Monday, 26 September 2016

An Open Letter To My High School Bully

NOTE TO READERS: ****As I've written about previously, I am currently in regular therapy sessions for anxiety and panic disorder...during my last session my therapist diagnosed me with OCD (which I was well aware of) and Post Traumatic Stress a result of bullying at school. 

I had no idea that post traumatic stress disorder could be caused by something like this, and it made me quite angry at myself...after all, so many people are bullied at school and are able to leave it behind could I possibly have allowed it to leave me with post traumatic stress disorder!? 

After coming home and spending the day feeling angry and upset, I decided to pen this letter to one particular girl who bullied me. I found it very upsetting to write, but the following day I felt like a weight had been lifted from me...and I already feel so much better, I can now talk about my experiences without crying which is something I was never able to do before.

I thought twice about sharing this letter publicly, but I feel that it's part of the healing process...and I no longer feel the need to protect this person, I no longer feel that I am the one who should be embarrassed by what happened...and I am sharing this not for sympathy but because I want to encourage anyone out there who was bullied too to write a letter to your own bully...I can't begin to tell you how much it has helped****

Dear Carla,

You probably don't remember me.

I don't think you and I ever had an actual conversation for the entire 5 years that we spent at school together.

You spoke plenty of words in my general direction - nasty ones usually, most of them swear words - you told me constantly how ugly I am, poked fun at my goofy and accident-damaged teeth, laughed about my lack of interest in name brand trainers and sports clothes, belittled me for not being good at volleyball or net ball, had digs at me for being a "swot", and singled me out for being a loser without any friends...but we never actually talked.

I don't think you knew anything about me other than my name and what area I lived in - you didn't know what my hobbies or interests were, you didn't know what my favourite song was, you didn't know what kind of clothes I wore outside of school or what TV shows I liked to watch.

You didn't know me as a person at all.

But you knew I was quiet and nervous - you seemed to pick up on that fact pretty early on, when I started at your high school a few months after everyone else.

At first some friends of yours had taken me into your little clique, as the new girl I was exciting I suppose - but it soon became apparent that I wasn't suited to your group.

You were the bad girls - the ones who huddled behind the science building to smoke at break times, the ones who got excited when there was a fight in the yard and gathered around to try and get involved, the ones who liked to shout out obscenities during lessons and throw things at the teachers, the ones whose names were written up on the blackboard almost every lesson for referral.

I was the polar opposite to you - always quiet, always shy, keen to learn, always respectful to the teachers,  I don't think I had one single referral in my entire time at that school - maybe that's why you targeted me.

Is that why, Carla? Is that why you hated me so much that you felt the need to make my entire school life a living hell?

Is that why you felt the need to make me feel completely terrified every single day? 

Is that why, every single day for 5 whole years, I woke up cold with fear of what you might do or say to me that day? 

Why you felt you had to constantly belittle me and embarrass me in front of everyone at every given opportunity?

Because there must have been a reason why it was me that you targeted.

And I'd love to know what it was.

What exactly was it about me that warranted your treatment of me for all of those years?

Did I do something that made you think I deserved it?

That I deserved to feel that awful, stomach churning dread I felt every day as I walked up to that school building - knowing that you were in there, knowing that I'd have to face you yet again.

Did you think that I deserved to feel stupid and small and worthless every single day?

That I deserved to feel hopeless and weak and pathetic for never having the nerve to stand up to you?

You never physically attacked me but I had to live with the threat of it every day and part of me wonders if that was worse - that constant fear of what might happen, the nervous knot in my tummy as I turned every single corner on those school corridors incase you were waiting there.

You often threatened to "jump" me, and I was always certain it would happen any day often shouted about how you were going to "kick my head in"

You never came through on that threat, but you might like to know that although you didn't manage to do it physically - you certainly achieved it mentally.

Because I live everyday with the emotional and mental scars that you inflicted on me.

To this day I feel ugly, and stupid, and worthless - and I know where those feelings started out - they started in French class that day.

That day when Mrs Molde asked you to sit next to me for an assignment, and you refused - shouting your unwillingness to sit with me loudly for all to hear, acting as though having to sit next to me was the most offensive and disgusting suggestion you'd ever heard.

The rest of the minions in the class laughed at your display, cheered you on...which of course made you stronger.

I kept my head down, trying my hardest to choke down the tears...because crying would be the very worst thing I could do at that moment, but as you continued to shout at Mrs Molde and she continued to shout back at you insisting that you sat next to me, I couldn't stop myself.

I shouted, for the first and only time in my life at a teacher, and begged her to please leave it PLEASE, for gods sake, just let me do the assignment by myself.

And once I spoke, I couldn't control the tears anymore ... so I sat there, sobbing, in front of everyone.

Some people still laughed.

Your friend Christina, who until then had egged you on, seemed to have a sudden attack of guilt...she called you "shady" and said you should leave me alone now.

So you did...but you carried on glaring at me for the rest of that excrutiatingly long lesson - I remember keeping my head down, I remember the words on my page blurring as I kept blinking away the tears, and trying hard to control my breathing - trying not to hyperventilate....terrified of what might happen when the bell rang and I had to face you outside.

As it turned out, nothing happened - you flounced off and got on with your day.

But I feel like I'm still sitting at that desk in that classroom. As dramatic as it sounds, I feel like part of me died that confidence certainly did, my self esteem, my self worth...I never felt the same again after that experience.

But you didn't notice. You just carried right on, every day, mocking me, tripping me up, spitting at me, laughing at me.

So I want to know...Why?

Why me?

What were you hoping would happen?

Did it make you feel big to keep knocking someone like me down? You could see I had no could see I wasn't a confident person...why did you feel the need to make things worse than they already were?

I wonder if you even realise now what an impact you had on my life.

You should have been someone that I never thought of again after school.  In all honesty, you don't deserve to be someone that anybody remembers.

You weren't special, you were just another one of the mean girl clique - you weren't particularly bright but you weren't stupid, you weren't particularly pretty but you weren't ugly, you were just a normal girl who should have been forgettable.

But even now, 20 years after the last time I saw you in person, I still have nightmares about you sometimes. I dream that I'm back in that classroom with you, that you're attacking me again and I can't find the voice to stand up to you and tell you to SHUT THE FUCK UP like I so wish I had done that day.

Instead, today, a therapist diagnosed me with post traumatic stress disorder.

As a result of my experiences with you.

Can you believe that?!

I certainly can't.

And actually, it just really pisses me off - I thought post traumatic stress disorder was something that soldiers get after seeing wars or something victims of crime get after being attacked.

I had no idea that it was something a nasty little cow of a schoolgirl could cause, that could last for so many years.

And it upsets me because I have already wasted my teenaged years living in fear of you and giving you more power than you ever deserved to have....and now it seems that you've taken up even more of my life and my happiness without me realising it. 

I bet you don't even remember me.

But you ruined many, many years of my life.

So excuse me for declining that Facebook friend request you sent me a while ago -  I don't think the relationship you and I had could ever be described as "friends".

And I couldn't help but notice from your profile photo that you're a mother now too - there's a nasty, horrible part of me that wants to wish that someone treats your children the way you treated me all of those years so that maybe you might begin to understand how it feels and what sort of impact those things can have on a person.

But I know that's wrong of me...and that your children don't deserve that.

I hope that you managed to mature into a better person who is raising them to be different, and not to treat people in the way that you did.

And I hope for their sake that they never have to meet someone like you throughout their school days.

And to that 14 year old version of me still sitting at that desk in French class, sobbing and fearful and embarrassed -  it's time to get up now, walk out of that school and leave it and her behind you.

She can't hurt you anymore.

It's over.

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