By Tanya Tiger
I was bullied… a lot, when I was growing up.
It started in 1st grade and continued through 10th grade when I finally hit the wall and couldn’t take it anymore. I remember waking my parents up at 3:00am, in tears, telling them that I just couldn’t do it anymore. My mother hugged me and told me to go back to bed, that we’d discuss it in the morning.
See, the bullying had gotten so bad that I developed extreme anxiety and manifested physical symptoms like nausea, upset stomach, and headaches. These symptoms were chronic and made my already fragile sense of self feel as though it were made of glass, about to shatter at any second. I felt completely weak and vulnerable. I had endured years of name-calling, hair-pulling, teasing about the way I dressed, the way I wore my hair, not wearing makeup, and not having the “right accessories.”
I was labeled a slut even though I hadn’t even kissed a boy yet.
The popular girls would ask the boys to ask me vulgar questions like, “Do you spit or swallow.” At the time I didn’t even know what that meant. One of the popular girls even went so far as to have her super popular boyfriend (whom I happened to have a secret crush on) ask me to a homecoming dance and then laugh in my face when I said yes.
Even some of the kids that I thought were my friends turned against me when they realized that I was toxic to their “image.” I can’t blame them… they were in self-preservation mode. We all just wanted to survive that Hell called school.
When I started school I was a straight A student. I was smart, worked hard and enjoyed learning. School was fun for me. Over time, as the bullying got worse and my physical symptoms persisted, it became more and more difficult for me to focus. My grades started to slip. By the time I reached 10th grade I was barely making C’s and was actually held back.
It was that summer that I finally broke.
I had gone so far as to write a list of names of all the students that had hurt me and that I wished harm. I didn’t have a plan, all I knew is that I wanted them to hurt as much as they had hurt me. Thankfully, I had supportive parents who listened to me that night. I cried and told them that I couldn’t do it anymore. They heard the pain in my voice, saw it in my eyes and took me seriously. Who knows what may have happened if they had forced me to endure the torture for another couple of years. It scares me to think the damage I may have done. It was a very dark time for me and one of the reasons I have been working on bullying prevention, but that’s a story for another time.
When I look back at all of it now it still hurts but the wound isn’t as deep.
It’s been 20 years since I faced any of those bullies but I can still see their faces, still know their names, and can still hear their voices echoing in my head. It used to bother me that I couldn’t shake them from my mind. I felt that I had failed myself, somehow, by continuing to carry them around with me. Now I realize that, in some small way, it’s a blessing.
They act as a reminder of how far I have come. They remind me to be kind to others and that my actions, even small ones, can have a great impact on the people I meet for better or worse. I used to wish harm to them and would relish the idea of seeing them at a reunion and hearing their tales of woe. Now, when I think of them, I think of them with compassion in my heart. I hope that they found better lives and aren’t hurting anymore.
I hope they were shown kindness that they didn’t show me. I hope they look back on how they treated me, and others, and try harder to be kinder, gentler people.
I found salvation in forgiveness.
If not for my bullies I may not be the strong and determined person I am today. If not for them I may never have discovered my passion for writing, or helping people, or just how resilient I am. If not for my bullies my heart may not have grown so big that I could forgive the people who have hurt me.
So for that I must thank them and put the bad memories to rest.
Editor: Dana Gornall