A while back, I wrote a review-ish entry about ”LIFE”, Keiko Suenobu’s manga. In the same entry, I said that perhaps I would share my own experiences. Making the decision to do so has been tough, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve actually made it. But over the last few days, I have randomly stumbled across so many entries, documentaries and stories, I almost felt like I had to post this. So here we go.
Let us start with a gif:
And for a second, let us pay no mind towardsthis being a gif from Toddlers and Tiaras. Let’s focus on how it makes me physically hurt when I see people’s snarky comments, laughing at this little girl.
I could start this entry by telling you how I was a naïve child, who loved cats more than anything. I have an obsessive personality, so when I get really into something, I’m really into it. One-tracked. But at 7, how was I supposed to know that saying something like that would haunt me for years?
I could tell you how I thought that other kids were also playful, childish and kind-natured, so I’d tell them these things, unabashedly.
I could tell you how my mistake at 7, continued to follow me for the next 7 years of my life.
What started as something I had said to my friends and classmates, was quickly picked up by the 2nd graders. I’m not sure how it escalated, but it did, to a point where I was bullied by the whole school. I’m hesitant to give the details around it, because even now, in my twenties, I’m afraid that people will laugh at what I said when I was 7 years old. I’m afraid that as a somewhat public person; with a blog and as an author, people will pick up on this and start throwing it in my face again. So I won’t tell you everything, because it’s still too difficult.
I won’t tell how it escalated from “have you become a cat yet”, to “where’s your tail?”, being yelled after me as I passed the elder kids in the school yard or on my way home.
I’m not gonna talk about how they found other ways to pick on me, like how I have a fierce temper, and they’d reel me up just to make me angry, then laugh at me. I’m not gonna talk about how I was in the 7th and 9th grade, being bullied by kids younger than me. Or how I would sometimes find myself face to face on the road to school, or at the store, with someone who would just stare at me and then say “you’re really ugly.”
In truth, my experience wasn’t the worst.
I was never subjected to physical bullying; nobody ever beat me, shoved me or took my things. This was in the 90s, so we had no internet or cell phones. Compared to kids these days, I was let off easily. I’m also a very strong person; I’ve never really cared about what people think, or been afraid of being me. So it wasn’t like I went home crying day after day. What was my biggest problem was the fact that I hate feeling patronized. Whenever someone like my friends, would speak up against the bullies, I’d feel like I was unable to fend for myself. When my friends got angry and yelled back at the other kids, I just wanted to sink into a hole in the ground; because I was weak, because now even more people knew that I was being bullied, and because I felt like they were looking at me with condescendence.
My strength falters at one point; I’m horrified of making mistakes. But I was never good at sports, and I’d always be yelled at, even by kids who were my friends during gym class for example. I was never fast enough, never good enough. At this point, I’m getting more personal than I’d like to be. So I’m not going to talk about dealing with anxiety at a very young age, and having it grow from there into something I was unable to handle, causing me to drop out of school at seventeen, after hitting rock bottom. I’m not going to talk about the extreme pressure I can subject myself to, just so I will exceed at something and thereby erase my own failure, or at least divert people’s attention from it. Or the fact that I, despite my extreme confidence and carefreeness, still worry that I’ll say something that other people can laugh at, or pick up on and rub in my face.
I’m not going to talk about how I find it incredibly strange that even when I was being subjected to ridicule by kids from every class at school, nobody put a stop to it. I know that the teachers were aware of it. I remember brackets of conferences where they would ask how I was doing, and if I was still being bullied. I’m sure there were concerns, but for some reason I can’t remember if there were active measures taken to stop this. I remember writing a text for my midterm in 8th grade, about the past 7 years, and the teacher gave me the highest mark for it; but she didn’t ask how I was doing, or if it had stopped.
Several of my friends were also bullied at some point; for being geeks, for being “ugly”, for not fitting in. I can’t remember those cases being dealt with either. None of the cases were invisible, so then why?
To some readers, it might seem like what I went through is nothing like “real bullying”.
Because there was no violence, because nobody told me to go die or the likes, because I was capable of getting through it without crying myself to sleep every night, and because it was generally anxious and that was why I had a history of absence.
I even catch myself thinking that way sometimes; “was it really that bad? Can it be called proper bullying?”
But then I remember that I was 7 when it started, 14 when it cooled down – or at least when they found new reasons to target me, but at which point I had gained strength and some allies that weren’t easy to mess with. I also remember how my group at upper secondary school stood out, and how we were easy targets – how easily I would tear up when someone who hadn’t known me longer than a few months made almost the exact comment I’d been hearing for seven years of my life.
In the end, I think someone I know was right when he said “It’s the victim that defines what bullying is.”
But for safe measure, let’s have a look at a definition, from Wikipedia:
“Bullying is the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.
Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.” He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways”.
That says it all. You can’t write off that someone’s being bullied because “kids will be kids”, or because there is no violence or legitimate threats in the picture.
Many kids who are bullied are feeling humiliated, and the humiliation will increase if they tell someone and that person takes action – especially since these actions rarely have consequences, and the bullying often escalates.
Many kids suffer in silence. For many, the roughest time might not be while they’re going through it, but afterwards, when they’re trapped in their own painful, unresolved feelings from early age.
Discomfort is enough. It doesn’t have to reach the point of self-mutilation, suicide or anxiety or depression. Discomfort, stomachaches, restlessness at the thought of the weekend almost being over… Telling someone that they’re not being bullied is not okay. Claiming that “there is no bullying in this class” because nobody’s going through the things you see on the news, in documentaries or in movies, is not okay. Telling people to “die/hurt themselves/fuck off” on the internet and claim you’re not serious is not okay. Because you don’t know what people have gone through, or the insecurities they’ve been through in their lives.
I think I went way off chord here…
And part of me feels like I shouldn’t post this. That would be the part who’s afraid of becoming a target again, the part that feels like what I went through wasn’t bad enough, the part of me that fears that others will claim I’m just whining without knowing real pain.
But I’m going to post this anyway.