October 29, 2012
Amanda Todd - The Peace and Escape - A Devastating End
I truly am so sorry, Amanda. I did not know you, but I did. I am you, with a different face. I am you, 38 years later. Nothing has changed. Nothing has improved.
I look back and I really can't understand how I never took my own life. Going to school was so painful everyday. No bully could hide behind Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or their texting. The bullies were right in my face every day.
I can remember in kindergarten being isolated and treated bad. The bulling just got worse every year of public school. I never did anything mean to anyone. I was not ugly, or fat, or terribly poor. I did not smell or wear dirty clothes. I was not super smart, not rich and not gorgeous. I was just normal and average. It doesn't matter though how normal you think you are, or plain, or not deserving of such cruelty; bullies always find something to pick on you about.
Bullying is all about power and control. Like most horrible events in life: childhood sexual abuse, incest, domestic violence, workplace harassment, gang violence, religious and political corruption all are the result of abuse of power by people in positions of authority and forcing their unwanted control over you.
Although my days at school were frightening and all I wanted to do was cry and escape, I managed to get good marks and pass grades one through eight.
I was always picked last and always left out of groups. I so dreaded any school work where you had to work in a group and when the teacher left you to find your own group. Why do teachers do this? All group work should be set by the teacher. Just do the 1, 2, 3, 4 thing, all the two's together, all the three's etc. It was so hurtful being singled out when I was left with no one and then the teacher would just stick me somewhere where I obviously was not wanted. One of the best lessons in life is learning to work with people other than your friends. Grownup 101 at the office.
I was so thankful that I was a walker for most of my elementary school years. I was able to run home at lunch to have some reprieve with The Flintstones for thirty minutes. Some months I did have to ride the school bus at different ages and it was awful having no one save you a seat. Kids saying you can't sit here. One time I was stabbed by a boy with a pencil on the mini bus. I remember his name K.P. I don't remember why he did it or what he was saying to me. I still have the grey mark in my hip where the lead broke through my skin today.
In the mornings I remember in like grade four or five we would have to do these morning warm up exercises. All the kids would find a spot in the classroom and the teacher would put on some music. I remember a boy, D.B. calling me a slut during these exercises. I never even had a boyfriend in elementary school, until I moved away for grade eight.
I grew up in a very small town, pop. less than 900. We had a corner store, a post office, a train station, a I.G.A., a tavern, a bank, a couple churches, and a Chinese restaurant. There was no hospital, no high school and no mall.
The girls at school were worse than any boy that stabbed me with a pencil, once. There was a lead bully, she was chubby, freckle faced and not pretty, quite big for a grade six. Her parents were well-off and she made sure everyone knew it. The other girls were her posse. I think they were all so scared of her that they were her little, obedient droids. I can remember them all by name. C.K., S.F., T.G., S.G., And N.C. I cried to my mother, and told her I was sick, I heated thermometers in hot tea to have a fever, I begged to stay home. I told my mother I was picked on daily. She did nothing. Never did she call the principal. Never did she go to the school. My mother never went to parent/teacher interviews. Nor did she ever contact any of these girls' mothers to confront them with their daughter's bullying of me. She enabled me, by letting me stay home, but I could do this for only so many days, and the inevitable would return, the name calling, the belittling, the put downs, the being made fun of.
One time the lead bully, C.K. had gathered all the girls she controlled and when the end of school bell rang and I was walking out the gates on the road of the school grounds they all charged me. A grade eight girl, grabbed me and was punching me and pushing me, they were all yelling and cheering her on. I had done nothing to provoke this. It was all just for kicks. I ran away as fast as I could, crying.
Once a new girl had come to our class. I thought here's my chance to have a friend. She was very nice to me. We hung around together a recess. I was so happy. The bullies were leaving us alone. This went on for weeks. Then one recess, the lead bully with all her girls circled behind her came up to me and N.C. I was sitting on a small, plywood box by the side doors of the school, and I saw N.C. move over to the bullies. Then C.K. laughs and says, you think N.C. is your friend? She's not your friend. She's our spy. She's pretended to be your friend. I was devastated. I don't remember talking about any of them behind their backs anyway, but the entire humiliation just squashed me like a bug.
I felt worthless as a young girl. I liked learning, but I hated school. No teachers ever did anything. My mother never defended me, never protected me from bullies or sexual abusers.
A childhood without friends is very difficult. I never was invited to parties, or to sleepovers. I was alone. I had no one to talk to. I don't think the Kid's Help Line was around in 1977-1981.
I think about finding my bullies on Facebook and telling them how they ruined my school years, but what for? I can't go back and have a do over of my pre and tweener years. What I have done is make sure that my own child doesn't suffer at the hands or words of any bully. I am his advocate. I am his protector. I will never standby and allow anyone to hurt my child. I have taught my own child to not be a part of any mean and cruel actions. To never be a bystander. To help those who cannot help themselves. He knows how disappointed and ashamed I would be of him if he were the one being hurtful to someone else.
I don't know how I survived. No one ever told me these problems are temporary. You'll grow up and these people won't be in your life. The day to day pain was to much to bear for Amanda. There was no more crack of light through the trees for her to hold on to.
Every young person who takes their own life because of bullying has been failed by the system: schooling and government. This is unacceptable. It doesn't matter how many frigging legislative laws you put in place, if no one enforces them they're worthless. There is no zero tolerance. All I see is out right tolerance.
Every time a youth takes their life, they have been failed by all entities that influenced their lives: parents, authorities, teachers, health care, family, friends, government--even music, movies, television, magazines and the Internet. That one person in your life that truly cares about you needs to teach you about the tough shit in life and how to cope with it. This person needs to educate this young, vulnerable person. We need to arm our kids with knowledge, strength and integrity. Children need to know that one person will, WILL, stand behind them always. I didn't have this one person, but I think my alter ego was her, that warrior of me.
In the end though, we all have a choice. I was a twelve year old girl once for 365 days, and I chose to continue the crappy life. I wasn't telling myself this is only temporary and suicide is a permanent solution. I didn't know that. What I knew was fishing, swimming, Christmas, candy, Barbies, Archie comics, T.V. and potato chips were worth living for. What I knew was I didn't have to go to school on weekends. This is how I coped.