Friday, October 14, 2011

The Impact of Bullying

I'm glad that bullying has been very present in the news lately. I'm not glad that it is, because I feel so badly for children who are bullied. But I'm glad it's being reported and that it seems to be getting more serious attention. Sadly it wasn't the case when I was a child.

I was bullied from the time I was 8 years old until I went to college. By then the damage was done and I was a mix of restraint and complete openness which didn't really serve me well. While I did have some very supportive friends, a few who I am still friends with today, I also chose toxic people who did my self-esteem more harm than good. I'm not sure why. But, then I had such a low self image that it makes sense. And I hardly dated until I was 35. Somehow, around that time, I got some more self-confidence back--or I just didn't care and was willing to take more chances than before.

I remember being teased in the Second Grade by another child. That child, whoever she was, just said something mean to me. And I started crying in the classroom. My teacher at the time was a nasty older woman (at least to my 8-year-old memory, I have no idea how old she really was) and she sent me to the principal's office for crying. And I think by doing so, I was conditioned to just "take it" from then on. I felt that I had no support. And I was only 8 years old!

Most of the children in my neighborhood were not nice to me. I remember being chased up a huge snow mound, during that Winter in the late 70s, and the kids--who lived next door or across the street--were throwing snowballs with rocks in them at me. My dad rescued me and spoke to their parents. And while it stopped any physical abuse, the emotional torture got worse.

For some reason I was called Cheese. It started because another little girl, who eventually moved away, ate American cheese on the school bus. She was Cheese 1 and I was Cheese 2 because I was friends with her.  After she moved, I was the sole target and the lone Cheese.  Maybe I got that name from the song with this line: "The cheese stands alone." I sure did.

I'm not even sure what else to say. I remember a neighbor girl asking me to play and I was so thrilled to be included. We played doctor (not in a sexual sense) and she jabbed me with real needles! Real needles! I was maybe 10 at the oldest.  Around that time I did have a few good friends, one girl named Jennifer was particularly sweet. And, oddly, in middle school I had a large circle of friends and I wasn't really tortured those 2 years. (At the time, middle school was just 7th and 8th grades so the older kids weren't around.)

By high school it got somewhat better as I went to a regional high school and the kids from the other town didn't have preconceived notions about me. But the kids who put me down were still there and their mental torment was overpowering. Just nasty comments about my looks and my hair or my glasses. A friend asked me to his Junior Prom (when I was a Sophmore) and his friends said, within my hearing, you asked HER?? She's an ugly dog!  He ended up getting the Chicken Pox that Spring and we didn't go. And I tried to kill myself by taking an entire bottle of aspirin with some vodka that I found in my dad's liquor cabinet. I was only 16.  So young. Too young to give up.

Thankfully it didn't work. And my best friend, who is my best friend to this day, was a big part of why. She kept giving me reasons to live. One simple one was a new Duran Duran album. Sad but true but my teenage crush kept me going. And by college I was seeing therapists for depression. I managed throughout my 20s to hang on, but the year I turned 30 I hit rock bottom. I was single. A virgin. No prospects. I felt I was ugly and unappealing. And I was having thoughts of harming myself again. So I got help. Antidepressants and therapy is what saved me. And my dog Casey, who I rescued that Summer.

Honestly, to this day, I still often doubt that anyone truly wants to be my friend or desires my company. Even though I KNOW in my head that I am well regarded by many and shouldn't care about those who do not like me. But there are days when it's really hard to remember that. And now that I have a son who has a speech delay, I worry about his future. Will this affect him? Will he be liked? Will he be able to get along with others? I want my son to have a better childhood than I did.

Not that my entire childhood sucked. It didn't. There WERE good times. But the memories of being called names, being hit and pinched, being told I was ugly and didn't deserve to live (yes, that happened once) sometimes overshadow the good memories. But at least I know about this and can be there for Little Man in any way he needs.


  1. This post made me cry, Robyn. I want to give you a hug because of your childhood and I want to treat you to a cocktail to commiserate about our hopes and dreams and fears for our sons. I want so desperately for The Boy to grow up feeling loved and secure and NORMAL, 3 things I never felt as a child.

    Hugs to you, my friend.

  2. I wish we weren't on opposite coasts, Heather. Like you, I want Little Man to grow up feeling loved, secure and normal. I think that's a big reason why I'm stressing so much about the speech delay.

  3. It sounds like he's improving all the time so, though I would never begrudge anyone their right to stress(being a world-class stresser myself), I reckon it's just a matter of time before he's a caught up. And I'm sure he'll be caught up long before starting kindergarten.