Bullying is a pervasive problem that knows no social, racial, or economic boundaries and takes many forms.
It is just as likely to occur on the job as on the playground.
Today, we invite you to share your story: let's kick bullying to the curb.
I'm not sure when the beginning of my depression was, but I would guess it began by the time I was in middle school. I was bullied and humiliated on a daily basis pretty much from that time through the end of my junior year in high school. My mom told me I came home from school every single day after school in 7th and 8th grade and cried. I don't remember doing that, or much about being in 7th or 8th grade for that matter.
The daily teasing I experienced during those years started with Dawn. She had been my best friend for the first 6 years of school, and all of a sudden she started teasing me and humiliating me one day when I told her I wanted to sit with someone else at lunch. From that day on, she did her best to talk badly about me to the other girls in the class, to publicly humiliate me, to point out my flaws, to do whatever she could to get a rise out of me and hurt me.
I became really withdrawn, and that's when I started writing poetry about how I felt. I may have seemed like your normal, average girl, but my heart was broken almost all the time. Thank God for early morning band practices before school. Music began to really provide comfort and escape for me, and I found "my people", the ones who appreciate and enjoy my personality and who stick together.
When I got to high school, there were more clear examples of others being made fun of and bullied than I had seen previously. I remember being outside during lunch freshman year, and having to observe "Freshman Olympics", when the upperclassmen would take turns picking on guys and making them do ridiculous stunts and take humiliating dares. Making examples out of them. That was so painful to watch, and I developed a lot of compassion as a result of being forced to watch my friends being humiliated.
I could not have endured what they did, and I knew it. I would have run away crying. I was instructed by my parents to ignore the teasing, and my friends would tell me the same thing. But I felt weak, I didn't stand up for myself, and I listened to the things they said to me and took them to heart. Because I heard it all the time, I lived under the assumption that I was ugly, worthless, and undeserving of being treated well. Along with the verbal and emotional abuse and shaming that my dad did, the bullies I dealt with formed the basis for why I have taken so much abuse as a teenager and then as a woman.
Kari and Jennifer would gang up on me in class teasing me, talking badly about my features, my friends, what my future was going to be like, why boys didn't like me, whatever they sensed would cause a reaction. Sometimes they would push me around or do stupid things like try to trip me or pull my hair. Todd was relentless about teasing me about stuffing my bra. He and Michelle, my worst and most abusive bully, both enjoyed the drawing a crowd aspect of teasing me. Michelle would slam me into the wall, or the lockers, and would clothesline me in PE class.
I struggled with self-loathing and thoughts of self-injury and suicide when things got particularly unbearable. Before I graduated from high school, I already assumed that because of who I was, and how different I must be, that I didn't deserve to be treated well. I was the girl with "easy target" written on her forehead. I was not remarkable in any way, in my intellect, my appearance, or my behavior. I was perfectly average in every way as far as I could tell... yet the worst bullies always knew how to just pick me out of a crowd. I never learned how to fight back or make people stop, and the few times I did try to stand up for myself, my opponent always had the verbal advantage. I went through school with a horrible self-concept, I never dated anyone at my school, and assumed I was ugly, undesirable, and not worth defending well into my twenties.
Kari apologized for her hateful behavior toward me at our 20 year high school reunion last summer. She told me some details about how difficult her life was at the time, how much pain she was in, and how much she regretted taking her anger out on other people. Todd apologized for bullying me during our 20 year high school reunion as well. He is a sports therapist, and treated my dad's knee injury a few years ago. He said that when my dad came to see him for therapy, he was terrified at what I must have reported to my parents about him in high school. He bought me a drink, and very sincerely apologized for his words and actions.
There is hope for resolution sometimes, even if it takes a lot of years to get an apology. But the lasting scars of bullying can have lifelong implications to someone's sense of self-worth. If they are reminded day after day that they are ugly, stupid, and not worth being treated well during those formative young years, it can - and often does - lead to dysfunction in their in relationships with friends, significant others, and with their spouse/partner. Bullying is usually not the sole factor, but because of its daily and inescapable reiteration of what makes a person different, it sets a pattern of thought and belief about yourself.
That has been my exact experience. I have been in a string of abusive relationships since I was 17 and have had lifelong issues with self-worth, self-respect, body image, healthy expression of strong emotion, trust, and emotional intimacy as a result of the lack of intervention by those in authority in the schools and the lack of human kindness my peers showed me on a daily basis.
Bullying is abuse. It should be taken seriously, whether it takes the form of psychological intimidation, verbal assault, or physical violence. It's not a rite of passage or a healthy part of learning to develop a thick skin and coping skills for "the real world." School *is* the real world to a child or young adult. The damage to the heart and self-concept is very real, and bullying shows a lack of basic respect for another human being. It should not be tolerated.