warning: This post will contain graphic language
I’ve already written three blogs’ worth of content on FB about this, because of my own stupidity. I recommended an article to my friends even though I skimmed part of it.
I’ve been skimming ranty stuff lately because I barely have enough emotional energy to be outraged about the adversities which befall me. I don’t have any energy at all to drink in the umbrage of strangers. That’s why I ended up reading the part where the 29 year old woman talked about raising her boys to become men and skipped the part where she said people who were bullied needed to not make a big deal about it. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been treated badly; those are two different things. Being treated badly happens a lot in the course of a person’s lifetime. Bullying is about a systematic destruction of another person’s psyche. It’s real and it happens and it’s something that is extremely difficult to withstand. The only way I could and did withstand it was by having an excellent support system. I bristle whenever people get on the trendy rant about bullying these days. I also know the term is over- and mis-used a great deal.
When someone is called a bad name it may or may not be bullying. It may just be the other person being a class-A jerk. Not every instance of “You’re a bitch, Kathy” is someone bullying Kathy.* But if there is a person with a specific twist to her psyche who likes to emotionally abuse another individual because of her own psychological damage, that person will call Kathy names. That person will do a bunch of little things that all look like insignificant blips but add up to a sort of mental water torture. A drop at a time wearing away another person’s soul.
Hence all these articles lately where folks say “so you got called a bitch! Big deal! Walk it off!” Because it really doesn’t seem like the end of the world. Not that calling other people names is fine, but I think most folks probably get slagged every now and then. **
I’ll never forget having to meet with the HR director to explain the bullying. I was still pretty young and all of the complaints in and of themselves seemed like I was being a sheltered whiner. What ended up tipping things in my favour was that after the first meeting with HR the bully cornered me in my office after hours, pinned me against the wall and said in no certain terms that she would destroy me, going into great detail about how that would happen. No, I didn’t have it on tape but the bully was dumb enough to have said the same things to the HR director the day before (“I’m so mad I could just etc.”) I left the job the next day. I’ve told this story before. I’m telling a condensed version of it now to make it perfectly clear that by the time the whole thing came to a head it was pretty obvious that the bully had used vast quantities of her free time in an attempt to turn whatever self-hatred she felt in my direction. I was just the person who was unlucky enough to be in her sights. ***
How can you tell the difference?
You have to pay attention. You have to be very aware of how you or your child is reacting to being called names. You have to keep an eye on social circles to see if the bullying victim is being systematically worn down by exclusion or taunting. It’s not an easy thing. It’s certainly not something I could “walk off” when I was 30. I don’t see how we expect little kids to handle it.
* To this day I have an almost panicked reaction to being called “Kathy” by anyone but my family. Kathy was the name I was going by during both times of my life that I was explicitly tormented by a bully and I still associate that appellation with that treatment. It took me 35 years to get to the place where I was secure enough in myself to insist that people call me something else. Hence the Coble, Kat, Kath and Katherine grab bag I get called now. Anything, even “Roy”, would be better to me than “Kathy”.
**My current response to being called a bitch is to say “you’re probably right. I most likely was being bitchy. My apolgies.” When one of my coworkers called me a fat bitch and I responded with “I can work on changing the “bitch” part but I can’t lose the weight very fast” we ended up laughing and becoming friends.
***To this day I pray for her to have healing (it took me awhile to get there) and I also pray for those who work with her now. I hope there is never another “me” in her orbit.