Monday, April 22, 2013
From the time I was about 9 years old I was slowly becoming depressed. I remember in 4th grade I was so terrified of my teacher and of going to school that I literally made myself ill. I ended up in the hospital with "tummy troubles" that nobody ever figured out, but that I now realize was simply the stress I was putting myself under.
I was called names almost as far back as I can remember. Okay maybe not as far back. I do remember how much I loved 1st grade. I had the most wonderfully amazing teacher. I loved my classmates. I somehow felt like they were my family, since I didn't have any brothers and sisters of my own. I would have done anything for them and I thought they all felt that way too.
Then in second grade things began changing. I remember one day being so upset because a boy in front of me would not stop pestering me while I was trying to read, I loved school, and so I told the teacher. She responded by very loudly telling me to stop flirting with him in front of the whole class, who of course laughed at me and then teased me for days. I was horrified. That really was where things began to change for me.
As the years went on things didn't get any better. I became "Ethiopian Child" and "Hobby Horse" (that one was name related). I was teased relentlessly. I know now it was because I reacted poorly to the teasing. It seems like when kids see they can hurt you, they will.
The more I tried to be seen for ME or to fit in, the more I was turned away or mistreated.
In 5th grade, a girl who was my best friend for YEARS turned around one day in class and scratched my hands so hard they bled. She said "Don't ever speak to me again" and called me some name I can't remember now. It hurt me more than I can ever say. I never told about the scratches because I cared about her but I knew things had changed yet again.
By the time we hit junior high school all I wanted to do was die. I had hit a very dark place. Life was painful. Summer's were amazing but they were so short and life at school was so difficult for me. I had a few great friends but I was still treated by so many like an alien. People I thought of like family wouldn't speak to me. I lived in my own little hell on earth during those years.
On the outside I was usually smiling or joking. I still tried to fit in but usually to no avail. Sometimes we'd get new people to school and for just a little while I'd have amazing new friends, until they needed to fit in and I didn't fit with that necessary persona.
I changed schools and it was AMAZING. I fit in. I was friends with everyone. I got invited to events and outings. I wasn't left out. But, I missed my 'family' no matter how dysfunctional it was and I went back.
By now we were all in high school and things were much different. Oddly enough I had friends in the grade beneath me and above me of ALL social standings, but in my own grade it was still only those others like me who were kind of sidelined.
How I survived those years is truly a miracle. The only thing that kept me from ending it all was my very devout spiritual beliefs and fear. Thankfully that fear was worse than the one of continuing on and somehow I got through.
I didn't get through in tact though. My self esteem was shot. I existed in the world but I wasn't a part of it. I wanted someone, anyone, to love me and see me for me. That desperate desire landed me in several very bad relationships and even a couple of dangerous ones.
Fast forward to my early 30s. By this time I was married to the most amazing man. He really saw me and his desire was for me to see myself. Finally one day I just did. I suddenly became ME and I've been growing ever since. It took years to bandage those scratches but finally they stopped bleeding. I stopped caring what the girl sitting in front of me thought. I stopped thinking about her or any of the rest of them entirely and began LIVING.
I did things I never thought I could. I began blogging out in the open. I became a co-host on a talk radio show. I BECAME! Then the ghosts returned.
I began getting facebook friends requests from people who had never paid me any mind in school, from people who had taunted and tortured me, from people who didn't even know the damage they had done. I froze in fear with the very first request.
At first I didn't accept but I didn't decline. I just sat there looking at it and wondering how it would affect who I was today. I was terrified I'd let all those old ghosts come back and put me in that hole again. I thought, "maybe I should decline and just leave the past in the past", but then I realized that if I was as strong as I believed I was and if I was the person I said I was that I wouldn't let these people change that. Their power over me was never really theirs, it was what I gave them and I'd never do that again.
So I accepted, not just one but many. Over time I gathered up almost all of those old schoolmates. I'm ever so glad I did. We have ALL changed so very much. They aren't those people anymore but neither am I.
Children are often cruel without realizing how much pain they are causing. Children need guidance and so many times adults don't say anything because they think it's "children being children" or "let them work it out themselves".
I stand against bullying in ALL it's forms because I KNOW the damage it can cause and not everyone survives it or recovers from it. Name-calling IS bullying. Singling someone out and harrassing them IS bullying. Seldom is bullying physical (though that happens) but usually it is much more subtle and that can be even more painful.
No child should have to live every day of the 12 years of school feeling like they live in hell. No child should have to hate LIFE to the degree of wishing they could just end it. My heart breaks for the child that was me because nobody was there to help her. My heart breaks for the children who live in hell right now, every day, because nobody even knows they are going through it or nobody cares.
Recently I heard that a child in my home state committed suicide because of bullying. I believe it. With the internet and cell phones it must be even more impossible these days to survive this type of emotional torture. I know I wouldn't have. Fear or no fear, there is NO WAY. I thank God that we didn't have these things then but we do now and that isn't going to change, so we HAVE to change US!
Adults, DON'T stand for bullying. YOU have to be the ones to say NO MORE! We have to teach our children that this is not acceptable. And if you think your child is being bullied in any way, just be there for them. Let them know you love them. Be their champion.
Recently I realized that even gossiping can become a bulling behavior when taken to extremes. The other day someone said something to me about someone we both know that was the most horrendous (and untrue) thing. I had to wonder if this person was still IN the 6th grade, but no this person is in their 50s. If adults cannot control their own behavior then we will never teach our children to do so.
Our parents let us get away with this behavior as children and so many of us never learned how hurtful and wrong it is, but if you wouldn't want your child to experience it, then don't do it yourself.
Posted by Tracy Seekins at 10:54 AM