Monday, October 14, 2013

I Was a Victim of Bullying... (My Story for Bullying Prevention Month)

Dear Bullied Teen,

I just found out it's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. And because I want you to know you aren't alone, I'm going to tell my story for the first time:

I was a victim of bullying. Though it's been twenty years since I left high school, I remember.

I remember...

...when guys in my class laughed and pointed because I tripped over a mat and fell on the cement with my skirt flipped up over my back.

...when the popular girls passed me in the halls, whispering to each other while they looked at me, laughing and calling names over their shoulders.

...the guy who would mutter "I hate you," every time he saw me. Every. Time.

...the friends who'd sink into the crowd when I got cornered in the hallway by a group of girls determined to make me understand how ugly, useless and stupid I was.

...the two guys in woodshop pulling me aside and asking me what color my pubic hair was. Then, when I wouldn't answer, they laughed and ran around the class telling everyone a lie.

...a girl leaning out the window of a classroom as I passed, reciting the contents of a note she'd found when searching my school bag. (She'd photocopied my "love letter" and distributed it among the freshmen and sophomore classes).

...the more popular girls in my class wishing me a happy 15th birthday. When I smiled, they cracked an egg in my hair.

...the friend who denied being my friend when our classmates taunted her about knowing me.

...the teacher who affirmed my classmates taunting, just to get a laugh.

...the time I returned from PE to find my clothes soaking wet.

...the guy who liked me, but told me he couldn't date me because others would make fun of him.

...the guy who asked me to dance, then when I said yes, laughed in my face and called a bunch of his friends over to tell them he'd asked me and I'd said yes. "Like I'd ever want to touch her..."

...being backed up against the wall of the woodshop classroom, completely surrounded by a dozen male classmates, all of them hurling words like "slut" and "virgin" (in the same sentence, mind), "ugly", "fat", and accusing me of having sex with my father. Among other things.

...the girl who followed me home from school, hurling insults and threats, and eventually (because I completely ignored her) hit me over the head with an umbrella. Hard.

...hearing words like "ugly", "slut", "hate you", "go home", "fat", "dog", and more and more and more, every single day.

And more. And more. And more...

My heart rate still goes up, every time I talk about this stuff because of all the things I experienced, the memory of fear is the most acute. When I cast my mind back to those days, my body returns to the state I lived in back then.

It's a battlefield.

I remember dragging my clothes on for the day ahead, walking reluctantly onto campus, head down, pulse raised, body sweating, wary of what might be coming from behind, braced for impact from what I could see ahead.

At fifteen, walking down a school hallway felt akin to approaching a firing squad.

No one should have to live that way. No one. Including you.

I want you to know that it can change. It doesn't always have to be this way. But it won't be easy. Through no fault of your own, you've been handed a mountain to climb. And I know how hard and painful that trek is.

I want you to know it's worth it.

In the years since I found emotional freedom from my past I've come across a lot of bullies. Ironically, they're scared of me now. Because they don't sense weakness in me anymore. Now they sense strength. I've had friends, colleagues, acquaintances take shelter behind my metaphorical bulk, because they can sense it too:

I'm not scared anymore.

Can you imagine how wonderful that feels? Probably not. I ache knowing you're still experiencing that pain and fear every day.

If I could tattoo anything on your heart it would be: "You have value. You are loveable. They are wrong." I would follow you around repeating those words and more - how important you are, how critical you are, how necessary. That the world would be less if you weren't here. But as a former victim myself, I know those words, while they hold hope, are hard to believe when you're in the bunkers, rallying strength for the next altercation.

So, I wrote a book. Among other things, it's about a girl who's bullied relentlessly at school - and those around her don't quite realize how bad it is. It's called Breakable because you and I both know that people aren't impenetrable. There are weights that are too heavy. There are blows that are too hard. We are fragile.

We can break.

I didn't write Stacy's character to retell my story. She has a story of her own. And I didn't write her to tie up a bullying story in a nice little ribbon - because you've probably already figured out, our stories don't end that way.

I wrote her story so that you know that I remember how it feels. And I know that it's wrong. I wrote it because I want you to see that even though I don't know you, I love you. I feel for you. I hurt with you.

No matter what anyone else tells you, the truth is: Those bullies in your life are wrong.

The day will come that you'll be strong. You won't feel isolated or afraid. You'll know with certainty that they are wrong. Then they'll lose their power, and you'll lose your fear.

But until then, know that I haven't forgotten, and I know how hard it is. And I'm not the only adult you'll meet who understands. You aren't alone. It won't always feel this way.

I was a victim of bullying, but not anymore. I'm strong now. I can sit in the bunker with you until you're ready. Then I'll remind you: I'm walking proof: You can find your way out of that hellhole. So don't give up. Please, don't give up.

They're wrong.

If you or someone you know is being bullied you can get help. Start with a school counselor, or a parent or family friend who had similar experiences. If they don't get it, keep looking: Sports coaches, teachers, aunts and uncles, older kids whose lives have already changed... just keep looking. You need help. You deserve help.

You can also get in touch with others who've been in your shoes, and the adults who can help on sites like, and (check out the BRAVE line contact details on the right).

Don't stop looking for help. Don't give up!


  1. Thank you for sharing that touching story. I hope your book reaches a wide audience. Your message is important and powerful. Good luck.

  2. I too suffered similar horrors to what you did when I was in junior high school and like you I too wrote a book about it. You're right, it does get better but like a knife wound, the wound heals but the scar remains.
    Could you tell me the title of your book? I would like to check it out. My book is called He Was Weird.

    1. Hiya, mine is BREAKABLE. It isn't out until November 4th, but there's a page on Goodreads:

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I applaud you for bringing this to other's attention!! I, too, was a victim of bullying throughout high school. It was SO bad they nicknamed me "Carrie." Those days are long behind me but I've never forgotten them. I think they're another reason I ended up in an abusive marriage as well. I was used to being beaten down. Now, I draw on God's strength. I've learned I'm a good person and that's what counts. I forgave those who hurt me but I don't put myself out there for others to do so anymore. I'm loving, don't get me wrong. But also cautious. It's funny. I just had this discussion with my kids this morning. God loves everybody, no matter how different. It's not right, not fair to be punished for this. There are, unfortunately, evil people in the world who live to torture others. We have to survive them, to blot out what their hate does to others. Together, we can make a stand!!

  4. Oh my goodness, Aimee! What a story! Thank you for sharing it. I didn't realize that was part of Breakable, but now I'm looking forward to reading it even more.

    1. Thanks, Susanna. The book isn't "about" bullying, but it is an important element of Stacy's life and the plot. Glad you're looking forward to it!

    2. Bravo for sharing! One of the girls who bullied me in junior school for the clothes I wore ended up borrowing my clothes when we attended the same college.

    3. Isn't it always the way? One of the girls who'd been my worst in high school, ended up renting my parent's apartment when I was at college. When I came home she treated me like she was scared of me - and I didn't even say anything. I was kind of floored. I think that was the beginning of me getting my confidence back in my early 20's.