Warning: Post contains language that may not be suitable for children.
The story of the Canadian teen who committed suicide because of bullying—but not before she told her story via a YouTube video— has hit me hard. What makes the matter even worse are the comments on the video by trolls. The comments and the fact a young girl was driven to suicide (and she is not the only one) because of bullies have all come together into something simmering so close to the surface that I felt more needed to be done. People being bullied need to see others pulling together and standing united against the behavior and they need to know they are not alone. Yasmine Galenorn, a fellow author and friend, felt the same way. Together we decided to gather our writing friends and peers and invite them to take a stand against bullying. They responded and together we are Authors Against Bullying.
Yeah, I said it.
They are mean, they are cruel, they project their insecurities onto others to try to take from their own problems or inflate their egos and they think this is okay—often society says it is and by society I mean the vocal few not the proud, human beings many.
I’m here to say it’s not okay, it’s not all right, it’s not acceptable. It’s not cute or funny or kids will be kids. Its kids being hate mongrels and adults allowing it. The internet has brought the world closer. It has done something else—it’s given a layer of anonymity to certain individuals who love to spew forth hate. The non-contributors to society. The ones who only have hurtful, horrible things to offer behind the wall of privacy the internet provides. These people aren’t out there making a difference. They’re home hitting refresh nonstop on their computer while trolling places like YouTube and tearing down a young girl who committed suicide because of bullying. I honestly have no idea how and when anyone in society thought it was okay to behave this way, or how more than one jumped on board, but it sickens me. And it makes me afraid for our youth. Not the bullies. Honestly, I don’t give a flying “fig” what happens to the bullies. I could give some suggestions but they’d be unkind. See, I don’t have to be PC or kind, or mind my words or manners. I was a victim of bullying. I get it. My youngest son is a victim of bullying.
Bullies suck. Period.
My concern is for those being bullied. They get it from bullies and then the net. The world seems to be full of people saying “kids will be kids”, “she had it coming” and so on. I’m here to say not all of us feel that way. I see no way to justify the suicide of a young girl being bullied. Period.
My heart broke while watching the girl’s video. It ached knowing that pack mentality is so vicious and relentless that it drove this young girl to feel she had no other way out. It made me think of all the girls and boys like her in this world who are suffering at the hands of bullies. Of how hopeless they feel their situation is. Of how they feel it will never end. That no one cares. That they are alone.
You are special.
You mean something.
You are more than what they try to make you out to be.
You have something to offer.
You are beautiful.
And you are NOT alone.
There is hope.
No, really, there is actually hope.
Had someone said all this to me when I was young and the target of kids and their ignorance and cruelty I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have assumed they couldn’t possibly relate. They couldn’t know what it was like to be me.
I wasn’t instantly smart. I didn’t come out of the womb reading and show up in school the class genius. I was the opposite. I struggled greatly with reading and school in the early years. I went to a crap-tacular public school that believed it best to push a student onto the next grade for the next level to deal with rather than actually teach—I mean, we were all low income anyways… why bother, right? (Please note the sarcasm dripping from my every word.)
To top off the fact I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening academically, which was such great fodder for the other kids who liked to point out how stupid I was, in the third grade I started suffering from an illness no one seemed to be able to pinpoint. It caused my white blood cell count to be through the roof, the lashes on my right eye to begin falling out and a strange discoloration of the skin on my right temple. Kids can be cruel, nasty little creatures. They were merciless with me. I was called Cyclops, they moved their chairs far from me afraid they would catch it too—whatever “it” was. A line that has stuck with me all these years later came at lunchtime. A boy looked at me and said “put your face down, looking at you while I’m trying to eat is gonna make me barf”.
As I type the words, remembered emotions are doing their best to resurface.
Hand drawn pictures appeared on my desk left by I’m guessing whoever was giggling the loudest. The pictures were of “me”. Of how they saw me. A one eyed monster. A head with one huge eye and one small eye (because without makeup the eye without lashes looks slightly bigger–it’s an optical illusion but try explaining that to a bunch of dimwitted jerks). One giant eye that had wire lashes on the edges but nothing in the center. Oh, the list went on and on. It seemed that leaders of this gained followers by the days. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to be looked at. While there I’d hide my “bad” side. I’d try to spend the entire day with my head bent and my hand covering it. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to learn. How could I? I never once heard a teacher stopping them or their antics. No one did. No one ever spoke up for me and I couldn’t find my voice. I would just sit there, tears welling, head bent, believing each minute was stretching out to feel like hours and each hour felt like days. I saw no end in sight and hated myself. I hated my body for turning on me and making me such a “freak”. I hated that I wasn’t normal like them. That I wasn’t beautiful with big thick lashes and totally blemish free skin. I hated that I could so easily be turned into a joke–that clearly meant I was one, right? That could be the only answer. They must be right.
The kids acted like I was walking death and they were sure to catch it should they come in contact with me. I will never ever forget the sound of all their chairs moving in unison away from me. It is something that will forever be etched into my brain. My mother was, at a the time, a single mother working many jobs and raising two kids by herself. She had to bust her butt just be able to afford to get me to my doctor appoints at the Cleveland Clinic because her car wasn’t one that could the make the trip itself. I didn’t put this burden on her. I simply ducked my head and went to school.
Very few kids (I will say Jill’s name here because she was one who stepped up and wasn’t afraid to be my friend or have me over to her house, there were a small few as well but Jill by far stepped up to the plate the most and deserves a public thank you) were brave enough to buck the system and the pack to talk to me. To the few who did, I thank you. I also thank the one teacher who saw something in me and who made sure I learned to read, even though it was late in the game. To you teacher, you are the one who brought books into my life. You are who exposed me to a world of reading and escape. I was able to see the common theme in so much young adult literature–the misfit, the misunderstood, the underdog. That was me. Someone understood me. Someone was like me, if even just fictional. I was not alone. I had my fictional friends.
The more I read, the more I was able to lose myself in fiction. Slowly, a few more kids who weren’t influenced by the others came around. Not many, but enough that I no longer felt totally isolated. Seventh grade came and I was placed in a Catholic School. I foolishly walked through the doors believing “new school, new life, it will be different here, it will be better”. I had no way of knowing I was walking blindly into the gates of hell. I’m not going to go into detail about what happened there. Let’s just say pack mentality took hold. It wasn’t pretty and to avoid me finding rage I don’t want to still have, I’ll just let this be for now. I will say this, leaving St. Sucky left me a new outlook about the St. Sucky Bitch Brigade that traveled in a pack there.
I would rise above them. Like the characters in the books I loved so much I would blossom, I would create my own destiny.
Something profound changed in me. Almost instantly. When I returned to public schools I walked in the door with this strange knowing–kids can be a**holes. True fact. That the elite will always believe themselves untouchable and they will always try to prey upon the weak but guess what, I wasn’t weak anymore. I’d had enough. I would not stand for anymore. If someone wanted to open their ignorant mouth and spout off about me, my eye, my face, anything I wasn’t going to take it lying down. I was going to use the gift reading had given me–words and the ability to spin them. It didn’t take long for the behavior to start. The minute it did I verbally thrashed them. I tore into them with words that were so hurtful they were like corrosive poison that I’m sure to this day still cause them pain when thought upon too hard. Am I proud of what I’d turned into, someone with a sharp tongue that verbally lashed out, going for the lowest of weaknesses of others? No. I was what they’d made me. I was finally Monster Mandy.
(I don’t recommend this to anyone. I’m simply telling my story. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important you understand that there is no halo over my head. I am a real person with real flaws.)
I was what they’d spent so many years carefully crafting. It only took a few times for the ones who used to do it to realize I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Of course there were new kids as well, kids who didn’t know me from earlier years. They tried their hat at it as well. Why not? I looked like an easy target, right? Wrong.
I became bitter and angry and honestly, I didn’t like that about myself. I suffered from depression and had to start seeing a professional about it. I hid my insecurities, my anger and my rage behind humor, often self-deprecating. Somewhere along the lines others reached out to me. I made a circle of friends. Real friends. Not backstabbing McBitchys with agendas. I continued my “take no prisoners” approach to verbal lashings whenever someone would try to tear me down. It became second nature. So much that the insults and hurtful things spun my way were like water off a duck’s back. I’m not proud of the fact I got to this point emotionally or that I no doubt did cause the bullies distress as well. Okay, I’m actually disappointed in myself for stooping so low, not that I hurt their feelings. Honestly, they needed a reality check.
Was I verbally harsher than need be with them? Probably. Should I apologize for it now? Probably. It would make me the bigger person. I’m kind of fine with not being the bigger person just yet. Did others suffer my wrath? No. Only the ones who attempted to start something with me. I never sought anyone out to be “mean” to. I never spotted the “weak” and went in for the social kill. That was NOT my style. If anything I found ways to befriend them. Friends finally came into the picture. I changed schools two more times (just because my parents decided to move, not school issues) and managed to have a network of friends at each. I did still struggle with depression and anger issues. Most of it I kept hidden from all of them. It wasn’t their business. Most didn’t know my past. I was fine with that. I made friends from all social levels. This is what makes me proud. I may not love the fact I have a quick tongue that will verbally cut someone to the quick as a defensive measure, but I am proud of my ability to be friends with just about anyone, misfit or no. But I’ll tell you I have a soft spot for misfits.
The anger has seeped away. I’m still no nonsense. I probably always will be.
I surround myself with people who are good and good for me. I don’t let the negative McBitchys have any power over me. More importantly I don’t let them fuel me with the same rage they once had. I could have easily turned into one of them. I’m so thankful I didn’t. I have friends that I do let under my armor now–Michelle Pillow needs a shout out here. I have a loving husband who has never once said “don’t look at me or I’m gonna barf”. He actually prefers it when I don’t wear makeup. Odd bird, that one. J I have three amazingly wonderful, smart, funny and quick witted boys. One is in college now, one is in junior high and the other in elementary school. I feel very blessed.
In addition, I have readers who stand alongside me, saying no to bullying, saying no to Queen B’s who think they can try to run schools or towns or whatever and readers who say YES to being somewhat of a misfit. Readers who accept me, flaws and tarnished halo and all.
I will also say that my youngest son is a victim of bullying. It’s not something I will go into detail about right now. Last year it became physical. Not a pretty thing by any means. I’m a Momma Bear now. A Momma Bear who had been a victim of bullying. If the bully, the bully’s parents, the school system or the district think for one second I won’t do everything to protect my son they’re fools. Plus, let’s be honest, my sword is my pen, I can wield mighty words and people listen.
I’ve come a long way from the little girl who wanted to hide her face and not be seen by the world. I didn’t end up in a bell tower hidden away. I am in the public’s eye. I am out there, being seen, meeting readers from all over the world. Also, for a girl who hated her face, I now have nearly weekly photo updates on different fun makeup looks that I share with my readers. See, there is hope.
Teens Against Bullying: Created by teens, for teens.(middle school and high school)
Kids Against Bullying: Site is interactive and set up to help kids understand if they are being bullied, if they are the bully they should stop, etc. Younger kids will appreciate this.
National Bullying Prevention Center: Founded in 2006 the site is full of useful information for getting kids involved in anti-bullying, helping kids who are being bullied and bringing awareness to the cause.
Stop Bullying.gov: Informative and has a “kids corner”.
Here is the list of other authors who are joining in posting about bullying today. I encourage you to visit their blogs, to read their posts and to comment, letting the world know that society is still full of good, decent, honest people who will not tolerate bullying. Special thank you to Yasmine Galenorn for helping launch this campaign, to Michelle M Pillow for all her behind the scenes help with it, to all the authors who are participating, to all the readers who are as well, to the countless number of people who have helped us spread the word and to those who took time out to hear out stories.
*Each authors’ opinions on bullying are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participating.
I invite you all to share your story. If you were bullied, are being bullied, or know someone who is or has been please comment and let others know they are not alone. If you are a troll who happened upon this blog and want to try to gain 15 mins of fame in my comment section you should know I’ll block you and delete your comment. This is a bully FREE zone.
I’ll be tweting about Bullying throughout the day using the hashtag #AuthorsAgainstBullying. My twitter can be found here.