Just to warn you, some of the things I am going to share with you today may make you uncomfortable, but the truth is often just that. Uncomfortable.
Perhaps the only image that needs to be shared in this discussion is this one, scanned in from my seventh grade yearbook. It was in 1993, and I’ll never forget the haste with which I permanently disfigured my own photo so that those in my future would never be able to see that hideous, fat loser from my past.
The image above is just one small symptom of a much larger problem, “bullying”.
The recent news events about the drastic and tragic bullying going on have caused me to pause and lend incommodious thought to my younger years. You see, I haven’t always been the extremely confident and sexy man who you know as Single Dad Laughing. There was a large span of my young life when I hated myself, I hated my life, I hated the world, and my daily wish was that it would all end. Somehow. Some way.
Forgive the length of this post, but a real discussion about bullying is not something that can take place over a few paragraphs. Please read to the end; I have put everything I have into this message because I can no longer sit back and do nothing about this ongoing problem which is leading our children to kill themselves and others. I just can’t anymore. Not knowing what I know about it.
I’m sure your heart has raced, again and again, as you watch and read of these horrible events going on around us. Children retaliating. Children hurting. Children dying. This bullying is an enduring endemic right now, for which there are solutions.
I only hope that my words today will be potent enough to spread to hundreds of thousands, or if God is on my side, millions. I pray for the right words to help me do my part in the quest to drastically reduce these heart-wrenching events. I have faith that those who read this will have the courage to share it, look at it, and change it.
No part of me wants to write this. The truth of it is something I’ve never openly discussed, with anybody. It is something I’ve never had the courage to confront. It’s somewhere to which I have never allowed my mind to wander. And yet, it’s something that has probably had more impact on me than just about anything else in my past.
I was bullied.
Repeatedly, and without end.
But in fifth grade, all of that changed. In fifth grade, somehow a permanent target got placed on my back…
Thank you for this. I feel like I spent most of my twenties dealing with the sh*t from my teens, when I was bullied almost every day, started self-harming age 12 and developed an eating disorder at 14 that nearly killed me age 19. Even at age 30, I still struggle with the feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing that you describe, but like you say, I am learning that I have value, and that no one has the right to make me feel otherwise.
My love to all who are suffering on either side of the equation. And love, compassion, empathy, really are the only answers. I've made it my aim to be the person that I wish had been there for me when I felt completely alone. I hope we can all put our energy into helping each other heal, instead of digging the scars in deeper.
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Thank you for openly sharing a personal experience. I am a teaching dealing with kids bullying/teasing one another as though it's casual talk and behavior. I will share your post with them because I believe it will be a doorway to a continued conversation we have had and will continue to have. Thank you again! Concerned Teacher
Thank you so much for writing this. Hiding this topic is not the answer. Labeling the bullies as "bad kids" is not the answer. Protecting the bullies (e.g. "Oh, my little Billy would never do such a thing.") is not the answer. Ignoring the bullies is certainly not the answer.The only way we'll begin to fix this topic is by talking about it from every angle.
I'm so sorry that you and so many others have had to go through this chronic abuse. People telling their stories is one of the first steps to stopping it.
One of the problems with telling a parent is the fear of being told to 'Stand Up for Yourself" or " Deal with it yourself" But bullying requires an adult to intervene. It's hard to describe an incident clearly and calmly especially if has happened some time ago. The child is already traumatised by having his or her power taken away from her. As a parent it's hard to know the real details. What we found helpful was for our child to record the incident no matter how 'small' and keep it in her 'Bully Bin'
It gave our child the confidence to report the major incidents to her teacher with clarity and confidence. It was so good we decided to share it with other parents.
Check it out
Part of the problem is also, parents who refuse to accept the fact that it's gone too far to be rectified. I had a target on my back from preschool straight on to high school. I don't know why, and I don't think I ever will. Any of the people who have actually gotten to know me were and still are shocked that bullying would ever be a problem for me. I was also bullied by an abusive step father who tortured me constantly and brutally, and yet somehow *that* didn't break me, it left huge scars and issues, but somehow I was still able to see myself with some semblance of humanity. Oddly, all it took was the he first few of years that I was in elementary for my peers to take an outgoing, curious, opinionated. confident, kind, and talented child, and turn her into a scared, quiet, ghost of herself. They took a happy child that went for and got the lead in every play or musical, who loved creating and sharing art, who was always willing to talk, or play, or sit with anyone, and turn her into a self hating, angry, wall flower who's biggest goal in life was to find a way to blend in and sneak through life with as few people as possible ever noticing her. We tried different schools, different cities and states, counselors, and even medications. Unfortunately, none of it helped because that child had already died, and she wasn't ever going to come back. I never tried out for another play or solo ever again. Instead of happily sharing my art with others, I would huddle in a corner sketchpad in hand and use it as a barrier to keep anyone out, instead of using it to bring people in. And when someone did show any kindness, I'd send them off with a shut-up and an f-you. Even if they might be sincere, they might not. And I was determined to reject them before they had the chance to reject me. Even though I tried everything to close everyone out and pretend that none of it could touch me, fear still ruled my world, and the bullies didn't relent. I found myself having constant panic attacks throughout my school days, and at the beginning of freshmen year, I began to search out places in the school where I could hide from all of the fear and pain, and I was crying in the counselor's office almost everyday. Obviously, my once straight A grades all fell until I was failing everything, and I wasn't earning any credits. When my mother and I went to the school with it, my principle's solutions was to have me leave each class 5 min early and wait in a "safe place" until the hallways were clear and make sure that none of the bullies were in my class. However, my safe place was a square room in the main hallway of the school with all four walls made of glass, needless to say, being bullied in a fishbowl didn't fix anything. Finally, after school that day, my mom looked at me and said that she would never make me go back to that ever again. She realized that it just wasn't going to work, it wasn't benefiting me in any way, and it was time for it to stop. She pulled me out of school, I went and took my GED and passed the first time with high scores in everything, and life went on. I think that if she had made me continue to fight that loosing battle, I wouldn't have made it through the year without ending my life. Sometimes all of the good intentions and strategies in the world, aren't going to fix the problem, and parents need to realize when that point has been reached and then DO something about it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.
Thank you so much for writing this, Dan. I was also bullied as a child...during elementary & junior high (or middle school now). Things were better by high school, but by then I was scarred. I even liked a boy in junior high and his response? He hated my guts for it and even got the entire school to call me a name! To this day it still haunts me, and still affects my self esteem. I'm trying to get better with that. Words do hurt. Names do hurt. I don't know if I can ever forgive him for that. I was also constantly called "ugly" by other kids...and it didn't help that I was the tallest in the class. Now to this day, if a man is interested in me, I find it VERY hard to believe. Anyway, thank you again for writing this...I know I'll get better! Take care!
Thank you for writing this. I was bullied mercilessly in junior high school by 2 boys who were just the biggest losers in the world. They made my life pure hell. After 2 years of that, I went to a different high school and things were much better. I was so depressed during that time and there was no one who ever tried to help. I can see how children today are driven to self harm as well as attacking others because of things like this. It took me a long time to recover. It wasn't until several years later that I met a friend who helped me to find ways to excel at everything I did that I began to recover my self confidence and self worth. Now, 40 years later, I still remember those days like it was yesterday and I wish I could go back and do things differently. I know they are still both losers today, while my life has been rich and full with many successes and much happiness along the way. That is the best revenge.
I shared a story but it was too long and wouldn't let me post. So I'll leave it at this: I was bullied. Words DO hurt. Words have lasting impact. Choose your words carefully and THINK before you speak. T is it true? H is it helpful? I is it inspiring? N is it necessary? K is it kind? If you follow this and put it into action every time you consider saying something to your child, your spouse, a kid at school, a neighbor, etc, you may save someone's life. You may prevent years of grief, suffering and pain in someone who just needs someone else to care.
YOU are the one who can make the difference. YOU can save a life.
Your words are so inspiring. Thank you so much for this incredible post. You have helped me so much. Lately I haven't been feeling the greatest. I've been feeling like I mean nothing to this world and it wouldn't matter if I was gone. Hearing all that you've said gives me the strength to continue on in life and life it to the fullest. I envy those whole can still smile even though they have been through a whole lot. I actually tried to kill myself before and I am so glad I didn't. I was bullied before so I know how it feels. It really sucks. They never physically hurt me but mentally was the worst. I am a Junior in high in my second semester of the year. People are still bullying me with their words. Your messages are amazing and I'm happy you decided to post this.
This is something that has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I have too walked into a class and felt what you have described here to walk into a class and be labeled because of your physical appearance. I am now sitting in my class and as I read this I started to feel remorse and wanted to cry, but as I read more and more you gave the message off to not cry anymore. I am at the moment a Junior in my second semester of high school and gladly the bullying has slowly come to an end. Of course here and there there are people who will throw a "fat" comment in disguise at me, but I have tried to start loving myself for who I am not for what others see of me. Like you have said above you know and tell us that life is not just high school that there is way more than what we think in the life after that and that life is beautiful. This is something that I feel should be taught in every classroom. Because if it were not for having the support I have from by siblings and parents I probably would not be here today typing this and sharing my story too. I too at a point felt like dying because it was the best way to get rid of what I was feeling, but I received support and here I am today. To this day I still lack self-esteem, but I have started to learn and accept myself for who I am not for what others see me as.
Thank you for this, I just wish I had found your blog sooner. Not because I have been bullied recently, but because even though I'm in my 30s, I still struggle with my self esteem that was damaged by bullies in school and in my relationships (because I didn't value myself and attracted men who were abusive).
I was bullied from the time I was 8 until I left school when I was 17. I started self harming when I was 13, and was finally able to stop when I was 19, it was a way of having control over my pain (as silly as that must seem), I thought I deserved it, and towards the end it was a cry for help as well as a coping mechanism.
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story.
This is absolutely amazing. I have been bullied, then turned around and bullied because of how I feet about myself. My best friend, who I grew up with, who I got bullied with, was someone who I ended up bullying myself... In years since, I was like you... I figured out how to love myself and how to only spread kindness, being bullied & bullying myself no longer exists. My senior year of highschool (2011), my best friend, who I mention above, shot herself because of bullying... Unfortunately, she moved schools, moved cities, and the bullying never stopped for her like it did for me... The amount of guilt I carry with me will never go away, and my love for her beautiful soul will last an eternity. I have been the victim; the bullied. I have been the awful person; the bully. And now, I am the person to stand up when something is not right. My friend passing away is the reason for that. I intend to share this, much much love to you for your kind and beautiful words!!!
Thank you for this wonderful post. It is still a problem. Schools pretend to have zero tolerance but do very little about it.
I was bullied from the time I was quite little. I remember a boy kicking me when I was 5 and when my mother asked him why he did it, he said, "Because she's ugly". We moved when I was six and by then I already lived in self loathing and was a great target for bullies. Kids made fun and called names, but in Jr. High a gem of a boy would take bullying the next level. Not only would he call me ugly at school but he would call me at home to make sure I hadn't forgotten how ugly I was. I tried everything; ignoring, talking back, punching him in the face, having my mom call him, etc...nothing worked. My Junior year he moved and I had one of those Universe moments when it was just him and me in the hallway. I looked him in the eye and said "I hear this is your last day", he replied "Yes". Triumphantly, I said "It's the happiest day of my life". and kept walking.
He wasn't the only one. There were three to four others who made it their personal mission to make my life hell; call me names, spit in my face, corner me, etc. I used to wish that I had a relative (I'm Italian) that could go and pop their knee caps or break their legs. I wanted them to suffer rather than die and surprisingly (thankfully) I hadn't really thought about killing myself.
My outlet wasn't a gun, it was writing. I wrote poetry to ease some of my darker moments. I was really lucky to have a strong personality and some decent friends to get me through. BUT it didn't take away from the fact that no one would help me. Teachers didn't seem to care and my parents and friends didn't know how.
All I know is that as a parent, I will not allow my kids to bully nor be bullied. I am teaching them to be self confident and helpful to others. I have one daughter afraid to help and to her I said, then go get someone to help. You don't have to do a lot, just a little and I love how you've said to show someone love. It is the answer!
Thank you for sharing your story. I remember too...Thank the Lord I don't live like that anymore. Life can be so much better than that!
That photo, man it touched my heart and made me cry a bit. Having sons of my own and empathizing with the feelings you shared from that age just got to me. I felt like I could see you sitting there as a little boy, trying to erase yourself. That's sad.
Personally, I wasn't a bully. I was bullied all but once because I quickly earned the reputation of the kind of girl one doesn't mess with by intimidating my bully and fighting my bully back. I still remember the day that she and another girl stood outside of my language class door in the 9th grade. They were taunting me, they held up signs that said they'd kill me, and that they wanted to kick my ass. Well, I stepped outside, we got into a fight, I won, and earned a suspension. I hate violence and I also f wasn't proud of myself then or now. In fact, at the time, I remember being scared as heck but doing what I felt I had to, to protect myself that day and for my high school "career".
I was and still am only 5'3" the shortest of my friends, all throughout high school but even then, my friends told me I was intimidating and that's why I believe I was never bullied. Still, I didn't want to be scary or intimidating. I didn't like having that kind of reputation precede me even if it did help keep me safe. If they only knew how insecure and afraid I actually was inside. I was so sensitive then and so fragile and I think that's why I felt I had to look so hard. If they only knew how easy it would have been for someone to break me, I think they'd have been very surprised. I'm so thankful I was never bullied and do empathize with those that have gone through it. I only wish I had the voice then to stop it from happening to others. I know that I now do as an adult. Thank you for sharing your story SDL.
Thank you for your post. In reading it, the tears of hurt, humiliation, recognition and truth streamed down my face. I was bullied as a young child. Long before I got to school. My bully was my father. After reading your post, I suspect that he, too, was bullied in school (he was obese all his life) and found his 'voice' by becoming a bully in high school (he locked his siblings and the neighborhood kids into the club house they'd built, and he set it on fire), which continued on through the rest of his life. He is dead, now, and is not missed by me. Sad, but true. No, he was never arrested (his father was a police officer, and in those days, that was enough to prevent serious criminal charges being brought against him).
Naturally, when I went to school, I was bullied by the other kids. It was the way of things. I, too, was not thin (family genetics, partially, and family eating habits, partially), so fell victim to the other not so loved kids' harsh words. I hated myself, and still 40 years later, struggle with this issue.
Still, school bullies, for me, where far better than home life. Easier to handle, in a way, as their words could never hurt as much as hearing 'you can be replaced!', and being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused at home. Those bullies, though, reinforced the self-hatred, self-loathing, and very real emotional belief that I was worthless.
Sometime in jr. high school, I 'clicked' with a small group of girls, also being bullied, and then a larger group in high school. We each held a voice for the others, and this was good. But, at home, the voice I heard and by this time 'felt comfortable with' was the voice of the bully.
In essence, I had a double life. A safer life in school, and a chaotic but predictable life at home.
College changed that for me, in small by undeniable respects. But, the damage is done and the permanence is real. I struggle daily, yes daily, with the low self-esteem of all of that bullying. And, sometimes, when I become so low, I spew forth hateful words, hateful projections, hate - just plain hate - from my mouth, from my very soul.
The bullied (and abused) become bullies (abusers). Conditioning, lack of love, lack of self-love, lack of understanding of what love is. It's a horrendous circle of life for some.
Oddly enough, it is said of my father that he 'became a better man' through christianity. Perhaps for some, he did. But not for me. Even after his 'change', he still mistreated me, still bullied me, still held contempt for me. I could hear it in his voice, his intonations, his mannerisms spoke volumes.
Thank you, too for the follow-up posts, expressing that the bullied need not love the bully. I could not love my father no matter how much I craved his love and acceptance, and it is important for each bullied individual to know that the bully might change for others and for the better for the future, but we the bullied are always the bullied in their minds. We are part of the past, and the past has a way of creeping into the present and the future.
But, you are right. The sooner we love all children, the more completely we give acceptance and the younger the child is, the more hope we have of stamping out such hatred.
And, the healing power for the bullied? Self-love. Knowing that makes all the difference.
@guest My father beat me almost daily for 13 years....By the time I was school age..I was broken...I had victim written all over my face...I was bullied all my school life and also when I grew up..Some bullies stay bullies all of their life....No one helped me..Not even my mother..I had those same day dreams of torturing my abusers.....In the beginning I would cry to my mother...She never had any answers..So I stopped asking.......I isolated...made very bad life choices.....But I survived......I just want to share this...DO NOT EVER THINK THAT YOUR BULLYING WAS OK....THAT YOU DID NOT DO HARM.....God is healing me now....But it has been slow...I just recently began to see myself as God sees me....Not the wholly ugly thing i thought myself to be most of my life..........I just turned 60..And the rest of my life will be spent in healing.....Life is good ....
My daughter is 9 years old and is in the fourth grade. Halfway through the second grade, she became friends with a new girl in her class, and invited her and several other girls to her birthday party. I could already see behaviors emerging, when one girl decided who could and could not use her iPod to watch videos at the party. Second grade! On this occasion, my daughter did everything she could to make this new girl feel welcome and comfortable in our home.
Fast forward to the third grade. The majority of the girls in class decided that they did not like this new girl and did not want to be friends with her because they felt she wasn't nice to them. To be fair, she did have problems getting along with people at that time. Well, since my daughter decided to continue her friendship with this girl, the other girls in class said they could not hang out with my daughter either. This girl also told my daughter that since they were friends, that my daughter could not be friends with certain other girls in the class that she did not like. She came home in tears on many occasions, and many nights we cried together. I told my daughter that sometimes in life, we make decisions that will not be what other people want, but to follow through and do the right thing, even if it is not the popular thing.
Getting to know this girl, I realized that part of the reason she acted this way was because her home life was in such chaos that she had never been taught how to form friendships with other kids. To her, if you were friends with her, you had to focus all of your attention on her, and no one else. I brought up the situation to the teacher, and thankfully, she did the right thing. She sat both girls down, and explained to this girl what friendship was, and the best ways to make friends, and how to treat other people. The principal also had a discussion with the entire class, without singling out either of the girls, letting them know what was expected of them. What made me the saddest was the fact that the teacher said she normally didn't see this behavior until the 5th or 6th grade. I had had to tell her that it was beginning in at least the second grade, and she needed to keep her eyes open.
Thank you for your post. I am so sorry you had to go through this situation when you were growing up. I am happy that you were able to find your voice, and to realize your value to yourself and others. Keep on being that messenger for those who can't speak for themselves.
With all due respect, I disagree with only one thing: sympathizing with the bully. From what you describe, your bullies didn't seem all that self-loathing. Neither were mine. They may be insecure as compared to an adult, but most of my bullies were normal kids from normal families. They bullied because they wanted to establish themselves in a social hierarchy. They exalted themselves by oppressing other. The tragic bully (the one that picks on others because no one loves him) is a myth. Real bullies are bullies because they feel they are superior, and are corrupted by that apparent superiority.
@Komodoguy you're right Guy, of course.
however, if we take this a step further into the darkness & question why these particular bullies (if not all) desire to feel superior, we may decide that the cause of this is fear of feeling inferior?
a well balanced personality, by definition, wouldn't feel superior or inferior to anyone else, it is irrelevant to someone who is content with themselves. Whatever is causing this discontent, can be helped & can be resolved; if we want to reduce bullying we need to reduce people's discontent, to this end society must change its approach to what is normal, sub-normal & super-normal.
i think we will find that currently we are encouraged to be super-normal from the cradle to the grave!
I was overweight and smart in grade school/high school. That made me a target. I'm still dealing with the repercussions of that bullying.
I'm sure I'm just repeating other sentiments in here, but if I would have just threw one punch before my nightmare got going, bullying would not have been a problem. And as far as relying on anyone helping you when you're getting bullied...that's like receiving food stamps. You never learn to take care of yourself. Any kid who is currently being bullied and reading this nonsense should accept that he's going to need to fight in order to get respect he needs from others and from himself.
@Ed Not necessarily true, unfortunately. My brother fought and fought and fought, getting himself expelled from one school and suspended many times at others. It never mattered. He got a reputation as a "crazy" kid who could be provoked to violent, disruptive explosions, but the bullying continued unabated. (What eventually stopped it for him was a switch to an alternative school where the teachers were much more vigilant and willing to step in before bullying ever got started.)
I was a chubby kid, I am a fat adult, but I was a chubby kid. I came from a broken home which didn't help much, I moved from place to place, only really staying long enough for the lease on our apartment to run out before we found a new one. I rarely started school at the start of the year with all the other kids, and I never knew anybody in my school (the exception being the last three years of high school). I was always alone; sometimes I would make a friend, but never more than one or two. For many years I was bullied, partly for being fat, partly because I was the new kid, partly because I was white in a Hispanic area, partly because I didn’t speak Spanish like them. They called me names in Spanish, and told me I had cooties, and would run away when I got near them, saying things like, “Ewwww! The fat girl (in Spanish) is going to touch me!” This strongly impacted the way I interact with people to this day. I lived in a foster home for a while, and the family I stayed with was Mexican and they called me fat girl in Spanish. I started to think that nobody wanted me touch them, and that it would be better if I never spoke and that I was fat and ugly and nobody would ever love me, all the while hoping that somebody would love me and want to touch me. It is hard to change from thinking that nobody wants to touch you to thinking somebody loves me and wants to touch me. It still impacts me to this day. I still think that nobody wants me to touch them. I hated myself for a very long time, because I am fat, because I am ugly, because I am different. It is hard to live thinking nobody will ever want to touch you. Not even your parents or friends. My mom also grew up in a broken home where not many hugs or friendly touching went on, so she didn’t hug me or touch me very often. That didn’t help me feeling like nobody wanted me to touch them. I felt very alone. The active bulling against me didn’t last very long but I was always apart from everybody else; different and alone. I dove into fantasy novels as an escape, so I wouldn’t feel so alone. It helped, it let me escape and be somewhere else, but it also was another divide between me and “normal” kids. It gave me a larger vocabulary which in turn made it difficult to communicate with people who read at or below grade level.
I have often felt I hit stages in life earlier then the average child. Skipping regular childhood altogether. Acting in elementary as I would in middle school, acting in middle school as I would in high school, and so on… At least emotionally if not in responsibility’s. It wasn’t until high school that I reached a stable environment and stayed at the same school from 10th grade to graduation. I had friends, friends whom I was sadly often violent to (playfully) because it gave me an excuse to touch them. I was a “tom boy” and I considered myself gay (I have discovered I am bisexual) so the hitting was all in good fun and always directed at males. Not to say that makes it ok, but I at last had friends that accepted me to a certain extent that I had never had before. Although some people didn’t like me because they felt I talked down to them because I often used words they didn’t understand. Still I didn’t often get hugs, or friendly touches, I put out a vibe that said I didn’t want to be touched, even though that was all I wanted, craved. I never even kissed my girlfriend in high school, barely held hands and she broke up with me. She told me she didn’t feel the same romantic feelings for me as I did for her. I assumed it was because nobody could ever love a broken, depressed, fat girl like me. I really hated myself for a long time. I stayed in a relationship longer then I should have because I didn’t think I could get anything better, and I was sexually assaulted by a man I went on a date with. It was a hard road and sometimes I still revert to the sad depressed girl I was. The real difference is that now I am not sad all the time so when I hit depressed points I notice. I have somebody who loves me and treats me with respect and who loves when I touch him and loves to touch me. It is a big step for me. I still have trouble touching people I don’t know very well, and I have difficulty being around large groups of people alone, but I am getting better. It does get better. Of that I am very glad.
My daughter starts kindergarten in 2 days, and I for one am absolutely terrified of her going back to school. She was bullied all through pre-school, and not once did the kid ever get in trouble for it. My daughter was the image of care, loving, and such a free spirit. She is kind hearted and simply LOVES everyone. I've visually watched her as she went and sat by a girl being picked on, even when all of the "popular" kids wanted her to sit with them. Because THAT girl was nice to her, and was her friend. I have never been more proud of her as I was that day. Nonetheless, her beautiful self-esteem and love for herself was slowly diminishing last year and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it but keep encouraging her, day after day, of what a beautiful, smart and kind soul she was. It happened on the bus, at school, during lunch- you name it. Mental and physical bullying. In PRESCHOOL. A few years ago my oldest daughter came home from kindergarten and wanted to know if her clothes were "popular enough" to make her like the "cool kids" Its a sad society we live in when our children are worried about being popular when they don't even know how to read yet. These are 5 year olds worried about this, and even younger being bullied. Thankfully, I've got my daughters esteem going back up, but with the school year starting, it has me really worried. Watching her slowly fold into herself and become a shell of what she used to be because of another childs hateful words was the absolute worst thing as a parent I've ever had to witness. My social butterfly blossoming angel was getting scared to talk aloud, play with other kids, and has since become so sensitive and emotional at even the slightest hint of someone making fun of her, its traumatizing for our children and it needs to be stopped.
I had a similar story to yours. I moved in 3rd grade, but managed to be just a background kid initially- I wasn't popular, but I wasn't actively bullied. By 5th grade everything changed. One boy decided to give me a nickname and it spread like wildfire. By the middle of that year, I lost all of the friends I had, and some kids had taken to writing my nickname all over my personal belongings. I spent the rest of the year, with the name written in red ink on my backpack. I was too ashamed to ask my mom for a new one, because it would mean I'd have to explain the bullying to her. My parents were not people I could talk to. In fact, they mad everything worse. My mother used to tell me she wished I was never born. Things like that.
By eighth grade, I was suicidal. I had no friends, and I was in an emotionally and physically abusive home. The only things that kept me from killing myself were my grandmother, who did love me and expressed her love for me regularly, and the idea of hell. I had a very strict, Baptist upbringing and I was told suicides go to hell and burn forever. I thought that was probably worse than being ridiculed and hated. (But not by much)
High school was better because I moved, and got out from under the stigma I had in the other school. I made a few friends. I was not popular, but again, not actively bullied. I don't know if I would have made it if I had to stay in that town. But the parental abuse was constant, and didn't end until very recently, when my mom finally apologized and realized what she had done. Without her acknowledgement of the abuse, I could not have ANY relationship with her now. It's better. But, I have never really gotten over everything. I still become deeply depressed at times. I feel worthless, I get into emotionally abusive relationships with friends and men, because I think its all I deserve.I have had periods of intense suicidal thoughts. I have had what I suppose you could call a nervous breakdown. I KNOW this is a product of my childhood, and I KNOW how I should change my thinking, but it's like a pattern started that is just insanely hard to stop. I live with repetitive thoughts about how ugly, stupid, worthless, I am. And that is just what I want to say to kids who bully others, and parents that bully their own kids. You are doing permanent damage. Especially parents- your kids look to you for their self worth. If you tell them they are worthless, you ensure that they will be. Not because they didn't have talent, potential or intellect, but because they can't move on from the notion that they don't deserve happiness, and so they can't go out and get any.
I think I could have eventually shrugged off the bullying from kids, especially since it didn't last through high school. I hope I could have. But because it was everywhere, all the time, the negative views became my only way to see myself. I have been out of school and out of my parents' home for 18 years, and I still hear these things in my head. No matter, how angry you are at someone, control what you say and do to them. The words and the actions stay. Sometimes forever.
As soon as school started when I was in 6th grade in '07, I started to get picked on for wearing clothes that weren't designer and for liking to read, which I still do. By the end of that year, it got so bad, I wanted to kill myself. I cut my wrists several times, with scissors. When I told my Mom, she told my principal, which made it worse. The next year in 7th grade, I had some fainting spells and got ridiculed for that. Mom never knew about those, until later except for the fainting spells. By 8th grade it was lesser, but still going on. By ninth grade, they were pretty much done. I don't mean to rant or anything, but there you go. It was really hard through those years. My brother and my Mom helped me after I told them about it. I do still struggle with self-respect but I'm getting better.
I was bullied horribly in the 6th grade (just over 30 years ago). I was told, repeatedly, how ugly I was. It felt like everyone hated me, and hardly anyone ever defended me. I have believe my entire adult lift that I was ugly...even when I was told otherwise. I've had numerous relationship and self-esteem issues that I am still struggling to combat.
I was bullied HORRIBLY as a child. It started in first grade and didn't end until I dropped out of school. I was bullied for being fat, wearing glasses, being poor, for "stinking" even though I showered daily, anything you could imagine. I am now 30 years old. Plenty of time has gone by between then and now, and I SHOULD be over it. I don't think I ever WILL be fully over it.
I am STILL socially awkward. I have a hard time opening up to new people. My friends say I have an amazing singing voice, but I have to look down (instead of at them when I sing) because I have such severe stage-fright. If I try singing in front of strangers, I resemble a trembling leaf. I'll barely say two words when meeting someone new. I'm TERRIFIED of strangers. I'm okay if the strangers ignore me, but the moment they try socializing I clam up.
I try to become more out-going, but the fear is paralyzing.
We are passionate about helping to save the lives of teens that feel suicidal. We want teenagers who feel depressed & desperate to realize that they should open up about their pain and not stay silent about their problems, so we started a youth group, that we aptly named the LifeSavers Club, for teens struggling with depression - a place for teens who feel desperate and suicidal, to feel accepted and become socially and emotionally healthy.
Wow. Where in the hell do you get off?
I'll give you a little background on me: I was bullied from 3rd grade up until sophomore year in High school. It got worse and worse until it culminated in my bullies bringing pen knives (little 1" blades) and cutting me in passing in the hallways. No one believed me. I was told those were self inflicted wounds, or I might've been cut and scraped on a keychain. Did I cry? of course. Did I want them dead? more than anything. Did any adults do anything? they told me to "be assertive, tell them to stop, and tell me when it happens."
Obviously, that didn't work, and was completely asinine to suggest. It is along the same lines of your suggestions to love them unconditionally, and a variable mindset of "hug out the anger." You know what ACTUALLY worked? It wasn't to love them, it was to fight back. I saved my money and purchased a Kershaw Black Horse II (4" knife). I vividly remember the day when all four of them came up to me, knives drawn ready to cut my flesh as they had done repeatedly before. I initiated the attack on the lead bully, and held my knife to his face and threatened to carve out his eyes if he ever looked at me again. I further threatened the well-being of his family and girlfriend if he didn't stop doing this to people. After that encounter, they stopped.
I'm not a violent person by nature. I don't teach my boys to start fights, I teach them to finish them, and to stand up for other who cannot (or will not) stand up for themselves. The whole anti-bullying crusade is as futile as a war of terror or drugs- nothing will stop it, and sitting down in pow-wows and singing kumbaya while discussing our feelings will only lead to easier targets. Bullies respond to what they know: violence. Meet them with swift, decisive violence and they will stop. Sometimes it may take several times, but the bullies will pick easier targets and leave you alone. This is human nature. Don't believe me? It's instinctual: fight, flight, or freeze. In our day and age, we're teaching our children that it's better to run away (flight) or "shrug it off" (freeze) than it is to fight back.
Teaching kids that bullying is wrong and that's it's not to be tolerated leaves them ill prepared to confront enemies in the future- be it in the office or overseas. Who will they turn to when they're adults and can't fight their own battles? How will they know what to do when they've never been forced to stand up for themselves in their life? Kids today aren't killing themselves BECAUSE of bullying, it's because we're trying to socially reprogram them not to deal with confrontation, and as mammals we're going against instinct- these are the consequences.
You've either buried a child or your own, or someone else's. I am deeply sorry you've had to endure that. Without going into too much detail, my trade is heavily involved with putting human traffickers and drug manufacturers behind bars or in the ground. I guess you can say I fight bullies on a daily basis- adult bullies with no moral compass or sense of compassion. Bullies that rape, murder and steal on a daily basis. People like this will exist whether you love them or not, talk it out or not, "address the underlining cause" or not. You can always love your enemy; but remember that they are still your enemy and need to be dealt with accordingly.
P.S. To all of you whom claim mental issues due to bullying, grow up. Chances are you've not peered past the dusk of life into the darkness. Don't sully the burden of demons that strong men and women bear so you can live in comfort, and claim you empathize with them. You don't know those sacrifices, nor should you. But being called names when you were younger is no excuse to burden society financially with your "problems." You're an adult physically, it's time for you to become one mentally as well.
Thank you so much! I endured bullying in elementary school up until my Senior Year in high school. I am definitely sharing this. As a new parent, it really opens my eyes.. BTW, my son's name is Noah too! :)
I was a short girl in school and in 5th and 6th grade I got teased for being short and a little bit chubby. I ignored the girls that did the teasing for as long as I could. One day, after school, I couldnt take it any more. This little gang of 4 girls were always telling me they were gonna wait for me after school and beat me up. For a long time, I would sneak around to keep away from them. On the day of reckoning, I couldnt stand it any more. So after school, I walked out the front door and started for home. They saw me and immediately followed me, nagging and threatening. Suddenly, I stopped, and turned around. One of them came running up to me and I laid her down by swinging my purse around and hit her straight in the face. Then another ran up and I slapped her in the face as hard as I could and grabbed her by her long hair and hung on. She stepped off crying. The other two came up and I clobbered one of them with my purse and pulled a big hand full of hair out of the other girl and kicked the crap out of her. Suddenly, I felt empowered. I stood there and asked them if they wanted some more. They were all crying, and I walked home. I felt 10 feet tall. I got home and told my mom, and about 2 hours later the girls showed up with two of their moms at my house. They were crying and telling my mom what I had done and my mom stood her ground and told them that they deserved it and that the reason I didnt respond sooner was because I knew I had a bad temper. She told those girls mothers to keep their daughters away from me and quit teasing me. After that, those girls NEVER once teased me again. It was all over school, that I had clocked all 4 of them. I was proud of myself because, at least from then on, I didn't have to worry about walking home from school, because I knew I could defend myself and I was proud of it.
I was physically and sexually abused by my older brother, but unfortunately had to go to high school with he and an older sister. I was labeled as crazy and others convinced I was a liar. 30+ years later, my story has not changed. I was bullied and isolated and teased by my classmates and my siblings' friends. I became a target for just about anyone - even those who were also bullied figured out they could pick on me and I would not fight back because no one was on my side. I was lonely. It took two women - one teacher, one woman from my church - to show me love and I believe I am alive today because of those two women.
i can relate on both sides. when i was in kindergarten thru first grade, i was bullied - apparently. the bullying at such young age must have been nothing compare to what we hear now, that i had just deleted that part of my life until my mother reminded me about it. and when i was in grade 3, i hid shoes and threw names at the new girl; but she was a strong girl who was confident with herself that i found no point targeting her and in the end became friends. those are the only 2 direct bullying experience... turns out i was subconsciously depressed in my early years, and i can say this because my first attempt of suicide happened when i was in grade 5 (i got caught by a nun as i held a knife by my wrist).
i experienced a heavy, heavy depression for 6 years; and i constantly fantasized about the origin of my stress and self-hate to die. first year, i thought of easiest ways to kill myself, and i actually tried 7 times. hanging myself was uncomfortable, and immediately i lost the battle against Fear and Death. i cut my arms hoping that i'd bleed to death, but again, lost the battle to Fear and Death. so I drank vodka/gin/whiskey/scotch straight out of bottles everyday, without any sleep nor food, in hopes of killing myself slowly from the inside. somehow i still graduated from university, but it wasn't until recently that i started to see beauty of life again. it wasn't until i found my real passion, and pursuing it, that i saw how wonderful it is to be alive.
i still battle occasionally, wandering with thoughts of suicide, but i know i won't do such thing. i want to help kids and even adults who are being bullied, by hopefully introducing them to one of my passions: scuba diving and music.
i know it's a long comment, but thank you, Dan, for posting this. it has taught me few things, and confirmed and reminded me that there are someone out there who cares for me. sometimes, all it takes is a reminder that someone out there does care and love one for oneself. i appreciate your post very much.
wow i totally can relate to this i was bullied all my life I felt useless and worthless.thank you allowing me to read this.I hope it helps another young person who needs our love
Wow. What to say. Thanks Dan for the insights. And insights into bullying/bullied have been slow in coming to a culture rooted in being better than the next guy. I got bullied a few times in school sure, not on a continuing basis since I had a pretty tough older brother (wrestler). He let it be known nobody messes with his brother and I was left alone. But I was bullied almost daily. And you know who the bully was? My straight A, 3 sport letterman older brother! And just like the bus driver who tells the bullies to knock it off, my parents, tired of the ruckus, told "us" to knock it off. We did a lot of fun things as a big family. My parents were progressive, intelligent, motivated and active. But they made the mistake early on to look at big brother's aggressiveness as just the first son thing. They went on having more babies and left the job of maintaining order in the ranks to him. When he felt anxious about an upcoming test, a sports meet or other stress he took it out on me and my younger brother. It didn't end until he went off to college....I was 18.
Like you Dan I have turned around inside, slowly and over a period of years. I love everyone in my family, in all their diversity, in all their accomplishment. They are all good people and each has had an impact in our world. My older brother is arguably the one of most measurable impact; he went on to his Doctorate and has been an educator and innovator his entire adult life. I know of his work and it is good. He has helped many young people reach their potential. I take some comfort in that and know that it was tough for him, breaking trail all those years in a big family. Me? I never finished college and I have lived 1000 miles away all these years (I'm 63 now). I have fashioned a very nice life in a beautiful place, I have a wonderful wife/partner who loves me and needs me and I miss my family and wish I could afford to visit more often.
So parents, check to make sure bullying/bullied isn't coming home or leaving home. It can be hard to spot or it can be easy to spot. It's an injustice and it shouldn't be allowed to continue. Love and patience will help to end this. Thanks again for the amazing post Dan.
Your story brings back so many memories of my own experiences with a few twists. The feeling of desperation, of one or the other has to go is very familiar but in my case my bully was untouchable because it was the teacher. As a kid I never said anything about it at the time because at first I thought maybe I was doing something wrong and when I was sure I wasn't I knew no one could help me because it was the teacher; i believed not even my parents could change the school system - if I didn't already assume that they would just tell me to buck up and not every teacher I've had has to like me. After being told constantly for two years how worthless and stupid I was, how I would never amount to anything, I dropped from an A+ to C-. It took me 6 years after that to even consider I was possibly worth something. I had friends but some of them were oblivious to the bullying. It was only my ancient cat that prevented me from committing suicide. My parents never noticed anything was wrong despite excessive sleeping, lack of eating and being exceptionally quiet and withdrawn. When I finally told them, I was blamed. I wasn't consoled, I wasn't hugged, I was berated because I didn't tell them sooner. Support has been rare and mostly fleeting. I now live away from home and I am very slowly healing but I wonder how far I can go without support of family members. I don't speak often of my experiences because I'm trying to leave them in the past but PTSD makes that a little difficult.
Wow. I can relate to most of this, being bullied for me started in 3rd grade, it wasn't all against one, but it seemed like everyone thought I was weird, ugly, funny-looking, etc. Girls are just as mean as boys when it comes to bullying. Unfortunately I didn't have any support at home either. My mother passed when I was young, I had horrid stepmothers and a physically and verbally abusive father. I had nobody. Just my thoughts, dreams, stories, books, music. That was my penance. That was my solace. I had nobody, and one gym teacher in 8th grade who saw a bruise on my leg and asked what happened (she knew, but I lied to protect my father) she tried, but I panicked and covered for an abusive jerk of a father. I overcame this, slowly, but it took years, decades to feel good about myself. Happily married a quarter of a century, beautiful children, good, stable careers and good home, and I look fabulous. Seeing some of the bullies of my past 'friend' me on Facebook gives me joy. Just the thought that (I know, shallow) they don't look as great as they should, and they see how happy, successful I am...how beautiful my children are. I think that was God's answer. Give it time, love yourself in time. I kept the abuse to myself, the bullying to myself, so I know the pain, and it still resides deep inside me, but I refuse to let it consume me. Thanks for the article. I'm sorry what you went through, but I think you're beautiful and always have been :)
My first time visiting your site was today and I am overwhelmed with the feelings you put into this post. Kudos to you for coming forward with a terrible memory, of which I can fully relate. I hope that this issue can continue to make headlines and that it can be addressed and remedied.
Long before Elmo was a fuzzy red Muppet, the overweight kid in fourth grade with that name was not the bullied one, but rather, the bully. I guess it was his pro-active stance to avoid being bullied himself. He was not an intellectually gifted person, so much of his bullying was toward those of us who he considered the "smart kids." Bullying can be toward any demographic. Thankfully, the teacher kept things together in the classroom. Mom had to have someone from school talk to the bus driver, to insist that she keep him from being ugly on the bus. (This was long ago, so physical contact bullying wasn't the problem, just hateful words.)
Thank you. I had written my story to share, but this is not about me. Nor is it about you. And you made that beautifully clear in your post. TODAY talking about bullying is about the kids. My daughter. Your son. The cute three-year-old down the street. TODAY talking about bullying is about ending the cycle. It's about learning how to teach love. Touching the youth of our nation and teaching love....That's my goal in life. So I thank you, Dan, for--one reader at a time--helping the world to realise this goal! Thank you.
I was a bright, beautiful little girl, but my parents were very poor and also hippies. I always thought "outside the box" and questioned authority, so even as a straight A student, I was still a "problem". All was still relatively tolerable though until 6th grade. Then some of the girls started to "develop" and I did not. Those girls that were my friends became cheerleaders and I did not. Suddenly I had no friends, and I stank because my parents made us feel weird if we took a bath more than once a week. Our house was a hovel, and my dad bought an ancient monstrosity of a VW van that we were driven to school in. For some reason, my sister didn't get bullied and she made the cheerleading team. I was an outcast. The bullying consisted of insults that I was ugly, skinny, braniac, or "you wouldn't understand" about sexual things, about my clothes, and the most painful of all was eating lunch alone because no one would sit with me. I'm embarrassed to say it was at that point that I started bullying the even-less-fortunate-than-myself kids, the ones who were fat, who were new to the school, the kids who were even poorer than me, and I started being horribly mean to the popular girls. I was awful! I still feel badly about it. As I got a bit older, a couple of older girls (also the on-the-fringes types) took pity on me, so I had one or two friends who taught me about sex, Pink Floyd and beer (but honestly, this was all a good thing!). I would dread the day that they were sick from school and I had to sit alone again. Even today, I am terrified to go to a party and terrified to dance, because I worry no one will want to talk to me or that they'll think I'm a freak. I'm 39 years old. Bullying scars can last for a lifetime. I've regained some confidence and realized I'm beautiful and I now have a job which involves lots of one on one contact with people. And I have 3 different types of deodorant in my medicine cabinet.
When I was in grade 7 there was a girl in my class who was overweight. Everyone picked on her and pushed her and left her out of their groups. I felt so bad for her but was so unsure of myself and wanted so desperately to be part of their popular crowd that one day I pushed her down into a pile of snow and called her fat. It got a laugh from the other "cool kids" but rather than make me feel good that I was part of their group, it made me feel so awful about myself for sinking to their level and hurting another human being. I am over 50 now and that memory has stayed with me my whole life. I feel such shame and disgust that I did that to her and how it must have made her feel. I remember the look on her face as I pushed her. She looked so sad and hurt and I felt like shit. I lost track of her after grade 9. The last thing I know of her was that she was still being treated terribly and even though I never again did anything to directly hurt her, I also never did anything to try to make it better. I hope and pray that she went on to live a wonderful and successful life but if she did it was no thanks to me or those "cool kids". Please know that if you are in that situation now, that you will feel like a million bucks if you are the person who tries to help the bullied person. You will have a wonderful memory of yourself and your actions and won't live a lifetime of regret for what you should have done or what you did. Diane, if you read this and recognize yourself as that girl I pushed into the snow, I am truly sorry for my actions and have been from the instant it happened. I know that this is too little too late but I still want to make this apology in a very public way in the hope that it reaches you in some way.
It's astounding how many people share these experiences....it was very much the same for myself. Everything was fine for the first 10 or so years, until everyone started to form little "cliques" and didn't want me in them. slowly it became apparent that my friends no longer wanted to be friends - even other girls that I had introduced to them were included, but it was always me they left out. I remember one day of a lonely summer, sitting in the living room with my dad. I saw 4 former friends walking down the street, and not having realized the truth, thought they were coming to ask me to hang out. I watched out the window because i was so desperate to still be part of a group of friends. They kept walking until they were out of sight. When I started junior high I only had a couple of people I was still close with, and they either went to other schools or moved away. There were a few other friends I still talked to but for the most part i had no close friends at the time. I made one good friend in those years, and she was and still is a wonderful person. i remember one day, walking home from the bus stop, a girl I thought was my friend until that point crossed the street to tell me the opposite : that no body at school liked me or wanted to be around me and that even me newly made best friend didn't like me. What she said was at least to some extent a lie ( but there were a lot of people at that school who made fun of me for a long time) but I certainly didn't realize it at the time. Even in high school I found myself belonging to no particular group, and except for that one close friend who I sat with every day, and a couple of others i saw occasionally, I didn't have many people in my life. I would dwell on this a lot and it showed in my actions towards those who did care. But things did begin to change, slowly, eventually. At some point I realized I didn't want to dwell on these things constantly. I started being more social. I started getting out of that neighborhood and meeting people. I began trying to let go of the past. Now I am entering my 3rd year of university and much has changed. But it is still a very slow process. Even recently I still find myself convinced that I'm a nuisance, that no one really wants to be my friend, that I am at fault for something unknown. But I know these are all false, and every time the thoughts cross my mind I try and tell myself that this is not the case, that I DO have people in my life that love me and that i love back. And I am reassured of this by those very people, if the subject ever comes up, or if a particular situation proves it anyway. More and more I am able to really believe and trust people in my life, and slowly let go of the feelings lingering from the past. The things that happen in your youth, however minor, really stick with you, but no one is alone forever, even if it feels like it sometimes. It takes a lot of hard admittance, realization, acceptance, and forgiving to begin to overcome these issues, but you become a better, stronger, happier person for being able to do so. I hope more people can realize how loved they are, and overcome whatever it is happening to them now.
This post is amazing. I believe the most powerful thing we can do about bullying is simply talking about it. The kids need to understand what is happening to themselves and to the other kids around them. I was bullyed during the end of elementary school. I don't know how, but I had the hability to understand it was temporary. I actually planned what I would do to spend time alone at school, every single day, until elementary school was over. Eventually, the bullying stoped (it did not really stop, but it got a lot better). I think it stoped because after a few months my parents noticed what was happening (even though I never told them) and talked to the school teachers, who started paying more atention to the situation and started to take action. However, the most interesting thing is that after it stoped, I remember taking part in bullying myself. I don't believe I was ever a bully, but I did laugh and point while others were being bullied. I made sure everyone saw I thought the bullied were ridiculous. If I knew how terrible it was, why did I do it? Why couldnt I offer a hand? I did it because I wanted to fit in so badly that I had to show everyone I wasnt on the bullied side. This is horrible. If someone had talked about bullyng with me, had made me reflect about the situation, I am sure I could have understood no one deserved to go through the same situation I had gone through. I am sure I would have understood that I did not need to do those things to fit in. That I could be brave and offer a hand. But no one ever really talked to me, no one ever showed me it was ok to do the right thing. Kids, all of them, need to talk about bullyng.
so well-written and absorbing to the reader! I can relate to so much of what you have been through, I'm only 19 years old, and I know exactly what you man. Everything you said it was almost otherworldly how it felt it had been pulled from my own brain. Though I wasn't fat when I was young... I was freakishly skinny, and poor. and it started with a mean girl. But the feelings... all of them. so beautifully expressed, I am so happy to see this where other people can read it as well. The beauty of your soul, your power of empathy and forgiveness, should be a beacon to all our lonely brothers and sisters still left wandering out there. Thank you for reaching in and having the courage and dedication to share this with all of us, I personally know it wasn't easy.
Every word you said was exactly the words I wished I could have put together. You said it so well, and I agree with everything. I'm so sorry that you experienced that in your life, but so glad to see you came out of that dark place with renewed hope in humanity.
My daughter was one of those girls who stood up and said something. A new girl was on the bus being bullied by two girls because she accidentally tripped over another girl's project. She was crying, my daughter was the only one who got up and sat with her and told them to leave her alone. That made my daughter the target. They yelled insults in her face the rest of the way home, and told me I'd rather them do it to me Mom than her...I can handle it. Then she broke down. My daughter tells me everything, this happened last year when she was 11. She's turning into the most wonderful young lady who any mom would be proud of. She's been bullied, she has stood up to bullying and I pray everyday that she is free from it now and stays that way.
She is a bright, beautiful and pretty popular girl with spunk...but when the bullying happens, she turns into a little girl who experiences anxiety going to school.
She has her family's support, her friend's support and the school as well. That has made all the difference, that and the fact that our communication is open...she confides everything and that's how we raised her.
Thank you for sharing your story, it was inspirational...and now I will share it and urge others to do the same. You're right, all everyone needs is a little love.