This letter was written and mailed in response to a mother's plea for help for her son. If you're interested in participating, details can be found on Letters for Noah
Dear Noah –
Being bullied sucks, doesn’t it? It’s sucks to walk down the halls of your school and hear people calling you names. It sucks to have to people jam your locker or hide your clothes after gym class. It sucks to be the last one picked. It sucks to be tripped and pushed. It sucks to be mocked. It sucks to be excluded. It sucks to be laughed at. It sucks to have people avoid being seen with you. Bullying has taken on new forms in the 25 years since I was living with it – and I’m sure it sucks to read the emails and texts and Facebook posts, too. It sucks to have to work so hard to make yourself invisible -- hoping they won’t hurt you if they don’t notice you.
Noah, I was bullied too. It started in kindergarten and continued the entire time I was in school. Every day I’d go to school and hear how ugly and disgusting and weird and stupid I was. People would fight about who had to sit next to me in math class. I was tripped in hallways and blocked from stairwells. I spent time in bathrooms washing lugies from my hair, and time in nurses’ offices hiding from girls who threatened to beat me up. We didn’t have email or Facebook, but I got phone calls. They called just to remind me how pathetic and worthless I was.
I know you’re tired, Noah. It’s exhausting. It’s absolutely exhausting to show up at school every day, knowing that no matter what you do, they’re still going to get you. It’s exhausting to constantly be on guard. It’s exhausting to wonder what’s so wrong with you. It’s exhausting to ask for help and feel like no one can do anything to make it stop. It’s exhausting to keep hoping that it’s going to get better.
I remember when I first thought of killing myself. I was 11 and in 7th grade. That was the year that I wasn’t allowed to touch anyone at school – even accidently. If I did, there was a big production made of how the kids were going to decontaminate themselves. Every day at school was an exercise in fear, humiliation, and shame. I didn’t just want to kill myself because I was sad and tired, I wanted to die to make those kids suffer. I composed suicide notes in my head, listing every bully by name. I imagined them spending the rest of their lives feeling guilty that they’d driven me to kill myself. Like you, I started cutting my arms and legs. In some ways cutting provided just enough of a release that I felt like I could breathe again. But cutting was also a reminder that I had some power -- that I could kill myself if I wanted to, and maybe scar them as much as they were scarring me.
I’ll be honest; the bullying didn’t stop until after I finished school. It got a little better as high school wore on, but I don’t think there was ever a day that I wasn’t someone’s target. What changed for me was that some people came into my life and offered me hope. It wasn’t hope that the bullying would stop (I’d given up that hope long before) – it was hope that maybe the bullies were wrong. It was hope that maybe I wasn’t as ugly or disgusting or worthless as everyone said I was. It was hope that I’d get to a place in my life where I felt cherished and valued and loved and happy.
I wouldn’t be here today without that hope (and the wonderful people who offered it). I wouldn’t have had the excitement of buying my first car, or graduating college. I wouldn’t have the joy of laughing with friends, or the thrill of falling in love, getting married and having children. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this letter to you.
I want to offer you the same hope that saved me. I want you to know that the bullies are wrong. I want you to know that someday you will feel cherished and valued and loved and happy. I want every letter you open to strengthen that hope and reassure you that you’re not alone.
Hold on to that hope, Noah. It’s all you need to do. And when you're too tired or angry or sad to hold on by yourself, think about these letters and know that we're holding on for you.
Someone who understands.