Recently I watched the video posted by Amanda Todd on YouTube and I wept. I wept for her, for the other children that are victims of bullying and for myself. The scars of bullying never fully heal and there is always a little part of you that remembers the torment you endured. To all those who are being bullied please as cliche as it sounds, it truly does get better. For those that are doing the bullying I want you to know that what you say and do to someone now that seems so insignificant will have a lifelong impact on the person you have so little regard for.
Once again we as a society have been shocked by the suicide of a child that felt that at the beginning of her teenage years there was no reason to go on with her life. As I read the signs Amanda Todd wrote of her years of torment I thought back to what was just as clear in my mind today as it was many years ago, the actions of a select few that rallied the larger group and made my high school experience one I would rather forget.
I started high school as a "minor niner" with hopes and dreams of meeting new friends, joining clubs, playing sports and one day "ruling the school" like the current senior class. My high school days started out quite well with a budding group of new friends until the day one of them decided to take something that had been a funny joke and twist it into a much more hurtful rumour. In the course of a week I went from a moderately popular girl to the butt of jokes, the girl to be taunted and the person that people didn't want to befriend. I was fortunate that I had a couple of friends from middle school that stuck by me but in the face of so many others that would never like me or give me a chance it wasn't much of a consolation.
For the next two years I would put on a brave face and outwardly try to laugh at the people bullying me or stand up to them when I could but on the inside I was sad and scared and wished that I could just make it all go away. Then in grade eleven I had an epiphany, if I wanted to ever get out of this school, this city and this life, I would need to go to college and that was never going to happen if I didn't focus on school and so I did and with this new commitment to school came some hope that there was a way out and for some reason this translated and I made some new acquaintances (I wouldn't call them friends as they probably wouldn't have stuck up for me if called upon). I graduated and moved on to college where I made a whole new group of friends that never knew me or of me in high school and these are the life-long friendships that I have cultivated. From college I went on to career and that has given me the opportunity to live in many different cities and make lots of friends, some of whom were short-term and others that I continue to have today.
So where am I going with all this? While the bullying I faced was not nearly as bad as some, it still had a lasting impact on me and probably in hindsight affected the way I approached friendships and relationships. In friendships I was wary and in relationships I was needy, neither of which were endearing traits. I have grown and don't think of those days until something like the death of Amanda Todd happens and I wonder if there had been internet, digital and social media in my day, would I have made it? I'm not sure. It's hard enough dealing with your peers but to have the anonymous voices of thousands attacking you - I can't imagine.
Most of the people I talk to have a similar story of some kind of bullying and none of us would have ever talked about it had it not been for this sad death of another young person. I can guarantee you that when it was happening to us we didn't tell our parents, our teachers or anyone else. It's a silent killer.
As a parent of two young ( 2 & 5 year old) girls I worry about their future and what they might be faced with and how I will help them through the tween/teen years. Girls are mean, it's a fact and no matter what I say or do at some point my girls might be on the receiving end of this behaviour. I am lucky that I am somewhat social media savvy and won't have my head in the sand with regard to that but I hope and pray that the village that I build for myself and my girls with be filled with at least one person they can talk to.
I wish I had an answer to stop this abuse but women I have spoken to that are in their 20's, 30's and beyond all have a story about how they were bullied on some level. The question is: how to we find an ending - together.
If you are being bullied or need resources on bullying there are lots of great organizations...these links are just a few
-Kids Help Phone
-Ministry of Education (Safe Schools Now)
-Safe at School
Sending good karma to all <3