Ah, the Wonder Years...

I was bullied my whole life for seeming strange to others. In the earlier years, my OCD was severe and presented itself with such extreme anxiety and compulsions, that my young mind, trying to understand it, decided it was an outside force. I literally thought I had demons threatening those I loved. I couldn't even go to the bathroom at night. I hardly slept. As I'm sure you can imagine, this effected my interactions with others and my productivity and alertness in school. I was a zombie. I had teachers snapping, clapping and making mean-spirited comments at me in class, drawing negative attention to me. I heard the kids whispering about the weird girl. I got shoved around, teased for things I couldn't help, kicked, belongings trashed, touched inappropriately by a few boys who thought I was too quiet and shy to do anything about it.

I switched schools in the 6th grade but everything got worse. There were girls who singled me out, the few friends I had made bailed on me to escape the criticizing eyes of the bullies, rumors flew. Even after going to a new middle school for 7th and 8th grade, I still managed to find myself as the outsider. By that time, I'd done it to myself, standing up to the bullies of others, narrowly dodging several group beatings along the way. It was bad enough, I had to eat in a classroom if I ate at all. And once again, those people I'd stood up for bailed once the heat was off of them.

By high school I found a new group of friends, the bullying shifted in a way, but was still present. I would be tormented in classes where the teachers did nothing, had food thrown at me while random boys yelled how much they apparently hated me, kids I didn't even know! I was called a witch, a devil worshiper, Satan, the un-dead and many more equally unimaginative things that most days barely even registered after awhile. One day, I almost threw a particularly horrible boy over a railing, (our school was two stories) it was the first time I'd actually seen red and luckily one of my few pals I'd made saw my face and grabbed my arm when I went for him. And things got worse. I started screaming at people in class, doing anything to keep people away, wore earphones to keep from hearing them in the halls.

A change began around the time I started a huge fight in my health class. The teacher/football coach (cliche, I know) was not only allowing hate speech against homosexuals, but engaging and encouraging it as well. Every derogatory, nasty slur was used in a matter of two minutes listening to them. Coach began to go off about how disgusting it was and how he wouldn't want to share the communal showers with a gay guy and have him watching. I'd had enough. I raised my hand and told him not to flatter himself, who the hell would want to look at him? Told him he should be ashamed of himself, ashamed that he could be alienating any number of kids in his own classes. That he's an educator and an authority figure, he shouldn't be creating a hostile environment, kids should feel safe in school. A very angry and disgusted TA agreed with me and all hell broke loose in the classroom. I was shocked that I never got jumped for speaking out like that.

Shortly after the health class debacle, I was walking up the stairs between classes and a different group of kids were behind me calling me names. I imagined how easy it would be to turn and kick just one and watch them tumble like dominoes. I briefly entertained the thought of doing just that, but mentally shook myself and realized how sad it was. Not for me, but for them. I realized that one day they would suffer in life for being the way they were. They would miss opportunities. Fail at the important things. Things that took qualities they didn't posses. I knew then that it wasn't worth hurting over. That one day those people would either wise up, possibly even have a child go through something like I had, regret, change their ways, or that they would keep going and one day, someone or something down the line would settle their karmic tab.

I realize now, years after leaving school, that where bullying is still a sensitive topic for me, I can find it in me to be thankful for the struggles in my formative years. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am more patient, understanding and forgiving. I have a much broader perspective. Does that make what bullies do right? Not even a little bit. For me, something good came out of those years of hell, but that isn't necessarily be the case for other kids. Some won't have the X factor, the thing that keeps them holing on, allows them to reach an age where they can put it behind them. Some don't survive it. And now that we have the internet, more and more violence, systems breeding apathy, more and more kids looking for a reason to hurt others, it's all the more imperative that we find a way to end this behavior, the senseless cruelty... and babies dying in classrooms. It's gotta stop somewhere, and nothing is going to change unless we change it. The worst kind of action is inaction. Stand up. Start now. Don't assume it doesn't effect you, because one day it very well might. 

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