Friday, October 19, 2012

Taryn Raye- What You Don't See ~Authors Against Bullying~

There's been a lot in the news and on the net this past week about Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old girl from Canada who struggled with being subjected to bullying and harassment, not just in school but online, the acts of which ultimately led to depression, self-harm and her suicide last week.

Wednesday, I became aware of a movement among my fellow writers- Authors Against Bullying (link takes you to my Page Tab here on the blog with the list of Authors participating or you can click the AAB button at the bottom of this post to go to Mandy M. Roth's site) and decided to share my own story of bullying today, as well as go around and visit and comment on all the other author blogs where they will be sharing their thoughts and experiences as well.

I might have written about this before, but it's probably lost in the archives if I have.

Often when we think of our adolescence, we're forced to put a mirror in front of ourselves to see who we once were. We're also reminded that things aren't always what they appear to be on the surface. In fact, most the time it's what you don't see, what's on the inside- those tiny cracks in the reflections of ourselves, the hidden scars and memories of the angst of being a teenager are still there, even if we've Windexed the hell out of it and tried to "spit shine" the pain away so that it doesn't look so bad looking back.

The cracks I have to look at, the ones that distort my view of my younger self? It is knowing that I was harassed and bullied by a group of boys in 7th grade. Every day, the same class, the same group of boys who took turns getting in my face and teasing me, taunting me, harassing me. And always the same knot of fear tightened in my stomach as that time of day rolled around and I had to enter that classroom. Sometimes I would drag my feet and wait as close to the tardy bell as I could, just so I would be able to get to my seat and hope they'd leave me alone as the teacher called the class to order. I hated being me because for some reason, I had attracted their attention and I didn't know how to shake them, I didn't know how to get them to back off and stop invading my personal space.

I always worried- Would they bother me today? What nasty remarks would it be this time? What stupid pick-up lines or lies would they feed me? Not that I was lapping up the attention by any means. I was disgusted, embarrassed and just wanted to be left alone so I could become invisible again. I wanted a boyfriend at that age, I wanted attention, but not the way I was receiving it, being ganged up on and teased and taunted before class. This was not the type of attention I had hoped a boy would show me.

Most of it was simply vulgar references that my 13-year-old self didn't quite understand, although I had a notion I understood well enough because the things they said made my skin do the creepy crawly dance. I'd already started placing bricks in the walls around my heart and mind to protect myself. Even when the one I had a crush on joined in with the others, I still huddled inside my skin, wishing things were different, that I could trust him to be kind, but I knew better than to believe a word that crossed his lips because he was just as guilty as the rest of them for being a class-A jerk. As my mom would have said, they were just "boys being boys" but when you're faced with that sort of thing on a daily basis, over weeks and months, it takes its toll.

Everyday I was filled with angst, fear and self-loathing, wishing they'd pick on someone else, wishing I could fade into the concrete walls and disappear. I was left wondering why I was the girl they singled out. I was a goody-two shoes, as I was reminded on numerous occasions later in life. I wasn't developed yet. I was a plain-Jane in glasses, hiding behind books and wishing I was someone else. Either someone they wouldn't pick on or someone who knew the right comebacks, the right zings, the proper burns, but instead I was myself, innocent, quiet, unassuming and shy and maybe that was the draw. I was too well behaved which made me a target. Let's see how much we can make this girl blush.

So often, the question that plagued me most was-

How would I make it until the final bell rang for the day so I could dart out of class safely, slip away to my bus, then go home and cry in the privacy of my own room?

I went home quite often and cried, or I'd have busting headaches and nervous stomach issues. I sort of talked to my mom about it, but it was embarrassing, so the majority of what I dealt with, I kept to myself. I cried myself to sleep, I shut myself up in my bedroom and I became even more of an introvert, burrowing further into books, into writing and wrapping the blanket of my depression around me.

Yes, I thought about suicide, that I didn't know if I could take one more day of it. It was emotionally draining. As if being a hormonally awkward teenager wasn't hard enough, having others draw attention to the fact that you're stuck between being a child and a woman was like death anyway. They might as well have shone a spotlight on me and thrust me up onto a stage cause that's the LAST place I wanted to be. I didn't want to draw attention to myself. All I wanted to do was try to grow into my adult skin with the least amount of embarrassment, learn to be comfortable in that new suit that was changing all the time, emotionally, mentally, physically and then be seen as a beautiful young woman deserving of respect. The situation I found myself in couldn't have been further from what I imagined.

I'm not sure what pulled me through. Maybe it was that 7th grade finally came to an end and for those couple of months of summer, my bullies were nowhere to be seen. I didn't have to deal with them and I was able to breath again and enjoy life. 8th grade year brought back all those worries and fears, but lucky for me, most of the boys who were part of my troubles had been broken up into different classes, so the couple who were in my class seemed to have moved on to pestering other girls and left me alone.

I was still plagued by those fears though and always felt I was looking over my shoulder, waiting for one of them to sneak up on me and start the teasing and tormenting all over again. Even though the bullying happened in 7th grade, it left it's mark for several years to come. I wore baggier clothing and went through a slouchy phase and at one point I gained so much weight, I was barely recognizable- but then, the less noticeable I was, the better. I withdrew more into myself and I stayed the quiet shy violet. That's probably the reason my eighth grade yearbook is full of "To a really sweet, quiet girl who I don't know very well" comments.

I didn't open myself up to others anymore, always scared to trust people, afraid that their friendship or kindness wasn't genuine. That took time to get over and eventually being able to talk about what happened with my mom and with friends. Being young sometimes makes it hard to see how much support we truly have from our loved ones. It's not just "me against the world."

Being a teenager stinks and it's probably the hardest part of growing up. I don't ever wish I was 13 or 15, or 17 again. Those weren't great years for me, but I survived. If you're having problems with someone bullying you, reach out and talk to a friend, a parent, a teacher or a trusted adult. If you see someone else being bullied, reach out to them and let them know they're not alone. Don't stand by and allow a bully to get the upper-hand. Tell someone if you see it happening. Don't enable the behavior by keeping silent. Silence is what leads young adults into the darkness where they feel alone and helpless to change it. Where they contemplate hurting themselves, where they grow larger-than-life gardens of self-doubt and allow that to choke out their self-esteem and their self-worth. There's so much more good ahead of them after adolescence, we can't let them wither in their youth.

Find your light and douse the darkness, cut back those choking doubts and help others when they have no light to lead the way. Now is the time. Not later, for later may be too late.

Click Image above to go to Mandy M. Roth's Blog
for more on Authors Against Bullying

Please share this blog and other blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and any other social media sites you are on. Spread the word and feel free to share your own experiences. I'm here to listen if anyone would like to talk.


Anonymous said...

Hey I’m Kimberly Gill, I was bullied for kindergarten to the day I graduated from high school. I went to the teachers and principal’s but they did not do anything my parents even went up to the school still the principal and teachers did not do anything. I got blamed for stuff I did not even do they said it was my fault. I got called names I was cussed out and made fun of I only had 1 friend some of the people kids in my class said they were my friend but when I was not around or was not looking I know they were laughing at me. I know I don’t look like a model or even feel like one but that wasn’t right for them to do that to me. Everything school started i dreaded going back into that school because I knew what would happen and it did. I never want to step foot back into that school or near it because all that school is and is of is bullies I feel sorry for the kids that are being treated like me that are at that school but I know the teachers and principals will never do anything about they didn’t while I was there. I was always lonely I never fit in anywhere. I always carried books with me to school to read I read Paranormal Romance and Harlequin Romance books and that’s what I carried to school. They made fun of me for reading them and they claimed they were sex books. Yeah they have sex in them but there also a romance books. I hope that by telling what happened to me can help others. I hope that they know that they are better then the bullies and for them to not let them win because in the end they will get what they deserve.

Aaron Crocco said...

Great post and I know how hard it is for us to relive these memories. Thank you for sharing.

Leah Braemel said...

Thank you so much for sharing and being part of Authors Against Bullying, Taryn, and commenter Kimberley.

It annoys me when I see story after story of bullying happening right in the classroom, in front of a teacher, or when it's brought to their attention, blaming the victim. Here's hoping sharing our stories might make people who see bullies have the courage to speak up.

Unknown said...

Thanks for stopping by Kimberly and sharing your story and thanks so much Aaron and Leah for coming by and visiting. I'm still working my way through other blog posts and making the rounds.

Jaycee Clark said...

Thanks, Taryn for sharing your experience with bullies. I'm so glad so many of us have come together to show those going through this, that they are not alone and it does get better one day.
Kimberly, thanks for posting your own story. Teachers and school faculty who do nothing are worse than the bullies, in my opinion.
Blessings to all!
Jaycee Clark

Mona Karel said...

I was so lucky as a child. We moved a lot (Navy) but our parents looked for "good" schools and at that time (let's just say I wrote Beatles fan fiction when I was in my teens and they were new) discipline was enforced in the schools we attended. But my husband taught for over thirty years in Southern California and watched the situation deteriorate to what we see today. I can't express enough how much I appreciate what is being done to shine the light of day on bullying, on child molestation, and on everything that goes on to lessen the security children should be able to feel while growing up. I'm passing these blogs upstream for maximum exposure

Unknown said...

Thanks so much Jaycee, for stopping by. I truly hope that our posts Friday helped make a difference, great or small.

Thanks for stopping by, too, Mona and thanks for sharing!