I was an awkward pre-teen, teen, and maybe sometimes even an awkward adult. I’ve struggled with self-esteem most of my life. It’s better now, but the monster still whispers ugly nothings from time to time. I grew up in a sheltered place away from what young people today face with the Internet and 24 hour media. It is hard to imagine the stress and pressure that instant photos and cell phone videos provide to bring attention to blunders or missteps. I’m so grateful that I am not a teen today. Unfortunately still, I do understand the pain caused from being the brunt of bullying. It is hard being the target of Mean Girls. Actually, it changed my life. I have never, ever talked or written about this so forgive me for a long post, but I feel a cathartic moment coming at the end.
|The Hair + Shoulder Pads….|
In the seventh grade I was at a new school. Our county integrated the smaller elementary schools with a larger middle school. I was eleven and then turned twelve. It was scary being in the bigger school with bigger kids. Each morning before school, my stomach churned and ached. Fridays were a real celebration because I knew that I would have a two day respite from my fear. I had some friends from my elementary group and met some new girls. I knew that I didn’t fit completely in. I begged my mom for makeup and help with my hair. She helped me put together “cool” outfits to wear to school. With four children in my family, we didn’t have a ton of extra money to spend on things like clothes for Julie, but my super-mom was crafty. Eventually I settled in, sort of, at the school.
The bullying started with comments here and there or notes passed that I wasn’t meant to see in the group of girls that were my “friends.” Friend is a funny word in middle school.
I was invited to a sleep over one Friday night. I remember it like yesterday. I was so excited, overly excited, because I was finally invited to something by girls that wanted to be “friends” with me. My mom helped me pack my overnight bag because I was stressed and wanted my stuff to be perfect. I should’ve never gone to that party.
Unbeknownst to me, the girls had been planning the “party” for weeks. There were only two at the sleepover, but about 5-6 girls had input into what took place. Upon arriving at the sleep over, the premise was to make me feel like the “main” girl at the sleepover. It was so stupid, but I would’ve done ANYTHING for these girls to befriend me. The two girls served me food, unpacked my clothes, and brought me things to wear.
They unpacked my clothes because they did inappropriate things with my undergarments and other things in my bag. They fed me food with additives to make me sleepy. It was bullshit. I noticed the girls acting funny, but convinced myself all was well because I was after all invited to this sleepover. Why would they invite me if they didn’t want me there?
The party began to turn. I wouldn’t eat anymore of the weird tasting food or drink, and I wanted my nightgown. My underclothes were in the freezer in a solid block of ice and the rest of my clothes were missing. My stomach began to hurt from the demented concoction of herbs or drugs or both that these stupid girls gave me.
I called my mom and went home. I wanted to be dead. I considered suicide at 12 years old but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
My mother demanded answers and the details began to emerge. Another mom of an unrelated girl called the next day because her daughter (not in the group) had overheard the “planning” conversations and she said there were lists of the things that the girls wanted to do. The lists were eventually produced and more embarrassment was on the way for me.
I never got an apology.
The humiliation was overwhelming. I developed a bleeding ulcer in my stomach. I begged my mother to let me live with my aunt in Georgia. I NEVER wanted to go to school again…I retreated into myself.
I began to separate myself from these girls. They continued in differing degrees through middle school. It slowed down in high school, but it never really stopped. In my self-esteem crisis, I would’ve done anything during any point in those years for those girls to be my friends. I became very numb. I didn’t trust anyone anymore.
My point in writing this is to reiterate what an impact bullying has – even years later. I felt a physical reaction typing this post. Some things you try and stuff down and hope to never remember, maybe. I don’t know the answer for bullying other than sympathy and kindness. I believe that parents play a major role. If you don’t raise your kids to be assholes and don’t tolerate unkind behavior, kids probably will be less likely to bully others. Maybe not. I don’t know. My hope is that someone going through a tough time may read this and know that it may or may not get better in the short term. Once you get older, everything changes. In the mean time, keep your head up, talk to your parents, and know that this blog is a safe place to comment and reach out.
Bullying is not okay. If you are a bully, you are impacting someone probably for the rest of their life. You are causing sometimes irreparable damage. Shame on you.