Have you ever wondered how bullying really feels?
Growing up with my disorders, (tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia and OCD) I oftentimes felt as though I was a stranger to the world, peering in but never really participating.
I was not invited to take part in those usual childhood activities (sleepovers, sports games, etc), because the other kids were either afraid of me or thought I was odd.
“Twitchy girl, twitchy girl, ugly, ugly, twitchy girl!”
This is the taunt that still plays in my head today; this is the taunt of my childhood bullies who teased and tormented me because I had Tourette’s syndrome.
I can still feel the sting of sharp words; I can still taste the dirt that was kicked in my face. Yet, it wasn’t the worst bullying I dealt with as I was growing up.
Although the relentless bullying by my peers was painful, there was another form of bullying that was much more insidious, cruel, and caustic-bullying from adults.
I met my first adult bully when I was in the fourth grade; she was my teacher. Mrs. Thomson believed I was a distraction to the class because of the uncontrollable movements my body made-the excessive eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, and arm flailing.
I still remember the day I walked into the classroom, only to find that Mrs. Thomson had taken my nametag off my usual desk and placed it on a table in back of the classroom.
Mrs. Thomson had assigned me a new place to sit-a place in the corner of the classroom, facing the wall.
Sitting in that corner made me feel alone and isolated from the rest of my classmates.
Their backs were to me and my back was to them. Talking to Mrs. Thomson did little to change the arrangement, as she insisted that I did not belong with the other children.
Bullies who were my peers had created a deep wound that hurt and strung, but the wound inflicted by my adult bully was of a different sort. This wound made me feel deformed and alien, as though I did not belong in this world.
It is one thing to have children your own age tell you that you do not belong, but to have an adult treat you as an outcast is entirely different.
My experience in Mrs. Thomson’s classroom left me feeling like a stranger to the world, peering in but never participating. I was a foreigner, an intruder, a pariah.
My fourth grade teacher was not the only adult bully I encountered. A mere two years later, I met my second adult bully-my horseback-riding instructor.
The scars Melanie’s treatment left may be invisible, but they are still there, and they ache.
Shortly after I met Melanie, I decided that she was my hero; I wanted to be just like her. Yet, most of all, I wanted Melanie’s approval and acceptance. There was something so meaningful about Melanie’s acceptance. She became a larger-than-life hero in my twelve-year-old eyes. I buried my feelings about Mrs. Thomson and once again held fast to the childish belief that adults could do no wrong.
I couldn’t even conceive of the idea that Melanie wasn’t truly interested in me, that she was only interested in my parents’ money. As a result, I never questioned Melanie’s hisses of You just can’t do anything right and Careless girl-I never questioned her screams of Go sit in the dirt, because that is where you belong!
Instead, I took each statement at face value, believing that my rightful place was in the dirt. The times my peer bullies actually kicked dirt in my face seemed trivial in comparison to my hero’s pronouncement that I was dirt.
For me, the biggest difference between my peer and adult bullies was that I could readily perceive that my peer bullies were wrong to torment me.
At the end of the day, I would often return home crying and asking my mom why other children had to be so cruel. I found release and relief from this outpouring of emotion and the unconditional love and support I received from my mom.
Yet, in the case of my adult bullies, the line between right and wrong became blurred, preventing me from seeing that my adult bullies were guilty of much worse, because they were in a position of authority. To me, adults could do no wrong. Therefore, what they said had to be true. This is the insidious nature of adult bullying.
Children are placed under the care of adults in countless situations, whether it is in school, sports, or Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops. Parents trust that these adults will treat their children with the same loving care that they do, but sometimes, the adults they trust to help their children-these so-called mentors-are nothing more than child bullies who never grew up. Sometimes these so-called mentors leave a child with internal scars.
And these bullying scars hurt.
Melissa Binstock is the author of Nourishment: Feeding My Starving Soul When My Mind and Body Betrayed Me
Melissa grew up with Tourette’s Syndrome as well as ADHD, dyslexia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Melissa is 22 years old now and currently a junior attending the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas where she is a psychology major.
She writes articles and shares her book about bullying.