While our strongest message has been to stand up to hate speech that you see, especially as a bystander, and also to report hate speech there is also the issue of looking at how people build and have resilience when they are the target of hate speech. This blog is a personal story of finding the resilience to survive hate speech.
My name is Rebelle and this is the story of me and my bullies. To the outside world I am a bright, bubbling 28 year old, full of life, love and happiness. For the most part I am, however even shiny, happy people have their down days and very recently I gave very serious consideration to ending my own life. This information may shock and sadden a number of people but I feel it is so very important to know that these feelings are normal and you can get through them.
I was always a bit of a loner growing up, not by choice you understand but because I was so very different. I was short and fat with long hair and big glasses. I loved to read and was far more mature than my years would have you believe. My parents split up when I was nine and we moved to a brand new county. This is when the bullying really started. Girls would make comments about my weight, comments about my family that would cut me to the core. Both boys and girls physically picked on me, pulling my hair, stabbing me with compasses and hitting me with rulers. Truth be told I would have gladly accepted this physical bullying all day long if only it would make the emotional and psychological bullying stop. Girls made me feel like I was worth less than nothing. I was excluded from events, I was teased about my appearance and I was ganged up on, on multiple occasions. Though I didn’t know about suicide at the time I had many, many thoughts about how much easier it would be if I was dead.
I lived in a constant state of hope that I would reach secondary school and things would get better for me. Unfortunately they didn’t. I was still so very different and weird to my classmates. I was the fat, ugly girl who didn’t know very much about pop culture. Don’t get me wrong I had a small group of friends but once I left secondary school these people were never seen again. This should tell you the level of a relationship that we had. In secondary school, the emotional bullying continued, I was picked on, excluded, called names the list goes on. Now they had extra differences to pick on me. I had revealed to a friend that I wasn’t straight and I wore a lot of black clothing. I know I should have changed how I dressed to make my life easier but y’know what, It was the only thing I had to help keep me happy. I also found solace in self harm. I would hack my arms, legs and stomach with razor blades. To a lot of people it doesn’t make sense but it was something I did to help me feel better. It was like all the stress and pressure was escaping from my body the moment the blade touched my skin. Unfortunately this kind of release is only temporary and you are left with healing wounds and more pain in the following days.
By the time I reached college going age the traumas of my life had taken over. I wasn’t being picked on any more but the damage the bullies had done left scars on my mind. I hated how I looked. I was far too fat to be worthy, I was too ugly to warrant attention or affection and I was incapable of making friends. I just didn’t know how to socialise because I never really had the opportunity to do so. During college, I got a work placement in a community setting that I adored. I had found something wonderful that I could put my energy into.
I worked so hard to ensure that I would get the job of my dreams and when I did I was over the moon. All of the hard work paid off and suddenly my life was taking a totally different turn. So why then did I still feel all of those horrible awful feelings? Because my darlings that is what bullying and harassment can do! Though the comments have long since passed the emotional scars still remain. I knew that before I could work in a field where I was positively influencing people and helping them out I had to work on my own stuff first. I started reading blogs and books by brilliant, wonderful inspiring women and wished so much that I could be just like them. It was a conversation with a dear friend who told me something that changed my life. She told me that I was just like the women I read about, I just needed to see it in myself first. It wasn’t easy but from that moment on I decided to start living my life as if I was brilliant, wonderful and amazing. The most fantastic thing happened, I gave my brain this message so often that it eventually absorbed it. I was finally wonderful, brilliant, amazing and entirely in love with my life. I stopped caring what others thought and I did things that made me happy. Sure some of these decisions didn’t make others happy but I knew they were the right thing to do, so I did them. Messages came flooding in from wonderful people who have been inspired by me, yeah me!! The small, specky, fat, awkward, queer kid is making people feel better about themselves.
Does this mean I am free of bullies and their nonsense? Unfortunately, not. Just this weekend I have received anonymous, hateful messages from people who have decided I am a terrible human being and that I need to be made aware of this fact. Let me assure you, I am not a saint. I have never held myself above anybody else and I will never look down on anyone else’s behaviour. I make mistakes, some small and insignificant and some massive that have horrendous consequences for others. That is because I am a human being. We all make mistakes. Does this mean that we should be torn apart, ripped to shreds and made to feel less than human because of them? No it does not.
When the messages started, I was transported back to being a kid again. I was hopeless, powerless and there was nothing I could do. My brain jumped to the very worst conclusions about what could happen and the effects of my mistake. The panic and dread set in to the point where I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating and every morning I got up I vomited out of stress and worry. Because the messages were coming through on my phone they were always there. There was no escape route, there was no getting away. It would follow me wherever I went.
It was again in talking with two wonderful friends and my sister that I finally came to terms with the fact that no matter what I did, I didn’t deserve this kind of treatment. I apologised for what I had done, I faced up to the fact and was honest in my communication and made assurances it would never happen again. There is literally nothing else I could do. So why did I still feel the need to punish myself. Why did I think that this stress would be easily solved by ending my life?
Let me tell you this from the very bottom of my heart. You are worth so much more than you will ever know. Even though people may treat you badly, be horrendous and viscous to you, they do not deserve your tears. You will do great things in this life. No matter what it is never too late to start. Sure it’s awful right now, it seems like it will never end. I promise you it will! You have to have the faith in yourself that you are strong enough to outlast it.
Talk to people. Don’t be left on your own with these feelings. Friends, family and trusted people are there to be relied upon. Share your problem, if for no other reason than just to vent. You will emerge from this so much stronger than you ever thought possible. It will make you stronger and you will help form the change to make sure that it never happens again. You are loved wanted and cared for even if it doesn’t feel like it. You are a bright brilliant shining star against the pitch blackness of a night sky. Your presence will be deeply missed by those around you. Never fear and don’t give up, you are not alone. I know your story, I have felt your pain and I promise you will survive this and thrive. I believe this because I have to because if I don’t I might as well give up now. I can’t give up, not when there are so many beautiful things to live for, so many battles left to fight and some to win. There are so many places to see and people to meet, you will never ever see your contribution to this world if you don’t stick around to see it. Remember, no matter what you’ve done or think you have done, it’s going to be ok – Rebelle xoxox