Tonight I did something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, but have avoided. I finally responded to a Facebook friend request from a former friend who crafted a letter to bully me in the 9th grade. I was sent this friend request so long ago. I’m not sure how long it sat there. 8 months? A year? I just ignored it as there was no message attached. Just a request to be added as a friend, which to be honest kind of flabbergasted me. My last memory of this person was of them bullying me, so why would they want to reconnect now?
This is not often the nature of my blog posts here, but I think telling pieces of our story is healing. I also think it can offer inspiration because I believe there is power in vulnerability. There is power in taking off the masks and using our life experiences to connect with others on a deeper level. I have written about it just once before HERE.
On to today’s story…
This is minor compared to the other things I’ve dealt with, but it was the start of a series of things that happened to me throughout high school. I had just moved from Northern Michigan to the town I live in now. I was half way through my Freshman year in high school when we moved. I hadn’t lived here long enough to make friends yet, so I was a little homesick and lonely. I was so excited to receive a Christmas card from a group of 5 friends from the old school. I opened the card (which had a cheerful Merry Christmas on the outside), and was shocked to find the inside containing a bullying letter. It was something to the affect of “Merry Christmas you b*tch”.
In a nutshell, my oh so loving “friends” ganged up on me by each writing and signing a paragraph cursing at me or telling me what they couldn’t stand about me. I can’t remember the exact words, and that letter has long since been ripped up. It was essentially a bunch of name calling and put downs. I remember the way it made me feel. Shocked. Alone. Sad. Traumatized. Not at all what I was expecting! I find it especially ironic to use a Christmas card that way, with Christmas usually being the warm and fuzzy time of year where we express our love to one another. I of course immediately broke down crying and my Mom found out and read the letter.
She was horrified and like any good mama bear would do, she xeroxed copies of the letter and mailed it to the parents of each teen. Out of the 5+ girls who wrote the letter, only one called. We discovered that once one teen’s parents got the letter, they told the other ones. Only 2 of the parents saw what their child did (as I’m sure the others retrieved it from the mailbox before they could get in trouble). Only one of the girls apologized. I think her mother made her call me. It was one of those crying because I got caught/in trouble apologies. The other call we got was from the mom of the girl who was the main instigator of the fun little scheme. This mother actually called to tell my mother off. This just so happens to be the former friend who wanted to connect with me on Facebook.
So that brings me to the present day. I’ve never confronted any of the people who bullied me when I was a teen. I always stood up for myself silently by leaving them behind and starting over. My growing up years were a series of starting over. There was a time where this person was one of my best friends. We had many fun sleepovers at each others houses together. I would have never guessed this person would turn on me. I have never talked to her since that incident. I was never acknowledged, nor did I receive an apology, so I just moved on and left these people behind (that is one thing I always DID do. I may have never spoken up or spoken out, but I ALWAYS walked away and never spoke to these people again.)
I decided that I would not ignore her anymore, but would write her a kind, yet honest message. I explained to her that I don’t accept friend requests from people unless they truly want to connect with me for positive reasons. I was honest about what happened during our last encounter and told her how it impacted me. Do you know what surprised me the most?
She doesn’t even remember the letter.
She had no recollection of ever doing that to someone.
What I had a hard time with today, was the realization that a painful part of my past had no affect on the person who did it. How could a memory that I have never been able to erase, have been so easily forgotten by this person? I was also surprised by my emotional reaction. This story is not something I really think about much today since I have since moved on and created a beautiful life for myself. Because of the emotional charge I experienced from this conversation, I am now aware that there must be some deeply buried pieces of hurt from my past that are in some way still affecting me unconsciously. We move on, but that doesn’t mean we always forget.
Here is what my former friend wrote back to me today:
“Hi Bekah! I didn’t even realize I friend requested you. It must have been meant to be that we crossed paths again. It would be great to be in touch. I’m so sorry. I don’t recall the letter. I can’t believe that happened and I am truly sorry . ”
( I will save you my longish reply and summarize by saying that it I told her it was interesting how that works and that I supposed only the recipient of the bullying would remember)
” I’m sorry. Of course the recipient would remember because I am assuming it hurt. I can’t believe I was part of that. People change when they grow up. It’s a shame you had to go through all of that . Not right at all!”
For some reason that last line really got me. “It’s a shame you had to go through all of that. Not right at all!” That was when my unexpected emotional response happened and the flood gates opened. Although she had no recollection of it, for the first time someone who was part of a bullying experience acknowledged that what happened to me was not right. There was something incredibly healing about being heard and validated in this way. Yes I do believe our paths crossed for a reason.
After the buried hurt was dredged up and released, I now feel much lighter. I have the feeling that this part of my story will no longer hold an emotional charge for me. I am trusting God to know also that this may be a catalyst to healing some of the bigger parts of my story. Something has shifted with this first little piece that was the start of my trying times in high school. I am remembering how author SARK teaches (I just finished working at one of her teleconferences over the weekend) to get your feelings out and then stop telling the old stories. Write a new story.
That is exactly what I am going to do now with this piece. I think I will write it fairy tale style like my friend Denise who created her Fairytale Medicine website in one of my workshops. (fairytale medicine by the way, is Denise’s brilliantly quirky fun way of healing the past by story telling fairy tale style. You can check her blog out HERE). I also shared the feelings I was struggling with in a small community of women I trust. It is so helpful to ask for wisdom and support from others, as in sharing our stories we are not alone.
As I drift off to sleep tonight, my heart is filled with the peace of forgiveness and Godly love. And THAT is a very good feeling. Today’s experience reminded me of how important it is to confront these bits of our past and LET GO. The letting go can be oh so difficult but it is disempowering not to. Especially since we are the only ones hurting and remembering the pain. Obviously the bullies often don’t.
*** A note for parents if you are reading this. Talk to your kids about bullying. Get involved in your children’s lives whether you are the parent of a child being bullied or the parent of a bully. It is so important to set an example and speak out. For anyone reading this who has been bullied or is currently experienceing this, it is not your fault. Don’t feel like you have to handle it all on your own. Speak up and most importantly, love yourself. Bullies are usually people who have a lot of personal pain themselves. Obviously happy, emotionally healthy kids/teens/adults would have better things to do with their time. Get away from the people who behave this way and surround yourself with supportive, healthy people.
Reader Question: Do you have any areas of your life to release that could be unconsciously affecting you? Do you ever struggle with forgiveness?