I recently saw a short video about bullying.  It resonated with me.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was bullied all through school.

When I was in elementary school, I was that kid that is always picked last for every school yard game imaginable.  I wasn’t good at them anyways but it made PE torturous.  I went to a private Catholic school.  There were, on average, the same 28 kids in my class from kindergarten through 5th grade.  So when you were the kid that was picked on, you stayed picked on until you left the school.  I was called a nose picker.  Every kindergarten picks their nose at some point…I have no idea why I was the only kid that got targeted for doing that dirty deed.  My thick, naturally curly hair formed an Afro, so kids would act like my hair was a separate entity named Fro.  I remember my mom telling me that everyone said I had such great posture and always held my head up.  I never understood this because I spent the school day walking around staring at my feet.  In 2nd grade I found out that I was adopted.  I did a “show and tell” presentation about being adopted because I thought it made me special and unique.  It only resulted in other kids asking me why my real mommy and daddy didn’t want me.

In 2nd grade, I also began seeing a psychiatrist and therapist at a children’s hospital 2.5 hours away from my home.  Every 2 weeks I was pulled from class in the morning so that my parents and I could make the drive to my therapy session.  Since the private school made everyone wear uniforms, my parents got special permission for me to wear regular clothes on the days that I had therapy so that they could save time by me not having to change clothes before we started that drive to therapy.  This only resulted in me sticking out like an even bigger sore thumb and being picked on even more.

After 5th grade, my parents placed me in the public school system.  I continued to be bullied.  I played basketball, tennis, and soccer as a child.  In basketball and soccer, I spent almost the entire time on the sidelines because I just wasn’t athletic.  Some of my teammates would make a point of telling me I wasn’t really on the team because I never played.  In tennis, I was humiliated as I never gained any skill in the sport so my practice sessions were held with the little kids because I couldn’t play as well as the older kids.  I became the laughing stock of those older kids.

In 7th grade, I attempted to kill myself.  I was diagnosed with depression and started seeing the school therapist.  Every week my name would be called over the school intercom, asking me to come to the front office…which was actually code for go to your therapy session.  One of my teachers cornered me after I was pulled from his class repeatedly for therapy each week.  He told me he wouldn’t let me leave the class until I told him where I was going each week.  I remember him yelling at me, asking, “What is wrong with you!?” I began crying and he let me leave.  It isn’t always the other students who are bullies.

In high school, the bullying became more subtle.  If I didn’t have one of my few friends with me, I was mostly treated as if I didn’t exist.  At Sunday School at church, I would sit on the couch in the youth center and watch as other classmates mingled and talked with each other before worship started.  My parents would badger me about why I didn’t just get up and talk to these other teens.  They didn’t understand that I had grown up being bullied by all these same teens.  They didn’t understand why I was too shy and scared to invite them to my house for a sleepover or to go see a movie.  When classmates did interact with me, they were usually cruel. Being adopted still haunted me when one person told me that my real parents hated me and that was why they didn’t keep me.

My parents never understood why I wasn’t more social.  They didn’t recognize the extent of the bullying.  Since I couldn’t make the kids at school like me, I spent too much effort trying to make my parents proud.  I poured myself into my academics because they were always impressed with my good grades.  My secret passion was art and I spent all my electives in the art room or in theater class as a set designer or in graphic design at the vocational school.  I did well in all my classes because that meant that my parents and my teachers would value me…and I desperately wanted someone to value me.

To this day I have poor self-esteem.  I beat myself up over the small things.  I hate my physical appearance.  I try to hide everything I am ashamed of.

This seems counter-intuitive to this blog and my lifestyle of being very open about my mental illness.  I know that people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses get stigmatized.  I feel like the only way to not feel the pain of that is to fight the stigma head on.  I didn’t know how to cope with being bullied.  The only way I know how to cope with schizophrenia is to not let it become my enemy, internally or externally.  In that way, I finally have some control in how I believe I am represented in the minds of others.  For once, I’m not being bullied.

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4 Responses
  1. Lauren says:

    I think you’re inspirational. You have been through so much and you manage to keep going. You have a strength which is so apparent in your writing and i’m sure someone going through something similar to you will find strength, hope and comfort in your words. I’m a final year university student in the UK, and on wednesday i’m doing a presentation on how important it is to try and change the unjust stigma surrounding schizophrenia. There will definitely be a little part of that presentation dedicated to you and how much i’ve learnt from your blog :) Good luck with everything x

  2. carsacarp says:

    hi I’ve been reading your blog on and off….I think you write very well.
    Regarding bullying, I wonder how many people that develop schizophrenia,esp. paranoid are bullied thru school as you describe.

    More interestingly I would like to see twin studies where one is and one hasn’t been bullied and see THAT effect on the schiz rate.

    You(and others that have been bullied which I firmly believe is the trigger to becoming schiz) are not really paranoid in the psychotic sense;moreso in response what has been.

    P.S. I love dogs too!!

  3. JM says:

    I was pretty seriously bullied, as well. It takes a long time to overcome that. I still get slightly nervous when I see gaggles of teenage girls.
    I also grew up with parents who were very insular and distrustful. When a girl at school started acting kind of stalker-ish, my dad warned me that, although it might be harmless, she might just be one of those crazies that would end up throwing acid in my face. By distrustful, I mean paranoid, I suppose. We definitely had an us-against-them, mom and dad are the only ones you can trust sort of thing going on. One did not talk to others about what was going on at home. Ever.
    My reaction to all that was to become kind of an over-sharer. I find that by consciously not letting my wounds fester inside me, I strengthen my own sanity, and can sometimes even help others.
    Your blogging makes a lot of sense. You are in control of it, you get to take an active role in it, and you do help others.

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