By GABRIELLE BOYER, Staff Columnist
October. The time for leaves. The time for spicy political debates and pumpkin coffee. Where pink ribbons come out everywhere to support Breast Cancer awareness month. But did you know that October is also Bullying Prevention Awareness Month?
I didn’t until the first when one of my friends posted on Facebook about it, and I really stopped to think about it. People tend to have mixed feelings about bullying in their past. For some, it gave them thick skin or even helped them overcome conflicts. For others, it created emotional, physical and psychological scars that can never be erased.
Now I can’t speak to everyone’s experience with bullying, surely how I feel about it is complex, but I can share my story on how bullying has affected me.
When I was 11 years old, a boy on my school bus told me that I was ugly and had a face like a horse. I remember it so clearly because I walked home crying. It was the first time anyone had said anything like that to me without provocation.
This instance, coupled with others, where I was compared to my at the time best friend, who “was so much prettier than me” lead to me having a really bad self image of myself through middle school and high school. I was tall, too thin, pimply and very vocal in school, so as it were the cracks about me progressed from, “Amazon” and “Anorexic” to “Dyke” and my personal favorite, “You’re not flat chested, you’re just A-okay.”
The teasing came to a head when I was in the twelfth grade and a boy gave me a dog collar as a secret Santa gift and watched me cry in front of the entire class room. I’ll never forget how my English teacher sat silent and watched me sob on my desk. When I asked him about it later he looked at me and said, “Kids will be kids.”
That instance confirmed two things for me psychologically, that I was in fact “ugly” enough of a person for a prank like that to be played on me and that my teacher (and really no one) cared enough to defend me or stop that boy from doing that. I was lucky enough that I had a group of friends who tried to cheer me up and tell me that these things weren’t true, but still at some level I really didn’t believe them. I thought, that, lurking underneath the facade of friendship, they were judging me and thinking really cruel things about me. I pushed them away physically and emotionally.
So when I was in my first serious relationship, I didn’t recognize the symptoms of emotional abuse, which let’s be honest is bullying, because I thought, “he was just being honest.” I finally had someone who told me I was pretty consistently and that was the only thing that mattered.
I didn’t realize that when he would compare me to other girls that was wrong. And I let slide that he would tell me that my family and friends were bad and didn’t and couldn’t love me as much as him. I even let him call me “crazy”, “stupid”, and a few other things that I won’t include in the news paper, because he was just mad at me. Out of the year we spent together, a large portion of it I spent depressed but couldn’t put my finger on why.
I won’t lie to you and say I woke up one day, gave the guy the finger and drove off happily ever after, because that isn’t true. I was lucky enough to have people in my life that saw him for what he was, a bully, and help me get out of the situation before I really hurt myself.
The reason I tell you this story isn’t because I want sympathy. My story isn’t even that bad compared to many people. Compared to the people who didn’t have friends to help them or anyone to talk to, I got off really light. I’m telling you this story to explain how being bullied as child can follow you into adulthood. And I’m not over it either, if people tell me that I am pretty, I don’t believe them. Deep down I still see myself crying on the desk about that dog collar.
So I’m encouraging people like me and others to participate in Bullying Prevention Awareness month, whether that’s standing up for a someone when they are being bullied, not bullying yourself and showing children, that that isn’t alright.