To This Day: A Video on Bullying

When I was in school, I was bullied.

I was taunted and teased and called names.

I was pushed and shoved.

They splashed water on my skirt and told everyone I peed myself.

They sat behind me and threw things at me in every. single. class.

For a year.

“Just ignore them and they’ll go away.”

But they didn’t.

Sometimes they’d pretend to be my friend. Just for a little while. They’d sit beside me, and laugh, and talk, and tell me they were sorry they’d been so mean. Sorry they’d call me names, it was just… They’d look me in the eye. It was just… I’d be much more popular if I’d only slit my wrists. Or stop breathing. Or just hurry up and die.

They’d laugh when they went back to their real friends. Laughter. A sound that could shatter my soul at a hundred paces. And I’d just sit there where they left me. Silently. Holding back the tears and wishing it didn’t hurt and I hadn’t believed just a little bit for just a second just believed that they really did want to be my friend. Wishing I didn’t feel betrayed all over again. Wishing. Wishing I couldn’t feel anything. And thinking that maybe just maybe they were right. Maybe just maybe I’d be better off dead.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”

Tell me again how words will never hurt me.

The words are still there. Way down beneath the surface of my smile. Mostly, they’re still. Silent. But sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they stab and poke at me from the inside of my heart. Nerd. Loser. Square. Ugly. Four eyes. Freak. Goat. Nobody will love you. You should just die. Don’t touch her, she’s disgusting.Ugly. Nerd. Wrong clothes. Wrong hair. Wrong words. Wrongwrongwrong. Hatehatehate.

But it’s not just me.

Shane Koyczan was also bullied when he was in school.

He made a video.

It’s like he put a stethoscope to my heart and made a movie of my pain. And then he added hope and a happy ending.

Watch this. Please.

Were you bullied at school?


Filed under Opinion, Random Stuff

25 responses to “To This Day: A Video on Bullying

  1. “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”

    I sometimes wonder if it is possible to be a reader if you believe this; it is certainly not possible to be an author.

    • I think it was a rhyme of self-preservation. Because it wasn’t the bullies who said it.

      When I think back, this was said to me, and taught to me, by those who loved me and had no other way to take away the pain.

      • Certainly you could use it as a mantra or sigil to de-construct linguistic attacks. However, I am not sure if the maturity of those who are most often told it is sufficient to use it thus.

      • I’m absolutely positive it’s a rhyme said by people who feel they have no other way to help. It can just feel like salt in a wound — or it did to me. Because if words would never hurt me, why did I feel so hurt? Was there something wrong with me?

    • Words change the world. They certainly change a person.

  2. Wow, Jo. You just shattered my heart for you. All I can say is I am so grateful to the spirit in you that, no matter what, found a way to suffer nails of hatred, and kept you alive. Kept you strong enough inside, to grow up and become the extraordinary person you are today. All my love. xxxs

    • My mantra since I was about 15 and started reading a lot of SFF novels became: “The strongest blade is forged in fire.” Or, sometimes: “The strongest blade is forged in blood.” There are times I truly believe this to be the case, and others where I find myself not caring if it’s true or not — the belief in it keeps me going, and lets me believe there was a reason for everything that happened. And that faith is enough.

      Thank you for your friendship. Love you. xxx

  3. Nicole L. Bates

    Wow, Jo, What a powerful and heartbreaking post. I don’t know what to say except, “They were wrong.” You’re amazing.

  4. authormirandastone

    I know your post and this video will resonate with many people, Jo. It’s sad that so many of us can relate to this, but I want to thank you for sharing your story. I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to revisit that part of your past, but by sharing your experience, you bring awareness to this issue. You are a lovely and compassionate person. I hope you never forget that.

    • Thank you, Miranda. I truly appreciate your response. If I was going to add my own “To this day”, it would be: “To this day, I’m always afraid that people who are being nice to me are just waiting for a chance to tear me down and laugh at me for trusting them.” But I force myself to fight that feeling, and that’s how I make wonderful friends like you.

  5. First- I agree with Sevigne. You have the heart of a warrior and even before now I’ve thought of you as a kindred spirit, separated by miles and oceans, but someone I admire and want to know better.
    Second- I was bullied. Some kids tried to jump me on the way home from school one day because one of the cool boys thought I was fun and interesting. They didn’t like that. They called me ugly and my mother, barely five feet and one-hundred pounds, pulled them from me.
    I was raised by a man who was a bully. People change and I’m proud to say he’s one of them, because changes aren’t easy for anyone. But I grew up knowing that out of the five, I was the ugly one, a mistake. I dated bullies, and married one years ago.
    Sometimes, I still hear those voices(stupid, worthless, bitch, freak) and I crawl into a deep, dark hole inside myself until I can find my strength again. But there are times I don’t know if I will make it back out.
    I do each time, for my children. For my oldest daughter, who is beautiful and smart and creative but the kids at school thinks she’s weird, and talks too much. For my middle daughter, who is popular but stands up for what she believes in and writes songs for her sister that say, “Don’t give up.” For my son because I never want him to think it’s okay to call anyone ugly, or treat someone bad just because she’s a girl.
    Jo, your stories, your words, and your light shines brighter than I think you may ever know. I think the change starts when we stop being survivors and begin to be warriors- fighting and leading the other ones who are too intimate with pain. You’re a hell of a woman, writer, friend, and mother. God bless you.

  6. You are a lovely, brilliant soul. I love you to pieces and understand more than you know. Bullying, prejudice, and intolerance are the virus of our human world. We’ll heal what we can with our words, our actions, and our open hearts.

  7. I’ve seen him do this on stage. I love this interpretation. I was always a bit odd and while I had my few friends who accepted me that way I still was the girl no boy ever came near. In high school I was tortured by two boys, one my age and the other a year older. The other one lived up the street from me; always had. My mom finally had to call the school, which feels great when you’re in 10th grade. When I first got onto Facebook the older one sent me a message saying if he ever gave me a hard time in high school he was truly sorry. I said thanks and moved on and about two days later I remembered – OH MY GOSH it was him. I hated those times. My sister was popular, my cousins were popular and I didn’t really fit anywhere. It still holds onto me.

    • That’s what so many teenagers don’t understand, Kim — it never goes away. Do you remember the movie Flatliners? I loved that movie. Watched it over and over again, revelling in the bullies being brought to justice by death itself.

      (That was the point of the movie, right?)

      Love you.

  8. Pingback: The Reason Why I Don't Have Friends - The Good Mother Project

  9. Wow! Many thanks for the powerful post.

  10. Some words of help and advice here to counter the feelings of powerlessness and despair felt by those who are bullied:

  11. Yeah, I was bullied, too, growing up. Mostly emotional bullying over the physical beating-me-up kind of thing (although I faced some of that, too). And then, just once, I did it to someone else, against my better judgment, because I wanted those few friends I had to keep liking me. The memory of it makes me squirm. It is, perhaps, partly because of that experience that I was able to know the truth of bullying, and that what my parents taught me about it was all wrong. (They said the bullies were just jealous. They were wrong.) It’s a vile and filthy thing, a manifestation of pure and unadulterated selfishness and evil attempting to express itself into the world. (You can take that metaphysically or metaphorically, whichever you prefer. On some level I think it’s probably a little of both.)

    I survived, for a long time, by nurturing my own hatred of the bullies. “One day, I’ll be rich and powerful, and then you’ll get yours!” I thought that was my only defense. Of course, today, I’m neither rich nor powerful, and the bullies never did get theirs. Looking back, I recognize that instinctual reaction was also a vile and filthy thing, it’s own manifestation of evil trying to squirm its way through me.

    So, I’ve been through this, I’ve been bullied and terrorized. And I have looked into the face of darkness, and seen my own reflection. And still, to this day, I have no answers. I want an end to bullying… and day-by-day I fear for my own children’s future experiences when they inevitably run the bully gauntlet. But at least I know I won’t do this one thing: I won’t drip out platitudes and drivel about “they’re just jealous” or “sticks and stones” or any of that nonsense. For now, the only recourse I see is to help my children withstand the pain, and to build up their sense of self to provide them a thicker armor against the onslaughts. I hope, in time, I’ll have a better answer than that.

    • I had completely forgotten about the “the bullies are just jealous” response. I used to hear that a lot. Apparently I edited it out of my memory.

      I’ve come to realise, too, that it’s hard as a parent. I won’t dole out the platitudes either, but it can be hard to know what to do or say. And when I look back at my early years, I don’t honestly know what would have made it better. Except, as you say, to have a stronger sense of self and a thicker skin. To act and think and respond less like a victim. But as to how to create that in a child… It’s not easy.

      My 6yo has just been through his first brush with bullying, and I honestly think I struggled with it more than he did. He wrote the boys off as “the meanies” and just found other people to play with. I was angry and upset and talked to the adults present at the time of the incident. But I don’t think my son really understood what was going on — and he certainly didn’t stop wanting to go to that place, or have any emotional reaction other than to say “the meanie are annoying”.

Speak to me.

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