The Type of Childhood Bullying We Don't Talk About — That Still Affects My Mental Health Today
To give a bit of context for this story, I am 25 and have been legally blind since birth. Having a disability can make socializing challenging — particularly in middle school. Up until eighth grade, I hadn’t had too many issues with it because kids tend to be more accepting up until middle school. I was bullied in a way most people don’t talk about. Instead of being teased by my peers, I was ignored.
At the beginning of eighth grade, the group of kids who I had been friends with for years suddenly didn’t want to interact with me anymore. It was a bit of a shock because these were girls I had been friends with for a long time. I was allowed to sit with them during lunch but they would flat out ignore me whenever I tried to talk to them. On the very rare occasion they would talk to me they would use a very condescending tone. This experience has left a lasting imprint on me even though it was over 10 years ago. I never thought I would still be struggling with traumatic effects from it. It’s something replays in my mind on a daily basis. I now have a hard time trusting any social interaction because I don’t know if they genuinely want to interact or if they are just doing it because they feel obligated to because of my disability.
Obviously being bullied in any way is harmful, but if I had to choose the method in which I was bullied, I would have rather been teased or made fun of. I feel that being ostracized was far more emotionally damaging because there was no real explanation. I would have preferred being told straight up that they didn’t want me to be around them. The only explanation I have been able to come up with is my visual impairment, and them not wanting to be associated with someone who is disabled.
It’s been very difficult to be at peace with what happened because they never owned up to what they did. Even though it’s been 11 years, it still feels like it was just yesterday and it replays in my head over and over again. I doubt that any of them think about it much if at all. Emotional abuse is very hard to overcome, especially when it happens over a long period of time. It has left me with the idea that I am worthless because I am different. I know I am not worthless and my disability doesn’t define me as a person. I also know this was on them, not me.
I am sharing this experience to shed a light on the fact that social ostracizing is still bullying. I want people to understand it can really leave significant emotional scars. I also want other people who have had similar experiences to know this is a type of bullying people rarely talk about. The staff at the middle school knew this was happening and didn’t do anything to stop it. Their attitude was kids are mean and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Getty Images photo via Archv