This is a story based on the personal life experiences of the guest writer. ~ Ed.
What was my crime?
I demanded to be removed from school and refused to take no for an answer. For the first time, I felt like a spoilt child, a brat, demanding an expensive gift.
I felt guilty asking for something that no one in my extended family or history of my family had ever asked for. I am quite sure even my ancestors were rolling their eyes at me. But I also knew that if I hadn’t asked for it, I would have had severe depression and other mental issues for the rest of my life.
I did what I had to do for my sanity, but I felt so guilty in doing so. I felt like I was letting my parents down but not letting them down would mean I would be emotionally shattered by my bullies.
Why did I feel so selfish? Was it a selfish thing to do?
Finally, my parents complied, and I was silently snuck out of the boarding school in the middle of the night when no one was watching. Just kidding, that is not how it happened, but I did leave with my head hung, battling feelings of defeat.
I stubbornly chose to leave a prestigious boarding school due to excessive bullying. I chose my mental well-being over obtaining a good, exclusive and privileged education. Something so unheard of in the community I lived in at the time. That and being unable to stand up to my bullies contributed to my feelings of defeat.
“Forget about what happened and just move on.” These were the very first words my parents told me when I tried to talk about the bullying. For them, I was out of that situation so there really was no reason to keep chewing the cud and regurgitating it all. I was no longer being bullied so it was time to move on, according to them. Chapter closed.
What do I wish my parents had said to me, what could they have said or done to help me “forget and move on?” I kept wracking my brains over and over. There was a flash of lightning, the crack of thunder and the epiphany…didn’t come.
However, it did come thirty years later, the epiphany that is. Here is what I wished my parents had said to me when I was bullied:
An Overview of Contents
“It’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you. You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”
As a victim of bullying, I felt that somehow, somewhere along the line I had done something to bring this bullying behaviour upon myself. I really needed to hear that it wasn’t my fault and there really wasn’t anything wrong with me at all. I needed that reassurance desperately. I knew this on the surface but deep within my subconscious mind, there was a nagging feeling that what had happened to me was somehow my fault. I needed to be reminded over and over that it wasn’t my fault. Hearing this just once wasn’t enough.
“Normal people don’t hurt others.”
One of the things I was desperate to understand is why were my bullies saying hurtful things to me and behaving in hurtful ways towards me?
The best way to explain this is that bullies are also hurt people, you can only give what you have and if you are hurting, that is what you will give. Hearing this would have helped me understand that my bullies weren’t better off than I was, in fact, they probably were worse off because of the hurt they felt within which they were spreading out to everyone around them.
“You made the right decision.”
I needed to know that whatever choices and decisions I made at the time of being bullied were the best ones I possibly could have made with the tools that I had at the time. I needed this validation. I tortured myself mentally with things like, “I should have done this/I could have said that.” I needed to be shown that what I had done was perfect. I needed any self-doubt to be removed by the constant reminder that I did the right thing.
“We love you.”
Seems obvious enough, right? Believe it or not, I felt unloved. Bullying tore me to the core making me feel unworthy. I wanted to know that I was loved, I wanted to know why I was loved. I needed that reassurance, constantly. I needed to be reminded of how truly special I was because I had forgotten.
“We are listening.”
Chewing the cud is what I did. Going over and over what happened, analysing it from different angles for one simple reason: how could things have turned out differently? How could I be the hero in the story instead of the victim?
All I wanted was for my parents to listen to the cud being spewed out, without any suggestions of edits to my stories as this would have frustrated me further. I needed to get it out of my system – no matter how long it took. I wanted words of validation, comfort, and love. “I understand. I wish I could make that happen for you. You did your best and that is what matters.”
“Let’s do this together.”
I brought isolation upon myself after I was bullied. I didn’t want to interact with others because I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to “reject” me. While I also chose isolation because I wasn’t emotionally ready to face anyone as I felt I wasn’t “good enough” to be around others. More than anything, I wanted my parents to involve me in everything they did – whether it was simple house chores or asking my opinion on clothes/politics/TV shows. I wanted to know that my voice mattered.
I blamed myself for the longest time after I was bullied, more so because my brother attended the same school and seemed to have adjusted well. I felt that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t fight my bullies. I needed my parents to tell me to forgive myself because I was furious at myself for not having the right words to shut my bullies up.
“When you are ready, let go of the hurt and forgive those who hurt you.”
I know this sounds absurd; how can you forgive those who hurt you? All you can really think of is how to get revenge and how to make yourself so strong that no one can bully you ever again. I wish my parents had explained to me that forgiveness doesn’t mean absolution for the person who hurt me, it means setting myself free from the pain that was holding me back from moving forward in my life, it is all about releasing that pain.
One thing that can help this process is understanding that bullies are dealing with their own issues making them unhappy. Anyone who is happy doesn’t wake up in the morning and say, “Oh gosh I am so happy, I will hang out with my friends at recess, we will share snacks, play football and I will say nasty things to the other kids on the playground!” Sounds absurd, right?
“We are proud of you.”
I was battling low self-confidence and low self-esteem which meant I didn’t do much other than go through the motions a person does to get through their day. If my parents had told me that they are proud of me, it would have encouraged me to come out of my shell of misery and set me on a path to healing much sooner. Only because it would have made me feel worthy enough to put that effort towards myself.
“What do you need right now?”
Assumptions. We are all guilty of that, in one way or another. We assume we know what the other person wants and needs. How often have you heard a parent say, “I should know, I am his/her mom/dad.” Sounds familiar, right? Ask.
I wanted my parents to ask me what I needed at any moment. Often, the answer would have been simple: a hug, perhaps a thousand in a day, reassurance that I was quite normal and yes, I would have asked to sleep in my parents’ room at the age of thirteen because I was scared. And I needed to be close to what I had always known as “safety”.
“You are not alone.”
I felt terribly lonely after I came back home. Yes, I had family friends whom I chose not to see because I had lost all my confidence. I was afraid of being teased for leaving boarding school, for not being strong/brave enough.
I felt utterly alone, and I ached to hear my parents say “you are not alone, we are here with you, we are in the trenches, fighting this battle with you. You will always have our support, love, and acceptance. We’ve got your back.” I felt alone because I struggled to feel accepted by my own parents especially because I took a decision that seemed rebellious.
“That shirt looks great on you!”
No, this is not a curveball at all. Compliments. I ached to be complimented, not in a superficial kind of way but in a way that reminded me “I am okay, I am good, I am better than okay.” It was about building my self-confidence and self-esteem, about reminding me of the many good qualities I still possessed but seemed invisible next to the pain I was feeling.
What sort of compliments work? “Thanks for helping me out with the chores today,” or “Thank you for helping me choose my outfit for today, everyone loved it” or “You are so good at writing/drawing/painting” and if none of these resonate, then a simple, “You look great today” works!
These are just a few things I wish my parents had told me after I was bullied because these are the things any victim of bullying needs to hear, constantly, especially from their parents and guardians – the very people they trust to take care of them. It is only then that the healing process can begin.
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Photo credit: Photographee.eu
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