I remember who did it. I remember what they did. I remember where they did it. I remember when they did it. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember it because it’s impacted my life. It’s impacted what I’ve become. It’s impacted and influenced how I feel about myself. It’s impacted why it’s not easy for me to trust. It’s impacted so much.
What is it that I’m talking about? I’m talking time I wore a nicer shirt and a sweater when I was in 4th grade and someone pointed at me and laughed. I’m talking about the time in 6th grade that I was scratching an itch on my nose and the girl in the seat next to me said I was picking my nose and from that day on she ALWAYS referred to me as “snot.” I remember when I went to school with braces and headgear and was mocked. I remember going back to my house almost in tears about it and being told there was no choice, I had to wear it and how scared that made me. I remember in my Jr. year of high school someone taped a sign on my back that said “rat boy” in reference to the overbite I had at the time. I remember the looks on the faces of everyone that pointed and laughed at me. I do remember ALL of it. I remember how scared and helpless I felt early in my freshman year of high school while walking back to my house and I was in the parking lot of FoodTown when a few kids took all of my money ($1.50) while one of them had his arm wrapped around my throat. I remember each and every person that played a part in that and how happy they seemed at the time.
There’s more events that I remember. And honestly, most of what I’ve just mentioned has NEVER been talked about. Not in writing and not verbally to anyone at all. I was bullied and picked on so much and so often in school that I felt that I deserved it. It was what was supposed to happen to me. Why else would it happen so often if it wasn’t something that was supposed to be? I remember being shoved into a door as I was tying to exit my eight grade social studies class. I apologized to the kid that shoved me, because I felt I was obviously in his way. That’s how bad it was. That’s how awful my I felt about myself.
Yes, I know that I’m talking about events that happened well over 20 years ago. Why am I talking about them now? Because they helped create me. These incidents, and how they made me feel then have played a drastic part in how I’ve felt every single day since then.
I stated that I didn’t talk about these things then. Why not? Because it would get worse if I did. A group of classmates harassed me in sixth grade. I told my mother. She told a teacher. He told the students. They got worse. I didn’t want it to be any worse than that.
Unfortunately, I usually couldn’t talk to my parents about it. My mom’s response was always to report it. I knew things would get worse for me if that happened, so I stopped telling her. My dad just doesn’t know how to handle situations like this and isn’t someone I could turn to. Also, my parents had their own ways of making me feel small. Honest, thoughtful, positive communication wasn’t something I was surrounded by. I know it’s a term used by some to mock others, and that annoys me to no end, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t have a “safe space.” And in many ways, I still don’t. One day, I may explain this a little bit more, but now isn’t the time.
Think about what that does to someone. Think about what it does to someone in his (or her) formative years. Think about being afraid to go to school and not then not getting the help you need at home. Think about being afraid to report being hurt, physically or emotionally, because talking about it could make it worse. Think about how horrifying of an experience every day life was.
I spent much of my after school time in my room. My room was my sanctuary. I read comic books. I watched a lot of TV. I listened to the radio a lot. I did this all in my room, which was the same room that I was sent to as a punishment when I was younger. My sanctuary was also my prison. This was also a conflict for me.
Writing all of this is making me very anxious. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I haven’t ever spoken about some of these things. But, recently I’ve read a few stories about bullying. I read stories from people that were talking about incidents from their own school days, by students and by teachers. I’ve read stories of adults possibly being bullied and how that may have triggered a full depression incident in someone. Those things that I read opened up some old memories and feelings in me. Some of the things I brought up here and things I hadn’t thought of in a very long time. But, here I am. I’m now in my 40s and I’m still feeling anxiety over things that happened when I was 14.
I’m sure that more will come to me after I publish this. I’m sure more memories will bubble up to the surface. This is not a matter of letting it go, or getting over it. I also don’t feel it’s as simple as forgive and forget. It’s not even as simple as just moving on. It’s trying to move forward, but with an anchor tied to my feet. Letting go of this baggage is not easy. I do my best to unpack it, little by little, but it’s a mighty arduous process. And honestly, I don’t know when more memories might get triggered. This one was simply started by me reading a few posts on Facebook.
I assure you that I wish none of this happened to me. I wish it didn’t happen to others. But, it did. And it still does. It shouldn’t. We, as a society, and as a culture need to do what we can to stop bullying, harassing, insulting, and abusing others. We need to be more understanding and caring to those that it happens to. I’m here to talk about it. I’m scarred, but I survived. Others like me didn’t survive. It was just too much for them.
We need to better. We need to be better for today’s youth. We need to be better for today’s children. We need to be better for each other. We just need to be better.