A Cut Too Deep

I was twelve years old and living in Quebec, my parents decided to uproot us and make a change. As a child, I didn’t have a say in the matter or any clue to the repercussions of this “life change”. We moved to British Columbia but only stayed for a month, they didn’t like it there and decided to move back to Quebec. Our house was already occupied by new owners so my parents opted to buy a house in another part of the belle province.

We stayed in this new town for a year.  I attended school but barely had time to make friends. My grandfather came to visit and wanted us to move to New Brunswick, he offered up his house and my mom and dad decided it was the best thing to do.

I was now thirteen.  From the moment I got to my new hometown, I was disliked. I was a really pretty girl and that wasn’t going to fly. All the boys were vying for my affection while the girls made my life a living hell. I spoke briefly about this part of my life in this first post about bullying http://gailsforum.blogspot.ca/2011/09/i-was-called-jello.html.

I took the bus every morning to school, sat alone and heard all the whispers, laughter and taunts. Things such as pencil cases, food, school bags, litter were thrown at me as I sat there trying to avoid eye contact.

While at school I stayed in class to avoid the inevitable brouhaha at lunch. They were always in groups these girls and they would tell the boys I was “easy.”
Boys pretended to like me only to try to get in my pants and when I refused they went around calling me a Slut anyway.It didn’t help that at home my mother who was fighting her own ghosts started comparing me to her over-sexed sister who had a child out of wedlock and apparently went out at that dangerous time of the month – for those who remember that birth control was not always around.

 If I wore makeup or the latest trends I was told I looked like a slut. I had a nine o’clock curfew almost right up to high school graduation.  I spent most of my time at home in the comfort of my room but at times when I ventured to the baseball field or the river, I would run into one of these bullies.  On one occasion at the age of fifteen, I sat on a rock close to the river. I was in my own little world when someone yelled: “it’s that slut” and threw an empty beer bottle my way. As the pieces of glass shattered around me I cried.
This was not the first time I shed tears, in fact, I cried every day.

At this moment, sitting on the rock – the pain was overwhelming, I picked up a piece of glass and cut through the skin of my thigh. The blood started trickling down and it was a release of all the hurt I had inside. I cut myself for a few years and then stopped but in the time I did use this form of self-mutilation it provided some imaginary sense of relief.

Many believe that people engage in self mutilation to get attention. This is a myth. Most people who self harm do it in private and make sure that the location of the injury is one that cannot be seen. They are also often ashamed of the behavior and keep it a secret. This sort of secrecy and shame about the behavior suggests that it is certainly not meant to manipulate others or to garner attention. Of course, there are some people who report that they self mutilate for attention, but they are in a very small minority. Research has shown that most people self mutilate in order to help regulate internal experiences such as emotions, thoughts, memories, and physical sensations. People who self mutilate report that they do this behavior to escape from emotional pain, release anger, slow racing thoughts, or have a sense of control. 

You can read more about self-mutilation in this article http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/youth-and-self-injury/#.UH1dT29LV2A

The bullying, taunting and constant fear for my life were present throughout my high school years. In grade 11 I changed to a French school and as I walked outside one day I heard a guy yell “Gail the Slut” I walked right up to him and said…”bring me, one guy, I’ve slept with”, he quieted down but the girls were relentless, it didn’t go away.

It was hard to focus, my parents were constantly fighting and my siblings had left. I felt alone and I kept wondering why do they think this of me. I tried changing my looks, changing my entourage but nothing worked in fact after I lost my virginity at seventeen and subsequently became a single-mother it still continued.

At the age of twenty-five when I arrived in Toronto I worried, I didn’t feel certain that I didn’t do anything to cause this. Twenty years later as I sit here and write this post I can tell you I didn’t do anything to cause this – nobody does anything to cause this.

Being called a Slut today would make me laugh…I would probably consider it a compliment rather than an insult but back then in those crucial years of my life when my future was at stake it was unbearable.  I felt certain I was doomed to a life of unfulfilled dreams.  Sadly in many ways, that is what happened but I’ve created new dreams that are worth living for.

Recently many victims of bullying have committed suicide, facing not only physical and emotional bullying but cyberbullying as well. Bullying does not discriminate; it affects us all. People are bullied based on their finances, looks, sexual preferences and so much more.

So how do we fight bullying? I am not an expert but I can speak from my own experience and express my opinion on the subject – We need to address the victims, not the bullying. Teaching the victims about courage and holding on. Helping them through counseling and life coaching.

I’ve shared with you before that suicide could never be an option for me, I’ve thought about it as I’m sure many of you have as well. I believe that most kids don’t understand the implications of suicide….it’s been glamorized and made to look like the ultimate choice. It is not glamorous and it is final, no other chance to experience life.

The Canadian government is announcing plans for a national anti-bullying campaign which is great but I believe giving the victims a voice would be more effective. It is important for everyone to get involved. If you see someone being taunted and you stand by and do nothing you are a bully as well.

It’s time that we start caring about others, not just in our home or neighborhood but in our town, province, and country, even around the world.  Kids have access to the world wide web which means they hear and see what is going on everywhere and how other kids are dealing with it.  If we don’t take an interest in issues around the world we won’t see what is right in front of us….a kid who needs help.

I didn’t deal with bullying as well as I could have.  It’s only a blessing that I didn’t cut too deep.
Fight Bullying and Prevent Suicide (thanks to my co-worker Sylvie for reminding me that the focus should be on suicide as well)
In closing, I want to send my condolences to the parents and friends of Amanda Todd. R.I.P sweet girl I wish things could have been different.
Please watch the video below – pay attention to every word she says and leave your condolences to her family.
Amanda Todd – committed suicide at sixteen years old. Cause of death: Bullying

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