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Why Telling Bullied Children To Toughen Up Is Killing Them

December 5, 2013

As bullying and it’s resulting consequences ends up on the news with an alarming frequency, I’ve been horrified to see the number of adults who think that bullied children need to just “toughen up.” Back in the day, we just got over being bullied and it made us stronger, right? We don’t jump on social media and name call, stalk, harass, gossip about, and aggressively or passive-aggressively plot ways to ensure someone who has crossed us is outed to the world, do we?

People, YOU are the problem with today’s youth.

I was 12 the first time I planned suicide. The year was 1998. I had recently transitioned from home school to public school. My parents were in the beginning stages of a hellish divorce. I was an awkward tomboy who had braces and didn’t have any knowledge of things like the importance of shaving my legs. I was genuine. I was vulnerable. I was miserable. I wanted to hide at home and be invisible.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, but it didn’t help. I heard a story in class about a girl who wrote an anonymous suicide note that was read aloud and got her help and love. It resonated with me. Maybe if… The note posted on my teacher’s door was never read aloud. She didn’t even ask me if I was okay. Not even when I asked for it back a few days later. It was a phase. I was just crying out for attention.

I was so lonely. So unwanted. It hurt.

No one ever asked if I was okay. I was just a problem. A freak.

I almost didn’t graduate.

Freshman year wasn’t much better. New school. New town. Everyone knew each other. I tried so many things to fit in. I told my mother I was depressed. She said I was just an angsty teenager and would get over it.

Maybe if I died, they’d see. They’d be sorry.

The pain pills were a joke. I took so many and they did nothing.

I cut myself for the first time that summer. Broke apart a razor blade and used it to score tiger stripes onto my arms.

My father saw the marks. I lied. He never asked again.

My boyfriend told me he would leave me if I did it again. My best friend yelled at me.

I got better at not getting caught.

I tried to hang myself a few times. Wrap a belt or scarf around a doorknob and lean against it, hoping I would just drift away.

I wrote poetry that talked about everything I felt. People read it. They would always make me promise not to hurt myself.

I lied.

I’m alive now, obviously. But not for lack of trying. Even while on active duty, I have continued to battle suicide, depression, and self-harm. Multiple rounds of cutting, almost successful suicide attempts, and hospitalizations later, I’m still here.

You can call me names. You can say it is because I’m weak. Anyone who knows me will laugh you out of the room. I’m a tough as nails motherfucker. That doesn’t mean I don’t have problems and shit to deal with, just like everyone else. Depression is a part of who I am. It doesn’t make me weak. It means I know how to reach out to others and help them through the darkness.

If you’ve never dealt with the daily battle of depression, don’t you dare EVER tell someone how it feels. We hate ourselves. We don’t want to get out of bed. Nothing is fixable because we are broken. Everyone else would be better off without our failure around.

Bullying damages the heart and soul of a child. I remember every comment made to me. All the laughter. It haunts me. I can’t imagine living through that with today’s ability to get everyone on the internet to hate you.

That person on the other side of the computer screen is a human being who is just as fucked up as you, and maybe even more so. Those pictures are funny. Except the person in them would rather die than be mocked any more.

How many more children have to kill themselves before the adults step up and set the example for how NOT to be a bully?

Never tell anyone, especially a child, to get over emotional hurts. Stop invalidating how they feel. Allow them to be hurt and show them healthy ways to keep moving forward. If you can’t figure out how to do that, find someone like me. One in five people battle chronic depression. We can help your child and WE WANT TO.

My nine-years younger than me sister was bullied even worse than I was. She was called every name in the book, stalked, harassed, tormented over the internet and phone, beaten up, threatened. I was deployed and couldn’t help her.

She attempted suicide as a pre-teen. I’m thankful every day that we were able to save her. This beautiful girl felt she was ugly and unlovable because of the things said and done to her. The school and authorities failed to intervene on her behalf multiple times and even blamed her for bringing the bullying on herself.

Bullying is killing our children. Failing to act as adults and intervene is killing our children. This isn’t because they are weak or a generation of victims. This is because they are being raised and cared for by a generation of selfish assholes who don’t know how to have a healthy relationship and don’t seem to want to fix it.

Step up. Ask the hard questions. Be the person you wished had offered a hand to you when you were drowning.

Do you care?

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