As I sat in my room for hours after a heated discussion at a local school board meeting, I kept thinking to myself, “I have so much to say on this subject, to this school, to these students.”
I wondered how this grey cloud that was cast over my tiny little town would break and came to the realization that this cloud has been hovering over this place for decades.
Grabbing my anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications before bed, I looked at the pill bottles and thought of all of the names of all of the bullies that hurt me in my life. And those bullies didn’t just come from my school. They came from my daycare provider, they came from my church, they came from school, they came from home.
I thought of all the tears I’d cried over the names given to me that I didn’t choose. Fat pig. Disgusting cow. Bearded lady. Failure. Poser. Piece of shit. Queer. Bitch. Ugly….
I thought of the boys who cornered me at a local show and spit in my face, and kicked me and called me white trash. I thought of the girl who spit in my hair, in my face, in my hands. I thought of how she pursued me online, back in the MSN messenger days. Once I blocked her, she sent another friend with another account after me. People I didn’t even know. And they began with the names. I finally stopped using the thing all together for fear they would find me. And it didn’t stop there.
When I was 15, I went with my friend to the mall. We were stopped outside of a Hollister store so I could tie my shoe. My friend went into the store because she could actually fit into (and afford) the clothes. As I waited outside, a large cluster of teenagers came into view at the end of the shopping center. As the group grew louder and came into view, the voices and faces looked and sounded familiar.
My soft pretzel I’d just eaten lurched into my throat as I sprinted into the store to grab my friend to get the hell out of there.
It was too late.
They never touched me that day, but they embarrassed every ounce of blood in my body to a boiling point. While my friend and I booked it down the length of the mall, the murder of bullying crows cawed behind us, saying my name (first and last) at the top of their lungs with slurs of names behind it. “Katie Mullaly is a fat sow!” “Katie Mullaly can’t get a dude hard even if it was her own dad!” “Katie Mullaly is a slut!” “Katie Mullaly is a dumb, fat, bitch that no one cares about!” What’s worse? My friend that I was with laughed and giggled along with the group because she noticed one of the boys she was crazy for at the time was a part of the herd.
I remember every fucking second of it. And it still burns in my chest; that embarrassment, that anxiety, that incurable desire to want to off myself and bleed out on the floor of that mall just so they would shut up.
Just last year, a very old classmate of mine showed up at my house around Christmas. She and I used to be best friends in high school and junior high. We had a falling out over boys…fucking boys…when I was 15. She admitted that she was the one to send her group of cronies after me. Including the guys at the rock show. Including the girl who harassed me over the internet. And once they realized how terrified of them I was…they didn’t stop.
I was bullied by many people in my life. Those words took the greatest toll because, for some reason, I believed those people and I believed the words they said to me about me. I can’t even fathom what people say about me when I’m not around.
One giant fact remains: I told one of my teachers that I trusted. I told her everything about what was going on with these kids. But these kids were smarter than me, they were more charming than me, and thus, they were actually favorites of the teacher that I told. And when I told that teacher the names of the people bullying me? She tossed me aside, dismissing my claims because the girl I experienced and the girl she experienced couldn’t possibly be the same girl. The girl she knew was smart and funny and witty and sarcastic.
And I gave up.
I gave up and I shut up and I started all over with a new group of friends. It wasn’t easy. It came with its own struggles. But one thing is for sure…I can’t stand the names Corinna, or Colby, or Cale, or Christian, or Jordan.
I thought of the kid that I grew up with who sexually abused me for YEAARRRSS, and when I finally decided to tell my friends because I was terrified something bad would happen to one of them because she feigned interest in him? They didn’t believe me either, because that’s not what he would do. That’s just not who he is. Was I sure? I was fucking sure. Everyone carries a darkness with them. Some are just more careful about letting it escape than others.
And as those medicines I took earlier in the evening sat at the bottom of my stomach, I realized that those words, those actions, will forever haunt me, like a VCR tape stuck on rewind and play; rewind and play; rewind and play.
When I posted something to Facebook this past year about our art program being downsized, I got a call from the school’s current superintendent. And he chewed me out for saying how I felt. And that same burning, acidic take over in my chest rose up my throat. As that man barked at me over the phone, my bullies came to mind. And I now realize, even a superintendent can be a bully.
More on this tomorrow. Because I’ve been triggered so deeply by this topic, I know I’ll have more to say in the morning.