Kat Opens Up About Being Bullied As A Teen
I've been struggling for nearly a month to find the courage to tell you my story as a bullied teen. I've received several messages through social media from parents who are dealing with their children being bullied. I think it's time I find that courage.
I wrote about a month ago about the release of the film Bully. I told you how important I think this film is, and that I think everyone should see it. At the end of one of my blogs I mentioned that I was trying to work up the courage to tell you my story. Well, now is as good a time as any, I suppose.
I've heard from parents who are facing the struggles. I recently read a story about a young teen who had only ever kissed a boy, but after being repeatedly bullied at school and having the word 'SL**' scrawled across her locker, she took her own life. This may seem like an extreme response to what some may call "kids being kids," but the fact is this young girl felt like she had no other option. She had reached the end of her patience & tolerance for what she was facing, and she went to the extreme.
I was bullied. Yes. Me. The voice you hear on your radio every day. I was tormented almost daily through middle school and high school, and at 17 I too went to the extreme. It could have truly changed my life forever, but I got lucky... I'll tell you that part of the story shortly, but first let me tell you about myself as a teen.
I was not popular. I had very few friends. I was an outcast - not by choice necessarily. See what people of the outside world didn't know (because I hide things very well) is that my home life was not good. I had a mother who was too busy with things that should have never been a priority in the first place. I didn't have the right clothes because I was poor. Most of what I wore to school before I got a job at 16 & started buying my own clothes came from the Goodwill or Salvation Army. I was extremely thin - not malnourished, just thin. It took me the summer between my junior and senior year of high school to break 100 pounds. I hit 102 that summer, and I could out eat half the guys on the football team. I was called names - a lot. Stick girl. Bean Pole. Toothpick... and then there were the full statements, If she turns sideways she'll disappear. I was also called skanky - not because I was dirty or unclean, but because I didn't have clothes that came from the mall. In fact, before I turned 18 I can count on both hands the number of times I even ever stepped foot in the mall.
When I got into high school I thought it would get easier. I was wrong. Now, keep in mind I was an A-B student, took part in band and theater, was in advanced classes, took 4 years of Latin, and was very polite and well liked by all of my teachers. I worked hard. I had to. It was the only way that I was going to ever go to Med School. Yes. I was going to be a doctor. I wanted more than anything to go the University of California at Irvine. (Ironically life changed - I got married at 19, became a mom at 20, and didn't go to junior college until I was 25)
I was still the outcast. I was still different & didn't fit in. What I did have was something very very special to me. Right before I turned 16 I bought my first car. It was a 1972 Chevelle Malibu. It had been in the same family for 10 years, and had 130,000 miles. I paid less than a thousand dollars for that car, and I loved it. It was mine. I had earned it... apparently that car also earned me more ridicule and headache. The other girls didn't understand why I was driving a 1990-whatever Cavalier or Grand Am. Why did my car have ugly orange primer? Why did their boyfriends want to talk to ME about some stupid car? It's because I COULD talk about that ugly car. I could talk to "the boys" who wanted to know how much HP it had, or what kind of carb was under the hood - it had an Edelbrock intake manifold, and a Carter 650CFM 4 barrel carb. It also would tear through tires. I could do a burnout like nobodies business. Yep, still the outcast.
Girls are funny creatures. They don't like what's different from them. They don't like when their boyfriend talks to the weird girl and they aren't afraid to let that weird girl know it either. I have been accosted by groups of girls because one of them thought that I was interested in their loser boyfriend who had the IQ of toast just because I could talk cars. Did I mention that I was a good student & wanted to go to Med School? Why would I be interested in YOUR guy?
I have had my personal safety threatened on more occasions than I care to recount. I have been called a B****, a SL**, a C***, and even a P**** when I refused to get out of my car to face the 6 girls in a McDonald's parking lot as they told me "Get out so we can kick you A**." I have been shoved in the hallways of school. I have had people honk as they pass me on small town main street just so they could flip me off & yell nasty things at me out the car window. I never retaliated. I always took it. I kept telling myself that I was better than that. That they were just immature, and that I was being mature by ignoring it (as best as I could). Truth is, I was falling apart on the inside. I would go home & cry at night. I didn't want to be treated like this. I didn't feel like I deserved to be treated like this. I didn't care if they accepted my differences, I just wanted them to leave me alone. Leave me to be my own weird, different, unusual, quirky person. I wasn't hurting anyone... And they had no idea what I was dealing with in my home life.
Then one day, I... just... snapped... I am not proud of what I am about to tell you, but I want you to understand that after 6 years (7th grade - Senior year) I had finally had enough. I want you to understand what bullying REALLY does to a person - to a kid. Remember the girl that I told you about earlier who went to the extreme & took her own life? That was me... but it wasn't my life that I was going to take. I was driving down that small town main street one day... I was 17, and a group of girls who had been giving me trouble for a very long time drove past me. One of them leaned out the back window of the car, from the waist up, and yelled at me, "Your A** is mine B***. I am going to beat your a***." I turned off of Main Street, and I drove the 2 blocks to my house, walked up the stairs, and got into the closet... where the iron pry bar was. I took the pry bar back down to my car & I went back to Main Street. I was going to find "her." One of us was going to go to the hospital or worse. I had reached my breaking point. I was no longer the rational, well mannered, model student. I was suddenly something very scary, dark, monstrous, and dangerous. I knew who she was. I knew what car she drove. I knew where she hung out up town. When I got back to Main Street, she was no longer there. I drove around for a little bit looking for her. She never did turn back up... And I am lucky.
I cannot tell you how lucky I am. In that one moment of unbearable pain and hurt and anger, I could no longer take it. The universe was looking out for me that day. At 33, I look back now and I know how wrong I was for getting the pry bar, but I also still remember the pain that I felt. The violence could have never been justified, and my whole world would be different. I wouldn't have my beautiful daughter who I have tried very hard to teach patience & tolerance for those that are different. I would not have an amazing career. I wouldn't be here with you now... all because of bullying.
I hope that after you read this, that you won't think less of me because of 17 year old me. I hope that this will offer some insight into the mind and heart of the bullied. Please teach your children tolerance. Please teach them to be kind. Please pay attention when your child tells you they are being bullied. Please teach your children to stand up for the bullied. You never know what that weird, different, unusual, quirky person is going through at home. You never know how much more she can take before she too goes to the extreme. You never know what kind of scars she carries. And the scars that are left now... she will carry for life. I still carry mine even today, but I turned out ok...