Beyond The Bullying | 4| The Silent Struggle Begins
When I started school, it wasn’t all bad. I made friends. I remember being very happy. I don’t recall being bullied, or teased that much in my first 3 years of school.
I should probably mention we moved around a lot . I did Kindergarten and grade 1 in Kelowna, and grade 2 & 3 in Edmonton.
In grade 2, I was fitted for eye glasses. Nobody, including me, knew I was going blind, until the correction was made, and it was like I saw leaves on the trees for the first time. Before that, everything was just a big blur.
Starting out in the early 80s with eyes that were about -6 a side meant big thick “coke bottle” glasses. They were so heavy , I got sores on my nose, and they made my eyes shrink to a pea size behind them, but they introduced me to a whole new world it seemed.
I remember my mom was so sad. She said the glasses hid my beautiful eyes, and that I looked just like my uncle. My uncle was a big man, and also had “coke bottle” glasses. I heard a lot that he was where I inherited my frame from. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, but an 8 year old girl doesn’t necessarily get excited about looking like a 40 year old man.
Some of my fondest peer memories come from grade 3 in Edmonton. I had the best friends. I had the best teacher. My teacher’s name was Mrs Rompre , and if she ever reads this, I want her to know she had a significant impact on my life.
She was the one who “discovered” me. She sensed I had a vivid imagination, and a skill for writing. She encouraged me to do more, and quite often had me read my work to the class. I’m pretty sure she did this with everyone. She was “that” teacher. The one you actually got excited to see.
Just before grade 4 we moved to Prince George. This move was devastating to my brother and I because we both had really close friends. The agony of the move prompted my parents to decide that this would be the last move ever, no matter what it took. Even if my dad had to look for work elsewhere.
Grade 4 is where the bullying became an everyday occurrence. I did everything I could to make friends. Maybe I tried too hard. I did find a couple of friends but it wasn’t the same vibe in the school. I was new, and most everyone there had known each other, and bonded in Kindergarten.
I overcompensated the situation by trying to be nicer. I learned that the nicer, and more giving I was, the more I could make others happy. Sometimes I would even make new friends this way, but once others would see we were friends, my new friend would get teased for being my friend, and it would end.
The kids would tell me that I was fat because I ate a lot, and so I stopped eating at school. I would either toss my lunch in the garbage, or leave it in my locker until I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. Not exactly my proudest moments, but at that young age, I just longed to be “normal” and wasn’t quite sure what else to do.
There was no way I would tell my parents about the daily torment. I was ashamed, and I didn’t want them to know I was being ridiculed. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me, and above all, I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted the pain to go away.
I’d arrive home from school absolutely starving, and I would gorge in secret. I didn’t want to feel judged. I began finding a soothing feeling in the food. A temporary fill, but it wouldn’t last long. The words would ring through my head, “ You are so fat because you eat a lot.”
I remember hearing about other girls throwing up after eating to lose weight…so I tried. I would gag, and I even tried tickling the back of my throat with a toothbrush …nope…it didn’t work…so I would go to my room, shut the door, and read, and eat some more, in isolation.
I read “Blubber” by Judy Bloom about 6 times. I felt like she was my best friend. She understood me…but alas, she was not on the schoolyard when I needed her.
In time, I became content to be me. I had come to the resolution that this was how I get to live. I was dealt the bad hand in life.
I put on my happy face and learned to “ignore” the nasties. A little easier said than done.
In grade 5 I finally found a friend. She was quiet, and kind. I started going to her house after school a lot. We liked a lot of the same things.
We had dance parties with Cory Hart, watched “Purple Rain” with Prince over and over again, and played Barbies. We both knew we were kind of old to be playing Barbies but she had the cool Barbie house, and car, and all the clothes and accessories a Barbie could ask for.
I also joined a bowling team. It was something I became pretty decent at, but was often teased by teammates and adults that I “had a lot of weight” behind my ball.
I started earning money through babysitting, where I would play more Barbies.
With the money I would buy cases of chocolate covered almonds that I was supposed to be selling for my bowling team. They became my secret afternoon snack as I read more Judy Bloom books, like “Are you there God, It’s me Margaret” . The characters in the books were like my best friends. They didn’t judge me, I could be myself, and they were always there to relate to.
In the real world though, pleasing others was the only thing I felt I could do to be of any worth. I felt like I could talk to no one about this. I felt that it would show weakness to my peers, and be embarrassing to share with my parents.
I didn't want my parents to know because I thought they would be disappointed in me.
I didn't want people to feel sorry for me.
I didn't want to admit there was a problem. It was so much easier to suppress my pain than to let everyone else in on it.
I didn't want the teachers to know because that might jeapordize any sliver of a chance of getting people to like me.
Day after day, I chose kindness and giving, and secrecy. Day after day my desire to feel accepted grew bigger and remained empty. Day after day, I learned how to give more.
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