I’ve written indirectly or referenced the topic of bullying on past articles here the blog, but I’ve never written a post dedicated solely to this issue. I figured it was high time to do so because I’m not only a survivor of childhood sexual abuse but also of bullying in late elementary school and through middle school.
To date, my survivor journey has centered around the abuse that happened to me as a child and now also with recent developments concerning my mother. You can also read more about those struggles of how it affects my life in terms of the people I gravitate towards and the dramatic effects on my healing journey overall.
Trigger Warning as I will be discussing some specific instances of how I was bullied and how it affects me to this day, combined with my past abuse. Please be good to yourself and practice self care if this is a sensitive topic for you.
Dealing with the after effects of bullying is a big part of my healing journey because it ties into the past sexual abuse that happened and the way I was groomed. My self esteem was shot to hell before it ever had a chance to develop. This left me wide open for both guys and girls to pretty much beat me down emotionally, and sometimes physically, at will.
I wasn’t exactly the coolest kid in my early years. My parents dressed me in clothes that would make even the biggest disco fan cringe. I swear if my mom had her way she’d have me in a satin shirt and platform shoes still today. Really I’m not joking, most of my childhood pictures have me in some shiny get up.
I had this gigantic cowlick on the back of my head that just stood out no matter how much I tried to comb it out. I was on the heavy side, and had bad ache in my early teen years. Add in a learning disability with abstract thinking, and you can see where I was prime target. Since I didn’t look like the other kids, and had almost no way to stand up for myself, it was a regular battle just to get up and go to school each day.
I can remember begging my parents to let me stay home, be home schooled, or go to the public school in my district. I went to a private school from K-12. I would throw a fit, tell them I wasn’t going, and try to explain that kids are mean. She still made me go though and seemed to do little else other than to say, “you just have to deal with and stand up for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
As a parent now my own sons have dealt with some bullying in their school. I’ve talked with my youngest who recently experienced it, and encourage him often. It’s something I’m definitely aware of and want to keep tabs on. My middle son was also bullied in his middle school years too. So I get it, we have to face our fears, and bullying is prevalent everywhere. It’s just hard at that age to understand why people are so mean.
What did we ever do as kids to make others want to harass us for how we looked, dressed, talked, or acted?
The answer is, nothing!
While we can look back now and see that as adults; at the time as a kid it was as traumatic as you can imagine. When you add that scenario to also being abused previously, it just compounds the problems and they don’t just go away by themselves.
I can remember this one time, 8th grade, in the hallway. I was at my locker, and this kid who just loved to use me as a verbal punching bag decided he was going to go further and really get in my face. I of course backed down as he berated me with every name in the book and criticized everything about me. Being that I was used to taking the abuse, I just stood there and took it and he finally clocked me right on the jaw. My retainer broke into pieces, mouth was cut, and of course I was crying. Talk about humiliating!
I remember getting home and telling my parents. This was the one time that I can remember that they actually did something that I felt was semi-appropriate. They called the school and the next day there was a meeting in the principal’s office, and the kid apologized. Blah Blah Blah, whatever! I knew he didn’t mean it, and he didn’t. As I sit here writing this I can him in my head with a smirk on his face and talking to me afterwards saying that I was the biggest wimp he’d ever seen.
Overall most of the bullying was verbal, which as we know hurts more and lasts longer than a punch in the face ever could. All of the typical words became synonymous with me: stupid, ugly, nerd, wimp, dweeb, stutter boy, dumb, etc.
Popular girls wouldn’t give me the time of day except for the effort it took to look down on me and whisper to each other about what I was wearing or the way my hair looked. So even the thought of asking a girl to “go steady” or skate with me at the roller skating socials every years was pointless.
I didn’t play sports at my school until my senior year because I was too intimidated by the jocks. Even though I was a pretty damn good 3rd baseman in little league in my school district. Those feelings of zero self-worth kept me from participating in most activities throughout school until my junior year when I took my life back. That’s a story for another time though. Note to self.
It’s taking me decades to gain even the slightest bit of self-worth now. Those emotional scars still are painfully visible to me. The verbal cuts run deep into my soul to this day. When you’re groomed into abuse and then emotionally crushed for years and years on end, you wonder if there is any hope.
I often wonder how I made it through those tough times. So many kids do not because the pressure is just too great and the lack of support and validation is overwhelmingly obvious. Bullying is a popular topic these days and there are many organizations that are trying to bring an end to it, and I’m grateful to everyone that pitches in and stands up for all children who are abused in this manner. It just seems like a vicious cycle that has been going on for decades, yet here we are still today dealing with something like this that can have lasting effects on our minds and bodies.
I take bullying seriously and I ask my youngest son every day if he’s ok, if there are any problems in school, any kids giving him problems, etc. He knows he can come to me but it’s hard for him to talk just as it was for me. So please, be vigilant with your children, communicate with them, and take an interest in every part of their lives. You never know when they might just open up to you and reach out for help.
As always, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.