The first time I was bullied was in 7th grade. I got made fun of by the “cool kids” because I dumped my boyfriend, who was a popular football player, so I could devote more time to band and to my friends. I remember thinking how shallow it was to be teased for something so obvious. Why would I want to be tied down in a relationship that was boring when I was having fun with my friends and doing something (play the flute in concert band) that I loved?
The bullying continued after that. 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade. And each time it made little to no impact on me. Now, you’re probably thinking: Sure. You just brushed it off like it was nothing (sarcasm). No, it was definitely something, and it was definitely hurtful. But I was able to let it go because I knew I was better than those bullies. I knew that I was stronger and a more beautiful and compassionate and trusting soul. I knew that their bullying was about them, not me. I got all of that long before the ads and T.V. specials told me. At 14, I was damn sure of myself. I knew who I was, what I believed in, the kind of people I wanted in my life and the kind of people I did not. I was never trying to impress anyone and I never cared what people thought about me. I only cared what I thought about myself. And I thought I was a pretty damn put together teenager.
I watched others in my school be tortured by bullies and their esteems ripped apart. If they were friends, I tried to help them and take care of them and love them. I reminded them they were beautiful and it didn’t matter what others thought of them. But I never really understood how people could let someone get to them like that. I was in 9th grade when the shootings at Columbine happened. That’s when bullying became the after school T.V. specials and new initiative school programs. As much empathy as I had for others, I had little for bullies. I felt sorry for them. I knew what their deal was — they were tortured souls and fighting against their own identities. I knew they had to put others down to make themselves feel better. Even at 14 I knew enough pop psychology to get all of that. When I was 16 I started actively studying psychology and talking about psychology with friends. I always prided myself on not letting the bullies get to me.
But I’ve never been bullied as an adult. At least, not until recently.
Being bullied as an adult is a different beast entirely. It feels much more isolating and lonely. And since I’ve been going through a lot of soul searching and questioning my own identity, I’m actually not as confident as the 14-year-old Gina. I wish I had some of her sass and confidence right now.
My bully is a former friend, which makes it even more heartbreaking and painful. Another situation I’ve never dealt with in high school that others did was being betrayed by friends. I picked my friends well, and therefore had a core group of close friends that I could also depend on. Well, I picked this friend wrong. Or I should say, I opened up my heart to someone who wanted nothing more than to take advantage of the love and kindness I was willing to give. And since I never dealt with being betrayed by friends, this is new territory for me. I feels like I’ve been slapped across the face repeatedly. And just when I think that bruise has healed and I’m doing what I can to appease all parties…
SLAP. It happens again.
I’m not as strong as I was when I was 14, 15, 16-years-old, but at least now I have resources in place to deal with these sudden slaps that come out the blue and hurt like fucking hell. I’ve been in therapy since early September and I’ve done so much good work on myself since then. I have close friends I can talk to and friends I know will make me feel better and show me a good time. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds to help regulate those nasty chemicals in my brain. And in July I started meditating and I’ve been actively studying meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism.
But just when I think my bully has realized he’s being unnecessarily hurtful and we’ve gotten to a place of mutual disdain and ignoring of one another — he decides it’s time to try and cut me down again. He makes up lies and exaggerates stories about me. And just like bullies do in high school, he’s trying and get others on his side. He is trying to “rally the troops” against me.
Also just like when I was bullied as I kid, I get why this is happening. And it makes me feel sorry for this person, even though that’s the last emotion I should feel for someone who has treated me this way. He’s hurting and he’s scared. He is mentally unhealthy and he needs an outlet. We hurt each other — I hurt him, and so he needs to get back at me. He needs to hurt me to make himself feel better because right now he just doesn’t feel good about himself.
He’s lost and confused and depressed. Just like me.
But where our personalities differ is that I do not feel the need to bring others down to make myself feel better. I am beautiful and compassionate and empathetic. I feel deep emotions when others I love are hurting or loving or celebrating or experiencing joy. Even with my bully I have tried so hard to forgive him for how he’s treated me. I can’t right now, because each day I’m learning more about how ugly he is deep down inside. I feel betrayed and manipulated by him. Our friendship was a lie — everything he said to me was a lie. It’s a painful reminder to me that I need to not wear my heart of my sleeve so freely. That I need to find a balance between letting people see my heart, know it’s there for the taking, but not for the ripping and manipulating and stomping.
But just like when I was bullied in middle school and high school, I know this is not about me. This is about the bully. And just like when I was in middle school and high school, I will not let the bully win. I will not back down from threats and public slander and the open attempt to take away the important things in my life.
If I give up and give in, I let him know he’s gotten to me and he’s scared me into submission. I let the bully win.
And 14-year-old Gina would be very pissed off about that.
I love you keep going,
P.S. – I’m watching Muppets Most Wanted with my husband, and here’s the dialogue of the scene that just took place:
M1: We got to go back! Warn the others!
M2: I tried. They didn’t believe me.
It’s our word against his and, well, he’s fooled them all.
I think that’s a perfect way to end. #ILYKG