Today is the last day of March and I going to start wrapping up the bully series in the next few days. I truly hope something good has come from so many voices coming together in the spirit of kindness and love.
My guest today has a powerful post for you and I would like to thank Pattie for joining in the conversation!
I have been bullied all of my life. Considering that the woman I share DNA with is a narcissist by every definition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) it stands to reason that she would be a complete failure as a mother. I was her favorite verbal punching bag as I am the daughter who looks like her. She saw me as direct competition for my dad’s attention, and I guess that I was a physical reminder of her own unhappy childhood. She didn’t bully just me. Oh no, she damaged both of my sisters and my dad, too, with her jealousy and bullying. My brother, her favorite, well she adored and idolized him. She spoiled him to the point that as an adult he is a complete waste of human life. My three siblings are narcissists, probably born from the necessity to fulfill their basic needs. I am the second born and the middle sister. I am the giver, the peacemaker, the one with all the empathy. I am the one who nearly didn’t make it.
My mother’s lack of empathy, her unbridled selfishness, her extreme arrogance, and her own fragile self-esteem was the emotional material from which she built her life. It was perfectly OK for her children to be dressed in rag-bag hand me downs, ill-fitting shoes, and weather inappropriate outer wear while she had a closet full of new shoes and clothes. She did not work outside of the home during my childhood so the necessity of such a wardrobe was to assuage her ego. We lived in near squalor conditions, not because my father didn’t earn enough money, he did. She chose to squander money on collectibles, clothes and shoes, and consumables for her personal enjoyment.
She did not teach us life skills, social manners; she did nothing to build our self-esteem, our personal worth. She rarely complemented us unless we were doing something that she wanted us to do. Rather she cajoled, called us names, and belittled us to tears. Then she would cry that we were such ungrateful little brats. We were children adrift in the world with no safe place to run to, no adults to care for us, no family unit to support and protect us. She gave birth to targets of social abuse. She bullied us with her Catholic guilt and forced Mass and Catechism on us until we moved out. I have not willingly attended Mass in 34 years.
Due to her total ineptness at parenting I was not only unkempt and dressed in tattered clothes but, I was fat. And I wore glasses. Glasses that were broken and held together with tape. Maybe it was cool for Harry Potter, but it sure was a beacon for unrelenting teasing and ridicule by the cruel little bastards that lived in my neighborhood. Our medical needs were not met and dental care was pushed off as much as possible to when we could pay for it with our teenage incomes.
Throughout my elementary school years the only time a classmate, and I am not exaggerating, the only time any of my classmates spoke to me was to say something mean and hurtful. Not one teacher ever made them stop. Ever. Trust me, it is excruciating to never be invited to a party, never be chosen for a team, to always be the one left standing alone. Tears were real. And often. And I learned to cry when and where no one would hear or see me in order to mitigate that round of bullying.
I had no safe place to go when I was a child. There was not one adult that I trusted to help me navigate the turbulent days of my childhood. My older sister was as much a bully to me as any of the neighborhood kids. Looking back I know why she resented me but that doesn’t erase the hurt or the feelings of betrayal.
The shame I felt every time I walked out of the house was the chum in the water for the neighborhood kids to rally around me and chant cruel rhymes until I cried. Tears didn’t make them stop and I hated them and shouted that I wished that they would all just die. But I was also secretly wishing that I would be the one to die so that the name calling, teasing, pushing, pulling, spitting, all of it would just end.
There was the rare instance when I would retaliate against one of the bullies by picking on one of their faults, calling them names and chanting ugly things at them. I always felt so bad after I finished spewing my dirty little words that hurt. I would see the hurt in their eyes, and see their lips tremble as I was saying hateful things to them. I never ever felt better after being unkind towards a kid, even when that kid was my biggest tormentor. I had known first hand how much a heart can be broken by cruel words and even though some kids really deserved to be verbally punched in the junk, dishing out the unkindness always caused me some amount of grief.
My family moved across the country when I was in 7th grade. The junior high school I went to for one semester was filled with the vilest students I had ever seen. They were bused in from the projects, they hung out in gangs, they smoked, they were dirty, they smelled bad, and they wore clothes that were worse than mine. I didn’t judge them because I knew exactly what they were living. Or I thought I knew but apparently even these criminals-in-waiting had bullying rights. And I was still the fat, tattered girl who was teased to tears and then shunned.
Finally, during the summer between 8th and 9th grades I grew 5 inches, lost the extra pounds and was able to get a pair of ‘cool’ glasses. We moved to a better neighborhood and the new junior high I went to had fewer gangsta wannabe’s and more kids from military families. Military kids tend to be more forgiving of each other because they are exposed to so many more situations and most of the time they have been ‘the new kid’ so they appreciate not being an asshat to someone. Not always, but usually. I made friends with a girl who lived across the street. If you are keeping track, I was 14 before I ever had a friend.
There were still bullies and I still had the emotional demons from elementary school haunting my every social situation but I had a friend, and her friends tolerated me because she sort of made them tolerate me. But the Hell that was my home life was escalating as my siblings grew increasingly more like our mother. Not only was I bullied by the kids at school I was shoved around, emotionally and physically in my home. There are no happy memories of my home life. None.
I survived high school due to the sheer size of the student body. For the first time in my scholastic career I wasn’t the standout target. Oh, the bullies were still rampant. Fortunately the boys had stopped hitting and pushing but they still made crass and unkind remarks. Most of the girls, well, they were stuck-up judging mean girls with their stinging remarks and unkind actions. There were fun times though, and I did make friends, I socialized, and I was involved in school activities. But I was never secure in the feeling that the bulling was over. To this day I believe that if it wasn’t for the two girls that liked me, for whatever their reasons were, I would have killed myself, or at least tried to. By the time I was 17 I had all but given up on ever having a decent life, friends, a family that loved me, or any sort of future worth living. I still think of it as an option when the despair slams into me.
I will always play Devil’s Advocate or do what I think is taking up for someone if I think they are being bullied or neglected. It’s just the way I am. I am a very empathetic person; my heart is on my sleeve. In order to navigate the crowd of narcissists that I grew up with I compensated by being the peacemaker, the giver – not the taker. As I said before, I know what it feels like to be left out and when I see a potential situation I do what I think is right to fix it before feelings are hurt. Too often this backfires.
I was bullied by other Navy Wives. Of all the people who needed each other for support it were submarine wives during the Cold War. We only had each other and yet the majority of the wives were judging bullies who wore their husbands rank as their own. They used meeting as the chance to relive their high school cheerleader days and they made a fresh Hell for the wives that they didn’t want to associate with. Young wives, new to the Navy were their favorite targets. I did make friends with a few special women and to this day we are still in touch with each other. There are the rest though, the ones who made assumptions, the ones who gossiped, the jealous ones, the ones who are not worth any more words. By this time I had learned to tell people to ‘fuck off’ and while that didn’t fix my fragile emotional state of being, it did keep some of the would-be tormentors at bay. I was finally learning to be cautious of the people who I associated with. I created a check list of qualities that a person needed to meet before I would consider letting them in my life. I was learning that ‘the cool group’ was usually comprised of mean people with big problems of their own to work through. I started to figure out that I didn’t need them in my life; I also began tossing out the people that didn’t bring me happiness, even if that meant family members got the boot.
For all the heartache that has been the groundwork of my life there is one bright and shining thing that has made my life worth living. I married a wonderful man. He loved the way I looked then, and he still loves the way I look now. He loves me for all the things that make me, me. He knew everything about me, everything, and still he asked me to marry him. He makes me so profoundly happy that sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve this much happiness. Honestly.
In all of my life I have never known anyone else who was as viciously and constantly bullied as I was. As I still am. I am not trying to garner pity, which is not a solution. I do wonder though if the fact that I am the only empathetic person in my immediate family of narcissists is one of the reasons that I am so badly treated by them.
I was an adult and married before I began to establish some basic self-esteem and the belief that I deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. I was so late to the game of social manners and niceties that I often reacted inappropriately when facing a confrontation. I didn’t have the lifetime of experiences to choose from and this often led to undesired results. It is very difficult to recover from social faux pas as an adult especially when the adults are the same kids who bullied and never grew out of their horrible behaviors. In my midlife I find that I am still socially dysfunctional and I have a very difficult time relating to women; their cliques are real. After all, when I should have had playmates, and later, girlfriends, to share secrets with and try out makeup tricks I had bullies who shamed and shunned me.
I cry when I allow myself to recall my childhood. The few memories that are still snagged on the jagged edges of my mind are of a sad little girl with fat legs and snarled curls crying alone in an empty bedroom because all the other kids are playing outside. I ruthlessly purge those memories in order to be able to move forward with my life and be happy.
The effects of being bullied are lifelong. The feeling of helplessness while the act is happening, the despair that you have no recourse or safe place to run to is often debilitating. The results are damaged teenagers who lose their direction. The results are adults who are dysfunctional in their relationships and jobs. The results of being bullied are tragic.
I don’t blame my child-self for the horrid way my life was. I blame my parents, I blame the parents of the little creatures that tormented me, I blame the teachers who did nothing to stop the classroom terrorists from abusing me. I blame all the people who treated me like I was less than a person. I admit that I was odd, weird, perplexing to most everyone but that is because I kept trying on different personalities to find just one that would allow me a modicum of peace and acceptance in society. I loathe my childhood and don’t count my life as worthwhile until I met the man who has been my husband for 33 years. That is the point in time where I go forward. I have dragged the shame and sadness from my family and home life with me for far too long. As time goes on I have let more and more of it go. I am a happy person now. I am learning to handle the strangling sadness and to forgive the hateful people who bullied me and the negligent adults who allowed the bullying to happen. Elsa has nothing on me.
Pattie shares her experiences of being a nuke submariner’s wife and mom at Bitter Ex-Nuke Wife. “It wasn’t just big hair and shoulder pads in the 80’s and 90’s. In between popped collars and MTV we won the Cold War.” Now she and her husband enjoy civilian life in the Mid-Atlantic where there are no duty days or deployments. Find Pattie on Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+.