Bullying: a personal tale

I have never publicly written or really even spoken about a couple of rather traumatic years in my primary school years, where I was bullied to the point of wanting to kill myself.

Why?

I guess because the main culprit did indeed apologise profusely (upon having my grandma finally discover what had been going on and confront said person and her mother about it) and then cease and desist from that point onwards. Indeed we’re even – some twenty years later – friends now. Not in the catch-up-every-week sense, but we stay in touch on facebook and when we’ve seen each other in person we’ve been all good.

Moreover, I actually feel like having gone through that has – insert cheese here – made me a better person. I have never, nor will I ever, treat anybody the way I was treated. Who knows? Maybe that wouldn’t be the case hadn’t I experienced the brunt of the popularity-cult-of-acceptable-schoolyard-bullying early on. It was also, I think, a key part in me discovering the funny side of my personality. When I emerged from the bullying phase, I was quick to discover that by cracking jokes I made friends quite easily. Perhaps I even owe some of this early trouble to my comedy career.

That is, I seem to have a happy ending, so to go back and delve into the foulness before happy-times seems unfair. She regretted what happened, and stopped doing it. It was two decades ago. I  forgave and moved on.

But now I feel that I HAVE to come out and talk about it, namely cos it contextualises an event that happened yesterday to my own children. An event that makes me SO FREAKING ANGRY, SAD AND UPSET THAT I CAN BARELY TYPE.

So…somewhere in grade 5 or so, my “best friend” and I “broke up”. What followed was nearly two years of being avoided at lunch-times, being prank called at home during this ex-friend’s slumber parties, being told “Jenny, you’re pretty. Pretty ugly!” and seeing my grandmother’s horror when I asked her innocently what a lesbian was. Because they’d told me I was one.

There was more but most of all I remember the thought: “what is so wrong with me that everybody hates me?”

I have diary entries from that exact time  where I literally write of wanting to end my life. I was ten.

So yesterday, my 8-year-old and 6-year-old went to check the mail.

What they brought in (and fortunately, proceeded to show us immediately) was two pages of drawings of nude people – with very detailed genitals – labelled with my kids names. And with an extra note saying that they hoped my kids liked them and calling my daughter a bitch.

What do you even do with that?

We are doing what we can. But whatever happens from this point, the thing that makes me so incredibly upset inside is that already, from having seen that, damage has been done. My kids have been hurt and my heart is aching for them. I want to make it right. But even if things are rectified, if the culprit apologises and makes peace, if my kids forgive, the fact remains that damage has been done.

And it makes me sick to my stomach.

Image courtesy of Eddie-S

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4 Comments

  1. Berny
    March 27, 2011
    Reply

    Holy Hell. Jen it’s not just your heart breaking. I cannot believe the cruelty and yet it doesn’t surprise me. It makes me angry, sad but then I’ve seen it all before myself… I too was bullied Jen. Where do you begin? My dad was in the army so I got Army Jokes, i wore glasses so I was teased, I was on the pudgy side so was called fat, and ugly, and I was a christian so was called weird. I didn’t hit puberty until WELL into highschool so was called frigid and mozzie bite (for my mozzie bite sized breasts).

    I remember the wisest piece of advice anyone every gave to me. I was soooo aching to change schools, looking forward to highschool and leaving X and Y (the two major bullys)behind. My Year 7 Teacher Mr Webb: “No matter where you go, even when you are 60, there will always be an X and a Y.”

    Hitting highschool made me see that yes, X and Y were there too – they just had different names! Something had to change. I was still be-spectacled, still flat chested, still pudgy and still weird! I started standing up to the mean girls at school. When they stole my chairs in art I just dumped their books on the floor when they got up to get their materials and swiped the chairs right back. I too used wit as a sword (although far more unsuccessfully than you!) and I learnt to be friendly, smiling, even at the mean girls. I was good with words and so I used them as a weapon if they dare pick on someone who was quiet. At our 10 year reunion I had one girl thank me for sticking up for her some 13 years earlier. She never forgot it… although I had.

    I don’t know if this helps Jen. Sometimes the ugly parts of school are what we have to live through our kids too…

    I teach my girls to be encouragers. To be pleasant but to tell other kids to back off if they are mean. I want them to be kind but strong.

    XXX

  2. Laura McPhee
    March 27, 2011
    Reply

    Oh Jenny that is so infuriating! I can’t imagine a child doing something like that it makes you wonder if it was an older child which is possibly even worse. There is a silver lining though, your children’s first instinct is to seek you out when something like this happens so you can talk them through it and help them deal. Life is just full of bullies but if your kids turn to you for guidance they will be strong individuals who will stand up for themselves and others in the future. I was a chubby kid who did nothing but read so I was teased quite a bit during my childhood too but every child who bullied me ended up having some family problems of their own that were causing them to act out. It’s likely that the person who did that drawing has some issues and hopefully their parents figure it out soon enough to help them. Good luck I know the kids will be back to happy with some added wisdom in no time!

  3. viv
    March 27, 2011
    Reply

    Wow that’s really shocking. I reckon find out who did it and tell the police. It sounds like it could comed under the definition of obscenity. Or if you find out maybe you could at least the principal. Not being trite, but my first thought was ‘that’s bogan behaviour!’
    I got bullied in first year at high school – physically threatened and it was a new school with really tough kids. And I am not tought. and when I told Dad and Joan they just took me out of the school – no questions asked. I always really appreciated that….

  4. March 28, 2011
    Reply

    Thanks so much you guys for sharing your own stories and for the support!!

    Viv, the problem is, we don’t think it’s kids from their school. It seems likely it’s some neighbourhood kids (bit of a mob mentality going on, methinks.) We’ve got our suspicions of who it is, but of course, nobody is fessing up at this point.

    On the plus side, our pair seem a lot brighter today, I think Ella’s been really heartened that we’ve got her back so much. I really am encouraged by her strength in dealing with all this. Nasty, but I can already see she’s emerging stronger. Fingers crossed! x

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