I’m publishing this piece to support the efforts of Carrie Goldman, author of the book Bullied and creator of Team Bullied, an online community where people can share their experiences and get support. Click here to participate.
Dear Daughter, I was Bullied
I’d like to tell you about an experience that changed my life forever. I share this story with you because it sheds light on how I became who I am and also hopefully shapes some of your future decisions about how you interact with others.
When I was 14, I was bullied.
How it happened is not such an unusual story. The year before, four elementary school classes had converged, forming one junior high school class. For some reason, whether it was my witty personality or my 36C bra size, I got a lot of attention. For the most part, I handled it well. I cherished it, actually. With an awful lot of tumult happening at home, school was my refuge.
Now I wasn’t perfect. During this time, I gossiped. Nothing overly catty or malicious, but I held my own in the hours-long chat sessions my gal pals and I had every night. At some point during the year, a couple of girls who didn’t like me got wind of these conversations and, before I knew it, there was a line 15 deep in the cafeteria of girls waiting to tell me off. And they each did. Loudly and publicly. I was scared, and humiliated.
After that, I was a pariah. No one would talk to me at school. Classmates who had been friends of mine for years were afraid to go near me. In the evenings, my phone didn’t ring. Those long weeks were among the hardest of my life. I felt afraid to go to school every day. I had never felt so helpless, and so alone.
Finally, after months of isolation, people slowly realized it was safe to interact with me. My phone started to ring again. But from that point on, nothing was ever the same. I knew that I had a black mark on my record and that at any point I could be frozen out again. I also felt I deserved it. I had gossiped, hadn’t I? So I got what was coming to me.
It took me years, and I mean years, to realize that I didn’t deserve to be publicly shamed. I didn’t deserve to be ostracized by my classmates for months. Coming to terms with the fact that I was bullied has not brought relief or eased the pain, however. I will always remember the pain and loneliness. To this day I worry about others suddenly deciding they don’t want to be friends with me. I downplay my achievements so no one will ever accuse me of bragging. The past is still very present.
So, dear daughter, what do I hope you will learn from my experience? First is that you have resources. If this happens to you, go to a trusted teacher or guidance counselor. Come to me, and I will do whatever I can to help. Just always know this: you are loved, you are not alone, and you will get through this.
Second, I hope you make good choices about the people who become your friends. I hope you never bully anyone else. And when you see a classmate being ostracized, I hope you make good decisions about how to handle the situation. Just remember: our experiences as teenagers don’t melt away when we become adults. For better or worse, they’re bound to us forever.
To learn more about Team Bullied check out this video.
The pic come from Smart Schools.