Before you speak, think and be smart. It’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month with the 21st being Unity Day. I thought what a perfect time to re-start my blogging because I’ve been wanting to hop back on the wagon AND I’ve wanted to do a bullying post for quite some time. I was bullied in school and I felt very alone when it happened to me. Even though it was 15-16 years ago, it still affects how I interact with people. It’s something I have to work on all the time.
What should have been a fun, care-free, exciting time turned into a lonely, fearful, depressing time. Being a military brat and transplant a few years earlier during middle school didn’t quite help the bullying I experienced. I already felt like I didn’t belong in this small southern Maryland town so the harassment was only adding insult to injury. I was a fairly quiet kid who was shy in large groups… like school (which I later learned was just a part of my introverted personality type.) I had a boyfriend for the first 2 years of high school and we broke up somewhere in our junior year. It was very hard to cope with because he was my puppy love… you know how young love goes. He started dating an acquaintance of mine and that is when the torture began. All of the sudden, everyone was giving me updates on the new couple and soon I started hearing rumors about myself… I’d walk down the hallway and hear someone yell, “Bitch!” or “Slut!”
Now, I get it… kids can be mean. Maybe I should’ve had a thicker skin… (or, I dunno, maybe kids just shouldn’t be so mean?) If I remember correctly, I never showed anyone at school that it bothered me. I never yelled back, I never ran off crying. I might have rolled my eyes but that was about it.
Slowly, things started to intensify. It not only got worse in school but spread to my place of work as well. It started with one girl and then it became a team effort with her sister involved. Food was smeared on my car, my email account hacked into, was accused of keying one of their cars (which I would never do – I was raised better than that), harassing voicemails left on my parents answering machine, fake emails sent acting like boys trying to flirt with me, one of the girls got in my face trying to fight me, continued name calling, constant slander and defamation of character… it just became a living hell. The crazy thing was… I hadn’t done anything to this girl (or her sister). All I did was date her current boyfriend prior to her and, ya know, breathe the same air. I couldn’t figure out why I was such a target or threat to them that they felt so compelled to make my life such a nightmare. I felt trapped, scared, and alone.
I stopped playing sports. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things I wanted to do like yearbook, after school activities, clubs/groups… I was barely even involved in homecoming and prom. Looking back, I’m not sure why I ever let someone inhibit me from enjoying things but I just knew it would be awful. I was broken down and didn’t want to deal with it anymore so I just pushed anything to do with school away from me. I even had early work release and was so glad I was able to escape school and be around adults. I just couldn’t wait to graduate.
The worst part about the entire thing was that no one stood with me. I was abandoned. Anytime there was a confrontation, everyone just stood and watched. People rallied around my bully – she surprisingly had friends. Those who were my friends didn’t want to be involved… very passive with their support mostly because they knew it was really bad and didn’t want to become a victim themselves. I do understand that because I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone. However, I really wish someone would have helped me be strong. Stood by me and helped me brave the storm. My parents tried… they knew getting involved could make it worse. And it did. They had a “conference” with the girls’ parents and all it did was give my “harassers” more ammo. I looked like a “baby”…or so I heard in the halls.
Everyone claimed those girls were “crazy.” I actually was worried about my safety at one point. My mom even asked one of my friends if she needed to be concerned that one of the girls would physically hurt me and her response was, “I would say no… but when it comes to Jessica, she is psychotic.” Another friend informed me that one of the girls was looking through his little booklet of senior portraits of friends (remember those things?) and she stopped and stared at my picture for a very long time with a smirk on her face… creepy, right? It really did get quite scary. We almost took out restraining/peace orders on the both of them but for some reason we didn’t pursue it and I really regret that.
I can only imagine how much worse this would have been with social media. The passive aggressiveness on the internet is just… absurd. Fortunately, it didn’t exist yet when I was in high school BUT Myspace did get popular a few years after graduation and petty things continued to happen. Pathetic, right?
There are so many little details to all of it that would take forever to write out. Long story short, bullying is absolutely vile. All I wanted was to be left alone but it never ceased. It was constant… day after day. There is a part of me that hates telling this story because I don’t want pity… I don’t want sympathy… I don’t want to be labeled a victim. But when you have someone (in my case, a team of someones) constantly ripping you apart it is really hard to keep your chin up. It’s hard to not question yourself and who you are. It’s hard to feel confident and have a scrap of self-esteem left. It’s also hard to trust other people… that they wont hurt you, turn on you, gossip about you, etc. When you experience the evil that can exist in a person, you can become leery of others and tend to be guarded from the experience. It can really change your perspective of the world. I am a sensitive person… I have been since I was a little girl. Maybe this experience has made me even more-so but where I used to think being sensitive was a weakness, I now believe it is a strength.
What’s even crazier than this whole story is that I’m not angry about it. Passionate, yes, but not angry. I don’t hate those girls – I just feel sorry for them… to lack empathy so much that they have to come after someone who never did anything to them. Hopefully, they grew up and changed their ways. I never got an apology but I have learned to forgive them anyway… for my own peace of mind. *Side note: I am fully aware that this post may wind up in the hands of the person(s) who bullied me… It is the internet after all. All I have to say about that is… Good.*
Now that I am a mother and my son has just started public school, the Bully Prevention movement warms my heart. I am adamant about teaching my son compassion and empathy. That tearing someone down to make yourself feel better is not admirable… it’s not the way to treat people. It’s an improper way of handling insecurity and jealousy among other negative feelings. I also want to teach my son how to recognize the behavior so that if it doesn’t happen to him directly, he will be brave enough to stand with the person who can’t defend themselves. It’s just a kind and noble thing to do. No one should feel alone in a situation like that.
So… wear orange on October 21st, Unity Day, and talk with your children about bullying. Teach them empathy, be an example of it, and teach them not to just stand by if they happen to be a witness.