High school blues

by

In high school a teacher once described me as being “on a different wavelength” to the other girls and I guess that must’ve been true, because hard as I tried to blend in I could never quite do it. Of course this made me an easy target for bullying, and there was a group of three or four boys who made every day a living hell for me.

All the way through Maths they’d sit and make grossly inappropriate and petty comments, and a couple of times outside of class they’d even do things like grab my ass, or one of them would put their arm around me or something, and they found it so funny, laughing at this weak, ugly, pathetic little thing who hated them but rarely fought back or made a fuss, because she learned quickly that the few times she did make a fuss no-one really cared.

It doesn’t sound like much, but this was every day for close to four years, and it wore me down. If I shut up and kept my head down then they didn’t stop, but they paid less attention to me than otherwise.

I went to high school a bright, talkative kid and dropped out as a clinically depressed, nervous wreck with no self-esteem and a deep distrust of people in general. My teacher was aware of the whole thing. I don’t see how she couldn’t have been, they weren’t discreet about any of it, and our desks were near the very front of the class. I figured if she knew what was going on and never interfered then it couldn’t be that bad and I should just grin and bear it as much as possible. They made me feel so small and insignificant just because they could, because anything they said to me would be classed as ‘boys being boys’.

I left high school seven months ago when my depression got too overwhelming for me to function properly, but I still feel small and powerless and weak, and sometimes I feel like I competely deserve to feel that way because I let those boys get under my skin. I hate feeling insignificant, out-of-control, dependant on others but I let them take away all my power and I did it barely putting up a fight because I figured out quickly that no-one listens to the weird loner kid, especially if she happens to have a vagina.

But hey, I’m supposed to be quiet and accepting and insignificant, right? I guess I should know my place and just be happy that the boys paid attention to me. If they pull your pigtails they must like you, and we all know that our sole purpose in life as women is to attract men, right? Clearly, #MFIF.

A, Scotland

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22 Responses to “High school blues”

  1. Jazz Says:

    I’m sorry that you had to suffer such bullying. I had a similar experience with girls, I was bullied for years because I was not like the other girls, therefore they thought it was okay to pick on me and many times they somehow enlisted boys to help with their taunting. They terrified me as they were much larger and displayed certain threats women could not. As a young woman, attempting to learn about yourself, your sexuality and what you want in your life this is difficult to bear. When one is called ‘fat’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘slag’ every day it starts to sink into your personality and sadly one begins to believe it.

    I really hope that you find your old happy self again. That you are able to overcome these awful human beings that you have had the misfortune of meeting.

    I would also like to share my frustration and empathy regarding your teachers ignoring you and your complains. I continuously went to the head of my year group to complain about how awfully I was being treated however the only response i EVER received, even when I had been beaten up was was ‘They are just being silly girls.’ Oddly enough it was not until I read your post that I realized how sexist that comment was. He did not believe girls could be so harsh.

  2. Amy Says:

    “I went to high school a bright, talkative kid and dropped out as a clinically depressed, nervous wreck with no self-esteem and a deep distrust of people in general… I figured out quickly that no-one listens to the weird loner kid, especially if she happens to have a vagina.”

    I could have written those sentences myself. This was exactly my experience at school, and like you I became clinically depressed as a result of bullying (by other girls mainly but also some boys too). I didn’t fight back either, and my teachers couldn’t have cared less.

    I empathise completely and hope things get better for you. There *is* light at the end of the tunnel and the damage done by bullying can be undone, given time. Get all the help you can to overcome the pain these revolting creeps caused you. Good luck.

    • kinelfire Says:

      This, completely.

      A different set of circumstances, and 15-16 years ago, but I had more or less the same thing happen.

      You *will* get better and you will be stronger for it, A. It will probably take time, but you’ll get there.

      (If you come back and read the comments ever, here’s a url that you might already know: http://www.lookokfeelcrap.org/)

  3. Lin Says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. It pisses me off so much when I hear about teachers who ignore bullying. I hope one day you get back into school, because you are clearly an intelligent person and you deserve to complete your education without being harassed.

  4. yolanda Says:

    I lived this hell back in the 70s. It gets better but you never fully heal. Just work on finding yourself. Find out who you are and what you would be if nobody could say no, then don’t take no for an answer. You’ll soon realize you’re just as good as anyone else, merely different, and those angels living in heaven don’t deserve it any more than you, they just got lucky. And try to get your diploma if you can, you may need it.

  5. Alibelle Says:

    High school wasn’t bad for me, but middle school was and I’ve never entirely gotten over it, but once school was over I was amazed at how much of the shittiness was over too. I mean it’s not like there’s not sexism out in the real world, or other things that will frustrate you and beat you down, but things get better. I’m halfway through college and I’ve found every year getting better and better. I hope you get your diploma, or a GED (if you’re american, I don’t know what other countries have) and go on to college. You’ll find so many people who are kind and open minded and people stop picking on each other. Also, frequenting feminist websites is the thing that helped me the most, knowing that communities of kind people who want to make the world a better place exist is something I find comfort in every single day.

  6. OJ Says:

    You have the sympathies of this man who faced the same at school, from girls, and not just the same dismissal, but even faced the accusations being turned around, and found himself accused of sexual harassment. Only now, 20 years on am I coming to terms with the effects of it on my personality. I’d advise you follow the advice of Yolanda, above, find who you are, NOW, and move forward. Once you feel happy in yourself, look into Adult and Continuing Education through college or university, depending on the level of qualification you’ve achieved, but deal with your mental state first, and only when that’s sorted can you truly recover.

    Writing about your issues (like the blog post) is one of the best things you can do, perhaps try writing an autobiography about the abuse. There’s no need to try to get published (but good luck, should you try – it’s a growth genre), simply writing it will help you cope and recover.

    Good luck.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    Never commented before but I just want to say you have my deepest sympathies. Sometimes you’ll feel like your reactions aren’t valid, because your teacher didn’t seem to recognise them, but they are. Sometimes you’ll feel like the way they treated you and made you feel was your fault, but it’s not. And eventually, given a safe space just to let the anxiety unwind and connect back with yourself, you will find your confidence again. Anxiety courses and CBT helped a lot for me, as did a supportive friend and lover, you will find something that helps you.

  8. Clare Says:

    Like some of the other commenters, I could’ve written some of your post myself once.

    I never said a word about it until I was out of school, and I should’ve done. By going to your teachers, I believe you proved yourself stronger than your tormenters, even if the end result was not what you needed or deserved.

    I’ve lost most respect for Iggy Pop for various reasons (him doing car insurance adverts being only the most recent), but he once replied to a fan letter of someone going through a horrible time and the last bit chimed with me so much it has stayed with me ever since I read it:

    “hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.”

    I don’t know you, but I would like (although it’s presumptous to think you want it) to share the sentiment with you. I wish someone had said it to me when I was going through my personal hell. there is a world out there that deserves you, that is worthy of you, and I really hope you find it soon.

    *

    On the wider MFIF note, I find a lot of attitudes towards girl-on-girl vary from the cruelly dismissive ‘oh, girls are just so much more VICIOUS than boys’ to the ‘oh it’s just girls, it doesn’t matter’ type thing. It seems anecdotally true that girls are not so physically violent towards each other, and it seems that as emotional and mental bullying are more subtle, teachers don’t see it or ignore it or out right dismiss it, because it’s more difficult to deal with than a physical fight.

    As it years’ worth of mental anguish isn’t half so bad as a punch in the face. Not to say a punch in the face is good, of course… but schools need to get a lot better at dealing with that sort of thing, and soon.

  9. JR Says:

    As a teacher I find it utterly shocking and enraging that this woman did not intervene immediately. If boys in my class were behaving like that I wouldn’t rest until they were suspended.

  10. J Says:

    I’m sorry. I can relate also. I’ve been bullied in school pretty much my whole life, but my last year of high school, I was being sexually harassed, and the boy never got in trouble. He’s mentally slow (he’s in special ed classes), but he knew what he was doing was wrong (once instance, when I was standing up, telling my teacher about him, he came by and was trying to look up my skirt. The teacher just said his name, and he immediately said “sorry”). It’s a long story, but I told many of the school staff: teachers, vice principals, the principal… six total, I believe. Only one really cared. But nothing ever got done about it. I ended up dropping the art class that I was in with him. It still pisses me off so much.

    • J Says:

      ^ I think I should also mention the people that bullied me before my senior year were also never punished. I was already introverted and had some social anxiety, but I think bullies made my anxiety worse.

      I really hope you and everyone that’s dealt with this torment can heal and move on in your lives. Don’t believe what they said about you. It’s not true, and that would also be letting them win.

  11. jesurgislac Says:

    I used to run away.

    Not during school hours. Except during break time.

    There was a pack of boys in my Scottish high school, twenty-five to thirty years ago now, who bullied me and harassed me. I built up a shell around me and I pretended they weren’t there.

    They scared me and they depressed me and they made me feel angry and tearful and stupid.

    No one stopped them. No one seemed to understand why I hated them so much, or that it was their behaviour that made me hate them.

    I was miserable the whole six years I spent at high school – I failed half of my Highers, two years running.

    But it gets better: eventually. You leave school, you meet friends, you get to live and work with people who don’t tolerate bullying or bullies.

    It makes me sad that after all these years and all of these much-vaunted programmes to help children being bullied, there are still kids like me going to the same schools going through the same kind of crap and still no one helps them.

  12. Tamora Pierce Says:

    Like the others here, I can relate. I was always Outside; we moved a lot, so every year or two I was at a new school. With each new move I folded into myself more and more. I was luckier by far in that I was always able to find one teacher at each school who encouraged me and made it plain she thought I was going to be somebody one day.

    As far as your school situation goes, the fault lies with your teachers, the school staff, and the kids who picked on you, and NO ONE ELSE. You are not bad or unworthy. The staff should have stood up for you–allowing the grabbing to go on would make them liable for sexual harassment charges here in the U.S. You have a right to be safe from harassment in school, at home, and anywhere you go. Your body is your own, no one else’s, and your mind and spirit of yours, to do with as you please. Those boys are a bunch of ignorant apes who belong in trees. They never should have been allowed to persecute you.

    I hope you will consider some form of continuing education that will allow you to complete high school and pursue a trade if you don’t want to do uni. Don’t let these losers define who you are. You had dreams before they messed with your head: make them come true. Show them up for the nothings they are by making your life something good and something happy, something you created in spite of them. Spit in their eye.

  13. Arsen D. Says:

    This reminds me of a bus ride I took a few months ago. There are rules about not swearing on the bus. A group of young men were disregarding it. A young woman called them on it, saying that there were young children nearby and that they ought to follow the rules. There was plenty of stupid misogyny and use of derogatory slurs against women.

    I talked to the bus driver to let them know what was going on. I wish that I had said these people were harassing her, but instead I said that they were breaking the rules and wouldn’t listen when she called them on it. The driver, also a woman, told them that they needed to stop or get off the bus. If I had said she was being harassed, doubtless they would have been kicked off. Maybe. I hope.

    After that, they said that they were not saying anything wrong anymore and blamed one another for starting the problem. They left the woman alone. I thought I might get beaten up or something if t hey saw me on the bus sometime later, but I was inspired by this young woman refusing to back down despite the harassment.

  14. Lorrie Says:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think anybody powerless and weak could have had the guts to share this story. It takes guts to relive a time when you felt worthless – seriously. I wish you so many good things for the future – no one deserves to be made to feel like you did.

    xx

  15. Pavlov's Cat Says:

    I’m so sorry you were failed so badly by your teacher, and treated so badly by fellow students.

  16. polyptych Says:

    I’m so sorry that these bullies drove you out of school. Please don’t give up, just this one post shows how much you have to offer and how insignificant those people are destined to be.

  17. Elizabeth G. Says:

    There is nothing, NOTHING, about what happened to you that is acceptable. Do not downplay your suffering. Those boys had no right to speak to you in that manner and ESPECIALLY no right to touch you, ESPECIALLY the way they did. Saying things like “it doesn’t sound like much” about harassment that went so far it involved groping is… I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem right to me. Groping isn’t the kind of thing that “isn’t much.” It’s a big deal. I was groped *once* in high school, and four-ish years later, it still creeps me out if I let it.

    Oh, and hey, when it comes to recovering from things like this, seven months is *not* a very long time. The fact that you’re still suffering from what those jerks did to you is completely natural and normal. It’s to be expected, especially given how your teacher failed to deal with it. I was bullied in middle school. I am twenty years old, and I’m still struggling with feelings of depression, shame, inferiority, and social anxiety resulting from the way I was treated. One of the things that impacted me the most, though, was how teachers and even my own family would tell me that I should try to “blend in” more, and then the bullying would stop. Like it was somehow *my* fault people were jerks (and I think, on some deeper level, that may be just what I came to believe). So don’t feel like you should get over this right away just because you’re not being bullied anymore. It was a rotten situation, it scarred you on the inside, and you *don’t* have to be okay right away. Give yourself time to heal. You can do it, but it won’t happen overnight.

  18. branchmonster Says:

    I am very sorry this happened to you. I agree with and stand behind the rest of the people who have commented to provide support and advice. You are not alone with these experiences. I was bullied through grade school, too, and I still struggle with the negative self-image that created.

    My mother would tell me two things that I am only seeing for myself ten years later – 1) kids are cruel (it is up to their authority figures and idols to explain how to be kind) and 2) the people who treat others the way your bullies treated you almost certainly come from homes where they received exactly that kind of treatment. They are perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

    It was hard to believe the enlightened insight my mother would give me when I would arrive home from school in tears – again – but that does not mean you will continue to hurt over it. You are still learning how to value yourself (so am I) and the only measures you’ve had outside of that on any large social scale have been the ones you have experienced at school. I am certain there are many beautiful things about you and that you will start to delight in your own talents and knowledge. Even if you find it hard to believe or understand what you’re being told now, I hope you will see the same underlying message from all of us – you are worth more than what some cruel pukes at a grade school could even know.

    As for practical advice about dealing with them, I remain at a loss. The problem is that cruelty will only beget cruelty. Consider pitying them. Pity is not the same as sympathy. Think about how sad it is that they were raised with the same unkindness that they show you. I was told to ignore my bullies and it was impossible for me. When they say something to you, analyze it for what it really is – an outlet for angst created by undeserved cruelty – remember that you do not deserve it and be proud of yourself for recognizing that no person deserves this. You surely do not treat other people the way those people treated you.

    What you seem to feel is weakness – the pain you feel from this treatment – has another side that the world desperately needs: compassion. Only sensitive, sensible people like you ever seem to have any.

  19. gogocerauno Says:

    OP, get yourself some help ASAP if you are not already doing so, because continuing to live with that kind of depression will ruin the rest of your life if you allow it to. None of this is your fault, and I’m sorry for what those boys did to you, nobody deserves to live like that.

  20. atozinco Says:

    I’m so sorry that this bullying and humiliation happened to you.
    Your story reminds me of what I witnessed in my Drama class when I was 14:

    A couple of the boys ‘befriended’ a girl who had Down Syndrome and would humiliate her, doing this ‘hug-chest-bump’ thing and laughing afterwards, embarrassing her. One of the boys pretended to stab her with a shard of glass (from a broken bottle), while laughing, which really scared her – she kept saying ‘Don’t’ but he wouldn’t stop. In one class, the boys made her ask every guy in the class out (so she did, and they all said ‘no’, but most of them seemed to feel sorry for her). What the guys were doing made me furious. I knew that if I was a boy, I would have answered “yes” when she asked me on a date – just to spite them.

    It only happened for about 3 days, and I never spoke up or did anything during that time I once saw the girl crying after class & asked if she was okay – she told me to go away, angrily. I was the only other girl in that drama group, and I was shy, uncool and plain: I knew that the bullies would just laugh at me if I told them to stop, but I really regret not telling the Dean immediately (or the teacher).

    The teacher knew that this bullying was happening and didn’t do anything about it. She was a new teacher, very shy, and unable to control our class. She made me go into the ‘boys’ Drama group, and after the class told me that she was glad that I had been there, because the boys had been hassling the girl in the previous class. I was surprised that she knew about the harrassment, yet hadn’t warned me about it before putting me in that group, hadn’t checked on our group the entire lesson (we were practising outside the drama room), and didn’t ask me if the boys had stopped their bullying or not.

    The thing that bothers me the most about what happened is that the teacher did nothing to stop it, she just turned a blind eye. It’s just so fundamental that first and foremost schools should be safe places for students (particularly for vulnerable ones like this girl with Down Syndrome).

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