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My Take On "It Gets Better"

I have been meaning to write this for a while. I finally wrote it up in response to someone else's blog. I thought I'd crosspost it to my journal and I figured, oh, hay, what a great way to inaugurate my new DW journal.

I was bullied and harassed all throughout my school career. They told my parents & me they could only do so much... and my parents left it at that.

I was also blamed for the bullying and harassment. I was told by teachers, administrators, and therapists that they were just doing it "to get a rise out of me" and if I just "ignored" my bullies, they would stop. They basically told me it was my fault that they bullied me. (As a teen, I once countered that you wouldn't tell a woman being beat by her husband "just ignore it and he'll stop" so why tell me that? I don't remember their reply.) It's only as an adult that I have the language to say that they were blaming the victim and I have the confidence & esteem to know that's horribly wrong.

The truth is... there WAS more they could do. They said putting the bullies in detention wasn't working... they could have expelled them. (Or, even better, they could have helped the bullies with counseling to figure out why they were bullying and help them deal with their emotions in better ways.) My parents could have sued the school. We could have charged the bullies with harassment. But everyone either brushed it off as "kids are cruel" or said their hands were tied.

Because of what I went through, I had PTSD, the same PTSD that people who go through a war have. I also have chronic depression from it, a depression that has been untreatable by medication or therapy. My earning potential and even my own ability to support myself has been EXTREMELY affected. I've been unable to keep a job for more than 2 years. (And the job I was able to keep for that long paid me less than half of my true earning potential. The one where I was paid to my potential I was able to keep for less than 9 months AND it literally drove me to drink.)

It's 10 years later. I've been told many a time to "just let go" and "it's the past". I wish it was that simple. I wish that getting rid of the depression that cripples my life was as easy as "letting it go".

My message to teens is such: if they're bulling you, DO something about it. If your parents don't do anything about it, go to your administration. If they don't, go to the police. Go to your Scout leader. Go to your clergy. Go to your aunt or uncle. Go to a friend of the family. Don't stop going to various adults until someone takes it seriously. We disempower our teens to control them, so you may not be used to standing up against adults or fighting back, but in this case, this is your future you're fighting for. Being bullied and harassed can have serious ramifications that can last the rest of your life. It's NOT just "childish cruelty", it's harassment. The ages of the people committing it are irrelevant. And whether they're doing it offline or online is irrelevant. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE A LIFE FREE OF HARASSMENT, REGARDLESS OF YOUR AGE. There ARE harassment laws that protect you.

And, as per "it gets better", I'm not going to lie to you or paint a rosy picture of the future like they did to me when I was a teen. Life will still be hard. What happened to you in school can (and very well may) stay with you & affect your entire life for years, even decades. But there IS some positive news. For most people, the bullying STOPS after high school. Most people in college or university don't bully others. If you're being bullied in college, at this point you're a legal adult and can make them stop (or even go to jail). If you're being bullied by your coworkers (as happened to me on 1 job), you also have the right to work w/o harassment. And, if you're feeling alone where you are, if you feel like there's no one like you where you live, you can move somewhere else, somewhere where there's lots of people like you. Not only will the bullying stop, you'll have the opportunity to make friends. Real friends. People who like you for who you are and are like you. I went from having 1 friend living in the middle of nowhere (Boiling Springs, PA) to living in a city (Washington, DC) where I had a number of friends that were geeky (like me) and that liked me for who I was. Heck, I even had people who wanted to date me.

So while I refuse to state that once HS is over, it magically gets all better, I can tell you that it will get better than it was/is in HS. Stick around and see. And, in the meantime, don't put up with the crap you're getting... you have the right to live a life free of bullying and harassment.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
As always you speak the truth, this was my life and it utterly destroyed my self-image and made me hate myself. I figured the bullies were telling the truth. I studied and came to the realization they didn't see me as human being with feeling like they had. Now, I'm slowly building myself up and in my capacity as childcare worker I try to nip bullying in the bud.
May. 17th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
I had a very similar high school experience. I can't say that my PTSD and depression were caused by them, because I had both prior, but the harassment, bullying and outright physical assaults I experienced certainly didn't help, and if anything certainly exacerbated my already present mood disorders. I too was told, 'Just ignore it' and victim blaming along the lines of 'if you wouldn't be so weird/dress so weird/be so out/etc. etc.' maybe it would stop. Our school had a student group devoted to stopping sexual harassment, and I worked with the administration, who during my first two years of high school was hideously uncooperative and would magically 'lose' the reports me and my friends would fill out, but we got a new person that was the vice principal and head of security that actually took this shit seriously during my jr. year and that helped tremendously because he made it clear to them that this behavior would not be tolerated and that they were on the verge of suspension and/or expulsion if they did it again, and he followed through on more than one occasion. Finding an adult ally is truly crucial, and I am very grateful that I found one.
May. 17th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU. This is exactly my problem; when I see an "it gets better" ad I want to jump out of my chair and scream, "Stop telling people to WAIT for it to get better!" Argh. Thank you.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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