Another Tale of Bullying
Content warning: abuse, sexual assault, suicide.
Following my dad and step-mother’s divorce, my dad and I moved to a small town in Alabama with my grandparents. I’d always had fun being there, as it held a lot of fun family memories. I thought that middle school would be easier than elementary was. Surely I’d find some friends at this school, right?
The very first day of school, I was approached by a girl in my P.E. class who told me we were going to fight. When I asked why, all she said was that she hated freaks. A fat, awkward, poor girl who hadn’t said a word the entire time was already labelled as a “freak” and that would stick with me for the two years I was in that town. My own cousins joined in on the abuse, and then asked me why I wouldn’t speak to them at family functions. Rumors started flying around the school, and one that stuck for most people was that I was gay- back then I didn’t know I wasn’t straight or cisgender. It’s scary when bigots have “gaydar”.
That girl did try to fight me, and so did three other people. I didn’t fight back, but I still got in trouble. The “I don’t care who started it” argument is one of my least favorite methods adults use in disciplining children because of this.
My school did nothing to help me- my counselor suggested losing weight so I wouldn’t be an easy target, instead of punishing the kids who were doing this to me. I can’t blame them too much, though. Almost the entire school was in on it at this point. Too much paperwork, I guess. I even had my library books stolen once so I’d have to pay for them, and when I tried to explain, the librarian told me to stop lying. Maybe it was the fact that I was an outsider to them. I wasn’t born and raised in that hell pit of a town, so they had to punish me for it.
I began to think that this was all I would amount to. I could be the punching bag if it meant other people felt better. It was tearing me apart, but I wasn’t totally worthless if they needed me to get their kicks, and that mattered more. My self worth was non-existent, and I wanted to kill myself. Even online, my only escape, I had “friends” that treated me poorly. They used me to vent and then blamed me when I told them about my struggles.
I didn’t want my parents to blame me, so I never told them. They had no idea what their little girl was going through, and I put on the best face I could. I was suicidal by then, but summer came before things got to be too much for me to handle. I spent almost the entire time with my mother in my hometown, and I would have breakdowns whenever I was forced to go and visit my dad and grandparents. I didn’t want to go back to that place, but eventually summer ended and I was sent back.
In eighth grade, a boy who sat beside me in English pretended to like me. He’d tell me I was smart and nice, and that my appearance didn’t bother him. I knew he was lying, but I was desperate for even false affection at this point so I let him keep the joke going. I’d play his game and pretend not to hear the way the other kids snickered behind us. I’d let him put his hands on me and squeeze at my fat, barely concealing his amusement. This went on constantly for most of the year before he kissed me and shoved his hand down my pants. Luckily, it didn’t go farther than that. He couldn’t go any farther. He said I was too gross, and called me an idiot and a whore for falling for his act.
This was when I started self harming and wrote my first suicide note. I had never felt lower than when he did that to me. I’d never felt more worthless. Cutting didn’t help- it merely reminded me of all the ways in which I was a burden. My existence was offensive to everyone, and that sentiment remains with me to this day.
I was bullied throughout high school as well, but to a lesser degree. I moved out of that town and the grief I got in my new one was nothing. I could handle what they threw at me here- at least they weren’t telling me to die, fighting me, touching me, or stealing my belongings. My counselor did her best to help me and let me vent when things got to be overwhelming. She didn’t blame me. It might as well have been heaven in comparison to what I had been living with.
As a twenty-one year old, I feel that I should be over this. After all, I was always under the impression that unless you killed yourself, bullying was a “lesser” form of abuse. I always feel like I’m sensitive and pathetic because while those people are living their lives, I’m a mentally ill near-recluse who has frequent breakdowns. They have their lives and I haven’t started living. I’ve known suicidal thoughts for half of my life. I’ve planned my death before each birthday, and each year it passes I’m terrified.
Bullying isn’t a lesser form of anything. It is abuse, pure and simple, and it kills. The scars it left won’t ever fully fade, and I am tired of feeling invalidated and foolish for it leaving me like this. I’m tired of seeing think pieces on how their lives might have been rough, or how I need to forgive them in order to move on. No, I don’t. They have no right to that. They nearly ended my life and I’m supposed to care about their feelings? I barely care about my own. Even as I’m writing this, I am questioning everything I type. That little voice in my head tells me that I deserved it all, and that I need to grow up.
I’m not listening to that voice anymore.
I’m through giving it what it wants.