I am a 35 year old mother of an 18 month old little girl, and I am already worried about bullying for her because of what happened to me. I got the worst of it in the junior high years, mostly seventh and eighth grade. My family went through a period of where we moved around a lot, and I attended five different school from 7th grade through 9th grade. I found in each school there was never a shortage of students who enjoyed being rude, mean and obnoixous to certain people, I being one of those people. I never treated others that way so I couldn't understand why they did it to me. It didn't take long for me to believe that there was something wrong with me and that's why I was treated so.
The big shock was in the second school I attended in 7th grade. There was a very large group of girls who started attacking me within a few weeks of my arrival. I don't really remember all of the details of everything they did and I don't want to remember, but mostly it was verbal assaults and rumor starting. They were always trying to make me cry and succeeded a few times, but I usually hid in the bathroom during lunch until I could regain my composure. When I went to the guidance counselor for help she said I was "sensitive" and that they were "just teasing." She "talked" to them about, which didn't help at all of course and probably made things worse. One time a nice group of girls caught me crying in the bathroom and felt bad for me and told this same guidance conselor. Nothing changed of course. One time I hit a girl after she snapped my bra strap, and when she hit me back I realized I would get into a fight if I hit back again, so I stopped. I didn't want to get into a real fight. I was always a "good kid" and didn't want to sink to that level.
One thing I do remember is that the band teacher had a lot to do with me being picked on. After observing me play the flute for a week, he didn't like my posture and the fact that I didn't tap my foot when I played. He stupidly said,"I think Anne came from a school that wasn't so particular, so please remind her when you see her do something wrong. But don't chew her up or anything." Well apparently that was an invitation for open season on me. They were constantly demanding "Tap your foot!" and pulling at me to correct my posture. I really felt like it was my fault and that I deserved this treatment. I had got the message somewhere that when kids pick on you constantly, it's your fault. I didn't tell my parents because I was ashamed, and then the summer came.
When it was time to go back to school, I started to get very upset, and then my parents finally found out what had been going on. They said that I should have told them before, but believed that I kept my mouth shut because we were having issues with my parent's health and also money at home. They didn't realize that I was ashamed to tell them. They tried to give me some strategies for coping, even suggesting that I leave school immediately when the harrassment got out of hand, at which time my parents would call the school immediately to complain. Well as it turned out, I only attended that school for three days of the new school year when we had to move suddenly again for my dad to obtain specialized medical treatment. We never returned.
In a few weeks, I was in a new 8th grade school. Although I didn't get bullied as badly as the last time, I was still verbally bullied. By then, I knew that I was one of those kids that bullies pick on. I had made a few acquaintances but was always on guard. Since our housing situation was temporary, in a few months we moved again and it was another school for the rest of eighth grade. I had this crazy idea that if I was really friendly to everyone that they wouldn't be able to pick on me, so that's the strategy I used. To this day, I think that embarrasses me more than anything else about my junior high experience. It actually worked for about two weeks and then the popular kids starting shunning me because I wasn't one of them. I didn't really care by then because I had made a group of real friends and I wasn't bullied at that point.
Then for some reason, a few weeks later, a bully started a name calling campaign against me. I remember that she started on a Friday and I hoped she would forget about it over the weekend, but of course she didn't. I told my parents, and we came up with the strategy that I should confront the bully about this and tell her that it wasn't right. I tried, telling her it wasn't right, I wouldn't do that to her, etc, but she just laughed at me and made fun of me some more.
After a few more weeks of this, I decided I wanted my parents to go to the school principal, which they did. We thought he was a fair and just principal, but I found out later that he was also an alcoholic and that may be why the strategy backfired. He called the bully into his office and told her that the teachers reported what she was doing and she had better stop. She did stop, and everyone else who was following her suddenly stopped too. Unfortunately, the principal saw me in the hallway about a week later and asked in a really loud voice if she was still bothering me. A boy who was one of her followers overheard and said "you told" out of the principal's earshot. I didn't know what to say. I said nothing. He must have told the bully because she started up again, and her followers followed. I felt defeated and it continued for the rest of the school year. I looked forward to moving to a new school for ninth grade.
By this time, I was totally walking on eggshells. I knew that I had better be very careful not to strike up a conversation with anyone who looked popular and that I had better keep a low profile. I decided if anyone else insulted me I would try as hard as possible to show no reaction at all. There were some other kids new to the school so I was able to make friends with some of them. There was one bully who targeted me, and there were other kids who made threw random insults from time to time. I actually wasn't this bully's main target however, so I considered myself much better off.
The next year was high school and I hardly ever saw this bully anymore. She wasn't in any of my classes, and we had several different cafeterias.I later heard that she had bullied other people in high school and by senior year she was gone. There were other more isolated incidents with rude, obnoxious kids from time to time, but mostly I always went to school with the feeling that it was this unprotected, lawless society where anything could happen. I was very relieved to graduate and get out of there.
As an adult, I have mostly tried to forget what happened to me. I have always felt that junior high is a terrible place for kids and high school not much better. I have suffered from depression for all of my adult life, but I never admitted until recently that peer abuse or bullying had much to do with it. I would often tell myself "That's in the past- I will never have to go through it again." I burned my diaries from my teenage years a few years ago. But now that I have a daughter, I realize that it will be an issue soon, and that's why I'm revisiting it. In this sense, I am still in "recovery."
But I do have one thing to tell kids who've been bullied. It really does get better as an adult. The things bullies do in your world would not be tolerated in the adult world. So hang in there!
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