Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a bold step in my journey

Tomorrow morning, I meet with a prior teacher of mine,
 who is now a local high school Principal.
On our agenda:

the issue of school bullying.

I haven't talked about it much, besides vague references here and there, and brief mention of it on my sidebar, so today, I'd like to share with you the details.
Currently, I am taking the appropriate steps to become an Olweus Bully Prevention Trainer.
My desire is to help schools reduce and overcome what school bullying has become today.

In the eighth grade, I was severely bullied.
It occurred regularly, with everything happening short of being punched in the face.
I think about the emotional abuse I endured, and have often wished I had been
physically beat up, rather than emotionally beat up. 
Unfortunately, there was no choosing in this matter.
My belongings were stolen, threats became the norm, my locker vandalized, the bathroom walls were scrawled with my name more than naught, my gym clothes covered in slurs.  
I was voted Valentine's Day princess at the school dance with a handicapped boy voted Prince, and my first crush only paid me attention over the telephone and off school grounds.
I took an F in PE because I was scared to be in the locker room,
and I was unsure of going places because I wasn't sure who I might run into.
I was taunted, belittled, and most of my friends dropped off the map, afraid to be bullied, too.
They eventually came back around after my older bullies left for high school, which left me both relieved and conflicted.

Before that year I was "normal,"
outgoing, the student body vice-president of my elementary school.
After that year, I was a shell, afraid, insecure, broken,
and later numb to everything that had ever worried me.

In the years following,
I managed to pick up the pieces and move along as one does in life.
But the brokenness never disappeared, and the scars remained in my mind and in my heart, affecting my relationships, my trust, and the love I was able to give and accept.  I was entirely different than I was before that year--expecting the hate, the abuse, the dislike, assuming my worth was somewhat disposable if they--whoever they were at the time, chose.  Unfortunately, the effects of this abuse didn't end with a school bell.
This way of thinking trapped me in and out of depression over the next ten years or so. 

It was during the time that I was pregnant with my daughter that I finally put my foot down.
I thought if I am going to bring new life into this world,
I have to bring her into what is
 right and true.
It was the mother's love that I felt for her even before she was born, that helped me see the way that my mother cared for me, and how she ached as I dealt with my brokenness. 
It was then that I realized I needed to be better for myself and for my daughter,
before I could teach her about
happiness--the fundamental of life.
But there is no happiness where there is no truth.

It is both amazing and troubling to realize how damaging words can truly be.
The school-age is an especially vulnerable age when small things are huge,
and when
what is petty to us adults has the chance of becoming magnified in young eyes.
They are years which are capable of inspiring or hindering souls.
In my case, those years placed rivets on my spirit,
and it took many more years to break free.

In the last four years or so, I can say that I have broken the surface and made significant progress in uncovering the issues of self-worth, and to a large extent, the self-hatred that I carried with me over ten years.
It has taken much faith, self-talk and the reminding of myself that I am not the things that I believed I was after that cruel year, but am and will be everything that I want to be.
I've had to remind myself that what was screamed were lies,
and of the truths that I know,
in effort to keep my experience in perspective.

Today, my perspective is that my experience
is part of a larger plan.
It is driving me into an advocacy for change
and to give help and hope.
I believe my greatest work lies in what was my greatest challenge.

When I was younger, school bullying was taboo;
teachers thought the best way was to let students work it out,
children were afraid to tell their parents with worry it would get worse.
Children are still afraid to talk.
However, we are learning this approach is not effective,
and not talking is driving some, who are hopeless, to the edge.

Tomorrow morning, I will share some of my story.
In the past, it has been only shared with those close to me.
Tomorrow, I will share in effort to help;
to help others understand, and
to help those whose lives have been
bound by rivets and lies,
and encourage them into living life in
truth and happiness.



kara lynn September 21, 2010 at 9:33 PM  

i can recall several times when boys would bully me in high school, and to this day i still think why the heck didn't the teachers do anything. they were there! and male friends in the class with me, never stood up.

but after reading more about bullying from you and what you experienced i will surely keep a prayer for you in my heart while you are on your quest to stop this awful problem! you go girl!

mlyster September 21, 2010 at 10:04 PM  

Cassie, it's so odd to know years later how someone really felt or what they were going through growing up. Since I met you in elementary school I always thought of you as one of the most popular, beautiful girls that everyone liked. It's amazing to me what people are really feeling and the things they are really experiencing that nobody knows about. Although I don't know much about any of your experiences, all you have shared on your blog are very interesting and I enjoy reading about what you have to say. Good luck with being a mentor and trainer, I am sure you'll do a great job!!!

shannon September 22, 2010 at 10:27 AM  

can't wait to hear more about your meeting... thanks for the post. It is beautifully written and so incredibly honest... I've learned a lot from you these past few years as you've become such a beautiful mother and writer, and continue to be an amazing friend and confidant :)

Cassie September 22, 2010 at 6:45 PM  

Kara Lynn-It's unfortunate that some teachers don't step in...I know that some teachers stay out of things because they don't want to have to deal with bullies themselves. I'm sorry you dealt with times like that. I just wish kids understood their actions more fully. Thanks for the encouragement!

Molls-You are such a sweetie. Yes, it is VERY interesting to know that the what is on the surface could be drastically different than what is felt on the inside. I am excited to be affiliated with the program!

Shan-I love sharing my journey with you. Thanks for always believing in me and sending LOTS of encouragement.

p.s. the meeting went GREAT!

Erika September 22, 2010 at 8:00 PM  

It's tough to be a middle-schooler. Hardly a day goes by that I don't see my students (8th graders this year) struggle with family issues they can't control, insecurities, changing friendships, heartache, and, for some -er, many - the rumors and bullying.

As I walk those familiar halls each day, I do occasionally flash back 14 years ago. I REMEMBER not feeling good enough, being made fun of because my belongings weren't "cool" enough, having parts of my body be a topic of conversation, feeling excluded, and having my integrity doubted. And yet, I consider my middle school years to have passed rather smoothly!

But it was perhaps because of some of those experiences, that, at the time, the 14 year old me took pleasure in those hurtful memories you described above. I remember witnessing those events, and even being a participant to some degree in one. It's hard to admit that now. But I offer a sincere apology...

Bullying is vicious. Happy kids become hardened victims and often turn into bullies themselves... and so much of it goes undetected by the adults. I try not to tolerate bullying in my classroom, but I know things are said that I don't hear. I discipline when I can, and try to assure the victims that it's not right but that there is life beyond middle and high school. (I just hope that assurance doesn't come across as me "normalizing" the act of bullying...)

It is wonderful that you are taking steps to tackle this on-going issue. It will certainly take dedicated and persistent people to change the ways of many an adolescent...

Good luck, Cassie!

Cassie September 22, 2010 at 8:30 PM  

Erica-I appreciate very much your comment and unexpected apology.

A few years ago, while I was working to become a teacher, I said I would NEVER teach junior high. Now, I feel like it is one of the main age groups for me. I agree, being a teen is hard. Hopefully with the right programs and a substantial amount of support, the kids who are in school today can move through the teen years a little more freely and without as much unnecessary heartache as possible.

Thanks for stopping in. Love to hear your comments--especially with your teacher perspective. :)

a little bit biased September 23, 2010 at 9:49 AM  


I was kind of teared up reading about my sister going through that kind of stuff. I empathize with you and am saddened that I didn't know the extent of it. Wish we would have gone to school together if we weren't so far apart in age. But then at the end of your post I wanted to give a little "yay!" when I read that you wanted to help teach others. I was touched at how the birth of Brooklynn helped you to see the light and your self worth as you realized hers. You are amazing and I'm excited for you that you are doing SO WELL and now have an opportunity to bless other lives since that storm has calmed. I love you sis! Good luck with everything.

Cassie September 23, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

Ambs- Your encouagement always lifts me. Thanks for being such a great sis. I am excited for where this opportunity will lead me!

Libbie September 23, 2010 at 7:16 PM  

Hey Cassie...my heart was broken for you as I read your story. I can't imagine going trough that!!! I love that you can see past it now & that you can see it was part of a larger plan & also that you are going to do something about it!!! You are a hero! That is so awesome!

I also want you to know that when I think of you I think of beauty! You are just gorgeous & friendly & your family is a picture of love! You have overcome & that is a huge deal because I am sure the healing was quite a journey. You are very inspirational! Thanks for all you are going to do! It is exciting to think of the girls you will help!

Cassie September 23, 2010 at 10:26 PM  

Libby- thanks for your pleasant comment! It warmed my heart. It is so nice to hear that others believe I can be as helpful as I hope to be. It means a lot. :)

Maggie May September 23, 2010 at 10:44 PM  

it is really awesome you are doing something about this. i was bullied too, in 7th grade, one of the worst years of my life. but you are fighting the GOOD fight!

Cassie September 24, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

Maggie- it is the GOODf fight. Whatever burns inside, is the good fight! Thanks for stopping in. :)

Erin September 24, 2010 at 6:52 PM  

Such an honest testimony and what an honorable choice to turn it around and use it to help others! Love your heart. :)

Mindy September 25, 2010 at 9:07 PM  

I'm so proud of you. It is amazing how close you can be to something and never fully understand the impact it has. Those memories that are burned into your heart and mind, faded fast for me over the years. I'm so sorry for what you went through, but I know one day you will help many avoid these broken feelings. I was proud to call you my friend then, just as I'm proud to say it today. love you cass

Cassie September 25, 2010 at 10:50 PM  

Er- thanks for always giving encouragement. You are the best kind of pick-me-up and such a good, genuine friend. Love you.

Mindy- You've held such a special place in my heart since that whole ordeal. You were brave and true to yourself and me the entire time. Such character and a genuine friend. You dealt with quite a bit on your end. I wont forget. Love you. Hugs to you in CA.

Red Boots September 26, 2010 at 7:27 AM  

Cassie, you are amazing. It's such a worthwhile thing that you are doing, and to turn such a negative experience in your life in something positive really takes guts.

Keri September 26, 2010 at 7:47 PM  

Cassie, I was feeling so horrible reading about your experience. Why are kids so brutal? And I think with all the online bullying it's even worse than it used to be. You are going to be a huge voice and influence to so many kids. You couldn't be doing anything better right now. Way to face the ugly and turn it into something good. You're amazing.

Cassie September 28, 2010 at 1:48 AM  

Red boots & Keri- thank you for your kind words. I am excited to work for change. I do think it is worse today with cyberbullying. It is very sad that kids are cruel to each other quite possibly because they, themselves, are hurting. There are all sorts of reasons that kids act out, but it is rewarding that I can help in this specific area.

Ann February 23, 2011 at 8:05 AM  

Thank you, thank you, thank you Cassie for sharing this. It IS very brave of you. It is a very powerful story. I kept thinking... this is what people need to hear... that it can and does happen to anyone and the terrible way it so completely destroys any self esteem or sense of well being. People need to hear this from those who have survived to understand the urgency and respect this issue deserves. I really believe your gift of writing so beautifully will someday will give voice to not only your story but hundreds of thousands of others. It will help to open hearts and minds to the heartbreaking tragedy that too many children live with. Thank you, thank you for sharing your gift... <3

Sweet Annabelle April 10, 2012 at 9:24 AM  

What a great thing you're doing! Thank you!

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
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