Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let's Talk About Growing Up Bullied

This is not an easy post for me to write but I am inspired by Dan's courage over at Single Dad Laughing and I am accepting his challenge to use our voices and tell our stories. I'm hoping my co-authors here will do so as well. I know parts of the story of at least one of them and I know he has something very valuable to offer to the conversation.

I tend to minimize what happened to me as a child, I think most of us who were bullied do this in order to survive, but I have come to believe that we are doing our children a disservice by continuing to edit our stories now that we have made it through to the other side.

I was SIX when it started. I look at photographs of that little girl and I realize now that the words that were thrown at her had no bearing in reality. But when you're six and your peers are telling you that you're fat, you're going to believe them. And I did. I remember vividly being taunted and I recall at least one physical assault, the other girl grabbing me by the collar and skirttail of my brownie uniform and throwing me bodily across the playground.

I am fairly sure that was when I came home and told my mother I wanted to do weight watchers for the first time. I was SIX. I remember choking down a required weekly meal of liver and trying desperately not to throw it back up, so badly did I want to be "normal". I was SIX. Decades of yo-yo dieting and disordered eating find their origins in that year. I was SIX. Six year old should not be counting slices of bread and servings of fruit for anything other than math problems.

It ebbed and flowed, getting better some years and far worse others. I had a bit of a reprieve with a change of schools in 4th through 6th grade but in seventh grade in our small rural county all the elementary schools merged into the single middle school and my old tormentors were right there waiting for me to arrive. I remember laughing to keep from crying when my nicknames in band included such things as "Two Ton Terri with the No Ton Tits" (nothing like being both overweight AND flat chested) which mercifully was often shortened to the initials TTTwiththeNTT so at least my peers outside the bandroom didn't know what that meant. Until now.

I am done laughing. Those words hurt more than any of the boys who spoke them will ever know. Or perhaps they will. Some of them are on my friends list on facebook. If you find your way here know that even as I tell the world what you did to me, I forgive you. This is not about you. This is about speaking my truth to the world and hoping that it will prevent some other young girl from hating herself, some other young boy from deciding life is just not worth the pain.

It is hard to write this. Harder still to know that some of the worst, most hurtful things, took place at church. Yes even God's house was no escape. I will be forever grateful to Pastor James Lee who found me crying in the stairwell that day and who had the courage to share with me his own story of being a bullied child. Who told me I was beautiful and who held out the confident hope that somewhere out in my future there was a boy growing up to manhood who would see that beauty. Who told me that it did get better and who did so from a position of authority as one who had been there and survived to tell the tale.

To those of you who are in the trenches being bullied...it gets better. Life is NOT high school. Thank God! It gets better and life is worth hanging on for. Living well truly IS the best revenge.

I love my life. I love who I have become. I did find that man Jim Lee told me was out here waiting for me and he does find me beautiful. Yet even without that, I find me beautiful. I love me just the way a I am. I am a person of worth and value and I know that about myself now, despite the best efforts of the bullies in my life to convince me otherwise.

I'm no longer a huge fan of CCM but Hold Fast by Mercy Me is one of those songs that speaks to me. It reminds me of the reality that there IS HOPE. It Gets Better.

I'm inviting my readers and my co-authors to share their stories here. It is important that we speak our truth. It is critical that our children know that it DOES get better. Please. Your story may be the one that a hurting child needs to come across and identify with to gather the courage to face one more day.

If you have stumbled across this blog and you're living the hell of being bullied and are wondering if its worth it...there is help. Organizations like Cindy Lauper's True Colors Project and groups like the Trevor Project focus on GLBT youth while To Write Love On Her Arms exist to help anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, addictions, cutting and so on.

You are a unique and unrepeatable miracle of God. Don't let the bullies convince you otherwise. There is life on the other side and it is worth it.

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