Dodging Childhood Bullies, Poverty, & Suicidal Thoughts
Last week, I saw two mugshots of two different guys I went to middle school with in the 1980s (then referred to as junior high school), both of which had serious charges. PJ had a long rap sheet, and his current arrest is for violating a domestic violence injunction. Moose is currently incarcerated for battery, has a history of driving on a suspended license, and a complaint of sexual battery without an arrest in 1995. When I knew these guys in school, I had incidences with each of them at different times. I had never really thought about it much, but they obviously made an impact on me if I am writing about it 30-something years later.
I met Moose in eighth grade. We shared a few honors classes, and he was one of the nicer boys from his group of friends. We never actually became friends, because of his clique. I was considered poor, weird, different from them, and who knows what else they called me behind my back. I lived in an unsafe, older, poor part of town where a lot of drug activity and crime happened religiously. I walked to and from school alone through one of the worst parts of town for anyone, never mind an extremely naive 13/14-year-old petite white girl with big boobs and no street smarts or knowledge of self-defense.
Most of the girls from Moose’s clique were snobs. They looked down on me, the way I dressed, which I thought was a stupid reason when I never did anything to them. One in particular was ruthless, but she wasn’t even a rich kid. She didn’t care if she was suspended from school, because she was always in trouble. She targeted me in hallways and during PE class, usually in the locker room. She constantly threatened to beat me up, called me all sorts of horrible names, and slammed my hand in my locker. She rallied up others while focusing on me for living in a poor part of town, but referred to it in a racist term that contained the “n” word.
Since I’d never done anything to provoke her, no one could understand why she had such disdain for me. It turns out, my bully had liked Moose, and she was jealous when she learned he liked me. Another girl that lied to everyone about everything all the time started the drama. It was the stupidest, typical middle-school-aged-girl-bullshit. I didn’t even know Moose liked me, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything outside of school, so she had nothing to be jealous about. I got bullied and beat up for nothing.
This could very well be the reason I do not trust “friends” in large groups. There will always be one bully or fake friend to start drama.
Moose allowed his friends to influence him, so we never talked the way we would have if we actually became friends. He didn’t seem to make good choices in life, either. I wonder if listening to his friends is how he landed in jail so many times?
Still only a child, those years were some of the worst in my life. After getting bullied at school, I went home to more abuse, so I wasn’t exactly experiencing joy at the ages of 13 and 14. (I’ve written extensively about that time in my book Unheard.) During those two years, I never saw my friends after school, rarely saw them on weekends, and spent most of my time in my room in solitude, especially if Marcus was home.
School used to be my safe haven, but middle school was like walking to hell every single day. I never knew what demons would be confronting me in the hallways.
Living in constant fear is tiring in so many ways, and there was nothing I could do about my situation. I hated life, and I didn’t want to live anymore. I thought of throwing myself in front of a truck on my way home from school. I even called a suicide hotline on a payphone after school one day. I thought about jumping from my second story bedroom window, but figured it wasn’t high enough, and I’d most likely hurt myself and become paralyzed or something awful. I thought all the time about running away, but where would I go? We lived a distance from my friends and most people I knew.
At 13, I did attempt suicide by swallowing a bunch of pills. Those pills were only vitamins, because it’s all I had and didn’t know what it would do. After a while, I became horribly nauseous and puked a lump of green onto a paper plate. My mom yelled at me for throwing up, even though my she wasn’t aware of me taking anything. She found out about it later when she read my diary, and instead of having a serious discussion, she yelled at me some more, saying there is nothing wrong with my life. She was clearly in denial of our situation.
Fast forward to 1989, the beginning of my senior year of high school. A friend was killed by a drunk driver that year on our homecoming night. It was my first time dealing with the death of someone my age. I wasn’t sure how to feel, how to process, and hid my crying within the walls of my bedroom. I lived with my grandparents, and I was afraid to show my feelings to anyone. I didn’t like them seeing me upset, because I felt like I was already a burden.
Two months later, my grandmother passed away very unexpectedly right after Christmas, leaving just my grandfather and myself. Everything seemed so surreal, like slow motion. I always felt that my grandparents were the only people that truly loved me and made me feel safe, so this was a devastating blow.
I believe this still causes anxiety, because I’m afraid if I am ever truly loved again, that person is going to die, or anyone that loves me is somehow going to abandon me.
A few weeks later, the
boy asshole I was briefly dating broke up with me, because he said I was acting bitchy after my grandmother died. Then he fucked one of my “best friends,” who proceeded to laugh about it and call me names, insulting my body. They were both shitty people, drinking and doing drugs. He was easy to get over; but she really hurt me. We were friends for a few years, and she had no remorse at all. Our friendship was done for good.
That was one of the most difficult times of my life. I’m unsure I was ever able to process it properly, as I was only a teenager. I had a lot going on and no one to really talk to about it that could give me any decent advice. My other best friend was working full-time and had a boyfriend, so we didn’t see each other much. I didn’t speak to my mother about anything, and I wasn’t close with my father. I sought female role models that weren’t exactly the best choices, but that’s what happens when no options are available.
When options are so limited or nonexistent, our choices in life reflect that, because it’s all we know and all we are offered.
With all of this happening, I had to teach my grandfather how to do laundry and basic cooking, because he had never done it in his life. I was preparing to graduate high school, had a part-time job, and was ready to leave for the military after graduation. I’d signed the papers when I was only 17, knowing I had to get the hell out of this going-nowhere, podunk town and find a better life for myself.
In the meantime, I still had a few months left before graduation. One evening after school, I received a random, unexpected phone call from PJ, the guy with the domestic violence injunction mentioned at the beginning of this post. I hadn’t had much interaction with PJ, but we’d had classes together since middle school. Unlike his friends, PJ was never mean to me. (His friends were pricks, so that should have been a red flag, but who knew what a red flag was in 1990?)
PJ asked if I wanted to go on a date. I thought it would be good for me to get out and do something different to take my mind off of all of my problems. So I said sure, asking where/when. That’s when he announced he only asked me as a joke (a dare). A fucking joke. As if I had time for that. How cruel!
Even though I was no longer living in that old crack-laced area, I lived in a trailer with my grandparents in a safe and clean senior citizen community. Anyone who lived in a trailer was considered poor, and living with anyone other than your parents back then was almost unheard of. It didn’t matter that I’d just lost my grandmother and was working my ass off and getting ready to serve our country. I was still a joke to the people I was forced to attend school with. According to those losers, I was still the “poor” and “weird” girl.
After making fun of poor people, PJ and his entitled friends went surfing every day after school. Then he found Jesus and got very weird on his own. Judging by his series of mugshots throughout the years, PJ hasn’t handled life well, and Jesus hasn’t helped him much. He looks ten years older and… like a psycho. I definitely dodged a bullet from even befriending that guy.
Children being made fun of for their parent’s financial instability is very traumatic. Even as a child, I never understood why it mattered who had money, as long as you were a good person.
I became determined never to be poor like that again, and educated myself, thinking that was the answer to everything. They tell us work hard and everything will turn out for us, right? I worked my way out of poverty, which was very easy 20-30 years ago when you only needed one job. I found myself struggling once I became a single parent, especially when I first started getting sick. My health has greatly affected my financial stability, because I don’t get paid if I’m not working, and employers do not like chronically ill employees.
This time, I don’t see pulling myself out of poverty. Prior to getting sick this time, I was still living hand-to-mouth, because I was trying to rebuild from the last time I became sick. I have been taking one step forward, two steps back for years. I am too weak to do it anymore. Now, I am too unwell to work. The world and the state of living has changed so greatly, it’s become impossible for anyone like myself to rebuild at my age, in my condition. This is what hard work and determination gets you in the end when you live in a society that makes fun of poor and sick people.
I wake up every day not knowing what my fate is going to be, because it could change at any minute. The problem is, I’m not sure it would be for the better. Reality is not pretty.