It was a LONG time ago. Yes, it was – 1972 to 1981. You would think that I’d be “over it” by now, wouldn’t you? But no, I remember those classmates vividly. I remember things they said to me, names they called me, things they whispered to each other about me, the snide remarks and the rumours they spread which affected my life profoundly. I remember trying to convince people that I was NOT a slut, but was actually a virgin and terrified about sex. I remember how I felt completely valueless and misunderstood. No doubt – I was a bit “weird.” I thought differently, I saw things differently and I did not have a speech filter. I parroted anything that the “popular” people said which made me a bit of a bully, too. I was a very clingy friend/girlfriend, probably because I so desperately wanted acceptance. Thank goodness for music, horses and Labrador retrievers.
If social media had been available then, I know without a doubt that the suicide that I thought about so often would have been committed.
But I digress. I really wish to share my views about bullying.
I do still somewhat resent the people who were unbelievable cruel to me socially and psychologically. Sometimes I wonder if karma ever caught up to them for ruining my school years. It’s not that I had no friends (they were victims as well), but my family was not very cognizant of the issue and my sister was one of “them.” The unfairness of it and the PAIN it caused is still there. “Let it go,” I am told. (Sure, no problem). I have NOT let it go; I should not HAVE to let it go. I have however, changed my perspective regarding the bullies themselves.
There is much focus now on stopping the bullying. Bullies are prosecuted, even. Bullies are “bad” people in the eyes of the general public. The media, school boards, the government, social service agencies and the law have vilified the bully. Major focus is also being put on what to do if one becomes a victim of bullying, which is extremely important for the emotional, mental and physical well being of the victims. The initiatives and programs that are increasing daily in response to horrific examples of extreme bullying leading to suicide and death by assault are integral to the awareness of how devastating bullying can be. They also really do assist victims in healing.
But, what about the bully?
I remember asking myself and the universe as I cried hysterically, “WHY???” Why did these people hate me so much? Why were they so mean? Why did they seem to get so much joy out of hurting me? Back then and for many years after, I believed that I must have really sucked for this to be a regular part of my life. It was me who had the problems – I wasn’t “this” enough or good enough at “that,” I was seriously flawed and deserving of their ridicule. I didn’t deserve to be invited to the parties or to go along on the adventures. I expected to be the last one picked for basketball. Alternately, I hated them and saw them as evil, nasty people.
Now, when I ask, “why were they so mean,” I do not look at myself for the answer. Now I wonder what awful things were going on in their lives, their emotional and mental world, that would make them NEED to hurt others in order to feel good. There is some sort of recognition to this idea as I have seen posters and Facebook pictures that say that if you are a bully, then you don’t feel good about yourself. These posters come across as quite pejorative.
I believe that the approach to the bullying problem is quite one sided. The media and the government (who fund the programs and initiatives), should look at a more balanced and effective means to alleviate BOTH sides of the problem. Yes, help the victims, of course, but also HELP THE BULLIES themselves! Give them the opportunity and the permission to articulate what it is that makes them feel that they need to hurt and have power over their peers. Find out what the underlying and possibly horrific issues that make one a bully are! Understand and accept that the bully is not necessarily a “bad” person, but that their bad behaviour comes from somewhere or out of some pain deep inside them that needs to be addressed, and that also needs to be healed.
There is a stigma associated with being a bully. Why is that OK?
About L. Song
L. Song is a middle aged professional who has been struggling with Bipolar Disorder II since her teens. After finally being properly diagnosed and prescribed the correct medication at forty-four, she has dedicated herself to helping others who suffer from the stigma of mental illness through her work. To try to make a difference, L. Song supports organizations such as Mood Disorders Society of Canada, CAMH, as well as HMC. As an avid “horse person,” she also follows and contributes to a Facebook page, Riders Against Mental Illness Stigma. She plans to someday work with people and horses in a therapeutic capacity and publish a book about her experiences living and recovering from the disorder. You can follow her story on HMC's Supportive Minds blog.