Bullying And Its Aftermath – The Scars I Tuck Inside

I’m taking a break from the ficitonal horror I write about here every week to address a very real horror : bullying. I know it’s the big topic of the day and there’s a lot of rhetoric out there about teachers, parents and kids taking a stand and ending it. I have 2 kids in school and I’m in the front lines with them. I can tell you that there have been ZERO changes since the spotlight was trained on it. Bullying is still a serious issue. It has the power to humiliate, defeat and even kill.

The following post was written by a wonderful fan I met last year. She goes by the name Spicy Pixi and her story could be your story, or your child’s story. Please share it with as many people as you can.

It is an unfortunate thing that teachers, parents and fellow students are just now waking up to the fact that bullying is a problem – a damn big one. It is sad to see the lives of children, teenagers and young adults broken and cut short by the pressure to feel worthless for their differences. No one is allowed to be unique unless they wish to be cast out. No one is allowed to be respected unless they are part of a crowd that can protect them. We are subject to punishment for who we are, who we want to be, the lifestyle we live, the friends we make, the jobs we do. It is all for the sake of a false pretense of peaceful uniformity; ultimately it is to aggressively oppose what we are told is different and thus must be ardently avoided or destroyed.
I grew up during a time in which the term “bullying” was viewed as commonplace – typical behavior of children, adolescents and teenagers. Most teachers feigned interest and turned a blind eye while it occurred in their classrooms, quietly addressing the issue in private with the student and their parents – if the teachers cared enough to handle the issue at all. Children that addressed their parents about the situation were told that their peers would grow out of it and see how wonderful and talented the bullied really were (“it’s the inside that counts“); twenty years ago, parents preferred to sweep the problem under the rug, having previously been brainwashed into believing that such appalling – and sometimes violent – behavior was part of growing up. In the end, the victim would walk away convinced that the abuse was “normal”. “Kids will be kids.”

15 years old (1997)

I was bullied as a kid.
I was bullied for the way I looked and dressed. I wore over-sized coke-bottle glasses to treat severe near-sightedness, tinted pink as to prevent further irritation by damaging UV radiation. My gaunt appearance was the result of a high metabolism that all but prevented me from gaining an ounce of weight until I was well into my teens. My naturally strawberry-blonde hair was a mass of waves and curls running down my back and thus had earned me the privileged title of “orange poodle” for a majority of my third and fourth grade years. Because my parents had put a small fortune into my dental care, I was teased for having braces from fifth grade to eighth grade – then I got teased for having a retainer.
I was bullied for my lack of athleticism and chosen last in just about every physical activity in grade school. If I was not chosen last, then I was chosen ahead of the ones that didn’t bathe, the ones too overweight to run or the ones that picked their nose. I was purposely hit in the head by large rubber balls by the boys in my class, yelled at by my classmates if I failed to run fast enough, kick hard enough or throw well enough to win a game. By the by, I had asthma.
I was bullied for being too quiet. I was bullied for my absence of friends. I was bullied for having a higher IQ. I was bullied for my last name. (Voos? Vahz? Vase? Vowse?) I was bullied for my first name. (Anyone remember the story of *Amy* Fisher?) I was bullied for being bullied.
“Four Eyes.” “Brace Face.” “Metal Mouth.” “Window Face.
I remember when a girl purposely stepped on a picture I was drawing during recess. She walked away, laughing, when I looked at her, startled and upset by her lack of respect for something that had made me feel good about myself. It was a nice picture; I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.
I remember wet leaves and dirt being forcefully stuffed into my school bag as I would walk home from school – until such a time that there were no more leaves to collect and the ground had become too hard and frozen from winter chill. I was left to sift through filth just to get to my school books.
I remember being pushed away from a game I had made up all on my own – and played by myself – jumping over every other letter that spelled “NO PARKING” on the school parking lot. Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to play my own game anymore. The “cool kids” made sure of that.
My first “boyfriend” was the result of a prank played by some of the prettier girls in my grade who thought it appropriate that I should be matched up with a boy who never bathed. One day, as I was sitting by myself during recess, writing, I was told that he was my new boyfriend. Close behind them, there he was, head bowed and looking very much the way I must have – embarrassed, devalued and confused. He followed me for the remainder of the school year like a lost puppy and I was chided by the same girls who “set us up” for never kissing him during recess.

bullied2I wonder if the girls on my eighth grade basketball team were aware of me overhearing them during Library. How vicious their words were about their fellow teammate and how deeply they wound me when they talked about my playing ability!
I remember the names and faces of the three girls that made my life a living hell for the first few years of high school – on a daily basis. I remember the boys that kicked the back of my desk.

bullied3I never let on that their cruelty put me through more than ten years of therapy. I never let on that the medication I was on to help me cope with their actions was unusually high for a child my age. I never let on that I cried myself to sleep at night, wishing I had a friend to talk to. I never let on about my anxiety attacks every day during lunch – and later in the cafeteria – because I was constantly overhearing them talk unkindly about me. I never let them know about the myriad of nail gouges and scratches along my back that dulled the emotional pain they put me through. I never let on that the only reason why I wrote so much was because the only friends I had were the characters I made up in my head. I never let on that the only reason why I drew – and drew so well – was because it was all that kept me focused hard enough so that I would not shake and cry when they taunted me. I never let on that I almost took my life because of bullying and that, had it not been for the unexpected, early arrival of my stepfather home from work that autumn day, I would be dead now.
There is no justice in bullying. There is no justification in bullying the bullied, the reformed, the drug-addled, the mentally unsound, the rich, the poor, the athletically challenged, the athletically inclined, the smart, the gifted, the pretty, the depraved. There is only justice in rising above it.
It took years (of therapy, of medication, of learned coping skills) following my high school graduation to see how wrong my persecutors were about me. (In fact, for as awkward as I’d been, I was a pretty cool kid!) Looking back, I would like to think that had I been as strong as I am now (or as brave), I would have been a bully’s personal hell – and never once would have given them a breath of my time. I’d like to like think I would have spoken against the countless people who thought it okay to abuse me and others,  I would have brought down a few lawsuits on the teachers and school board that chose to not do a damn thing about what was occurring in front of them.
To the adults, parents, teachers and classmates who choose to stand by and do nothing: Fuck. You.
To the ones baring the scars of past bullying: Never let what happened then stop you from shining now.
To the bullies brave enough to read this: You are brave enough to stop the cycle.
To the ones being bullied: You are not alone. I love you.

Lastly, to MY (former) bull-…

Meh, you aren't worth it.

Meh, you aren’t worth it.

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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

11 responses to “Bullying And Its Aftermath – The Scars I Tuck Inside”

  1. Brian James Freeman says :

    There is nothing I hate more than the “kids will be kids” excuse for *anything.*

  2. Joseph Pinto says :

    Ironic how most bullied kids turn out beautiful. Though it’s tragic when the stories end much darker. I applaud “Spicy Pixi”

  3. hookofabook says :

    mmmm….this one made me cry. I applaud you for posting this. We’ve dealt with some of this in our household and it just never seems to end. I love that she wrote this and wish more people would stand up…but the problem is that everyone “wants to fit in” and includes the parents who won’t stop it, relatives, friends of those friends, teachers and etc. We are all so vain.

    • Hunter Shea says :

      I see it every day and it drives me crazy. My kids have had to grow some very tough hides. I keep reminding them, you’ll be on top looking down at these clowns some day.

  4. zapalaspeaks says :

    Your blog post is brave and interesting. You may be interested in the work of my teacher. You can find out more about him art http://www.northofeden.com http://www.dreamingmetaphysical.com/1/post/2013/03/deciding-to-stay-open.html

  5. Scott DayOH says :

    Ahh bullies – part of my youth… From being young, small and wearing glasses in elementary school, to my high school years of being 4′ 10″ for 3yrs. Things started to turn for me when I decided in eighth grade to fight back.

    – I broke a kids nose – he was trying to trip me walking up the stairs, so I turned around and kicked him in the face.

    – A “friend”, who was trying to impress girls next to my locker used to close my locker on me while I was there. So one day his hand was a little close and in the right position while trying to be suave, and I was able to close the locker on his hand. I left him there and went to class. Funny thing? I received 3-days suspension.

    Most of my being bullied stopped when a couple of senior football players saw me getting picked on after getting off the bus. They confronted the kid who was doing it and I guess that made it through the grapevine because it all stopped.

    I received a lot of crap, probably dinged my confidence level growing up, but I think I’m doing ok now.

    I have a son, who is only 5 right now, but he’s a big 5 – pretty much taller and broader than anyone in his age that I’ve seen. So, I’m saving my stories as he gets older so he doesn’t become a bully because of his size advantage.

    I’m also going to talk to him about what I did in retaliation and make sure he knows that I didn’t take the right avenues, and that I should have spoken to someone before becoming aggressive.

    However, I will tell him to always stand up to bullies when necessary. That and don’t let anyone mess with his sister. 😉

    • Hunter Shea says :

      Good advice. I went to high school at an all boys catholic school. We all bullied each other, all the time, so it almost negated itself. Everyone was a target and you had to learn to fight back and roll with it.

  6. Tim Feely says :

    Hunter thanks so much for sharing this. I was bullied as a kid and still carry some scars from it. I was lucky that I was not bullied as much as Spicy Pixi. I am so glad that she has shared it and has come out of it a wonderful person. I dream of a world where no child has to go through it and every one is treated with the respect they deserve. Thanks again.

    • Hunter Shea says :

      Kids can be so cruel, but I guess that’s where cruel adults come from. The hardest part is when I see adults encouraging their kids to act like world class jerks.

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