This post was submitted anonymously.
I’ve been bullied in school, for several years. Not just by people I knew – some of the bullies recruited others to call me names and act as if I were ridden with some disgusting, contagious disease. There were times when I was hardly able to open up to anyone, as I could not feel safe any longer; everybody could be on their side now.
I was singled out for being a little poorer, a little weirder, a little geekier, a little less pretty, a little more religious. People said I was from Alpha Centauri (which, by the way, is a sun, not a planet). In class people threw more than just words at me – pieces of chestnut, broken ball-point pens, and once, a little rock.
They constantly let me feel I wasn’t worth as much as them, that I didn’t have the right to be wherever I wanted to be. This still haunts me. It took me many years to feel somewhat comfortable walking across an open place, and to this day I struggle with running criss-cross through gym halls. I’m closer to thirty than to twenty and somewhere in the back of my brain subconscious lessons still haunt me.
Back then I felt so helpless I resorted to aggression, trying to hit and kick people. I still have to deal with the residue of this aggression. Fallout lasts a long time.
The fact that I didn’t have a lot of support from family and church “friends” didn’t help. On the contrary, even in youth group I had to deal with people of my age who acted like friends and after two years, suddenly told me how annoying I was. I was told by one person not to talk to them, not to reply to their nasty message. I experienced something neither me nor the other person involved would have labeled abuse back then, but now I do. They held emotional power over me, giving me comfort one day and withdrawing it at will. Combine this with a subtext of gender stereotypes and you end up with a messed up sense of self.
All of these events robbed me of my self-esteem and parts of my future. I’ve made it through, I’ve moved away and will receive the final result of my master’s degree in a few short weeks, but I can’t forget. Sometimes I feel better, thinking I’ve escaped, but then I relapse.
I don’t think I’ll go to our class reunion when our 10th anniversary of finishing school will come up. I didn’t even comfortable congratulating one of the nicer girls via Facebook when she got married, as she married one of my bullies. They had already been together back then, but even though she’s always been kind I just can’t tell her I’m happy she got to marry him. I’m sorry.
Even at university I experienced superficial people. Once I was told to buy myself a less ugly winter anorak. This may seem like a little thing, but to me it was a continuation of the pattern I experienced in school. Luckily things changed when I graduated from the bachelor’s programme and entered a master’s programme. I was surrounded by people who were more like me, who were okay with my geekiness and not fitting in.
At church in this place things are a little better, I even found a few people who really care about me. Some can relate to my troubled mind because their pasts weren’t that glorious and full of happy teenage memories as well. I found a loving husband who doesn’t care I’m a little odd and supports me in my decision to skip make-up and all these things I used to be told I needed to make myself prettier. He is strong enough to deal with my fits of anger.
But what truly is healing me, little by little, is the loving acceptance I experience in capoeira. Instead of belittling me for getting things wrong or breaking down and crying they teach me to become stronger – some gently, some in a well-meaning “get your shit together” attitude. No “girls can’t / aren’t supposed to this or that,” just “what are you waiting for, do it, try harder.” Being with them helped me to improve my usage and reading of body language. Once three of us stood at a train station at night while we waited for the guy in our group to finish smoking his cigarette, and they listened to my rambling. In the last few months, people I got to know in class started to tell me I was a really outgoing person. Yes, I am now, at least when I am in a place where I feel comfortable. But inside I still feel anxious about whether people really like me or whether they pretend and everything will come crashing down someday.
I’m becoming stronger. I’m trying to become kinder as well. Some days I fail, but I won’t give up now that I’ve made it so far.