It’s color is pink to raise awareness. It’s a topic that comes to surface and is rallied against each time a person commits suicide succumbing to the torment they have endured. It’s something we advocate but few of us realize we also participate in. It’s an act that has been amplified into horrifying levels because of technology and social media. It’s bullying.
Few people know this about me but when I was younger, I was bullied. Harshly. It’s where my psychologist believes a lot of my anxiety, depressive tendencies, extra strong personality and the uncanny ability to speak up to defend myself comes from as an adult. The degree to which I was bullied was awful for me. In the 5th grade, my classmates made up a club. W.H.A.C, they called it. It stood for “We hate Andrea Club.” When I would enter the classroom after recess and lunch, they would stomp their fists on their desktops chanting “WHAC, WHAC, WHAC!” over and over again. I had braces and was called “train tracks.” I got threatened a lot. People wrote things on the bathroom walls about me (in the sixth grade!) Someone threw huge rocks through the window of my family home because they hated me. I went home in tears almost everyday. My best friend was my beloved collie, Kato and I would go outside, hug him and cry to him on a daily basis.
In the seventh grade, I changed schools, but my reputation as an easy target and a “crybaby” followed me. I’m a sensitive person by nature. I feel things on a deep level when it comes to compassion, empathy, love and torment is no different. I felt it deeply. In my grade 7 yearbook, there was a page we all had to sign as the graduating class. Many of my classmates wrote phrases like “Down with Brooks” and “Brooks is going down!” I had no idea what this meant at the time, but I would later find out that I was Brooks because of the Brooks running shoes I wore. These hate comments were embedded into a keepsake item I was supposed to be able to look back on later in life and smile about.
I started cutting at age 13. I hated my life. I hated that whenever I would walk down the hallways of my high school, my reputation as the “target” never left me. Girls would say snarky and rude things to me. Rumors were made up. Boys would break up with me because someone would tell them I was a “loser.” Thankfully, I would go on to have friends who are still close to me today, but the pain I suffered has never left me. On one occasion where our school had to attend a suicide assembly because a student from another high school jumped off the Pattullo Bridge to his death from being bullied, I was confronted by some boys in my grade who said “hey didn’t you try to kill yourself too?!” and started laughing at me. Granted, kids are dumb and insensitive, but as I watch my friends now have children of their own, some of whom are going into school now, I can’t help but relay a message I hope you will all carry with you.
When your child is being bullied, they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives. I had to start seeing a counselor from age 9, and still see one to this day, 20 years later. Being bullied can lead to mental disorientation of self worth. It doesn’t just induce tears, it induces death if we don’t start to fight against it now. Even as adults, many among us are still bullies. Make sure you are displaying the right message to your children. Make sure we are leading by example. If your child is a bully, stop that in it’s tracks right away. Teach them kindness. Teach them respect. Teach them how to love their peers no matter what racial, sexual, social, or any other differences they may have. Teach our future generations to stand up for those who are being victimized because we have bred a society who now, instead of helping our fellow man, take out their smartphones to record the ruckus, post it online and release a hateful fury of judgement, racism and bigotry. Instead of paying a kindness to people in the present day, we fill their Facebook walls with words of love and affection after it’s too late; after they have already gone and taken their life. Teach your babies to be kind now. Teach them by example. Teach them by lessons. Teach them the kinds of mannerisms they will not learn in school.
A childhood of bullying is not an easy thing to get past, no matter how strong you are. Surviving into adulthood with the kinds of thoughts I had for years as a teenager, and sometimes I still have now was and is a test of strength and personal will that was hard to pass and I still deal with the negative stigma surrounding my adult struggles with anxiety and panic disorder on an almost daily basis. Maybe I am sometimes too sensitive, but there’s a story of struggle behind everyone that makes us who we are. I am a very bold spoken, strong person now because of the many people I have encountered who have tried to bring me down but not everyone comes out this way. Some become hate filled and go on to hurt others. Some become extremely introverted, and some don’t even make it out alive. Instead of sharing videos on Facebook, and advocating that “we understand this is wrong” what are we each actually doing to combat against this for the future? What will you teach your children so that this hate doesn’t continue? And what will you say to other adults who perpetuate this negative movement by attacking strangers on social media and in life the same way that we would hate for our children to experience? Most of us choose to stay silent, choose to “not get involved” but as someone who went through it, and sometimes still goes through it, I can tell you “playing it safe” does nothing for anyone. Be part of the change you want to see. Speak up now. Be kind now.