Bullying

Hey y’all,

Bullying is a relevant and timely topic right now, so thought I’d share my experience. A girl in Vancouver recently took her own life after some unrelenting and sadistic kids in her school drove her too far. Our city was shocked and in mourning about something that had never really been taken too seriously. I think that everyone has been involved in bullying at some point in their lives. Either giving or receiving. I’ve been both. We didn’t have a name for it when i was in high school but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I was bullied briefly when i was 10. I had just moved and kids are cruel to new students in school. It was empty and lonely.  So I guess it’s no surprise, that i also became a bully.

In general, I am proud of who I am.  I am honest, I have integrity and a strong ethical conscience, I have 3 World Vision kids, I volunteer with animals, and i try to be fair and respectful to everyone i come in contact with. However, there is one thing that i did over 30 years ago that still haunts me. I bullied someone.

Im not sure that it would be considered at the same level that ‘bullying’ is defined in 2012, but my friend and I took it upon ourselves to pick on a girl in high school. We followed her home once, calling her names and pushing her. We made prank calls to her house and i think we even sent the fire truck round to her home. We thought that was funny. Brutal, heh?

The tormenting was sporadic and lasted a couple of weeks, then the poor girl moved schools and we all forgot about it. I never did that again, and i didn’t really think much about it until about 10 years ago. It had always been in the back of my mind gnawing away at my conscious, but I didn’t start to really look at it until a decade ago when the guilt really started to kick into full gear.

The big question that kept wracking my brain was, WHY? Why would i do such a thing? I ruined someone’s life for a short period of time and for no reason that i could figure. No matter how hard i tried, i couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation as to why. I wasn’t beaten as a child, I wasn’t on the poverty line, and she had done nothing to me, in fact, at one point, we were kind of friends. I have spent many years trying to figure this out. I read books, i talked to people, I saw a therapist. Here is what i came out of it with.

There are a few kind of bullies; the kids who were bullied and/or beaten themselves who are carrying on and surviving the only way they know how to. There are the mentally unstable kids who include psychopaths who are prone to torture for no reason and feel no consequence or remorse….these are the dangerous ones who end if with guns in movie theatres and pulling wings of flies. And then there are the ones like me, who on the outside look fine but are screaming on the inside. My parents didn’t beat me with a garden hose or lock me in a closet but they were horrible and neglectful parents. I had no control and no safety in my life, so in a way of trying to gain both of those, i chose to bully someone. From what i understand now, it gave me a sense of control and safety. If i could control some area of my life, i was going to survive. Weird, i know….but young adults are a mess of emotions and fears that they don’t know how to deal with…and when you add an unstable and terrifying home life, they just don’t know how to cope, so they survive in lashing out where they can. That is what I did. Is that an excuse? Hell no. But it is an explanation that I am able to  understand and come to terms with.

I tried to contact the girl years ago. I got ahold of her brother. He said she had no interest in hearing from me but that i was welcome to send an email through him. I did, but what could i say that would be helpful? Would “sorry” be enough? I didn’t know but i had to try. I told her that i was a messed up kid (i was) and that i was projecting the pain of my own little life. My father bullied the crap out of my mother and my brother so I got to learn it first hand. I apologized profusely. I told her that i didn’t expect her forgiveness but that i wanted her to know that i still felt the consequences of my actions. Was that enough? Probably not to the 13 girl who should have been having fun is school but was terrified to walk home, but that was all i could do. Offer some kind of explanation and move on.

The guilt still weighs on me heavily and probably will for the rest of my life. I can’t fix it but i can offer you this:

If you are bullied, know that chances are that kid is probably much more messed up that you may ever know. Any kid that bullies is going through some horrible shite themselves in order to be that person, so if they look confident and without emotion, know that it just isn’t true. There is a world of pain and fear behind that confidence and coldness (unless they are the psychopath type of bully, then all bets are off). This is not to excuse their behaviour but maybe it would be helpful to know that they are just as scared and insecure as you might be. This is how they are coping with their lives. Sad but true. Find some place to feel sorry for them inside you. Chances are that one day they will carry huge guilt and remorse for their actions. You will move past this but they may not.

So that is my story. I’m sure that will shock and disappoint a few of you. So be it. That is the price i pay for being honest, but i believe that honesty and openness are the only way to change. These things need to be talked about from ALL angles, even the unpopular ones. If we are going to deal with it, we need to TALK ABOUT IT. I am not that person anymore, but i was a messed up kid and i need to take responsibility for that, and if this can reach anyone with even an ounce of help, then I have done something. I think most bullies are just scared kids. If you sat them down and talked to them, i bet you would find a decent person in there who has chosen a negative way to deal with their fears.

Until next week, lovies.

Be well.

Sam x0

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32 Responses to Bullying

  1. Jake says:

    That’s quite a story, and I’d like to thank you for sharing it. I think it says a lot about you as a person that what you did still bothers you, even all these years later.

  2. It’s a sad situation for everyone involved. We had bullies in our schools, too. Unfortunately, in what is more a sign of the times, the bullies go much farther now. Hurtful things being said end up being spread all over the internet. It can follow a child from one school to the next thanks to the internet. And they are much bolder online, the anonymity gives them courage.
    There seems to be a new ‘breed’ of bullies that our generation never dreamed of being. Children are beaten and in some cases even sexually assaulted more and more frequently. And when you say the bullies are the ones that unleash bullets, unfortunately it is just as often the bullied child that feels they have no other option then the take the lives of their abusers. Add to that a lot of parents even get involved- a mother pretends to be a teen and befriends a child only to convince her to commit suicide? What is the matter with people now? A mother set up her daughter to beat a child in her home.
    I’m not sure where the answer lies. But it’s only getting worse. My 10 year old son is Autistic- therefore he is different. And kids are a lot more cruel now then when we were growing up. I’m very scared for him. Right now, the school seems to have a good grip on it, but as he gets older, the control won’t be there.

  3. Bullied says:

    This is a brave post, Sam, taking responsibility for your actions and trying to make amends for them publicly is an honourable thing to do. But please know that most victims don’t move past it either. The damage that a bully can do to you, you can carry for the rest of your life. I was bullied in high school, for a period of 4 years, and I can tell you that it still informs a lot of the decisions that I make in my life 20 years later, especially in my relationships with other people.

  4. ickyemy says:

    I think it’s pretty unfair for you to post something like this and expect only positive feedback. I was bullied in school because the other kids found out I had an eating disorder. They did it for their amusement and because they were cruel. Wasn’t this supposed to be about being honest and open? Why am I not allowed to express the feelings this account brought out for me? I’m sorry for the lonely girl you were. And I’m sorry that you think I am the one who is missing the point. I wish you peace and healing.
    Emily

    • samferris says:

      You are right. That was wrong of me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and all should be heard. I’m sorry you got bullied. I am not looking for a medal. I’m just sharing my experience in hopes that it can help others. I’m sorry you didn’t get that.

      • ickyemy says:

        Ah! I didnt really mean for you to post that last, and don’t post this one please. Honestly, my initial thought on this piece was that I would need to spend some time thinking about my response because it is so full of heavy information, But then all those little girls on twitter who got bullied were kissing your butt over it and I was like, okay someone has gotta get angry about this and put it in perspective. You are hella brave for sharing the bullies perspective. And I get that your intention is to help. But you definitely stalked and assaulted that girl, which by any standard, 1980 or 2012 is full fledged bullying. Also I live in Colorado Springs, about an hour away from columbine high school where there was a massacre by two students who were bullied there. I work 100 yards away from an evangelical church where a persecuted and rejected member of the congregation went on a simlar shooting spree. My mother works with a woman whose 12 yo daughter took her deployed, military dads shotgun and blew off her head because a bunch of bullies “cyber bullied” her on facebook, they literally put her up to it. Im sorry if I am a little sensitive about the subject, it’s nothing personal.

      • samferris says:

        No, you were unhappy I didn’t post your first comment, no picking and chosing. Besides, this is an open forum and I think everyone’s POV is valid and useful. For EVERYONE. I don’t think anyone kissed my ass, I think they connected with what I was trying to say. You did not and your point in valid and real. I let you down. I get it. I knew that my experience would stir up emotions and make me lose face in people’s opinon. Which sucks. You want to tell people who believe in you that you are a bad person? It’s not fun. But I hoped and believed that my words could help someone. Anyone. I don’t mind being unpopular in someone’s eyes if it could help someone else understand their pain and know that they weren’t alone.
        X0

  5. Anon says:

    I didn’t call it being “bullied” in school, either. But as far back as the 4th grade, I’d been picked on. I was ignored by the entire 4th grade class (because they all went along with the popular kids) on the playground. I hung out with the younger kids because I had no one else to talk to. This continued through high school, where the same core group left threatening letters in my locker, making it look like I had a stalker, moved my books to other lockers and stole pens and pencils then denied all knowledge, making me think I was losing my mind. I didn’t see any of them until last year at a non-reunion (someone from our graduating class died at age 38; there was a fund raiser for his wife and children). The main bully came up to me and asked if I remember who she was. I gave a curt “yes” and ignored her for the rest of the evening. Nothing was offered by her, and I doubt she even remembered what she and her friends had done to me. That’s the worst thing about it; not knowing if the bullies ever realized how much they’d hurt or ruined the bullied’s life. I’d been in therapy on and off for 8 years with chronic major depression and generalized social anxiety. Only fandom has saved me from becoming a complete basket case.

    I admire you for reaching out to the girl you bullied, and grateful you’re speaking up and out about something that has affected probably everyone at some point in our lives, but we never talk about. I’m encouraging my nieces and nephews to report any bullying they see, and to tell me or another adult if they, themselves, are bullied. Sorry for unleashing on you, but as you can probably tell, therapy hasn’t dulled the pain even after nearly 30 years have passed.

  6. Rose V says:

    I grew up in the projects in the 70s. I came home one day and told my mom I was being bullied. She did not go to the school to talk to the administration. She found out who were the biggest trouble makers at school and approached them with a business proposition. She would pay them $20.00 a week to protect me. It only took one week for the bully to back off fearing that she would get what was coming to her if she kept bothering me. My mom was awesome.

  7. Good on you. I’m glad you made it to the point of making meaningful amends. Your apology to your victim now allows her the freedom to forgive, and to heal.

  8. risenshine22 says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was never at the giving or the receiving end of bullying – but I’m wondering all the time what’s going on inside the heads of those involved – especially since I have two kids of my own now. Thank you for the inside here and your openess.

  9. Julie Webster says:

    You say this may dissapoint some people, but in my eyes it makes me admire you even more. I think this is a very brave piece of writing, I only wish more people would see it and it could draw more attention to bullying in all forms.
    I taught for many years at a large Primary School in the middle of a large inner city estate in the north of England where there was much social deprivation and a very high percentage of children with severe special needs, working in the nursery ( 3 and 4 year olds) we did not really experience this problem but when `our` children moved into school many experienced bullying from both sides of the coin. It infruated me that some so called professionals refused to recognise this problem, on more than one occasion we had parents returning to us to ask for help dealing with this, one actually approached the head teacher for help and was told `We do not allow bullying in our school.`That was it- end of discussion I would like to think any complaint would be now dealt with more sensitivity and understanding. It was also surprising to hear of some of the children who became the bullies. You highlight here a very pertinant fact bullying can be a cry for help, this I know can be of very little consolation to a suffering child or their parents who have to watch them go through this, can there be anything worse than sending your child into a situation where they have to deal with the fear of the next attack.
    I am sure the best way to deal with this is to talk, talk, talk and talk and for someone in your position to have the courage to come out and say `I was a bully` is a wonderful way to start this.
    I can tell this is something you will never forget, but this experience helped to shape the woman you became and you have turned an ugly negative into a positive to benefit others. Congratulations and Thank You, Julie x
    PS Have you condered sending this to Jim Beaver as it might be of help to Maddie who as we know was recently the victim of an episode of bullying herself

  10. Melissa Cruz says:

    I am happy you posted this. Both of my girls have been the victim of bullying at some point in their lives. Difference with this post is that I got to see a little bit of what the bully is “thinking” Maybe if parents acted more like parents than best friends, bullying would go down. Kids, talk to your parents about any bullying you have been a victim of. I must say that my oldest is now the one who protects the lil ones frome bullys. Bully’s and boys are afraid of her now :). Both my girls make me proud. Sam, you should be very proud of yourself for coming forward, talking about something that effects kids even today. I am thankful that you are an open person and how you connect with the world. I have even more respect for you. Keep up the awesome work.

  11. ickyemy says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t think any less of you and I don’t think you are a bad person. Part of the reason this post made me so upset is because I DO believe you are better than this. I hope there were many others who were able to take comfort from your story. I have re read several times and I get something new out of it every time. Will ‘things our parents did to us’ be an upcoming post? Take care and be kind to yourself!

  12. kp says:

    I’ll add my thanks for your being brave enough to share your experiences and also for those who have commented.
    I was never particularly bullied but did move around a lot and became very introverted to avoid the bullying I did see. It is a difficult thing to move past and does inform your interactions with others for the rest of your life. Everyone has scars of one sort of other, being mindful of others’ experience is so important.
    I’d like to add that I too believe that being honest is THE most important gift you can give to yourself, to people you interact with daily and to the world at large. It is an exchange of information but expression of whatever kind love applies in the situation. Honest interaction with others is a rare and beautiful thing. Thanks to you and your readers for being a rare and beautiful things.

  13. Tracy Brzycki says:

    what I took from this is that as a human being you made a mistake, you are owning up to that mistake and sharing what you did to try and make amends. I thank you for your honesty and hope that if there is someone out there that sees themselves in your experience they will cease their bullying, by realizing that by causing someone else pain it doesn’t reduce ours.

  14. elena says:

    I bullied once. I was in 4th or 5th grade. Me and a boy bullied a fellow classmate in the classroom. We had convinced him that he was so ugly that he was responsible for all the cracks in mug in the classroom sink. He believed and he cried. I don’t remember anything after that other than the guilt gnawing at my heart. I made a mistake that
    day. Never bullied after that. In fact I stood
    d to bullies bullying others.

  15. I have had the ridiculous experience of being on both sides of this. Not just in High School, but again in adulthood. I had a good friend in middle school who turned out to be not that cool once I became friends with the popular kids, I was never actually mean to her but I believe that at one point I refused to acknowledge her in public. I learned a few years later that she had lost her father. We had been so close, before. It killed me to feel unable to reach out to her. Later, in a new school, I was tormented to the point of wanting to drown myself in the public pool. Always glad that I decided against that, but I never stopped believing that it was some kind of karma. You get what you put in. You reap what you sow. I still get picked on as an adult, some times. But I have chosen to kill them with kindness. Sweet words go so much further than vile ones do. And cruelness is NEVER the right way to go. Thank you for sharing your story. You’re very brave. And I hope that you, too are killing them with kindness from here on out.

  16. bellauk66 says:

    Bullying is awful. I have had experiences in my life, but have never been one to dish it out. I am appauled at how nasty adults can be as well as children. How somone can actually taunt another child is beyond me. What people must drive that person to. It happens in all walks of life, even in the work place, and in the home. It is very coragious to speak out that you have had a taste of your own medicine too.

    I had to wear a brace on my back as a teenager, and kids used to call me metal mickey. I was ran into and pushed to the floor, deliberately and they thaught it was helarious. I often came home with a bloody nose. I also experienced bullying in later life. In my place of work, and had to leave the job that I loved becuase of depression. It can affect so many people, in so many ways. Life can be so cruel when you are the victim. Espeically when violence is involved. What is the old saying sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me! I never asked for my spinal brace, but boy, did I suffer the whole of my teens growing up. I never experienced being a teenager, because of pratts like them. Taunting is bad enough, but when you are touched by another person its unbearable. Its taken me years to get over certain stuff, and am low in confidence because of it.

    At least some do own up. Why they are so nasty, is beyond me. Most of us who are picked on do not deserve it. It takes courage to retaliate, and lash out at the bully. But do we want to bring ourselves down to their level. Do authority figures really care if you report the bully. I would hate anyone to go what I went through, as it does scar you. Some bullies are much worse than others.

  17. Adesa says:

    I was bullied, too; first at home by authoritarian parents, then physically by my brother, then at school by many (often egged on by my brother). So yes, the *moment* I had an opportunity to wield that kind of power over someone else, I took it: I followed a neighbor girl home one day, spewing all kinds of nasty things at her the whole way. It was the one and only time I bullied someone, and like you, the memory and shame of it torment me to this day. I have forgiven my own tormentors (even my brother), but not myself.

    Now that I am older and have raised two sons, I have come to feel that much of the current bullying epidemic can be traced back not only to individual bullies’ own circumstances, but also to the pervading attitude we have regarding children and especially teens. We — their parents or their teachers or their church leaders; our society; our whole culture — put them down, disregard their feelings and ideas, discount their thoughts and opinions, and treat them like so much property and without *any* respect. It’s no shock, then, that they lash out where they can.

  18. LPR says:

    The whole topic of bullying actually makes me question karma as a whole. I wonder if this person knows who you are. I wonder if she is aware that you have a following who adores you. I wonder if she is aware that people have stood in line and paid money to get a photo with you or your autograph. I imagine it would be a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Don’t get me wrong. It’s never, ever a bad thing when someone admits to a mistake, owns up to it and learns from it…still I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes.

    The whole anti-bullying week is in my opinion a bit of a joke. This is a society where a man like Donald Trump gets applauded for calling Rosie O’Donnell a pig and suggests that Kristen Stewart isn’t attractive enough for Rob Pattinson. This man probably would have had millions of votes had he decided to run for President. Ann Coulter’s book sales probably increased after calling the President of the United States “the retard.” We expect our kids to ignore the fact that every time they check their twitter, Facebook or Tumblr accounts not to acknowledge the fact that bad behaviour is rewarded. Nasty comments get retweets or likes more than most. We expect them to ignore the fame and wealth the cast from Jersey Shore gained from drunken fights and calling girls they deem unattractive as ‘grenades.’ We expect these children who are saturated with all of this to be able to rise above it when the adults in their lives probably revel in it. Seems like a losing battle at this point. I do hope that some will get the message. I just don’t know if karma is the proper tool to use, though.

    • samferris says:

      Yes, I would imagine it would be a pretty bitter pill to swallow. It might be easier for her to accept if I had ended up on some nasty path. She could feel some retribution for the crud that I inflicted upon her. But karma does play a factor. It just isn’t physical or monetary. I will carry that shame and guilt for the rest of my life, probably. Honey, if that aint karma I don’t know what is!

      • LPR says:

        It gives hope that there are people like you who do feel remorse and move forward to make the world a better place. My only fear is when looking at the behaviour of people today and the tendency to never apologize or admit wrongdoing (particularly in politics) that it is the exception and not the rule.

  19. Kit says:

    I was both bullied and the bully. I bullied because of a similar thing; my father was dying of cancer, my mum was toiling herself to the bone to look after the kids and the love of her life without any help, and i felt angry and young and vastly, unfathomably lost. I suppose bullying was a way of regaining a tiny aspect of control over my life, a theme I’d repeat in a lot of different self-destructive ways later as I dealt with the grief. I’m grateful that the people I bullied let me make reparations, and we’ve been thick friends since we were teenagers. It’s a stereotype: making people unhappier then me, might, in my kidbrain, make me happier.

    It’s strange, actually, because I’m in a similar situation to you but reversed: my old school bully wants to apologise, but I can’t face her right now. I can understand logically that we were both going through awful times at school, but where as I had a mum that saw I struggled and gave me a safe-space to talk, and therapy appointments, she got no one. I can get that we’re basically adults now and we were just dumb kids back then. I wish her all the best and really hope she’s doing okay! I don’t believe in karma and honestly it would break my heart if I found out that her life wasn’t going okay, but I’m not sure I can give her the closure she wants. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand, you know?

    The best we can do is grow. Not self-flaggelate, though I know a lot of people seem to think they’ll feel better braying for blood, but look at the whys in order to stop it happening to kids in the future. No events happen in a vacuum! Even kids being jerks.

    • samferris says:

      It’s your choice but if it were me, I’d give her the closure she needs. You are still exercising a bit of control and that doesn’t do you or her any good. Do it for yourself. Be bigger than that. Holding onto the past never served anyone.

      • Kit says:

        Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I also try and live by the path of least harm, and it’s difficult seeing myself not doing something that could do some healing even if the thought makes me a bit uncomfortable.

        Brains, man. Brains!

    • Kit says:

      ‘basically adults’ WHOOPS haha, the wording mistake of an unemployed drop-out 23 year old

  20. Karen says:

    I think it takes a lot of courage to admit the worst parts of ourselves in a public forum. Many have trouble admitting those parts to themselves & owning up to things they’ve done. I hardly think less of you for taking the responsibility for your past actions. This world could use more people doing just that.

    I was bullied as a teen off & on & my daughter went through years of it from a group of girls at her old school, from grade school up into high school, a lot of it on the school bus. We tried everything to get action from the school, but the parents were as bad! We’ve since moved to another state due to job reasons & the kids here have left her alone, but she still expects it. She drives now, yet whenever she has to take the bus, she has off the chart anxiety though there haven’t been problems here.

    It’s a tough world for teens, boys & girls both, & you couldn’t pay me enough to be a teen in the present. I think the field of bullying has broadened to the point where kids really can’t get away from their attackers even at home & I find that a terrible turn.

  21. Davis says:

    A powerful admission. It takes character to own oneself and even more character to own one’s responsibility.

    Every person has experienced bullying in some form at some time in their lives. This is not to say that bullying is not a “rite of passage;” to bully (emotional, physical or psychological) reflects a missing piece of oneself. And when has each person not felt that?

    To condone or minimize bullying is the same as its approval.
    Yet, relegating former bullies to some type of ‘shame hell’ does nothing to correct the problem.

    Have I bullied? No. Have I called others on their bullying? Oh, yes.
    Do I encourage my children to stand up for themselves –either with words or fists? Yes, absolutely.

    In the end, very few former bullies are capable of the innate bravery required to hold themselves accountable for the harm they did or may have done.

    Is there any answer for bullying? I don’t know. I do know that when people feel threatened, the uglier shades of human nature win, which means that humanity ultimately loses.

    • samferris says:

      Personally, I think there is a way to work on bullying. It may sound crazy, but if schools did a buddy system thing…where 3 random kids from all grades and backgrounds had to meet once a week…like home room…for 10 mins just to touch base, it would bring out some sense of empathy and humanity. I bullied because I was scared, alienated, and control-less to my environment. When you put people in touch with other people, those things are softened. Kids realize they aren’t alone and have to put names to faces they just pass in the hallway. These ‘random’ people become part of their world. A connection. Easy to pick on people when you don’t know them, but when you do, they aren’t targets anymore. They become people. That is what I would do if it was up to me.

  22. Janna Balthaser says:

    It takes real courage and character to admit something like this, particularly when you are as in the public eye as you are..

    Imagine, everyone, being this well known, and of your own volition, confessing publicly something you are deeply ashamed of having done. I bet it’s hard to even imagine, isn’t it? Samantha DID it.

    We’ve all done things we should be ashamed of. But very few of us have the decency and strength to bare ourselves like this, to say, “I did that. I actually did that. I’m sorry.”

    What she did was hurtful and wrong, absolutely. But what she just did? That matters. That’s huge. Whether or not that girl-turned-grown-woman forgives Sam or not is between the two of them. But I believe Sam did something incredibly rare and decent here, and she deserves all the positive reactions she’s getting. They don’t negate the bad ones. But the angry ones don’t negate the positive ones either.

    Most people who bully don’t stop at the one time. Most never apologize. Most NEVER tell.

    We’re all capable of this. ALL of us. Every human on the planet has this in them. All it takes is the right circumstances and other people with us to trigger that nearly irresistible pack mentality. Countless studies and events have shown this to be true. It’s not how few bad things we’ve done that determine our goodness as a human being. It’s how many of them we recognize, regret and try to atone for.

    Sam, I think you’re pretty frickin’ awesome. So there. 🙂

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