Friday, May 11, 2012

I was bullied...why did I make it through?

Bullying sucks.  Bullying causes suicide.  Bullying is just mean and unnecessary. 

I was bullied.  Junior high (7th-9th grade in my day) was awful.  I was poked at, laughed at, never picked for teams, ignored, taunted, and had gum thrown in my hair on a team bus to a basketball game.  I responded by ignoring the world, engaging in weird, anti-social behavior, and withdrawing into myself. 

I remember thinking about suicide.  Not really seriously but thinking about it.  I remember thinking that no-one was trustworthy and that no-one cared.  I developed friendships with the other misfits and was sort of a leader in that group, and oddly enough we never ever talked about how we were treated by others.  I never ever talked about things like this with my parents.  My mother was friends with one of the school secretaries back then and told me just a few years ago that her friend had voiced concerns that I was always alone and always seemed so sad.  But my mother never really knew what to say to me about it and, if she tried, I'm sure I rebuffed her. 

That was in the late 1970s. 

I went to a training on Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome yesterday.  In describing a day in the life of kids with RAD/FAS, the trainer (who is the most awesome speaker) was using examples folks could relate to - like those kids who were picked on and never picked for teams and isolated often because of things that no-one ever understood back in the day - like child abuse or alcoholism.  These RAD/FAS kids are in a similar bind nowadays, because the world is just starting to understand some of these neurological disorders that mess kids up early in their lives and now they have to live with it.  And while I could go on and on about the subject and my reactions to it, what struck me was the idea that I was that bullied kid too.

There are the bullied kids that can't take the pain another day and end their lives.  There are the kids that bully those weaker than themselves.  There are the bullied kids that carry that tormented kid in their souls every day for the rest of their lives. 

I don't know how I ended up as functional as I am.  I know that many years of living inside my own head has given me a great deal of insight into my own thought patterns, which is a good thing in some ways as I've been able to change my attitudes and recreate myself over and over.  But it's also a bad thing in that it allows me to compartmentalize things and not deal with them.  I carry few grudges and have forgiven myself for that weird, anti-social behavior back in the day.  I actually admire the fact that my 11 year old self, when faced with a determined tormenter on the first day of 7th grade, walked into the office and asked for a new locker and simply got away from her.  Who gave me that nerve?  I never ever cried or showed weakness, despite some real in-your-face taunting.  I would just ignore them and read my book until they went away.  And when the girl a few grades older than me chucked bubble gum in my long permed hair on the bus (on the way to a ballgame), I didn't say a word.  I separated all the hair I could and then got a scissors from the athletic trainers box and cut out the part with the gum in it.  The bus was silent when I did that, by the way.  Kind of proud of that moment too.  I think I have forgiven my tormentors. I left my junior high town and school during 9th grade and rarely visited again.  But over the last few years, I have reconnected with several of my old classmates on Facebook and email and I think - were I to be invited to our 30 year reunion next year - I might just go. 

But I can't shake the thought that it could have been so much different for me.

3 comments:

  1. You pulled strength from somewhere . . .thank goodness you had it in you. It's kind of amazing how things that happened so long ago, even seemingly small things, stay with us and cause such pain. You are a hero to me.

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  2. I agree...bullying and hate are the worst. So glad you pulled through it!

    and p.s. I had some visitors from your sidebar - thanks for adding me to your blogroll. :-)

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  3. Such a volatile subject. When my middle son was dumped head first into a trash can, early in his middle school career, I blamed that on the fact that I was the lead teacher and sole disciplinarian, of our middle school, and Ben's trash-canning was just to let him know what it would be like to be a teacher's kid.

    Benny survived, and became good friend with the very tormentor who had canned him. Middle school years: "Caught in the Middle." I like the attention the President Obama is bringing to the subject. It sounds so painful to hear him talk about being taunted for his big ears-the future President of the United States of America. And now he is talking about it. And so are you.

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