Bullying seems to be so common these days. It always was, but I think with social media we are becoming far more aware of just how much. It also means it happens a lot more. I’m not sure if it’s actually getting worse or we just hear more about it.
Either way, it happens far too often. And it shouldn’t.
Of all the difficult things I have written about, this is probably one of the hardest.
So many people have a story of a time that they, or someone they know were bullied.
This is mine.
For me, it started when I was six years old, and didn’t really stop until I was 16. Ten years. Ten years I suffered and no one knew.
I never spoke to anyone about it.
I’d try ignoring it and pretend that it didn’t happen. I guess because I wasn’t being physically abused I thought that it made it somehow better or it wasn’t as big a deal.
It was hard enough getting through the day without having to relive it. And then there was the thoughts of would they believe me? Would anything be done about it? Would it make things worse?
I couldn’t talk about it.
I’m not sure why I was picked on. I loved to learn and was good at reading. And having eczema, my skin looked different from everyone elses. No one wanted to hold my hand when we had to line up at school, and I learnt the words, “it’s not contagious, you can’t catch it” from a young age. Not that it made any difference. And after it started, I became an easy target.
I crawled into my shell. And I stayed there.
I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t get close to anyone.
I always kept myself at a distance.
Over the years, I hated going to school because I never knew what I was going to have to put up with that day.
And not just from other kids, some teachers too.
When I was seven, I had a skipping rope on my desk. Instead of asking me to move it, I was yelled at and had my name written on the black board. I can still remember walking to put it away, feeling the eyes of all the kids staring at me. The humiliation is something I still feel when I think about it. I was always the well behaved child who did what they were told. Other things had happened, but this still stings. Years later my mum told me that teacher was going through a divorce and I always wondered if that was why.
So I learnt early on that I couldn’t even trust my teachers.
I didn’t really trust anyone. Any thoughts I had, I kept to myself.
You should be able to feel safe at school. I didn’t.
And I became good at being alone.
I often didn’t do as well as I could have in tests at school because I didn’t want to be picked on for it and be called ‘Square’ or something worse, which happened reasonably often.
I loved to learn. But I hated school. So many people assumed I loved school because I was good at it. Someone asked me once if I liked school and I said, “no”. My grandmother turned to me and said, “but you love school.” I said, “no, I don’t.”
It sounds terrible, but I liked when they found someone else to pick on because it meant they gave me a break for awhile, and I could blend into the background and pretend I didn’t exist. Sometimes that was the only way to make it through the day.
Bullying at Work
After getting through High School, just when I thought it was all behind me, the torment continued at work. On and off over the years. I was there for ten years, but I should have left much sooner.
It slowly ate away at me, and I didn’t have the confidence to leave.
Bullying is everywhere.
And doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon.
I was always known as the quiet girl and it always took me awhile to come out of my shell. Even now, my comfort zone is hard to get out of. I have had anxiety over the years when I’ve been forced out of it.
I’m lucky now, that my anxiety isn’t as much of an issue anymore. It’ a rare occurrence when it rears it’s ugly head. It’s still there, but I’ve become a lot better at managing it.
My son is almost six years old now. The age I was when it started. I dread him going through what I did.
Because, let’s face it. People can be mean.
The wrinkled heart
He came home from school once and was talking about a wrinkled heart.
Then he told me his teacher had cut a heart out of paper and asked the kids to say mean things to her. And for each mean thing said, she would fold the paper. After multiple folds, she asked them to apologise, and with each apology she unfolded the heart.
Then she asked if the heart was the same as it was before. Of course, they said “no”. It was now covered in creases. And broken.
Because saying sorry doesn’t undo the damage that has been done.
It’s there forever.
I’m not a fan of the saying, “Time heals all wounds”. Many years later it may still feel as fresh as it always had. Time may heal some wounds, but for many a scar will always remain.
Just like the wrinkled paper heart, it can’t be undone.
Think before you act.
Think before you speak.
Your words and actions can live longer than you think and the repercussions can last a life time.
I don’t want my kids growing up in a world where they are afraid to live or scared of what other people think.
Bullying has to stop.
Have you or someone close to you been bullied? Do you think enough is being done to crack down on bullying?