Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Was the Shy Kid...You Know...The Bullied One

Once upon a time, I was just a 3rd grade kid with plenty of friends in my class and on my block.  My parents decided to move us across town, which meant moving into a new school.  I finished out the year at my old school and began 4th grade at the new one.  I was always painfully shy as a child {still am - ha!!}.  It wasn't going to be an easy transition, but there it was.

So I started the new school year in a new school in a new part of town with new people.

Looking back, it's almost laughable.

There was the one side of the school where the "regular" kids lived - middle class - good people, nice families, modest homes.  Then there was the other side of the school - the "rich" kids {or so they thought} - the business professionals, the lawyer, the doctor - again, good people, bigger homes.  Compared to where I'm living now where a "modest home" sets you back over $350,000 for the smallest one {without it being a condo}, it's laughable.  Oh, and for the record, we live in a way over-priced apartment on said island and it's not worth the money.  We're stuck in a lease.  We want to move somewhere, but don't know where yet.

But I digress...

Never in my life has it been easy for me to make friends.  Never.  I'm not unlikable.  I'm shy.  Painfully ridiculously shy.  I promise you I am not standoffish or standing back thinking I'm better than you when we're in a room together - I'm scared to death of being in a situation where I don't know anyone, so I crawl into my shell.  Give me a little time and I'm right there with you, opening up and talking and laughing with you!  So in this "secrets week" link up, that's one of my secrets - I'm so gosh darned painfully shy that it may come off seeming like something else, while on the inside, I'm just wanting to talk to you and be your friend!

But back to my story...

At some point early on in this transition, I became the target of abuse at school.  I'm not talking one or two kids picking on me.  I'm talking if the class was 25 kids, there were about 20 ganging up on me, picking on me.  One of the few non-abusive people is still one of my best friends to this day, and Heidi, I love you for sticking with me through everything.  And Nikki, if you're reading this - you were one of my friends in my first school and I moved to the new school and that's where I met Dan.  I want you to know that Dan was never ever one of the 20 or so.  Not ever.  Not even once.  I just want you to know that about him.

Honestly, I didn't know what it was that made me such an easy target.  I blamed it on my red hair.  For years I have HATED my hair when every adult around me always loved it, fell all over themselves to compliment me on it, ask me what color number my hair was so they could duplicate it {sorry, ladies, this is my natural hair color!}.  But these kids - children - were absolutely some of the most vicious people I've ever come across in my life.  The absolutely thrived on how miserable they could make me.

I was convinced it was my hair color.
Or the fact that I didn't have designer anything growing up.
Or that we lived on the middle class side of the school.
Or that after, 6th grade, it was my glasses.
Or maybe that I was always battling it out with one other girl for who had the highest grades in class.
Or that I was ugly.  Oh, I hated my freckles with a passion!

In a nutshell, these young girls and boys caused me to believe I was nothing.  Worthless.  Ugly.  Not worthy of anyone's time or affection.

And it wasn't just verbal abuse.
There was a girl down the street from me.  She'd failed a grade earlier on and was older than everyone else in the class.  She was bigger than anyone else in the class.  Now that girl, well she decided it would be fun every. single. day.
to use me as her punching bag.
Didn't matter if it was on the way to school or from school.
Guaranteed, I was going to get the tar kicked out of me at some point.

I couldn't fight back.
I was weak.
All of this added to the image of myself which I was fast developing.

And then one day, the boy down the street from me {and across from her} decided he would take his shots too.  Thankfully, that is the only time in my life I've been physically beaten by a male.

But see, here's what happened after that.
I got called into the principal's office.
I got in trouble for inciting the violence.
Nothing happened to this kid!
Nothing.

You see, this was back in the day before anti-bullying rallies and zero tolerance policies.

The principal actually blamed me for what happened!!

Do you want to know how many recesses I faked illness so I could stay inside?
Do you know how many spelling tests I graded at recess so I could stay inside?

Only one teacher between 4th and 8th grade ever cared - and I was lucky to have him in 5th and 7th grade. Ironically, one of his kids wound up at our school and in my class and she hung with the "in crowd", so that was fun.

My parents went to the teachers, the principal and eventually the school district.
Nothing was done.
No one cared.

Then I got beat up again.
It left bruises.   Again.
My parents called the police.

So, if you happened to be in my class all those years and you're reading this thinking, "Hey, whatever happened to Theresa...." - yeah, she got kicked out of school and shipped to St. Thomas thanks to law enforcement finally stepping in.  Of course she and her mom denied it was even possible for her to do such a thing.

Here's my old school.  I heard it was being torn down and I shouted for joy.  {I think, now, it's actually just being renovated.}  I was so excited at the possibility that this place was going to be eliminated from the face of the earth.  For years, I drove around that school or looked across the street when passing because I was so hurt by the memories that I couldn't even look at that building.

My elementary school - St. Patrick's - which I attended from Grade 4 through 8






So that's just part of my secret that I am sharing.  Obviously you can sense the emotion here and you have to know that this period of my life didn't leave me unscathed.  I am a sensitive person.  I have always taken things very personally.  {I wonder why!}  You see, I didn't just graduate from 8th grade and move on to high school and everything was fresh and new.  Oh, how I longed for that to be the case.

No.

I was a tagalong to my sister who was a year older than me.  I had only a couple friends from those horrible days and they were at my school - but so were lots of the other girls {all girls school}.  I had a horrible time making friends.  I befriended my sister's friends.  I made it through high school with no boyfriend and certainly no guy giving me a second thought {well, except the guy I couldn't say no to when he asked me out  - the first time ever - and he brought his dad with us....and then even in college years he would call me constantly - so much so that I referred to him as my stalker}.  The wounds of my past were far from healed when I was in high school.  I was hurting emotionally.  I was starved for affection.  I was so desperate for friends.  Yes, I made some friends.  I was merely "present" though.  Jeannette's sister.  I never felt like I had my own identity.

Maybe college would be different.

No.

I wound up at the same place as my sister.  I was able to form my own friendships there, and that was great.  I also had a few friends who were also friends with her.  That was fine.

Made it through college with no boyfriend.

Made it through college feeling all the time like something was totally and completely wrong with me.  Every single thing that wasn't right in my world, I blamed on who I was because of what had happened to me as a child.  Every.  Single.  Time.

In my last year of college, I joined the marching band.  Now this is in Canada, and marching bands {at least mine} there were nothing like you see at U.S. schools.  But I met people.  I got to know this girl really well and we hung out a lot.  I began enjoying the college life a little more.  I'm sure over the years I spent there, I had my share of fun....although not in that sense if you get my drift.  It seemed like everyone was talking about their boyfriends or just the guy they hooked up with.  They bragged about the things they did that night or were going to do...  Truthfully, it didn't impress me much.  That's just not me.

Here's the other part of my secret.

I let my guard down one night.  This girl friend of mine and I met up with some of her friends from her high school days who happened to live in town.  We went out to a club.  We drank.  I remember things up to a certain point and then I remember nothing until I remember that I was not where I should be.  Where I was went against everything I valued and believed in.

Friends, I was {most likely drugged and} then raped.

Some of you know that about me already.

A lot of you don't.  It's not something I talk about a lot now.

I was 19.  It will be 20 years ago on 12/12/12 {pretty sure that's the date}.  Friends, if you had surmised that I had a very slow self worth because of my early formative years of verbal and physical abuse, you'd be very correct.  If you then surmised that these events in college would have an incredibly long-lasting effect on my self worth, again, you'd be very correct.

I eventually married {in 2000} and had a family.  We moved to Charleston, SC in August 2008.

Do you want to know something??

After all those years I still was so incredibly deeply wounded by what had happened to me as a child.  All the abuse that was piled on me for those 4th to 8th grade years and beyond were still having a huge effect on me.

Do you want to know something else??

It wasn't until a couple years ago that my husband and I had an intense discussion about everything going on and that I wept uncontrollably and begged God to forgive me for how things in my life changed because I didn't care anymore.  I begged Him to take me back and to help me to forgive all of these people - yes, every last one of them - for all the pain inflicted on me all those years ago which was still affecting my life.

And do you want to know something else??

I finally forgave them.

Nothing can change what was done to me.  Nothing can change the course of my life.  Nothing can change any decisions I made - some pretty poor.  

But God.

If it weren't for God, I could not have gotten to the point of needing to forgive all of these people.  I couldn't have done it without His strength.  I couldn't move forward without Him any longer.

There are so many things that affected my truly coming to Christ.
This is one thing.

This...is my secret unveiled.

And, friends, don't ever underestimate the power your words have on someone.
Don't be the person who causes someone to suffer needlessly for decades because of the words that came out of your mouth.  Don't ever be the person who causes someone to place no value on their own life and leaves them with no self esteem.  Just don't.

linking up:

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