I get asked about bullying a lot. When it comes to this topic, Listen, Lucy is trying to empower victims so they cannot be bullied. I openly say that confident, secure people cannot be bullied. I know this because I have been very weak and I have also been strong. Although I am always very open about my feelings on bullying, I’m usually very vague about my experiences with it. Recently, I have been trying to figure out why.
Even as I sat down to write this, I deleted each sentence I tried to write because it all seemed so fake. I always think it is so interesting, as a 28-year-old grown up, that I still struggle with it. I have been trying to figure out why, but it isn’t so black and white. So much runs through my mind when I think about the idea of exposing my past.
Am I worried that the people that made me feel this way will read this? Yes. Did I do things, say things and fight back in ways that I also regret when looking back? Obviously. I’m only human and I was only a kid back then. What will it do to me when I write about something I have tried to bury? I have no idea. So, let’s see how this goes.
In high school, I had a rough go at it. A lot of people in my life now know what was going on, but at the time I kept a lot hidden. There were people at my school that would not leave me alone. It was petty. It was mean. It was never-ending. It is something I would wish upon no one.
You see, at the time that I feel like I was targeted, I also was dealing with very serious health issues. I was sick. No one could figure out what to do and I was only getting worse. I was throwing up daily at school. I was losing so much weight. I had to quit sports. It felt like my life was over. I couldn’t sleep. My usual perfect grades were slipping and I was crying in the bathroom every private moment that I was able to sneak in because these people were so terrible. It was so awful that it is making my eyes fill up with tears as I am writing this now.
One day after months of this never-ending crap, I was in the lunchroom. I was sitting at a table with my friends when my younger cousin, Devin, came up to me and said he had to tell me something. He told me that there was a schedule for all of the winter sports hung up in one of his classrooms. Above the girls’ basketball schedule, there was an action shot of me from one of our games. Someone had drawn a speech bubble around it and wrote “I make myself throw up.”
I was devastated. Completely devastated. I was dealing with something way too serious for an 18-year-old to deal with and now on top of it, I was being mocked by an anonymous coward.
When this all started the meanness was over a boy. When the subject of what people were talking about was no longer my relationship, but my health, I started to crumble. No one knew how much I struggled mentally. I didn’t even know how much I struggled until I look back now as an adult. I could fill these pages with horrible things that happened. But we have heard a million stories of people that have, unfortunately, been hurt the way I have. Most of them have been hurt way worse. I don’t want this story to be one you will forget. What I want to talk about was how long it affected me.
When I was in college, years after I left high school, I was at the mall with my sister, Jessica. We were in a store and all of a sudden I started to panic that I was going to run into one of the people that treated me this way. My sister didn’t know how bad it was for me in high school since I didn’t talk about it and she lived out of town at the time so she was confused. I mentioned to her that I felt uncomfortable. Then I mentioned to her that I couldn’t breathe. I had to leave the store and sit on a bench outside because I had worked myself up so much that I was on the verge of a panic attack. Over what? A scenario I was afraid might happen?
When I was 22, I was still going to therapy for my anxiety. I had to do a lot of different exercises to overcome things that I was holding in. One of them was to write a letter to these people. It was a letter between my therapist and me. It focused on how they took me at my most vulnerable, at a time in my life when I was so sick, and they exposed it and made jokes of it and laughed about it in the hallways.
That same year, 4 years after I graduated from high school, I was still making plans with my therapist about how I was going to handle myself when I was home on breaks if I ran into them. I was still needing to talk through it because I had no power over the situation. Even as an adult who made amazing friends in college and was finally having the time of my life, that place--- my home-- was a place I returned to being a victim.
Now, as I am 28-years-young, a business owner and mental health advocate, I still struggle with openly talking about the years that, most likely, started it all.
I don’t want to focus on the bullies because they haven’t had power over me for so long now. But I do want to point out that I am sure, when the teasing that felt like torture was happening, I would bet my life that these kids that were treating me so poorly had no idea how much it was affecting me. Even now, if they read this, I am sure they will be shocked of my truth with the situation and how long it took me to get over it. I don’t think they were trying to ruin my life. I think they were being stupid, immature and mean kids that didn’t know the power of their words. I even think they would feel bad if they knew how much it ran my life.
But, like I said, I don’t want to focus on them. I want to focus on the victims. The kids that are going through things no one knows about. Who are trying to figure out who they are, how to use their voices and how to fight off insecurities that are eating them alive. To the kids that lay awake at night and their stomachs are in knots because the thought of walking into school the next day is now making them physically ill-- I am here for you. I get you. I know you. You are not strangers to me.
I promise you. You will get through it. Keep your head up. Tell yourself how cool you are every single day. Ask for help. Talk to your parents, teachers and counselors. Write to Listen, Lucy. Because you are not alone in this. It may be difficult to talk about, trust me I know, but your story needs to be heard because the quality of your life is too important. Do not waste years keeping it tucked away. I am telling you, it is only hurting you more. You are a beautiful person and will someday roll your eyes at the ridiculous things that happened to you in your past.
Who knows? Maybe, eventually, you will start a company and build a platform to turn your crappy experiences into the most positive thing in your life.