When I little, bullying was when someone beat you up. I saw it frequently in movies. The bully pushes kids into lockers and takes their lunch money. The bully gives kids swirlies and calls them names. Bullying was very physical. Attacking someone strictly emotionally and psychologically was “kids being kids”. It was getting “picked on”. I also wasn’t told that your closest friends could be your biggest bully. We didn’t have the language we have now about bullying when I was younger.
I experienced bullying when I entered grade 1. I had a friend that used the silent treatment, threats and physical force to get what she wanted. Yes, at 6 years old children can engage in bullying behaviours. When I entered grade 6, a new school was built in my area that I had to go to. I tried to make friends with a few girls in my class. They didn’t see me as a worthy friend. “You’re just our friend. We’re best friends,” they said to me one day. Even when I established a friendship with 5 others girls, we spent most of our time gossiping about each other and taking sides. By the time I entered grade 8 boys began contributing to the bullying I experienced. They would comment on my body, rank me low on lists of who they thought was pretty and told me that I wasn’t “girlfriend material”. When my group of girls would hang out with the boys, I was actively ignored by everyone. I thought they were just being mean. I also thought that it was my fault. If only I was good enough.
To cope with the daily rejection I was experiencing I began to have thoughts of ending my life and began self-harming. This increased the emotional bullying as I was engaging in behaviours that made me “crazy”. Depression became more apparent and my friends invalidated me by telling me I had no problems to justify any negative feelings or actions. This would become the theme of high school. I was supposed to have this great life despite no one supporting me and being told that I was lesser than. I still thought my friends and peers were just being mean. I didn’t realize there was bullying along with mental health discrimination at play.
In 2014, Shane Koyczan released his spoken word poem “To This Day“. I listened to it, with tears in my eyes, as I realized I had been bullied. It didn’t matter that I had never been beaten up. The rejection, isolation, invalidation and judgment was bullying. I related to the deep emotional scars that childhood bullying had left. Yes, I had left the bullies behind but I could still hear the boy that called me ugly. I remembered all the friends and boyfriends that left me because I was “too sad”. I was an adult and I kept my childhood pain with me. I carried it every day.
Shane’s poem also speaks of strength, of overcoming the pain of our childhoods. I knew I had to do this. I needed to be real with myself and admit that the people that hurt me were gone. I had supportive friends, a loving family and a better sense of self. The bullying had shaped part of who I was and I decided that I was finished allowing that part of my past to be a part of my present and potential future.
To the adults that still suffer from what happened to them as children, I encourage you to release that pain. That is not excusing what happened to you. What happened is unacceptable. Release the pain because you deserve to not be weighed down. I hope your present is filled with what you need to heal. I wish you well.
About Kristen Bellows
Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com