An Everlasting Scar: Continuing effects of bullying multiply over time

By: Daphne Becker

What is your first memory when you were five? Probably playing with friends at recess or learning to ride a bike with your parents or having your first sleepover.

My first memory is being cornered by a group of guys at daycare who loved to call me fat. Not just fat, but really anything that they could see hurt me.

My parents saw what it did to me and pulled me out of the daycare as soon as they could.

It wasn’t long before those same boys at the daycare, who were only a few years older, figured out we went to the same school. At that age, I remember all the kids in my grade idolized the older kids. What the older kids did, they also wanted to do. Well, in this case the older boys tortured me. So did the boys in my grade.

The girls weren’t completely innocent either. I remember one girl told all her friends they couldn’t be friends with me because they would “catch my fatness.”

Now it wasn’t like I didn’t have any friends. I usually found another outsider to stick with. I actually found a best friend at one point, but the bullying she received drove her to move schools, and another friend had such a bad family life that she is now living in a foster home across the state.

I think what a lot of times people don’t know is that making people feel bad about themselves really does not help. In my case, being called fat, especially starting when I was a completely healthy normal five year old, made me worse.

See, for me, food equals comfort, so when I got bullied by getting called fat or ugly or whatever else they called me, I would turn to food to feel better.

Ironic right?

That in particular hit the worst in fourth grade where I would literally wait till after bedtime when my parents were sleeping to raid the fridge for some comfort.

Elementary holds some truly gruesome memories for me, so I was excited when I got to enter middle school in sixth grade. There would be more kids, more freedom and, I was hoping, less bullying.

Actually middle school started pretty great. I got my first “boyfriend” and became friends with a not super popular but not unpopular group that I thought would “like totally be my bff’s forev’s.”

That was until the comments started coming.

People would spread rumors about me being gay. They said, “Does her boyfriend like that she’s fat,” and “OMG, do you actually think she thinks she’s pretty.”

People wrote notes to me and put them in my locker. They read “kill yourself” “did weight watchers refuse you cause you’re too fat” and my personal favorite “please end yourself because I’m tired of looking at you every day.”

I never told my parents, never told a teacher, never told anyone. I was secretly scared they would agree. Of course, not to my face, but in their heads, one of those mean thoughts you think that you would never say out loud and feel a little bit guilty for thinking.

So I did try to end it. I would binge take my mom’s Benadryl, and at 11, that means take three or four before bed and cry because I thought, “S___, I’m dying.” And I cut myself.

My sister actually walked in on me once. She was only seven or eight, I think. Had no clue what I was doing.

Sometimes I cry at the idea that I almost made my baby sister see me like that, or worse, be the one to find my dead body.

My parents found out about my cutting on my mom’s birthday.

My neighbor called because her daughter heard it at school and was concerned.

I feel sick just remembering the disappointment in my mother’s eyes. She was so upset that I, someone she loves, cares for and brought into this world, wanted to do something like that. Not only to myself but to my family.

I was bringing heartache to my parents and stealing a big sister/role model from my sister.

My cutting became such a well known thing that I was forced to see a student “counselor” once a month on Wednesdays.

I put the quotes around counselor because she really was just a student in college volunteering who had no idea how to deal with what I was going through.

In fact, she didn’t believe that I was being bullied because, if I was, there would be reports, and there were none, so, of course, I was just crazy.

She blamed my problems on my sister. Telling me that the root was in my jealousy of her, her athleticism, her beauty, how she simply captures a room was not just admiration for her but what fueled my self hate.

For an 11-year-old, it kind of made sense. As a 17-year-old I don’t see it that way. I love my sister with all my heart, and though we don’t always get along, like all siblings do, I would not trade her or hate her for anything. Looking back I’m disappointed I let her get into my head and paint my sister as the evil villain in my life. If anything she was sort of a light I aspired to be.

That made me hate myself even more, like there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t love my own sister.

Eventually, throughout the year I stopped cutting and was in and out of diets. My mom felt that maybe if I lost some weight I would feel better about myself.

It actually made me feel worse. Now, I am not targeting my mom. She was really just trying to help me feel better about myself in a really hard situation. We are all only human.

What happened is that during the diets I never felt I was really seeing results. I thought I was a failure at just another thing.

So I would go back into older habits where I would binge at night. Not too helpful when you’re on a diet.

But middle school was only three years, and I was optimistic about high school. Somehow I thought it had to be better. I always thought things had to get better.

Freshman year definitely was a roller coaster for me. Some of the things that classified me as “fat” before actually were a positive feature in high school, and by that, I guess I mean my curves, and it was an asset that some of the older boys, who didn’t know my past, liked in me.

I liked the attention. In fact, I welcomed it.

One boy in particular I really started to like. We talked and flirted and held hands, and he told me how pretty I was, and I was floating on cloud nine.

That was until his girlfriend messaged me telling me to stay away. He never even told me he had a girlfriend. He only told me he had a psycho ex that never left him alone.

After that is when I heard the word “slut” and “homewrecker” and all those other wonderful terms. I never had even made it past first base before I felt like I was the new Hester Pryne of my school.

Sophomore year would be a new start for me. It was the year I moved to Cedar Falls High School. My mom referred to it as the year I could reinvent myself.

It might have worked if ask.fm hadn’t become a staple in social media.

People loved to remind me just how much I didn’t belong at their school. “Wahawk whore” and “the new school scum” happened to be thrown around a lot. They wanted me to know that they wanted me out.

I went to the counselors again and told about my problem. All they could do was hand the account over to the police where they could find who was making the comments and if they were even from our school.

I opted out of it. I didn’t want to have to know who would even say some of those things to me. Knowing I would read them to purposely make me feel bad, I wanted them to be written by a masked villain I could blame, not just some normal kid.

Now the past few years haven’t been bad. I still get the occasional “slut” or “whore” tossed my way, but I can usually handle it better now.

The way I view bullying is like a scratches. The words ugly or fat is just one scratch. Yes, it hurts, but it’s something small that goes away almost as soon as it comes. But with bullying it’s one small scratch over and over again in the same place. Eventually those small scratches draw blood and develop into wounds.

Lucky for me, I am at a comfortable place now. I feel my wound has finally settled into a scar. A scar that I wear proudly. I feel like people can go ahead and tell me I’m fat or ugly or a prude. It won’t affect me the same. Like a roller coaster, it’s not as scary the second time around.

But a lot of kids aren’t as lucky as I have been. Some don’t heal at the same rate, and sadly some feel they never will. Sadly those are the stories that we hear. The kid who couldn’t handle it anymore. The kid who did something drastic. No one ever tells the story of what led up to that.

And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m finally telling this for sympathy. I give myself plenty of that already.

I am saying this because as a community we need to sympathize with the kids who still have the open wounds. The kids who are still in this dark place.

I am saying this because most believe that for kids at our school, bullying is obsolete. Something that “doesn’t happen here.” I think just the last few weeks is proof enough of that misconception.

I am saying this for all the kids who never got to hear their voices heard or had someone speak out for the injustice they have been served and the kids who lost their voices.

I am saying this because I know when this comes out, there are going to be people who think, “Haven’t we talked about bullying enough,” but the truth is there is never going to be enough talk until it’s gone.

I’m saying this because I don’t want to raise my children in a world that I am scared of myself.

And, most importantly, I’m saying this because I need to say it for me. I need to say it so I can finally let it be out there that this is a part of me. Something that molded me into who I am today.

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