This week there has been yet again more press coverage of a teenager who committed suicide because of bullying. It breaks my heart to think of someone’s son or daughter being made to feel that desperate by someone else’s words. I’ve mentioned very briefly a couple of times on this blog about my own experiences of bullying. Luckily for me it was never all-consuming but it was always there and it did, and does, affect me.
When I think of my daughter possibly hearing the things that I did on a daily basis it feels like the bottom has fallen out of my stomach.I don’t want her to ever feel reduced by other people’s words.So forgive me, this post is not my usual silliness but I’ve wanted to write it for a while and whilst it isn’t addressed to my daughter, it is for her.
I know the names of some of you, some of you I don’t. You were the strangers on the bus or walking past who won’t remember me. Some of you were so called friends who won’t even realise this letter is addressed to you. But it is. It is addressed to all of you.
For too long I’ve let your words linger in me and repeat themselves in moments of doubt and loneliness and fear. I can see now these words have shaped my actions and reactions. These words changed me. Changed the things I said and did. They reduced me. Who knows what I would have become or what I would have done if I hadn’t shrunk away, afraid that you words would surround me and amplify and everyone would see that you were right.
I ignored you and your words. I pushed the words deep down but they were there. Dripping and bubbling and spitting until they boiled over and by then it was too late, they had congealed and spoiled. I tried to talk about them but there was too much for me to say and too little for it to matter. I tried to write about them and dress them up in pretty sentences and clever plots but it was too real for me to hear them critiqued and stripped for parts.
And time has passed and more often than not I don’t think about you at all. I don’t think of the times I smiled as though I was in on the joke or that everything was fine. On these days I know that your words weren’t actually about me but about you and the words you yourself carried. I know that I’ve uttered words too that someone will list at 2am in the dark. And I know some people use those words to make them strong and seem grateful that they did so but they didn’t make me strong. They made me less brave, less sure and less me.
Watching my daughter now, being the unadulterated version of her, I see shards of myself before your words took hold. And so I’ve decided I don’t want to teach my daughter the words that lurk and spin when I’m feeling anxious or weak or alone. I don’t want to teach her to use these words to make her strong. I want to teach her to be strong in response to these words. Not to ignore them and absorb them but to rail against them and say no. Enough.
And so, I won’t list the words but instead I’ll teach my daughter to think and to say what I should have been saying all these years and what is said much more articulately in this song:
So fuck you bullies. We’re through. You will not get any more of me. And you will not get my daughter.