Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spread Love, Not Hate - Speak Out Against Bullying

Today is the Spread <3, Not Hate campaign to speak out against bullying started by K.C. Neal and K.M. Parr. I was going to write about my own personal experiences with bullying, but my daughter, who is in the 8th grade, has been having problems with bullying for several years. I have blogged about some of her more recent experiences. She wrote an essay about bullying for school, so I asked her if she would mind sharing it today. So I would like to introduce my guest blogger for today - my amazing daughter, Megan.

Hello! Megan here! Lately, I've been doing some deep thinking about the subject of bullying. What most people don't really know (or truly bother to find out) is that bullying is not just an unrelated incident. It all stems from desensitization and insecurity. Desensitization has spread to children from the adults in their lives. People today really just don't care. I always tell myself that it doesn't matter what other people say; but we, as humans, are very social creatures. We need company; whether alive, imaginary, or inanimate. When you feel so alone that everyone is against you, you feel helpless, like there's nowhere to turn. You don't know what to do and you feel trapped, like nowhere is safe. You're always just waiting for it to happen, waiting for them to find you, to hurt you. Mental bullying might not sound as bad as physical, but trust me, it's much worse. Physical wounds and bruises can heal, but when you're called fat and ugly in the fourth grade, it sticks with you forever.

What I've come to realize is that repetitive bullying leads to 4 stages for the victim:
1. Confusion: What have I done to make this person so mad? Why do they hate me so much?
2. Denial: I haven't done anything! They need to leave me alone!
3. Breaking down: (This is when the little voices in your head start to take control) If they say all these things about me...they must be true. Why else would they be this cruel? I don't understand. Maybe I am ugly. Maybe I am stupid.
4. Emptiness: I give up. It's hopeless. I don't want to fight them anymore. I'm all alone. Nobody can help me.

One of the problems with bullies is that they usually don't see how their torture affects a person later in life. They don't get to see that little girl they teased grow into a high school student who's afraid to talk to anyone, let alone boys. That little boy they kicked around grows up and never has any friends because he is just waiting for somebody to backstab him. They were just waiting to feel empty and alone and miserable again. Nobody wants that, so why take the risk?

And, please tell me this, whatever happened to listening? Teenage suicide in the United States is the third leading cause of death in the 15 to 24 age group. So who is listening? When kids these days self-mutilate, who's listening? Who can they tell? Who can they lean on? Who walks up to them after they are bullied or beaten or whatever and says "It's okay. I'm here." Who helps? Who listens?

Recently, we were shown a PowerPoint presentation about bullying and speaking up against it in my Pre-AP Spanish class. I was horrified by the reactions of some of my classmates - mainly the male population. They laughed. One of the stories we were told was that a second grade boy had been bullied so much that he was afraid to go to school, and he tried to hang himself. I can directly quote from a boy at the top of the social hierarchy of our class, "He was too fat to climb the ladder!" followed by guffaws from his like-minded peers. I steeled myself not to break down then and there in front of all my friends. I couldn't take it. I had to get out of there before I started screaming.

The presentation itself had brought back so many unpleasant memories - ones I had repressed for years, and the insensitivity of my classmates had me in hysterics. By the time we exited the room, I was ready to just curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out. I couldn't even speak to my friends who questioned me. They eventually gave up and tried to console me as I sat on the bench outside our classroom, face in my hands, shaking. When my mother finally arrived, I ran to her car ready to explode into tears. Part of my mind, which was made only of logic, told me that I shouldn't unload all this emotional baggage on her, but I couldn't take it anymore. I needed this off my chest - everything I had mentally held inside everyday for years, so afraid; and it was time to talk.

I talked. I sobbed. I felt for that boy. I really felt for him. I understood how alone he'd felt; how afraid; how untrusting. How he maight have been the subject of hate lists. Like myself. How he must have been the butt of jokes, as I had; and how he must have wanted to die at times, like I did. I didn't want to face the truth that our generation is crumbling under the weight of insensitivity. I told my mother at the time that I couldn't understand how they could be so cruel even though I understood completely. People are cruel. Children are cruel.

But they don't have to be. We can change this. We can encourage anti-bullying campaigns like Spread <3, Not Hate, and just by listening, by being there. By taking action.
Thank you for reading
Love, Megan

As a parent, it breaks my heart to see this. With the addition of technology, kids nowdays can be bullied around the clock. It's no longer confined to the school yard. As adults, we can't just tell kids to ignore it. We have to speak out not only for our kids, but for adults as well. Bullying isn't just aimed at children. We think as adults, we are more capable of dealing with it, but that isn't always the case. Don't ignore it. Speak out. Spread <3, Not Hate.

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    And, thank you Megan for speaking out as are a fantastic writer! I only wished I could write as well in 8th grade! :)

    Those four stages you talked about...yep. Been through all four. I won't lie to anyone and say that I'm fully healed from my experiences with bullying...I imagine I'll likely spend the rest of my life trying to answer the question "why?".

    But, with events like this one, we can stand united now and send a message. And, if that makes us all better people in the long run, I'm all for it. :)

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment.

      I really appreciate you sharing your story on your blog. It meant a lot to Megan and to me :)

  2. Thank you so much for posting such a personal and articulate story, Megan. I know that some bullies outgrow that behavior, but the people they bullied can carry those scars for decades. I wish there was an easy answer, some way to make people understand how deeply hurtful it is, and how long that hurt can last. Thanks again for joining in and writing about your experience. <3

    1. Thanks for organizing this K.C.! It was really nice to be able to give people a chance to share their stories. Thank you for letting us paticipate :)

  3. They Laughed? Thats horrible! I completely agree with you about how it stems from insecurity. can take the pledge against bullying at the bottom of my post if you get the time

  4. I can't express how much each of these comments helped me. It's nice to know (although sometimes it doesn't feel like it) that I'm not alone in this. Thank you all. Special thanks to Mr. Turcotte, for also sharing his story.