Amanda posted a video to YouTube last month, detailing an ordeal she had gone through for over 2 years. She was stalked harassed, blackmailed, judged, and assaulted. She was a victim of cyber bullying, as well as the old fashioned schoolyard bullying.
I shared her touching video on my personal Facebook; most of the people that commented were compassionate and heartbroken with her story, just as I was. But I also had some comments saying she deserved it. She slept with someone else’s boyfriend. What did she expect? That she was weak, if she had the balls to kill herself, she should have had the balls to stand up for herself.
I find this reaction appalling. As a child and young adult I was bullied as well. I was an only child, didn’t have much family nearby, I wore thick glasses and was awkward. My parents shopped for my clothes at second hand stores and affordable discount stores. I didn’t wear designer clothes or shoes, but I had two Aunts’ that would buy me fancy clothes for my birthdays and Christmas. That included fancy dresses and fur coats. As an only child, I didn’t grow up with many kids around. I was a latchkey kid, from 8 years old on I stayed home alone after school until my parents came home.
What I lacked in style and social skills, children used against me to make fun of me and taunt me. I would wear my thrift store clothes with my beautiful fur coats from my aunts. Not because I thought it looked amazing, but because I was cold and that was my only coat. I was made fun of because I was so skinny, my glasses were so thick, my clothes, even how I stood. This went on for years, and I had extremely low self-esteem. In 4th grade my parents let me get contact lenses; they thought it would help my self-esteem and make me feel prettier. I was much too young for that responsibility, but I happily obliged. Once I started wearing my contacts, some of the kids started treating me different. Boys were nicer to me; some of the popular girls I knew invited me to hang out with the popular clique.
But I still never felt like I belonged. I never felt pretty, or accepted. My parents divorced when I was 12, and it was very hard for me. Both of my parents suffer from various mental illnesses, and were very focused on themselves and how they were dealing with the divorce. I started hanging out with new people, the bad crowd. I was drinking, smoking, and getting high. I was in 7th grade. Now even though I was a virgin, the girls I was hanging out with were known as being fast. So I got labeled a hoe, by association. Girls were horrible to me, and once again the bullying started. I was taunted and teased, to the point where I started cutting classes. I hid in the bathroom to escape the classes that had the worst people in them. Ultimately I started skipping days, and eventually it got so bad my mom put me in a different school for 8th grade.
I did well at the new school, and when I began High School I went back to my old school district where most of those old people went to school. A year had passed and they had forgotten. I had grown up, decided to focus more on other things, developed close friendships and I got through it. But the scars are still there to this day. I was a child of the 80’s, and I can’t imagine how bad it would have been if the internet was around at that time. No matter where you moved, or what school you went to these people could find you and contact your new friends. I can completely understand how Amanda Todd felt helpless and alone. My parents helped as much as they could, but I didn’t tell them everything that I experienced. These people bullied me, but most of the time it was verbal, not physical. So there was no first punch thrown for me to hit back.
I have plenty of experience with mental illness thanks to my own parents to know that if this girl was going through these things, and mentally ill… of course she felt alone. No matter who was there for her, no matter how much they tried to help, these bullies and stalkers would still find her. She felt she had no way out. And my heart aches for her. Eventually we do grow up. Eventually we do learn our worth, and realize what amazing potential we all possess. And I’m sad for her and her family that Amanda will never get to see that. She’ll never get past this, because now she’s gone. Amanda is just one of the literally thousands of people, both adolescent and adult that have taken their lives as a result of cyber bullying.
Amanda’s heartbreaking video, detailing years of pain and struggle can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E&feature=plcp
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there is help. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
For more information on taking a stand against bullying, please visit www.stopbullying.gov
To Write Love on her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. http://www.twloha.com/
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need. http://www.nami.org/
To visit the memorial page that was created on Facebook, visit http://www.facebook.com/rip.amanda.todd.9696
I hope that this can be a lesson in tolerance and compassion. None of us ever know what someone else is going through, and sometimes the things you say can make or break someone. Choose your words wisely.