I was bullied. It was awful. And it still greatly impacts my decisions today.
In Grade 5, I was living the dream. I was a popular kid in my class. I was well liked. I was confident. I was the star performer for many of the school’s musical productions. I wore cool clothes and had great hair. I was stylish. I felt pretty. I had great friends. Boys liked me.
I lived on Chartland Boulevard - the best neighbourhood. I was safe. I had fun. I laughed. I played. I joked around. I was free to be me. But then we moved and my life changed. I left my amazing school, my incredible friends and my welcoming community.
I remember my first day of Grade 6 in my new school and in my new neighbourhood. I went in with confidence and ease. I thought it would be easy to make new friends. After all, I was that kid who was an extrovert and well liked, right? I was wrong. I was the new kid on the block. Cliques had formed. Girls were mean. There were three bullies in particular that I can’t forget. I did everything I could to get those “cool girls” to like me. Nothing worked.
I was called nasty names. I was pushed. I was shoved. I was pushed again. I fell. The phalanges on my left foot broke. I was on crutches for over a month. I was called names continually. My teacher did nothing. She was useless. My grades were falling but she didn’t care.
On one very cold winter day in February, I had reached my limit. On the playground there was a patch of ice that my three bullies pushed me onto. I fell yet again but this time I couldn’t get up. I had a concussion. I was dizzy and was left there lying by myself. I was in a daze and can vaguely remember the teacher on duty who helped me get up. We went to the Vice-principal’s office because I needed to go to the hospital. I had a goose egg on the right side of my head close to my eye. That’s when I shared my story. Until then, I had kept quiet.
I grew up with confidence, determination and a zest for life so things didn’t faze me - but these three girls sure did. No one was doing anything to help. No one was listening. I was seen but not heard. Things changed on the day of the ice incident.
My Mum immediately stormed through those doors, as any concerned parent would. I had never seen her so mad. Her little girl had endured so much pain both emotionally and physically and that was the day it had to end. I went to hospital and I was in rough shape. The doctors wanted me to stay for the night, but I refused. There was no way in hell I was going to stay there on my own. I was that kid that liked sleeping in her own bed. I went home but was woken up every hour on the hour to ensure my pupils were dilated and I could in fact wake up. That was a Friday night.
On Monday, I went back to school in fear of what I was going to face. The girls were still there, but I kept my distance. I felt like I had been defeated. I knew I could never change them, but I could change myself. I was so caught up in being accepted by my three bullies that I had overlooked the amazing kids in my class. When I initiated conversations with the others, my three bullies didn’t like that and they began to tease me even more. Something had changed in me. I didn’t care. I stuck up for myself and eventually they backed off. It didn’t take them long before they found another girl to tease.
Looking back, I didn’t realize the impact this bullying would have on my adult years. As grown-ups we think kids are resilient and can quickly bounce back from being victims of bullying in their youth. That isn’t true. It can creep up on you in ways you’d never imagine.
When I was completing my graduate studies in the States, I was required to write two State final exams before graduating. I was told they weren’t difficult; they were multiple choice and you didn’t have to study. I was maintaining a 4.0 GPA so I figured I’d ace it. Was I ever wrong! Would you believe me if I told you I wrote one of those exams 5 times before passing it? Yes, that’s right, five times.
There’s a story behind this and it has to do with my three bullies. If you’ve never heard of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), it is defined by NLP Vancouver as “the process of working with old memories that hold people back from achieving what they want in their lives. It is working with the way that person structures their experience of life (or their past) to enhance their future experience into something they desire and want.”
I was skeptical at first but I was desperate to pass my test and my friend who was trained in NLP had offered to help me out. Why not, right? I went in with an open mind and heart and knew it couldn’t hurt. With just one session, I discovered that I hadn’t dealt with my three bullies. There was a mental and emotional block that was preventing me from passing that exam. During that session, I remembered the playground, the ice, the push, the fall, the concussion, the loneliness and the great depth of sadness. I balled my eyes out (tears are flowing now as I write this). It was the first time in 19 years that I cried over the pain I had been carrying.
I called out my bullies’ names one by one and I forgave them. I walked away from that session feeling free, confident, brave and courageous. I walked into that exam room and got 98%. Did I fail that exam five times because I wasn’t smart? No. Did I fail that exam five times because I wasn’t capable? No. Did I fail that exam five times because I needed to deal with my three bullies? Yes. For whatever reason, I believe that exam helped me discover the power that those three girls had on my life but would no longer have.
Moving forward, I am aware of the choices I make. I am aware that I have friendship boundaries. I will rarely go out with a group of girls but I am making progress. I will throw a great party but I usually like having men in the mix. I avoid groups of three. I surround myself with people who I know I can encourage, love and support and I too feel that way when I leave them. I enjoy having one-on-one conversations with people and connecting on deeper levels. I am careful with the company I keep. My relationships in my life are treasures. They are valuable and they keep me going. I have little tolerance for mean people, for bullies, and I have no problem saying so. Life is too short and I know my time is too precious to be paralyzed by fear.