Here, a 50-year-old woman who was bullied throughout her school days talks about the effect she believes it has had on her life.
I hated school from the moment I set foot into it to the day I left. I was a bag of nerves, I think.
The primary/junior school I attended was rife with petty snobbery and my family didn't measure up socially. My parents were also older, which marked me out for bullying, both physical and verbal.
I was often absent with tummy bugs (genuine vomiting etc) but now I attribute many of those attacks to sheer nerves. It didn't help when teachers, too, bullied pupils.
I wasn't bright but neither was I stupid. My parents had no idea what was going on, really. They were of that generation that left school at the age of 13 or 14 and you learned what you could.
Unable to trust people
I failed my 11-plus exam and ended up at a "bog standard" secondary modern which took children from the poorer districts. Because I was "posh" I went through the mill, mainly verbal abuse this time.
I did try to discuss it with my mother but she always seemed to want to blame me for provoking it - had I done or said something untoward? I was desperately unhappy and can say that I had no friends whatsoever during that time and I have made no real friends since because I can't trust people.
Things eased towards the end of my schooling because I suppose we just grew up and the real bullies all left school as soon as they could. The rest of us were too busy studying for exams to bully.
As a consequence of this, I have become very hard-hearted and cold towards people.
I am also very independent and rarely if ever ask anyone for help with anything and, possibly, I am even a little paranoid.
My self-esteem and confidence are very low, although I've never had real problems finding employment.
I've never had children because I felt I wouldn't be able to look after them properly and I am a "depressed" person. Nothing really matters any more.
I have never discussed this with anyone because I have never known anyone I could trust who wouldn't "tell on me", so to speak. Isn't that awful?
I have encountered bullying in the workplace, in various forms, but somehow I have managed to cope with it. As I have grown older, I have found it easier to deal with the morons who try and wreck others' lives.
I believe bullying is based partly on jealousy, partly on brazenness (the bully is the one who lacks true confidence), bravado before peers, fear of someone who is a bit different from the norm, copying adult behaviour at home, but it doesn't make it right.
The bully is often not the one who is top of the class; often it's the opposite. Those who are bright and confident, I have found, don't need to bully.
I bullied people, too, at times. There was always someone worse off than you. Perhaps I was taking my anger out on them. I never hit or punched anyone but there were times when I did my share of name calling but it wasn't very often.
The odd things about bullying between children is that is often seems to start within the group itself, one friend sides with another, one gets singled out, they all fall out with each other and then take sides (is this the pack animal within all our selves?).
In which case, is bullying normal, part of growing up, part of working out who is going to lead and who is going to do the washing up?
All through out school I was being bullied. I got bullied for so much, for being the quiet one, for being the fat one, for being the smart one. For just everything, I hated it, it followed me all till I moved to Florida, than I just kept to myself, and no one really bothered me, or talked to me. I was out of sight, and out of mind. I was just like an outcast.
Than I came to EP, and for a while, I was bullied here too. I am sick of being bullied, and now, even thought some try to hurt me, and attack me, and bring me down, but I am not as weak as I use to be.
I wish i wasn't such an easy target. I have a big heart, I am very insecure, and very senistive about things, and people take that as an advantage to hurt me, and they do. I am just sick of being on the attack....
Being bullied has effected my life, but I have tried to fight back, and I have tried to stick up for myself, but I am not always so lucky. I wait for the day, that I can speak my mind, my thoughts, my opinions, my dreams, wishes, fears, without worrying about being attacked and bullied.....
I wish we'd stop calling it 'bullying', and call it what it really is. Abuse. I was bullied everyday, all day, for 11 years. I vomited each morning because I knew what was going to happen, and knew I couldn't stop it. Anyone I told just said to stand up for myself. But that only made things worse, because then they knew they could get a reaction out of me. And they thought that was funny. It just never stopped. As I got older, it became different .. being ignored, shunned, is another form of bullying/abuse. Nobody has ever said 'sorry' for it. Maybe because none of them are sorry ...
Story of Bullying
My story starts off with my childhood years. Supposed to be the best? Not at all. Tormented since the age of four by bullies. Yeah, I know, people often say you can’t be bullied when you’re four. But of course you can. Bullying is any form of someone making you feel worthless, and that’s how I felt. And not really having anyone to talk to didn’t help.
My mam suffered from depression, and I always felt she was emotionally unavailable from a young age. I won’t even start about my dad. So my problems started from a young age. And I grew up with them.
Everyday going into school, feeling my stomach twist into knots, trying to make my parents believe I was “sick”, having to deal with being called “fat” and “stupid” and crap like that. (I know now that I was neither fat nor stupid). Being sensitive didn’t help either. It got to the stage where I couldn’t trust people, being so paranoid that they were only pretending to be nice to me, and that soon enough I would be tormented by them also.
This horrible feeling stayed with me up until secondary school. I met the most amazing friends there, who still stick by me to this day. Even after all I’ve put them through. Second year of school was awful. I was feeling so bad by this stage that I’d started self-harming on a daily basis. It was the only thing I felt I had control over. And this way, I felt I could control the amount of pain I received, not anybody else.
But, it became an addiction. I couldn’t stop, even if I wanted to. And so came the stage of overdose number one. I was 14 at the time.
My boyfriend had broken up with me, and I was hanging around with a bunch of fake people. One girl in particular was trying to eliminate me from the group. She had spread lies about me, and told me I was useless.
Sadly, I believed her, and I attempted suicide. I was lucky I lived. It was the most horrible experience of my life. Over the next few years, suicide attempts became a frequent thing.
Until I met my boyfriend. He was so supportive, and was always there when I needed to talk. I stopped self harming while I was with him, and felt good about myself. But he left, and I overdosed again. Thankfully, for the last time. I realised I couldn’t keep putting the ones I loved through this pain. So I started self help. I made a list of all the things that bothered me and made me feel upset and stressed. I came off my medication, because of the side effects. I started talking to people.
Seriously, please, if you feel upset or down, please talk to someone. Even if you just write down how you’re feeling, it can help. But please, never feel like you’re alone because there’s always someone there for you. You only get one life, make the most of it.
SCHOOL BULLYING – 50 Years Later
The year was 1958 and it was September. I had graduated from the sixth grade in June and was looking forward to starting junior high school. I had good reason: I was accepted into what was called “Special Progress” and was deemed smart enough to skip the 8th grade! The exhilaration didn’t last long, though. Right there in 7SP5, in this rarified collection of students, were the boys who would for all purposes, destroy me. I remember the ringleaders as two funny-looking boys, but they gained popularity because of their treatment of me, and soon all of the boys in this large public school joined in. The girls ignored me. School was a torture chamber.
It seemed that everything I did was fodder, including breathing. I was made to feel fat, ugly, smelly, disgusting and subhuman. My worst nightmare came true when I was seated next to a ringleader in Algebra class. I asked for a seat change and the teacher refused. I became truant just to avoid going to that class. To this day, I have math phobia. This went on for two of the worst years of my life. In retrospect, I realize now that the major problem was feeling totally trapped. Never again in my 63 years have I EVER been so trapped. Unfortunately, I have run away from things too often, just because I COULD.
I have suffered immesurably throughout my lifetime and it all goes back to those two boys. They are probably grandfathers now and likely haven’t changed a bit. If they learned that they wounded me for life and affected every relationship I’ve ever had, they’d laugh with glee.
The word “bullying” hadn’t been invented yet. I had no idea then that schools would eventually frown on this awful behavior and that the perps might suffer consequences. The one teacher I approached didn’t even want to know WHY I wanted to change my seat. Back in the day, the way this harrassment was dealt with was either for fathers to teach their sons to physically defend themselves or for girls to just “ignore it.”
The recent suicide in Massachusetts has made headlines, but I’m not surprised. The only difference in her case was current technology, making her a victim 24/7.
The path of my life has changed because of these two dimwit boys and I know I’ll never fully recover. Thankfully, I’ve made a life for myself. Although I remain emotionally fragile, I found creative outlets for myself and even recognition for my talents.
This post was modified from its original form on 18 Jun, 6:44
When she is addressing students about bullying, Jennifer Hoyt Huerth of Hampden asks them to take a good look at her, then asks them how they believe she might have been perceived when she was in high school.
“Was I athletic? Was I popular?”
Of course she was.
She was “the prom queen; captain of the soccer team.”
And then she tells her story.
She was neither.
“I didn’t fit in,” she said.
“I had no clear place.
“No matter what place I tried, it didn’t work.”
What she was was a victim of bullying.
As a seventh-grader in Bangor, “the bullying was somewhat abusive, sexually,” she told me. “I was pretty much branded a %#&!*%.
“It was carved into my locker. And the terrible thing about that was I was afraid of boys.”
At another school, someone went into every class “and carved very cruel things about me into desks.”
Ugly words were spray-painted on walls or written with black markers. “I was asked to leave that school,” she said.
In 10th grade, believing she was not receiving the support she needed at home or school, Jennifer ran away and ended up out of state.
“I was faced with homelessness, hunger, depression, drug addiction and abuse,” she has said and, at 18, “I even lived through the birth of my son and then his death.”
Born prematurely and weighing less than 2 pounds, Alex lived just three days.
“He died in my arms, and that moment was my rock bottom,” Jennifer said.
What she realized, she said, “is that I could not support myself, living on minimum wage and, after the baby died, I knew I wanted a baby someday, and I knew I would not be able to do that without an education.”
“My family has always been a supporter of education, but I never thought enough of myself to do anything about it.”
Jennifer returned to Bangor.
She attended The Learning Center and got her GED. She moved to Portland and slept on her sister’s couch while going to community college. Then she transferred to the University of Maine in Orono where she is working on her second master’s degree in counselor education.
Jennifer now is a conduct officer with the student affairs office at the university, helping students get back on track after violating codes of conduct.
Now married, with a son, working and still pursuing her education, Jennifer was asked to speak about her experiences at the UMaine Dropout Prevention Summit last summer.
Since then, she has been asked to speak to other groups and at local schools.
Jennifer told me she was making a presentation about bullying in January at Presque Isle High School when the world learned about the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Mass., which allegedly was caused by bullying.
Jennifer has been told her presentation is life-changing, and she wants to continue to bring it to Maine students.
She founded the Don’t Bully ME Project and has applied for $5,000 in funding from the Pepsi Refresh Project so that next year she can bring her story to 25 Maine schools in 25 weeks.
Nationwide voting runs through June 30, and you can vote once a day for Jennifer at this website.
Hers is one of 1,175 submissions. The top 10 receive the $5,000 grants, and the 500 runners-up go automatically on to the next funding competition, she said.
So vote. Daily. Help bring Don’t Bully ME to your community.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; email@example.com; 990-8288.