October is National Bullying Prevention Month and the theme this year is, “The End of Bullying Begins with Me.”
I hesitate to write this story, but if by some chance, someone finds this blog in a time of need and it helps, then it’s worth telling. To my best friends who know nothing about this story, forgive me for not sharing it wit you before I post if for all the world to see.
My Mom and I lived a happy life before we met him. We laughed and danced and sang. Then he found us. He was charming. He was wealthy. He had a house. It was like a dream. Within weeks of moving in with him it became abundantly clear to me, as an 11 year old, that we had made a mistake.
He was an alcoholic. He was controlling. He was cruel. We stopped laughing because it bothered him. We couldn’t talk too loudly because it bothered him. He drank. Every morning. Every evening. And when he drank enough to be charming again, we knew it would be a bad night.
There were no bruises or burns – which made it really hard as a 13 year old to explain to my friends why I hated him so much. I didn’t know what emotional abuse was at the time and I certainly didn’t know that it entitled me to help and support. I just knew that I was miserable and needed someone, other than my Mom who undoubtedly had it worse than I did, to sympathize.
Here is my mistake: One day I went into school and told a friend that I had a disease. I made it up. Completely. I remember getting hot as I told her, probably because I knew I was lying and doing something wrong. As I spoke with her, I started having an asthma attack and had to go to the school nurse. I had a treatment on the nebulizer and by the time I got back to lunch, I was surrounded by all these people who were so kind to me (and my made up disease). Lie or not, it felt nice to be hugged from someone other than my wonderful Mom who was doing the absolute best she could in a house of nightmares. It only took one phone call to my Mom from that friend’s Mom (who was ironically a nurse) to put the two and two together.
And that’s when it happened.
I was ousted. Best friends at school were no longer best friends. They weren’t even friends. They didn’t look at me, much less speak to me. I had no place to eat lunch. When yearbooks came out, I signed my own yearbook. It’s true. I still have it and my handwriting is all over it. “Have a great summer!”… “It was so nice knowing you!”. But middle school was ending and surely high school wouldn’t be so bad? Right?
Over the summer, that friend spread rumors far beyond my original lie. Suddenly, I was a whore and a bitch and the scum of my freshman class. There were so many stories and so many versions that I don’t even think the creators them straight. When I got off the bus in the morning I had no place to go because whenever I had to walk by those people, they’d call me names. Sometimes under their breath and sometimes screaming across a lunch room. Screaming. And laughing. Lots of laughing because they thought they were so damn clever.
“You’re a whore.”
“Fuck you, bitch.”
“Go to hell.”
Some of them knew better and they did nothing. Some of them looked at me sympathetically when this was going on, but none of them did anything to stop it. Not one person.
That’s when I met her. A real friend. I told her the truth and what I actually had done and she had the guts to stand by me. She got to school 20 minutes early so she could meet me when I got off the bus. She’d yell back when they would call me names and she met me after as many classes as she could. She was an angel.
Still, it was so bad that my Mom helped me changed schools. She cried and begged the principal to allow me to change and he had mercy on me, even though he told her it wouldn’t help. He was right. The second high school was too close to the first, so I was still a whore there as well. Guys that I hadn’t even met had apparently slept with me. I guess I was just the thing to do. It took three high schools for those people to stop torturing me and to finally find something else to talk about. When I got to the third high school, everything was different. I could breathe and live again.
Bullying happens every where, every day, every minute, and in every capacity imaginable. If you’re doing it, stop it. If you see it, stop it. If you’re going through it, tell someone and get help. Know that it will get better, even if there is no end in sight.
I’ve forgiven those girls (and boys) and hope that I was their only victim. I can never forget, but I have forgiven. I know I won’t ever see an apology, but I hope that they realize now, 16 years later that they were bullies. I hope that when they see bullying on the news, they realize they did the same thing to a girl 16 years ago. I hope they teach their children to be better than they were. I hope they know deep down inside what they did to me was wrong.
I also hope they get stuck in a jar and not one person opens the lied so they can get air.
If you’re being bullied and don’t have anyone to talk to, go here: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/ or here: http://www.stopbullyingnow.com/index.htm. Tell your Mom, Dad, Grandparent, Teacher, Counselor, Librarian, Minister, and Friend. Beg for help. Scream for help. Someone will listen and someone will do something about it. Know that no matter the reason, bullying can never be justified.