To those who’ve bullied me,
Whether you were the short term ‘you’re bored & I’m a target’ or the long term 6+ years crew or the classic pick on the fat girl in the wheelchair boy or even the almighty keyboard warriors, this is to you.
As a kid no older than 8, my friend gave me some advice for facing bullies. She said “just remember, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”; a classic right? To me it sounds like adding fuel to a fire, as if this little saying was going to switch off my ears and shut down my heart from the pain of their mighty words. Did no one think of telling them the classic, “treat others how you want to be treated” or even “taste your words before you spit them out”.
After leaving high school, I decided that carrying a heart full of hate towards any of you was pointless. Instead, forgiveness would release that hate; if only it was that are easy.
You tattooed words on my heart, etched them to my brain, and vanquished my spirit. You cut me deeper than a knife ever could. But I tried. And I’m still trying.
I often ponder of what I might say to any of you if I were to see you again. Perhaps a vicious and deserved punch in the face, even a kick in the gut, or yell, maybe cry a bit. I read a quote once that goes something like “if you receive love, give love for they deserve it. if you receive hate, give love for they need it”. I had it all planned out. If I were to see you, I’d wrap my shaking arms around you, and stutter out “I’m trying to forgive you”.
A few months ago I was having a drink at my local with a few friends, and there you were. one, two, three, six, seven, eight, maybe more. Anxiety set in, but I thought of how much I had changed and matured since high school, I assumed you had too. The bartender said it was someone’s twenty-first… Happy birthday. I’d say I hope you all had a great night, but I know you did. It took you a while to recognize me; I’ve shaved a lot of my hair off and even died it blue & purple. But when you did, that’s when the fun began.. The purposefully loud whispers behind me at the bar “is that porky?”. The handsy harassment and ‘tripping’ into me. The name calling, the story telling and whatever else happened as I sculled back drinks to calm my anger before running to the toilets to have an anxiety attack.
As easy as it is to dwell in the hate you constantly drowned me in, I also want you to know a bit about me.
I’m just over a week away from 21, an age I didn’t think I’d get to with your constant words of encouragement in my ear. I got a degree earlier this year, something I never thought I’d achieve since I’m “such a waste of space”. I took night classes in NZ sign & Te Reo Maori, even connected my whakapapa back to find my marae. I traveled overseas, I gave back to the community by volunteering in all sorts of great things, oh I even learnt to walk again, I made friends, I had fun, and I realised that I was allowed to be happy; even though your words are permanently etched into my brain.
One of you once told me that I hadn’t tried hard enough when you heard about a suicide attempt. From the age of 10yo, the boys in my year level called me ‘Whale’ daily. Being laughed at for being in a wheelchair. The classic Facebook warriors backhanded comments and insults. These examples of countless years of bullying, but don’t you dare give me your sympathy unless YOU are going to speak up, stand together, and help stop bullying..
Sticks & stones may break my bones but bullying nearly killed me.
P.P.S. As a survivor of countless years of bullying, harassment and negativity, its so important to me that we continue to speak out, raise awareness and have days like Pink Shirt Day – a reminder that its not okay, its still happening, it can leave permanent marks on people, and that YOU’RE NOT ALONE.