(Notice: All of the bullies' names are changed for privacy's sake.)
I was bullied a lot in school. Perhaps not as bad as some, but it was definitely worse than schoolyard teasing. I count myself lucky that the internet wasn't as prevalent in the 90's as it is in the 2000's and beyond. Myspace and Facebook didn't exist yet. The insults, torment and hate I dealt with never ventured beyond my mom's car door. Today, many bullied children go home, get on Myspace or Facebook and the cruelty continues right there in their own house. If I was in school today instead of over ten years ago, I have no doubt the bullying I experienced would have extended to the internet.
In my youth, I had many behavior issues related to a yet undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder called Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). I live with sensory issues that can lead to stimulus overload, I have the emotional maturity of an eight year old and I'm socially inept. Despite this, my IQ is above average, so I know I don't have an intellectual disability. Since age seven I've been taking Dexedrine(or Dextrostat, its cheaper generic brand), to control my hyperactivity. I started with Ritalin, but I had a dangerous paradoxical reaction to it(my hands shook and my heart raced), so my pediatrician tried Dexedrine. I never had to change the dosage since that first prescription over twenty years ago. That is the proof that it works for me.
My medication is extremely important and I never miss a dose. Without my medication I honestly can not function at all. My mind starts going like a popcorn popper. I can't control my impulses, thoughts or my emotions. I go from having a short fuse on my temper to no fuse at all. I'm afraid of causing someone damage or injury in the event I have a tantrum. Yes, at my age, I can have temper tantrums if I go off my medicine. It is not a matter of "just try to control it." Try not to blink when you sneeze. It's impossible because it's an uncontrollable reflex. My hyperactive behavior without my pill is the same way: uncontrollable. I need this medicine to behave in an acceptable manner within society.
I suspect now that my behavior problems, delayed growth and delayed physical development made me into a perfect bullying target. I was smaller than my peers, I still look much younger than my actual age(but only without makeup!) and I still have trouble with age appropriate behavior. At age nine, I had the appearance of a five year old. At eighteen, I looked twelve. Now, in my thirties(it's the year 2012 as I write this), I've had people think I was sixteen or seventeen. I get carded if I ask for wine when I go out to eat. I like looking young now, but I hated when I was growing up!
The bullying began in fourth grade, after my family moved from one house to another and I changed schools. The year was 1989 and I was nine years old. I don't remember a lot of what happened because I blocked most of it out of my mind. I know the teacher at my new school turned out to be as much of a bully as my peers, but that's getting ahead of myself.
At first, I enjoyed my time at my new school. I had a doctor's note stating I had to leave the classroom at a specified time to take my medication at the nurse's office. My mom verbally reminded this teacher when we all met for the first time, and it seemed to be a non-issue. I was excited to explore the new playground at recess, and that is where my first experiences with bullying began.
A few kids from my class came up to me at the drinking fountain and told me I should be playing with the lower graders on the other end of the playground. At that time, I didn't understand what was happening. I introduced myself to them and told them I was in their class. I thought they just made a mistake.
If only I knew.
As I said earlier, I blocked much of that year from my memory and can't recall every minor bullying incident. I can't say for certain how or when the bullying accelerated, but there are more than a few traumatic experiences that managed to stick in my mind. These are just the ones I still remember. There are likely more that I don't.
~ The teacher started refusing to let me go to the office for my medication, which exacerbated all of my behavior issues. The teacher KNEW this would make my behavior worse, and she wouldn't let me get my medication. At that time, I was too young to notice the difference in myself with and without my pill, so I never said anything to my parents. In hindsight, I wish I did.
~ With access to my medication denied, I became belligerent. I acted obnoxious in class until I was sent outside. This was a way to escape the boy next to me who constantly kicked my legs or hit me in the arm with his fist. Telling the teacher never did a thing, but I sure got in a lot of trouble if I swung back at him.
~ I was never allowed bathroom breaks during class. I was afraid to use the restrooms during recess due to other girls following me in there and verbally abusing me every time, so I just stopped going to the bathroom at school. As a result, I would not use the restroom between 8:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.. I was bursting by the time I got home. One good thing came of this: I have a very strong bladder!
~ My teacher refused to assist me if I raised my hand for help, but she went right over to other students who asked for the same thing. My mom confronted her about this, and my teacher's response was, "That's right. I don't help kids who can't learn." (After this, my mom got me into part time special ed where I had HELP with my schoolwork. It was too late in the year for me to switch schools again, but at least my falling grades were pulled back up.)
~ There were several incidents where I sat down at lunch time and discovered someone stuffed my lunch pail full of grass, dirt or feces. I began hiding it in the bushes to avoid that until the teacher discovered me doing this. She made me put it back on the lunch pail cart, saying that I deserved what I got.
~ The very day I had to put my lunch pail back on the cart, someone tampered with my food. I noticed my sandwich bag was open when my mom always sealed it tight. My peanut butter and jelly sandwich looked wrong and smelled strange. Upon showing it to my teacher, she just said, "Shut up and eat it before somebody does something worse to it." Well, teachers were the boss, so I ate the sandwich. My mouth was instantly in pain, and tears ran down my face. I choked every bite down. My throat, chest and stomach burned. In class after lunch, I vomited on my desk and the floor. I was forced to clean my vomit up and was not allowed to go to the nurse. I had horrible stomach cramps that doubled me over my desk, and by some miracle I didn't soil myself. I went home and had severe diarrhea. My mouth had blisters for a week. The tampering turned out to be red chili peppers. After this, my mom gave me money to buy lunch and the food tampering ceased. (And she and my dad both made a lot of noise at the school over this, but NOTHING was done because the person that did it wouldn't come forward!) Spicy foods still cause me painful digestive disturbances, but I can't tell if it's due to the mental association or a physical intolerance. Maybe it's both.
~ I got into a physical altercation with a boy I'll call Sean. He was much bigger than I was. I caught him tampering with my lunch pail and ran at him to chase him away. Sean picked up a rock and threw it, but missed. I picked that rock up in a rage and hurled it back at him. I don't know if I hit him with it or not. I saw him running away, so I turned to walk into class. He called my name. I turned around and he threw a bigger rock than before. It hit me right above my left eye, and I still believe the impact made me black out. I sat up screaming with a bump as big as a golf ball right above my eye. I definitely had a concussion. The teacher saw the whole thing. She told me to sit down, stop crying and wouldn't let me go to the nurse. By the time school ended for the day, the bump on my head doubled in size. I wouldn't tell my parents what happened. I'm pretty sure I had a tiny skull fracture. I still have an indent in the bone on that spot.
~ I continued to act out at school. I was trying to get expelled and escape that horrible place. It didn't work, and all my efforts resulted in repeated visits to the principal, being benched during recess and having notes sent home to my parents. I always got in trouble, the bullies NEVER did. EVER. Not even when they did something to me right in front of the teacher.
~ My behavior at home was an utter nightmare. I threw tantrums before and after school, I treated my parents the way I was being treated in the classroom and I started alienating the few friends I had in my neighborhood. I was full of hatred and out of control. My parents took me to a child psychologist after I set a laundry room trash can on fire, but due to insurance issues my parents were forced to pull me back out. I never messed with fire again, but my belligerence continued until the school year ended.
Summer vacation offered me the most blessed relief from that nightmare school. I begged my parents not to send me back there in the fall. They were understanding of the issue and agreed. Come the next fall, I rode the "short bus" to a more distant school where I had two fantastic bully-free years. I was in full time special ed classes with wonderful teachers who worked with me instead of against me.
Fifth grade is the year I met my oldest and best friend. Her name is Elizabeth, and we still talk on the phone even though we live in different states. She was a grade behind me. Later on, in junior high and high school, I would hang out with her off and on.
My fifth grade teacher discovered my total lack of reading comprehension. I read words and spelled perfectly, but wasn't able to connect the written words with what they meant. I wrote sentences that didn't make any sense, and somehow I got passed up from grade to grade. Nothing I have ever written since fifth grade would exist now if it wasn't for this teacher. She paired words with pictures or acted out the sentences until it all clicked. The moment was just like Helen Keller connecting the finger spelling for "water" with the stuff flowing over her hand. This wonderful teacher said reading is making pictures in our mind to go with the words. It made SO much sense because I have an insane imagination. I've loved to read ever since!
Sixth grade was just as good as fifth grade. I rode the same bus and never had any notable incidents. Fifth and sixth grade saw a giant improvement in my behavior and my grades, but my emotional and developmental delays became more obvious as I advanced through school. As a result, I stuck out from my peers more than ever and became a target yet again.
From seventh grade on, school was my worst nightmare. The mental scars and self esteem issues I have now are a direct result of what happened to me from junior high and the years following.
Seventh grade was nothing like I expected. I remember walking into my new middle school and noticing the lack of a playground. "What? No more recess?" I thought to myself. That was shocking to me. I also noticed my peers all looked so much older than me and wore cooler clothes.
Seventh grade brought on the whole new aspect of changing for P.E. class. At twelve years old, I had the physical body of an eight year old. I was the only girl not wearing a bra, and the mocking started right away. P.E. was my last class of the day in seventh grade, so I went home in tears. My mom took me out and bought me some training bras. Yes, training bras, when everyone else had underwire. But at least I had a bra on the next time I took off my shirt.
I wasn't very athletic. I could run fast and that's about it. Dodgeball became "turn Cyndi into a target" and people threw me the ball during flag football just for the excuse to knock me over on the field. Going to my gym teacher about it did nothing. It was always "just an accident, she tripped!" I was never seriously injured, but P.E. became the class I dreaded.
I didn't have a lot of trouble with people during most of my classes, but lunch was a totally different matter. Every day it was a barrage of comments and insults about how I looked, my clothes and the pink plastic backpack I used. Due to my small stature, finding age appropriate clothing was IMPOSSIBLE, so I always looked like I stumbled out of a fourth grade classroom. My clothes were also kind of dumpy, since I often held on to some outfits for two to three years in a row. I literally did not grow for three years, and finding clothes I liked in my size was always a disaster. I had maybe two outfits that looked age appropriate, and everything else was ugly jeans and T-shirts that happened to fit.
A few teachers were overheard asking me if I was there to wait for an older sibling, and I had to tell them politely that I was actually a student. The bullies loved that one, and they loved to remind me about it constantly at lunch time. As if I wasn't self conscious enough, right? "Go back to fourth grade!" They said. After that, I hid around the corner from the school library to eat my lunch alone.
I thought eighth grade would be better. I turned thirteen in July of 1993. I was a teenager! I even expected to wake up on my thirteenth birthday having magically developed curves, but I was sadly disappointed to see a toothpick of a girl staring back at me in the mirror. I grew hair where you're supposed to grow hair, but my body never really developed physically. The skinny figure I saw in the mirror on my thirteenth birthday is what I still have today. Only my face changed over the years, but not by much.
Two good things about junior high: I met Charles when I was in eighth grade, and Elizabeth popped up at my school as a seventh grader. I hung out with her at lunch whenever I could, but I had my eye on Charles. I thought he was cute the first time I saw him. He was kind of tall and broad with Italian olive skin and an Italian last name. He became my boyfriend, and we went steady all the way until after high school graduation. Due to a difficult home life, he was rarely at school and his grades were terrible, but he made me feel normal. We discovered how close together we lived and he came over to my house whenever he could. He took me to my senior prom, and that is probably the only positive memory I have of high school. We were together for about six years; longer than some marriages. Later on, he disappeared from my life without a word. It wasn't because of me. He ran away from home and I haven't heard from him since. I comfort myself with the thought that he didn't want to tell me because he couldn't bear to see me cry. I still think about him and wonder if he thinks of me.
I could go on about Charles, but this isn't about my brief love life.
Eighth grade introduced me to choir, which I discovered I love. Many years after finishing school, I joined a church choir that I still sing with today, and I attribute that love of choir for stumbling on this class during registration. However, it didn't come without bullying. The teacher, who taught both at the junior high and high school, would play a pivotal role in humiliating me later on in high school. I'll get to that later.
My behavior issues were still a problem in eighth grade, and they would continue throughout high school. Each time I was bullied, I acted out. Teachers didn't seem to care that I was being bullied. I wanted attention, and the only way I knew how to get it was to cause trouble. Looking back now, I regret it. I lacked the communication skills to express the severity of what other kids were doing to me.
Eighth grade was also the first and only time I was ever in a physical fight. I don't remember what started it. I think I called the other girl, I'll call her Silvia, a b**** after she mocked me for wearing a mood ring on my right index finger like Vada from My Girl. Silvia lunged at me and started yelling in my face. I don't like people in my face, so I shoved her away. She charged me. I moved out of the way to let her pass me, turned around and dug my fingers into her curly hair. I grasped the hair near her scalp and pulled until she screamed in pain. She was unable to turn around and hit me, but her screaming attracted teachers and other students alike. I won that fight, if you can even call it one, but I got in trouble. Her friends were able to twist it into me starting it when that wasn't true, and it was just my word against these other girls.
We both got detentions for it. Silvia got one and I got two "for starting it." From then on her friends hounded me day after day. One of them, I'll call her Rita, was in my gym class again. She threatened to beat me up after school every single day. I literally ran out of the school to my mom's car in terror because Rita was a lot taller and stronger than me. She was one of the people who loved to tackle or trip me during flag football back in seventh grade. Being tackled on grass sucked. I didn't want to find out what being tackled on cement or asphalt felt like.
In another class, a different girl, I'll call her Kelly, would literally stare at me. The desks were arranged in clusters of four. Kelly sat across from me, making it hard to not see her in my peripheral vision. I despise being stared at, so I would look back and make a nasty face at her. I thought doing so would disgust her into looking away. Nope. I endured this day after day. Finally, I went to the teacher of that class and asked to switch seat clusters with somebody, but his seating chart was set up alphabetically and he wouldn't do it.
Near the end of the year, I won a medal at an awards assembly. I don't remember what it was for. I think it was an outstanding achievement award in my English class. Most of the crowd boo'ed me and some yelled out insults like "retard!" The principal got on the microphone and told them how inappropriate that was and the next person to yell an insult would spend a week in detention, but the damage was done. After I sat down again, fighting tears, the boy and girl behind me stage whispered to each other that I didn't deserve my award and I only got it because the teachers "felt sorry for the poor b****." No achievement of mine was good enough to make them back off. I felt like a loser. I would have thrown the medal and its corresponding certificate in the trash, but my parents were so proud of me for winning them. They framed both, but I never felt proud of my "pity award."
Finally, on the last day of school, I thought I could finally get one full day without any kind of trash-talk from other people. Not so. Just five minutes after the little junior high graduation ceremony was over and we were released to go home, Rita walked past me and hissed, "You suck, Cyndi. I hope you die."
Summer once again brought me a reprieve. Junior high was a thing of the past. High school was just around the corner. High school! Like the people in movies and on TV! A new school meant a new start, right? Oh, not really. Not for me. Between the years of 1994 and 1998, my school life was pure, unadulterated Hell.
Does anyone remember Carrie with Sissy Spacek? I saw that movie, and I was just like Carrie. Except I didn't have telekinesis and my mom wasn't crazy. That movie was a favorite because I wanted to do exactly what she did to her tormenters. I loved the part when the high school gym burned down, and wished it was mine. I hated high school THAT much.
Some time during the summer before I started high school, I began seeing a clinical psychologist for extensive testing. Throughout my childhood I endured blood tests, MRI's and a barrage of doctors all trying to figure out why I wasn't growing. They all came up with different diagnoses, but it was this psychologist who finally put every issue I had together and diagnosed my PDD-NOS shortly after I turned fifteen. I was a sophomore then. We could have used this knowledge when I was so much younger. Better late than never, right? Right!
I owe this woman my life. She talked me out of hurting others, got me through my worst rages and helped me through my suicidal thoughts. I would not be sane, nor would I be who I am, if it wasn't for Dr. B's help. She was the voice of caring during a time where I felt powerless. And I was powerless, but I wasn't powerless alone.
Summer's end in 1994 meant people from other junior high schools besides mine came to my high school. This included kids from the horrible school I went to during fourth grade. I now had them at my high school as well as the bullies from junior high. They changed a lot. I still looked exactly the same as I did in fourth grade, except I finally got my growth spurt and grew a foot taller than before. I had reached the height I'll be for the rest of my life. I'm five feet and one inches tall. (That's about one hundred and fifty-five centimeters for you metric folks.)
Everyone else seemed to blossom into adult-looking people over the summer, but not me. Nope. I looked like a fifth grader next to my peers in stature and physical development.
Orientation gave me the first taste of what was to come.
I was waiting in line to have my picture taken for the yearbook when Sean showed up. He got right behind me, now a towering boy with broad shoulders, and looked down his nose at me with enough contempt to make me feel an inch tall.
"Oh, look, the midget! Hey guys! It's the midget!"
No, I don't have any form of dwarfism. I'm just very petite. I wish I thought to say that back then. Instead, I rudely told Sean where to stick his head and he walked away laughing.
I put it out of my mind and smiled for my freshman portrait. Surely Sean would grow up in the month between orientation and the first day of high school. I mean, really, wasn't everyone who went to high school mature enough to be an adult? Surely, everything I saw on TV and in the movies had some thread of realism, right?
Sean was in almost every class I had. The only exception were the Women's Ensemble choir class and the three RSP classes I took due to needing extra help with math and study hall. I'm still awful at math, by the way.
Keep in mind that I still had a lot of behavior problems of my own. My emotional maturity never caught up to my peers. While everyone around me watched things like Friends and what-not, I was obsessed with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers(Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, was my favorite!), but I knew being public about that wouldn't go over well. I kept it mostly secret, but I carried a toy Power Morpher with the pterodactyl coin in my pocket and I had a Pink Ranger watch. It was small and you couldn't tell what it was unless you looked right at it and saw the Pink Ranger on the watch face. I kept a picture of their leader and mentor, Zordon, in the back of my locker. I wore a lot of pink to school. I liked to pretend in secret that I was really a Power Ranger. I still have that toy Morpher, by the way, but the gold show coin went missing and I now keep a pink movie coin in it. Only Charles and Elizabeth knew how truly crazy I was about the show.
I think other people caught on as the school years progressed. A couple people made Power Ranger jokes about me, but those weren't a big deal. I refused to let other people ruin the one show that let me escape reality for awhile.
Sean must have told his friends about me, and he had several friends in my freshmen Earth Systems class. On just the fourth day at school, I started having erasers, paper clips and spit wads flicked at me from various angles. Of course I reacted loudly in protest, and this got me in trouble for disrupting the class. The boys responsible for causing my reaction were never punished, not even if I said why I made noise. I had enough one day and went to the teacher after class. Her response? "Just ignore it. They'll get bored and stop."
It's impossible to ignore a flying spit wad when it hits you in the eye. It's hard to ignore a paper clip bouncing across your worksheet. It's hard to ignore an eraser hitting you in the back of the head. I tried. It didn't stop. Once, I dug fourteen spit wads out of my hair after that class. There was the fine proof of how well "ignoring it" worked. After class that same day, I asserted myself and stood up to these kids. I told them I wasn't going to stand for that stupidity and they had to stop NOW.
They always say standing up to your bullies makes them stop. It worked on TV. Life isn't like TV. Oh how I wish it was.
Everything that came after is such a blur. The bullying didn't stop. It got worse.
During the worst of it, I stood in front of the medicine cabinet in the kitchen. I looked through all the pills available and hoped to find something capable of killing me quickly. Benadryl looked like a good candidate if I swallowed them all at once. So did my mom's prescription muscle relaxants. I decided to pour Benadryl pills into my mouth. I looked up and thought, "God, if you don't want me up there, make me spit these out."
I sneezed. I kid you not, I sneezed. The pills went everywhere. Not even God wanted me. (Now, I think He had a reason for me to stay, but back then it felt like another rejection.) I sobbed as I cleaned the pills up and tried to pretend I was fine. That was the only time I attempted suicide. I never told anyone about it, but I thought about ending my life a lot as the bullying and school years progressed.
Elizabeth joined me at my high school when I was a sophomore. I hung out with her a bit, but sometimes I avoided her in fear of my bullies going after her. She would have stood up for me and become their secondary target. I didn't want that for her. She is still such a sweet person, and I didn't want my bullies to "ruin" her gentle personality. I never really told her the full extent of what I went through, but sometimes I muttered to her about how "this girl is a b**** and that guy sucks c***s for A's."
I don't recall the grades I was in when every incident happened, so I'll list the experiences I had between my freshmen and senior year in no particular order:
~ The scariest bully I had was a boy I'll call Mick. Mick wasn't in any of my classes, but he always found me in the hall before school, between classes, during the snack break or during lunch. He was strong and heavyset, and looked imposing to tiny little me. Every day, he threatened me with physical violence, rape and death. Some of the things he said to me:
"I'm going to slit your throat while you sleep."
"Hey, guess what? I'm going to stab you with this." He would show me his switchblade, which was NOT allowed on school grounds.
"I want to see you bleed to death with my c*** in your mouth."
"I'm going to f*** you until your p**** bleeds. I want to watch you die choking on my cum."
"I know where you live. I'm coming to your house to murder you in front of your parents."
"Look out your window tonight. I'll be waiting to kill you."
Those are TERRIFYING things to hear, aren't they? I reported the above to the school counselors. Their response?
"Oh, he's just being a boy. He probably has a crush on you. Just ignore it and he'll stop."
It didn't stop. Every day of my high school life, I had to see and hear him.
I was so afraid of this boy that I would bolt from my last class and run all the way home carrying thirty pounds of books. It was the first time I was allowed to walk to and from school alone. I got myself in enough trouble to require being driven to and from school because I didn't want to tell my parents about this boy, and didn't tell them for a long time.
I went to bed at night terrified he might be outside my window, waiting for me to fall asleep. I hated being near any windows with the curtains open at night because I feared looking outside and seeing his face. When I look back now, I realize how ridiculous that fear was. This boy didn't know where I lived; even if he did, we had motion lights that would catch him before he got within twenty feet of the windows. But oh boy, at the time, my fear was very real. My parents finally found out about it and took the issue to the school office. They were brushed off with the recommendation to change schools. Moving schools wasn't an option for me. The school I went to had the RSP program. Other high schools didn't, and I needed that extra help to keep my grades above D's. I was trapped, and my parents were so mad, but they were stuck too.
~ One time, Mick tried to touch my chest while I was walking into the gym. I screamed at him to take his hand off me and slapped his face. There were several witnesses to him touching me. The gym teacher who saw it reprimanded me and gave me a referral. Not one person stood up for me. They all said I hit Mick. It was my word against theirs.
~ My sophomore year's yearbook photo has what some call a "Mona Lisa smile." The photo has a pink backdrop. My chin is covered in zits(couldn't afford to have them airbrushed off) and my messy braid is draped over my left shoulder. I'm wearing a little heart pendant and a sleeveless blue and white striped dress. The smile on my face is actually dropping; the photographer caught it just a millisecond before it was gone. All because Sean yelled out, "Hey Cyndi! Don't break the camera with your ugly face, you dumb b****!" right as the flash went off. I hate that photo now because it captured me wanting to die.
~ Girls were just as cruel as boys. Due to my body's failure to develop normally, I was mocked for being "flat chested" and ugly. This was CONSTANT. Every single thing I wore and did was brought to peoples' attention and mocked. Especially if I made mistakes. The bullying about my figure got so bad that I had my mom buy me padded bras to give the appearance of having breasts. It didn't stop the bullying, but it made ME feel a little more "normal."
~ I was cornered in the restroom by a group of girls who wiped their used tampons all over my skin and a brand new shirt. Pretty disgusting, huh? I was learning about AIDS in Health class, and I already had issues with being a hypochondriac. I lived in fear that I had AIDS for a long time because of those girls. I was too afraid to say anything and look "more stupid than I already am." Fortunately, if anyone cares, I'm happy to report that I'm still HIV negative.
~ I began to menstruate when I was fifteen. I know, that's late, but my body did everything later than everybody else. Everyone else I knew had theirs, and I began to doubt I would ever get mine. I was so relieved to know that my female organs worked properly that I was stupidly vocal about it. "I'm finally a woman!" I said to people. The next day, someone got into my backpack and took the only extra pad I had, drew a phallus on it and stuck it to the black board right before my sophomore history class started. I got a referral for it after the girl who did it blamed me, and I had to get a new pad from the nurse. I never mentioned my menses again in public.
~ My grandma, whom I was close to, passed away from brain cancer on November 9, 1995. I got my class ring the same day. People heard about it when I returned the following Monday. One girl came up to me and said, "You're cancer. You gave your grandma cancer. You killed her." Somebody else asked me if she died screaming because she saw my ugly face too many times.
~ One of my sensory issues involves light touches. A feather gliding over most peoples' skin tickles. To me, it feels like a scalding hot butter knife. People in one of my history classes discovered this and used it to make me miserable. The biggest perpetrator was a girl I'll call Wendy. She walked past my desk and barely let her pencil or paper brush my arm. I cried out in shock and pain, or I smacked her hand away, and I got in trouble for causing a disruption. "She keeps touching me!" and "She's rubbing her pencil over my arm!" are really childish to say in a high school classroom. It gave people another reason to mock me. I started working with my arms pulled really close to my body in all my classes. Wendy mocked this by imitating my pose. Speaking to the teacher later resulted in the same spiel: "oh, just ignore it." Right, just like you can ignore it if you drop something painfully heavy on your foot. Okay. Sure.
~ I was walking through the quad area during lunch time when an entire salad hit me in the back. Lettuce, dressing and other condiments covered my upper body like the blood covered Carrie at her prom. Okay, not quite as bad, but I had a new, expensive dress on that was instantly and irreparably ruined. Since the quad was full of people, and because the cold salad shocked me enough to make me shriek, I had at least twenty five percent of the entire school staring at me. Then they all started to laugh. I looked behind me to see the girls who did it. The same girls who rubbed their tampons all over me. I don't know their names, or maybe I forgot them. They were congratulating each other. I stood there while everyone around me guffawed, and not a single soul offered to help me. I had to push through laughing faces to reach the office and call my mom. My mom brought me a change of clothes and cleaned out my hair the best she could. She raised Hell at the school, but the girls who threw the salad wouldn't come forward. The school officials decided what to do after my mom left, and I'll never forget overhearing them, "it isn't worth the trouble looking for who did it, and we can't punish the whole school over a salad."
They thought it happened over food. I felt like the stupid salad was more important than my feelings. I didn't matter enough for a single person to stand up for me. I wasn't worth the trouble.
To make matters worse, my dad got exasperated after hearing about how I had yet another temper tantrum at home. My dad had trouble accepting my diagnosis, and tried to push me to be more mature and more like my peers. I never could. I still can't. I was told I was acting like a baby if I cried, showed anger or laughed too loud. I started believing that any show of emotion was "too immature." I punished myself for showing emotions by scratching my arms and legs bloody with push pins and blaming the cats for the marks. I couldn't be "me" anywhere except in Dr. B's office, where I would vent and rage until my appointment time was up.
The night of the salad incident(I begged my mom not to tell my dad, and she didn't), my dad got tired of me complaining about how people were so nasty at school. He said, "Well, what did YOU do to cause these kids to tease you?"
I wanted to respond, "Gee, dad, why do they do it? I EXIST!"
Today, I don't think my dad realizes how much his remark hurt me. I never told him. He wanted me to fit in with my peers just as badly as I wanted to fit in, but that was never to be.
I went silent about bullying after my own father unwittingly convinced me that I deserved it. I (erroneously) believed talking about it at home would get me in trouble, so I just stopped mentioning it. The salad incident was the last time I "told on" the people bullying me, and the experiences I describe below went completely unreported.
~ The "tampon girls" bodily forced me into a restroom and shoved my face into a toilet. It didn't have any urine or feces in it at the time, but knowing it did before made me vomit while my face was still underwater. The only reason the girls let me up is because a teacher came in after hearing them laugh. They told her I got sick and they wanted to be sure I was okay, and I just went with their story to avoid further conflict. I told the nurse that I had food poisoning and got sent home. It was during this time at home that I poured the pills into my mouth and sneezed them back out.
~ Mick continued his death threats, which involved descriptions of seeing me murdered or raped.
~ I had to hand school projects and essays personally to my teachers. If I didn't and just passed them forward, they would mysteriously disappear or show up damaged due to sabotage, which resulted in a lowered grade or a zero.
~ A big jock of a boy knocked me over when I was moving between classes. He didn't stop to see if I was okay. Nobody helped me up. They just laughed. The tumble I took resulted in a severely sprained wrist and I had to wear a splint for several weeks. I told my parents that I fell on the stairs.
~ A different year, my own clumsiness in gym class caused me to sprain my ankle. I needed crutches for a week to let that ankle heal. I had a class upstairs that year, and Sean tried to push me down the stairs while I was trying to maneuver myself downstairs. Luckily my heavy backpack made me fall straight down on my butt. My crutches went bouncing down the staircase. Someone saw it happen and brought me my crutches before Sean could grab and run off with them. That was the only time other students ever helped me.
~ During choir concerts, the girls on the risers behind me would take strands of my hair and pull. This caused me to make strange faces while I was trying to sing, and the choir teacher would give me grief about it the next day. When I started wearing my hair up and keeping it draped over my shoulder in front of me to discourage this, these girls poked my back and arms with their sharp bobby pins.
~ Once, someone unzipped my dress as we were standing up to take our places during a choir concert. I foiled that one because I was flexible enough to reach back and zip it myself.
~ During my senior year, the choir teacher utterly humiliated me in front of all my choir peers. The last concert of each school year was a Broadway concert. Students could try out for solos. I wanted to have a big finish before graduation and decided to audition with Memory from Cats. But the only vocal copy I had to rehearse with was the Barbara Streisand version, which has a guitar, and we only had a piano at the concert. I had the sheet music and a tape recorder, so I asked the choir teacher to please play it for me on the piano while I recorded. She smiled sweetly, saying, "sure! I'll be glad to!" Except every time we started, she would stop to talk to whoever came over to her. I never got the recording, and as a result my solo audition was the biggest disaster of my school life. There I stood, shaking in terror as the piano started to play. It sounded unfamiliar to me because it wasn't a guitar. I couldn't find my starting note or the right tempo. I heard faint snickers and stared into all the jeering eyes gazing at me. The teacher had a smirk creeping across her face. She stopped me in the middle and told me to go sit down in a really unsympathetic tone. The whole room burst into giggles and laughter. No one was allowed to leave until the auditions were finished. I had to sit there wishing I was dead for an hour and a half. I sobbed all the way home. The next day, girls came up to me and mockingly sang the song in my ear. They did it all off key and shaky like my audition was. They said I have the worst voice in the class and I should kill myself.
That experience resulted in crippling stage fright that I have yet to overcome, and for many years I believed I was a terrible singer. My opinion of my own voice improved a lot over the years, but I hated to sing after that mishap. I almost didn't go to my last Broadway concert, but I needed to show up to get a decent grade. The girls back stage spent the entire concert talking about my failed audition and how much the choir teacher hated me. I thought they were making it up, but it did turn out that this teacher really hated me.
The reason this teacher didn't like me? I wasn't a rich kid and I couldn't donate to the choir funds. The rich kids who could throw money at her were her little pets, and THEY got all the special descants and solos in everything. I learned this after a friend of mine who had a GREAT audition didn't even get picked. Her audition was one of the best of the bunch.
~ The senior class trip involved a long bus ride to Six Flags Magic Mountain. Two boys I'll call Pedro and Miguel(friends of Sean) tried to burn my arm with cigarettes. I prevented it by grabbing the cigarettes out of their hands and throwing them on the ground. Pedro threatened to set my hair on fire with his lighter, and if he was behind me in line for a ride he would click his lighter. I always thought he'd lit it, so I turned around every time. This started making people not even from my school start laughing at me. I found a chaperone, made up an excuse that I got separated from my friends and walked around with her for the rest of the trip. On the bus leaving Six Flags, someone put bird feces in my hair.
~ At my graduation ceremony, people made fun of the chunky white shoes I wore. I had the last laugh. The ceremony took place on wet grass, and all the girls wearing spiked heels were tripping, while those who wore chunky shoes, like me, didn't stumble once.
~ Rita threw a Styrofoam cup of coffee at me at the Grad Night party, but it fell short and hit the ground next to me. I saw the steam rising. It was scalding hot and would have severely burned me. I reacted by running away and hiding in the bounce house outside the gym.
~ Later that same night, Mick claimed he wanted to call a truce and handed me a soda cup. It didn't smell like Pepsi, so I refused to drink it. I caught the same smell again years later and remembered the incident. It turns out Mick tried to give me soda spiked with vodka. I'm glad I didn't trust him, and I try not to think about what he might have done if he succeeded in getting me drunk.
~ There was a huge sheet of paper called a wall of memories where people were permitted to draw and write. Someone used a red marker to write "I hope Cyndi kills herself!" and "Cyndi needs to die!" and "Cyndi sucks c***s!" in huge letters all across the bottom.
~ My last moments at my high school consisted of Wendy coming up to me and saying, "Cyndi, you're a worthless piece of s*** and I hope your house burns down. I hope you kill yourself and nobody else has to stare at your retarded b**** face. Nobody loves you. Your parents think you're a disappointment. You're the reason abortions exist. I hate you. Have a sh***y life and f*** you." Real nice to hear as I'm leaving high school, right? I just smiled, stuck my middle finger up and told her to sit and spin. Then I walked away. Despite it all, I left with the last word. I know how immature my response was, but I was FREE from the constant bullying.
I wish I could say I walked away unscathed, but the culmination of it all left me with many mental and emotional scars.
The issues I still have:
~ Being alone around groups of teenagers makes me anxious.
~ I have low self esteem, no self confidence and feel inferior to everyone around me.
~ I attack myself verbally if I make mistakes in front of others. I figure I might as well acknowledge my own error before someone else does.
~ I don't take public embarrassment well.
~ Sometimes, I feel like everyone is judging everything I say and do.
~ Confrontations of any sort terrify me.
~ I have trouble outright trusting anyone, and I'm very guarded around new people.
~ I struggle to accept genuine compliments unless I know the person giving them.
~ I'm still struggling with the mentality that everything I do has to be so perfect that nobody will have anything negative to say about it. The moment somebody comes out of the woodwork and points out the flaws in something I worked hard on, I go from loving it to thinking it's terrible.