Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bullied and Moving On

 I was bullied first through 6th grade very badly. Then our three grade school combined in one jr high and I made some friends. It didn't totally stop but it was way better. Then finally I graduated and moved to a new town for college. I wasn't bullied there but I expected it so much I was really shy and never approached people first. 

Good luck finding those first few steps away from the group that bullies you. They may think they are the whole world but they are not even a drop in the ocean.

I never went back for reunions at my grade school-high school town but a couple of the worst tormentors in grade school have contacted me on-line and apologized and let me know that it is a guilt they have lived with and that they aways kew what was happening was wrong. That means the world to the little girl who still hides inside me even now.

I have been hearing a lot about bullying.  We all have. I know some of the students I see call everything bullying, and it is NOT. But there is a lot of bullying and it can't be ignored or it only gets worse, and the impact from being bullied lasts a life time.

Why do I think it is not all bullying?  Because, having been bullied, and yes, at times having been a bully, I know some of the differences between true bullying and just ordinary bad moments.

I believe that a lot of times when a student claims that they are being bullied, they are really just having one of those sad, frustrating days where kids learn how to get along with other people, where they practice the give and take and learn the empathy and co-operation skills necessary to live as part of a society.  It may bring tears when your "Best Friend" suddenly tells you that she wants to play with someone else, It may hurt your feelings when your classmates laugh at the clothing you chose for the day, and it may make you mad if the kid eating his flaming hot cheetos at lunch refuses to share. However, those are not bullying.

To be bullying, it has to be purposefully targeted at you, and it will probably be ongoing and is usually not just one person because the true bully likes a cowed audience of followers along for the entertainment.  It will probably hit at your weakest area, bullies are good at seeing what those are.
See this girl, awkward yes, different than most of my classmates, true, but not as ugly and stupid and obviously bad as I believed at the time.

True bullying makes you believe everyone else sees the reason you were targeted. It makes you believe there is no escape, that everyone is on the side of those tormenting you, and that those who you could ask for help won't be able to do nothing.  It isolates you and makes you feel like asking for help will only increase the abuse that you must somehow deserve.

Not everyone who bullies you is the primary instigator.  Some will just be almost as weak as you and be afraid that if they speak up the attack will turn on them. It is hard for anyone to willingly volunteer for that kind of abuse and it takes courage and the ability to see that bullies are afraid of groups. There is strength in numbers if other people can join together, which is precisely what the bully wants to avoid.

In grade school I started first grade not really knowing how to relate to other kids. I had a lot of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-Aunts and Uncles, but no siblings until just before I started school. I was severely pigeon-toed and the Dr. ordered dance classes but I failed drastically at dancing when I could barely walk. I was freckled and loud and tried to argue with the teacher who was teaching us to spell wrong, when I had started school already knowing how to read.  The class was using a phonetic program that taught that school was spelled "Skwl" and I knew better.  Cat was not Kat no matter what the teacher said. Not a good candidate for ITA learning!

In grade school, I had a battle every day. My things were stolen and destroyed or passed around from child to child with great drama and screams of "Dixie Fleas! Pass it on!"  They pretended to spray my chair with disinfectant before anyone else would sit there.  I came to believe I really did stink.  I started not doing homework just so I could be kept after school so the kids who threatened to beat me up as I walked home would get bored and be gone.

When I was chased to my house and tried to hide between the screen door and the locked inner door as 4 older girls threatened to kill me, my mom drove up. In sweet voices they told her that "we don't know what is wrong. We came by and she was just crying."  Mom thanked them for trying to help and I claimed I had just had a horrible head-ache.

Once I went to Jr. high it got better, and I had some friends from the other grade schools, but I still had kids who stole my PE clothes or cornered me and smeared raw eggs in my hair and poured cans of soda on me.  Pretty girls would catch my eye and I would stare back, wondering what they knew that made them accepted, that I was missing, then they would snarl at me to stop staring.

I never quite got it right. Once the High School held an anti-bullying assembly with a movie about a boy who tried so hard to be invisible that he stepped off the bus and died of a heart-attack and when the school tried to find his friends, none of his classmates knew who he was.  More kids told me "Hello" after that assembly than ever before but it only lasted a day.  I too was learning to hide, I carried a book and sketch pad and I hid behind them all the time.  I ate lunch in the art room and went straight home after school. I tried to be aloof so no-one would be able to tease me that no-one wanted to be my friend.  
It made me a bad friend to the people who really were trying, because I was afraid it was a trap and then they would laugh, and I was convinced I really didn't deserve a friend anyway.
How did I learn to move on?
First I had to move on.  I could never have become the loving friend and Mom and wife and teacher and writer that I am now, had I stayed in that town.  When I went away, I literally kept my head down and made no eye contact, and could not believe those other kids on the college campus were talking to me when they said "Hi"  It took a lot of them to make me understand that there wasn't some scarlet letter branding me an outcast. Then it took one very confident and loving friend to keep holding on even when I pushed away, and another, and the man who loved me and married me, and kept insisting I was a treasure.  It took seeing my worth in a lot of other peoples eyes before I could see it in the mirror.

It took leaving home and creating my own home. It took living overseas in China for awhile and being in the minority and still making friends

So then I became a teacher of special ed. children and a Mom of loving men, and a writer of novels that are anti-bullying pro-loving and I have made a conscious choice to add to the love in this world

So now school is starting again, and kids will be bullied again. What can we all do?  Love each other, hold a hand, offer a smile and a validation of worth, refuse to be silent audiences any longer. Ask for and offer help.

There is more good than bad people in the world.  That is why the bad ones are the news and the good ones are the norm.

2 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Dixie.

    And I swear in that first picture you look so much like me at that age. Only my bangs stood up, so I mostly kept my hair long all around!

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