I was 12, life just seemed to be a never ending litany of pain. I am 33 because somewhere inside there was a glimmer of hope that life could be better so the Exacto knife didn't hit a vein. Hang onto that glimmer kids! We all love and support you.

Please ask for help and support

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