A Tale of Bullying

» Posted on Nov 3, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on A Tale of Bullying

I am posting various people’s stories about being bullied. I want to thank people for sharing their stories on my blog. This is another tale of a person being bullied and how it affected her throughout her life:

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” used to make me cry. Now they just make me angry. When I was in the second grade, these shows found their way onto my Grandmother’s television set. I watched them in silence, gagging on the laughter and the meanness directed toward the title characters (“What a blockhead, Charlie Brown”, “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.)in these shows because I endured the same torture every day of my life. 

This was the early 1960s and there was no such testing like there is today. I had barely turned five when I started Kindergarten. That was the law. There was no such option as holding a kid back a year or more who wasn’t ready.  Jeers and name-calling filled my days (and not all were from kids, either. Some came from teachers. That was the worst.). I walked the playground alone and was glad when the bell rang to go back into school. I’m near-sighted and the teachers thought they were doing me a favor by assigning me a seat in the front. How I longed to disappear in the back of the room, maybe be a mouse and slip into the woodwork, forgotten, away from everyone. 

My self-esteem had plummeted to a zero on a scale of one to ten. My mother let me  change grade schools between 6th and 7th grades. (These were supposed to be Christian schools that were grades 1st-8th).  I remember telling an eighth-grade classmate who was the ringleader of all the tormentors, “you couldn’t hate me as much as I hate me.”  I started going to a psychologist because I was exhibiting behavioral problems. I wasn’t acting up, I was acting out. The psychologist gave me a paper to fill out in the early-going.  It was all fill-in-the-blank with statements like “In the future, I see myself as____.” I wrote the “dead” after it, and the psychologist and my mother (my parents were divorced), were very concerned.  I used to joke that if I had a nickel for every time I walked home from school in tears, I’d be independently wealthy.

When it came time for me to start high school, I dreaded it so that I was sick most of the summer between 8th grade and Freshman year.  Facing the kids from the first school who bullied me plus the bullies from the second school was not something I looked forward to.  I sat alone in the cafeteria day after day and swallowed the sandwich and potato chips that felt like rocks in my throat and gut. If I was called on in class and made a mistake, I heard the others chanting my wrong answer everywhere I went. I didn’t raise my hand after the first few weeks of Freshman year. Teachers were telling my mother to try to get me to participate in class. Those were the same teachers who laughed as loud as the kids when I messed up. I wanted so badly to drop out as soon as I was 16.

My near-sightedness was also a depth-perception problem, coupled with a clumsiness and slowness in response time, so I didn’t learn to drive. The others swung car keys in front of my face and laughed at the “stupid baby” who couldn’t keep up with the others. The bus ride home every night was torture. The others were unstoppable on the bus, the jeers and chants sometimes more than I could take. I stared out the window, pretending not to hear, sick inside because I knew that in 24 short hours, the scene would be repeated.

After I graduated high school, I opted out of going to college. I had endured 12 years of torture and didn’t look forward to 4 more. Besides, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t get a job for nearly five years because I couldn’t drive. I stayed home alone while my mother worked. Lost in the fantasy world of favorite television shows, I filled notebook after notebook of fan fiction stories. I wanted to hurt myself as I felt I deserved. By that time, I wished for a gun to end it all. After being called “stupid” day in and day out for 12 long, long years, I believed it. My stomach, usually in knots, began to betray me. Bouts of diarrhea got worse and worse. The clumsiness got worse. By the time I started my first job in 1980, I was an emotional mess. Writing for television was the only thing that seemed to matter for me. I bought a couple of television scripts from somewhere in Hollywood and tried to write for the shows currently on the air. It never went anywhere because I believed that I would fail, so I didn’t even try. The diarrhea caused me to go from 115 pounds down to 98 pounds. People whispered behind hands that I was anorexic—adult people, my hair dresser (that I stopped going to), the boss’ wife, co-workers.  I didn’t get much support in my life from anywhere. Not even my own family.

The clumsiness was much worse as was my response time (my reflexes), and I began the years-long search for an answer to the problem. Each time a test result showed nothing, I took it personally as something else I had failed at. I changed jobs, and the company I worked for went out of business. I stood I the unemployment line where I was treated like trash from every person that I had to deal with at the unemployment office. I longed for that mouse-hole again when I stood in line and secretly loved the fact that I was home alone again to fill notebooks.

It would be another two years before I found another job. This time, I was a telemarketer when that was just beginning to come into being in my city. People were rude, whistles blown into my ear, my bosses demanding that I get more results than I was getting. People were hanging up on me right and left. Again, I took it personally. After five years there, I quit on the spot when I was confronted about too many people hanging up on me. Again, I was unemployed for two years. Then I got a job in a department store.  I gave out numbers to correspond to the items of clothing taken into the fitting room. People were rude to me to my face now. I was called names and jeered at when my balance problems showed themselves. These were adults! I quit after a woman got nose-to-nose with me and called me an unrepeatable name when I would not allow her to take an armload of clothing into the fitting room. (I was supposed to only allow 6 garments at a time.)  I was employed on and off for the next few years in jobs that I dealt with the public. Somehow, I had come to believe that I deserved to be treated like something scraped off the bottom of a shoe. I could not believe how many adults laughed at me, called me names, or cursed at me.

Then I found a job that I liked in an office setting. I could hide in my little cubicle. I liked the job and the people that I worked with.  One of them was a Christian and although I had always been one, I had been one with a lower case “c”, and became one with an upper case “C”.It took me a long time, and by this time I was in my early forties, to realize that if Jesus loved me, maybe I could love me. The others at work genuinely liked me. I was terrified of being bullied again, but I wasn’t. Not this time. Then my supervisor retired and the department I worked in was no more.

I went from loving my job to hating it in a matter of weeks. Once again I was thrown into working with the public as I was assigned to work on the order desk—the phones.  My clumsiness was diagnosed as non-diabetic neuropathy. The pain moved sometimes everywhere at once. I became so tired I could barely make it through the day. Because I had begun to fall so often, my doctor recommended that I get a walker. The fatigue and pain was diagnosed as fibromyalgia. I was told it was due to my always being such an emotional mess, holding myself in “flight or fight” mode due to the years of being bullied. I was no longer able to work and went on to permanent disability. 

Now, I am 55, and I spend my days writing (I have one non-fiction book, “Patches of Sunshine ( A Daily Devotional for Fibromyalgia Patients)”, under my belt, and am working on a mystery novel). I like me now. There are times I still get down on myself, but Jesus always lifts me up. I still want to resort to that fantasy world of the television shows when I need to be comforted. I’m officially a Senior Citizen now and go to the Senior Center sometimes for ceramics and the occasional movie. People there accept me. Finally. I’m happy now. But it took nearly forty years for me to be able to say that.  My life would have been so different if I hadn’t been bullied for most of it.