I didn’t experience bullying, nothing beyond normal teasing, until I moved to a small Tennessee town after having been an Army Brat and lived in several different areas. Until then, bullying had always been something that happened to kids in the movies.
When I became a target of severe and chronic bullying as a sixth-grader at the age of twelve, I began a long lesson in the human predator/prey dynamic and a battle for my dignity, safety, and my very soul.
During the sixth grade, I never fought back. I’d been taught that decent young ladies didn’t fight. So, I took the physical beatings, name-calling, and abuse.
When I entered seventh grade at the age of thirteen, the harassment by my classmates reached a fever pitch. I was a target of what is called “poly-victimization.” I was name called, slandered, humiliated, threatened, physically beaten, the whole nine. And after enough of it, I learned the hard way that I had two choices, either take a stand and fight back or get eaten alive.
The more I tried to set boundaries, the worse the bullying became.
The physical bullying was brutal. I suffered horrible beatings, and it escalated to the point of having a box cutter pulled on me and my life threatened.
Every morning before going to school, I would feel a huge lump in my throat and swallow hard. It took everything I had in me to step onto that school bus, knowing what would be waiting for me as soon as I walked through the school entrance.
During P.E., I was good at some sports, but not so good in others. I loved volleyball and kickball but basketball and baseball weren’t my strong suits. Music and writing stories were my gifts, not sports.
However, students and a few teachers judged me because I wasn’t an athlete or a sorority girl. I was the musically talented and creative type. So, what they were doing was akin to judging a fish on its ability to fly.
In just two short years, I went from being a confident and outgoing kid who always made the honor roll, to a sad, withdrawn, angry and bitter girl who made C’s and D’s.
Schoolwork had always been so easy for me. I had been one of those lucky kids who didn’t have to pick up a book. All I had to do was to listen in class and do my homework (which I could get done in minutes), and I’d ace every test. But in a matter of two years, the schoolwork went from being a piece of cake to being difficult and overwhelming.
Who can concentrate on schoolwork when they’re busy looking over their shoulder and dodging bullies. Who can learn effectively when they’re constantly in survival mode?
The torment became next to unbearable, and I attempted suicide at the age of fourteen, which landed me in ICU for a week. I almost didn’t make it.
Having my power stripped away was a hell I would not wish on anybody, not even my worst enemy. The trying to keep a calm demeanor amid so much toxicity and the desperately hanging onto my dignity with everything I had was exhausting! I felt as if I were emotionally held hostage by my classmates and yes, even a few school staff as a few of them joined in the bullying as well.
Because I felt powerless, I began to bully those who were even weaker than me in attempts to grab back some of my power, and it is something I’m not proud to confess today.
I had no one to turn to as bullying was considered a normal rite of passage in those days and something I had to deal with on my own. Anytime I spoke out about or reported the mistreatment, I was shouted down by the other classmates and told to “shut up”, blamed for my own suffering, or perceived as a whiner, thought of as weak, and ridiculed. There was no help nor relief.
I was not allowed to be a human being. There was no margin for error.
They would minimize or ignore any good deed, any accomplishments, and any successes. And they would maximize any mistakes.
If I wore a dress and went to school all dolled up (which I often did in high school), I was trying to either impress the opposite sex or get a date and/or laid. If I wore my jeans the slightest bit tight, I looked like a whore.
If I cried, I was too sensitive. If I laughed, I was trying to get attention. If I got angry, I was crazy. If I was friendly, I was either flirting or trying to kiss up. If I smiled, I was secretly plotting something devious.
I was not allowed to be myself and it was exhausting. It felt as if I were suffering a slow and agonizing social murder.
The last straw finally came when I was four months pregnant with my first child. I was attacked from behind, thrown over a teacher’s desk, then kicked as I lay balled in a fetal position on the floor, guarding my growing belly and trying to protect my unborn baby. Luckily, my unborn child survived and was born healthy later that year.
After the last attack, I was done with Oakley High. I changed schools, and the bullying stopped. Words cannot tell you what a relief it was to finally have the opportunity to transfer to a new school! To a safer environment! One which would be much less stressful!
I loved my new school and felt like a bird out of a cage! The feeling was of being released from a nearly six-year-long prison sentence. I had done my time in hell and now I could put it behind me.
While riding along the highway toward the new school I would enroll in, I sat in the passenger seat with my then-husband (I got married while still in high school) behind the wheel and cried tears of joy.
It was hard to believe that it was over! The persecution! The pain that was so great I couldn’t even cry! It was all finally over! and I could start a new and better chapter in my life. Sure enough, I went on to make friends out of my new classmates, but, more importantly, my grades skyrocketed! The transformation of my grades seemed to happen suddenly and like magic!
After five years, I made honor roll again, then finally, graduation!
I now lead a successful life and use what I went through to help bullied kids today. Anytime I hear of an innocent child bullied into suicide, it truly breaks my heart.
What’s even more heartbreaking is the attitudes and remarks I hear from others around me when a tragedy like this happens! I often hear statements such as:
“But that boy was so quiet!”
“Really??? Still waters run deep!”
“But that girl always kept to herself!”
“No joke! Just as an AIDS patient keeps his diagnosis to himself!”
“Shame on him! He was such a coward!”
“Right! Anyone running through the woods from a wild boar would look like a coward to someone sitting safely in a tree! You spend a few years being bullied by everyone you know and see how mighty and brave you are! You’ll find out how quickly your life can go to crap!”
If you haven’t experienced it, you’ll never know what it is to be a target of bullying. I was fortunate in that I survived and moved on to happiness and success. But many victims don’t, which is why writing about bullying and advocating for victims is my passion.
Although being bullied is never a good thing, I did get a few positive takeaways:
1.) Having been bullied has made me appreciate the great friends I have today. It also gave me empathy and compassion for others and a desire to help those who endure the same!
2.) Having been bullied made a strong woman out of me. It made me more determined never to quit until I reach a goal! Knowing that bullies often bully out of jealousy and fear is the motivation for me.’
3.) Being bullied gave me the determination to love myself, put myself first, and the willingness to say “no” anytime I am asked or told to do something which does not feel right!
4.) Having been bullied gave me the determination to follow my dreams, to do things I most enjoy, and to reach success!
5.) Having been bullied has given me hope. Because I know that if I can go through bullying and survive, then I can rise above anything!
6.) It gave me a soft spot and a great willingness to fight for the underdog.
7.) And lastly, it sharpened my BS detector, giving me the ability to read people, spot a bully instantly and avoid being targeted!
Being a target of bullying almost broke me, yes! But in the end, it made me! And if you’re a target of bullying and you don’t give up, you too can survive and emerge a winner!!!