My reckoning with being bullied
Today is anti-bullying day. I'm glad there is a name for it, not to mention a special day to acknowledge it.
When I was growing up in the 80's there wasn't a name for this type of treatment by other kids. It was usually the norm to ask the victim, "What did you do to invoke it?"
At least, that's been my experience.
When I started grade nine at Sheldon Williams Collegiate, I was a healthy, happy, well adjusted student. I had loved elementary school and couldn't wait to get involved in all the activities the school offered.
I really put myself out there too. I got involved in the drama club, fashion show, student rep council, track and field, vollyball, basketball, school newspaper (just to name a few).
I had a good friend (or so I thought) whose older sister would drive us to school every so often. Let's call her Anne. It made it a lot easier to have someone there I knew at the school; as I had chosen a school that not a lot of my elementary school friends had.
However, one day, as we were heading to Anne's sister's car, she turned to me and said "Do you have to ride with us every time my sister offers? You know she is only being nice, and doesn't really want you to actually come with us"
I thought she was joking and laughed a bit, but she didn't laugh. I looked at her and said, "Wait, you don't want me to come with you guys?"
She raised her eyebrow and smirked. "God, take a hint".
Her sister walked up at that moment and said "Let's go", and put her arm around me, and we all climbed in to the car.
When I got out, I thanked Anne's sister for the ride. But it was Anne who replied, "Don't mention it".
It was the beginning of something horrible.
Anne began to say rude remarks to me as she walked by me in the halls.
"Nice outfit" (laughing).
"You really think people like you?"
"You are so ugly you make me sick"
Things of that nature.
At first, I thought I could ignore her. It confused me why she would suddenly start lashing out at me like that. What had I done?
I told my mom. She told me to ignore her too. I tried. I really tried.
But then she made friends faster than I did. I was a bit shy, and Anne was extremely outgoing.
She started rumours about me. She told lies, and encouraged other girls, who I didn't know to join in on taunting me.
Soon there were other girls in the halls who would say things to me, while Anne would look on. She would laugh as I tried desperately to pretend like I didn't hear them.
I continued on with all my activities at the school, but little by little, their voices got in my head.
"You're a loser"
"You're a dog"
"You're a slut"
"You're a bitch"
I made a friend amidst all of the bullying. Her name was Marianna. Marianna became my closest friend.
She would ask me why I put up with it. Why didn't I fight back?
I had asked myself that a thousand times. Why didn't I? I thought if I didn't say anything back, that they would see the error of their ways. They would see that I was a nice person, a caring person. I was someone who desperately wanted to be friends with everyone.
But it wasn't meant to be.
I would wake up in sweats at night, dreaming of the bullying. I would feel sick at the thought of walking down the hallway and having them yell at me, taunt me, make fun of me.
I kept asking "Why me?"
At the end of grade nine, I had been given an award at the end of the school year for being involved in the most activities in the school.
By the start of my grade ten year, I had given up on almost all of them. I tried hard to stay involved, but was so afriad one of the girls who was a part of Anne's group would be involved too.
They would seek me out. I would sit at the back of the classroom to get away from Anne and her friends. But Anne would enter the classroom looking for me, and motion to her friends to sit near me.
"Let's all go sit beside our very favourite friend, Kelley", she would say and laugh.
Then she would stare me down until I would look away. I wanted to disappear.
I never wanted to kill myself because of the bullying, but I was having a nervous breakdown.
By the end of grade ten, my friend Marianna convinced me to transfer schools with her to Campbell Collegiate.
I was relunctant. Wouldn't that mean I was running away from these girls?
"So what?" Marianna asked me one day. "Who the hell cares? We deserve to have a better high school life than this."
And after some soul searching, I finally agreed.
However, one month before the end of grade ten, I was walking down the hallway when I saw Anne head to her locker. I decided two years had been long enough to endure her bullying. I walked up to her, grabbed her by her shoulders and shoved her against her locker.
"This thing you have been doing to me for the past two years is crap. I don't want you to ever do this again to me or anyone for that matter."
I pushed her again against the locker.
"In case you haven't noticed, I am a foot taller than you. I could have beat you to a pulp a long time ago, but didn't. If you EVER say another word about me or to me, I will do it. Don't think I won't anymore. I will find you alone without all your friends, and I will beat you to a pulp. Are we clear?"
She swallowed hard. Tears were brimming in her eyes. She was scared.
And she had every right to be. I was actually at the end of my rope.
A group of girls had formed around us by that point, and I released my grip.
She finally understood. But the rest of the onlookers thought I was the bully and began yelling at me to stop picking on her.
It didn't matter. My message had been received and I had finally stood up for myself. Do I condone violence? Absolutely not. Does anything ever get resolved from violence? Nope. But the threat of it, certainly did.
I found her later in the bathroom sobbing. She apologized profusely to me.
And for the rest of the month, no one said one word to me. It was silence (which to me was at least better than the taunts and whispers).
My last two years of high school at Campbell were ok. I wasn't bullied, and I didn't have any issues, but the damage of the prior two years had been done.
I wasn't involved in any extra curricular activities, and my mistrust of girls kept me from making a lot of new friends (albeit a couple).
It took years of therapy to work through my issues with girls (and into my 20's with women).
I founded a company later on in life called "Enterprising Moms Network" which spanned across Canada, helping empowering women who wanted to go in to business for themselves, and at its height, had over 1,000 members strong. I had chosen to use my past to empower and help women. I was no longer a victim.
I had to forgive Anne and all of her friends for doing what they did to me a long time ago.
It was the only way I could move on. The scars are still there though. Every once in awhile there is an issue with a woman (or women) and it takes me back to that very time. I can't forget it entirely.
But it's defined the type of person I am today. I am strong, I am vocal, and I am never afraid to put my opinion out there. And I am never afraid of anything that is a challenge in life.
Now, I have my own daughter to raise. I want to teach her tolerance, understanding, but most of all, to be strong. To speak out in defense of others she may see being bullied, or if she, herself, is exposed to it.
Bullying is real. It is damaging, and for some who endure it, it can claim their life.
Today is an important day. I stand today amongst many others who have endured bullying and survived to share their story with others, in hopes that it will help someone out there, someone who might be struggling, someone who might need to know that there is something that can be done. And there are resources now to help - waiting to make things better for you.
If you are a bully, stop the torture now. Don't put someone down, so that you may feel better about yourself. There is nothing funny about bullying. It hurts and is something that you cannot take back - ever.
Do you have a similar story? What's been your experience with bullying? Email me at: Kelley2000@hotmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!