Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I could have told them that . . .

An article in today's New York Times states that the effects of childhood bullying last "well into adulthood."

I could have told them that.

I was bullied for the first time in 1969.  I was either five or six years old, and four girls blocked me on the sidewalk on the way home from school.  I didn't understand what was going on or why they were doing it.  I even asked one girl, "Hey, girl.  Are you nice?"

When I told my mother what happened, she said, "Just ignore them."

Thus the stage was set for twelve years of unrelenting bullying.

Sometimes teachers did something.  Sometimes the kids were talked to.  More often than not, it didn't help.

I remember getting laughed at for how I played volleyball.
I remember having my Girl Scout hat yanked off my head and thrown out the school door, and when I went back to get it, the door being slammed and held so I couldn't get back in.
I remember a classmate deliberately marking wrong answers on a test I'd gotten right, and in pen, so I couldn't erase it.  (This was a case where we exchanged papers and graded each other's papers, and it happened in either the second or third grade.)
I remember being bullied on the bus.  That's why I refused to let my son ride a school bus the first year he was in school.
I wore an Adidas shirt to school one day and heard, "I'll never wear mine again."  I was also asked, "Did you go to the Adidas concert?"
I was asked, "Do you know what a call girl is?" knowing that no matter WHAT I said, I was going to be laughed at.
I've had my movements mocked.
I've had lies told about me.
Someone even sent a letter to the editor of our local paper and signed my name to it, and it was published.  (It was about drunk driving and it said that I was 18, when I wasn't.  I was either 16 or 17 at the time.)
I have been asked if I was gay.
I've had books stolen.
I've had shoes thrown in the trash.
I've had my hair pulled.
I've had things stolen from me.
I was pushed into a gym locker hard enough to scratch the top of my head.
And the overlying message has been, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  It will never stop.  You are not allowed to fight back, because if you do, you will be punished but they will not be.

I want to know why.
I want to face some of these bullies and demand to know, why?  Why pick on me?  What did I do that was so horrible that you decided to make me your target?
And I want to know where the adults were.  There were a few times that my parents talked to teachers, and it helped for a while.  But it never stopped the bullying.

I think the bullying in school set me up to be spiritually bullied in college.  When you are told that you have to put up with being bullied, you put up with being bullied.  It becomes your norm.  So, when people in the church treat you in a way that you were treated in school, you accept it--especially when it's labeled with "this is all in the name of God and to help you be a better Christian."  So you put up with being told that you HAVE to be at church at every single activity, and no excuse is acceptable (except maybe illness).  You put up with having your actions questioned and criticized. You put up with feeling like you're a bad Christian because you don't lead a Bible study or haven't converted anyone to Christ, or haven't been out on a date in months.

Even today, it is very easy for me to project onto people that "they don't like me", "they will be out to get me" when the odds are, they do like me, or, they are not thinking about me at all.  And recently, I've figured out that my fear and visceral reaction to criticism is a fear of being shamed.  It's not, "Here's some corrections you can make in your life to help you," it's, "You are a defective, bad person because of what you did."

Since 1990, I've been in and out of therapy, and this is the main topic that keeps sending me back.  I deal with depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, and other related issues.  I fear confrontation because the bullies always seemed to win.  In the last fight I ever had on a school bus, I told my parents afterwards that "they'd won.  I'll do anything they say."  My mother yelled back at me, "Don't you dare say they've won!"

But they had.

They destroyed my self-esteem and squashed any sort of fighting-back mechanism I had.

The study cited by the New York Times was just published in JAMA Psychiatry.  It followed 1,420 subjects in western North Carolina, and it assessed them four to six times between the ages of 9 to 16.

They didn't need to do all of that.

They could have just asked me.

I could have told them that.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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