When I was eleven I had a bully in my life. I was afraid to go to school because I would be teased or put down or threatened day after day. Everybody else thought this person was normal and that I should get over it. I didn’t understand. I tried to be nice. I tried to ignore the bully. I tried to get along. And yet, the bully kept bullying. One day, my mom told me to punch the bully in the nose. It took a long time for me to get the courage to do so and when I did, the bullying stopped.
Forty years later, I again have a bully in my life. I have been threatened. I have been yelled at. I have been stalked. I have been put down sometimes multiple times a day for weeks and months on end. By phone, by email, and in person. I have spent thousands on therapy dealing with post traumatic stress. I’ve been afraid to go to the grocery store, or walk the dog, go to my children’s school performances, or pursue my own interests because I’m afraid that being active in public exposes me to being cornered, and talked down to, and insulted, and threatened.
I don’t understand. I tried being generous. I tried being cooperative. I tried shouldering blame; so much so, in fact, that nobody knows the entire story because I wouldn’t tell my side for fear of the harm it would do to others. I was willing to take on the burden of looking like the bad guy to keep the peace. I tried staying out of the bully’s way to the point where I lost contact with a lot of friends. I tried asking the bully to keep their distance only to have them tell me that I didn’t have the right to set such boundaries. I have asked repeatedly, politely, and with respect, until I had to call the police, and even then, my right to be left in peace is not only ignored, but is used as another reason to insult me and turn people against me.
Recently I decided to start standing up for myself and expressing more of my frustration publicly. As a result, I’ve been shunned by people who I thought were friends. I’ve been told to keep quiet because I’m making life difficult. I’ve been told to get over it.
The message I’m getting is that I should be okay with being bullied. I’m not. I’m hurting and I just want to be left alone to live my life in peace and be free from ongoing harassment. Without having to always be looking over my shoulder for the next assault. Is that really too much to ask?
Apparently for some people it is.
I’m not interested in the impossible task of figuring out who’s right or who’s wrong.
I’m not interested in asking people to choose sides.
I just want the bully to leave me alone. Period. That simple.
I have the right to be safe from harassment when I am out in public. Especially in circumstances where I can’t simply walk out without letting down other people who have put their trust in me. The message I am getting is that I should quit. Quit my life so that the bully can’t get to me. So that other folks’ comfort zone isn’t compromised.
I have the right to tell my story whether that is in person or online. Bullying is not okay. If you see me rant online because I’m sick to death of being bullied, and you don’t like it, then don’t read it. Don’t tell me to be quiet; if you have to support the bully, that’s your choice. But if you decide to take your discomfort out on me, that’s aiding and abetting. And I’ll have nothing to do with it.
I am not asking you to pick sides. While I may ask you to keep my boundaries safe, I don’t expect you to fight the bully. It isn’t your fight and you don’t see the person that way. I can respect that. Know that when you shun me, however, when you talk down to me, when you tell me to be quiet, when you tell me to just “suck it up”, you are telling me that I should accept being bullied.
I don’t. That’s not okay with me.
Unfortunately, unlike when I was eleven, I can’t punch my bully. I would be the one who would end up in jail. I have no easy way out. Well, not one that I really want to contemplate anyway. So, please, if you have to sit on the fence, show a little respect for the hard work I have to do to keep myself and my family safe and at peace.
At the end of the day, all I want is peace. With my friends, my family, my community. And with the bully; and that means zero contact for the good of everyone involved.