A pre-blog apology to all of my close friends and family who I have never been totally upfront with about what happened to me in high school. I trust that you know me well enough to understand my hesitance to talk about any of it. But it's time to step forward.
Bullying is part of life. I don't see there being an end to it. I don't see 15 year old kids NOT being mean to each other. It's just how it is. It's puberty. It's part of growing. It's high school.
That is why it's up to the school to be hyper aware of what is happening. There are so many stories about children being bullied into suicide, or self harm. And I wish that I could say my story was different. I wish that I could say that my peers' stories were different. But they are not. Neligh-Oakdale high school has been lucky enough not to have seen a student commit suicide. But that doesn't mean that students haven't thought about it.
After speaking with several past students of NOHS, it has come to my attention that this problem is much bigger than me. It's much bigger than my own experience, which was traumatic enough to still be affecting me five years after I've graduated. Up to seven years for other students. And who knows how many more. My own mother still deals with her anxieties and stresses from experiences she went through in high school. It's not that bullying is a new issue. It's that nothing has been done. And that's the excuse of the administration.
"I wish more could have been done for you"
was the response that I was given today, after finally coming forward about my NOHS experience. More could have been done. Something could have been done. Anything could have been done.
I was a target at my high school and I don't think that I will ever know why. I'm still afraid to make that public knowledge. Because I know that if anyone of my peers who targeted me from 7th grade on forward, who started rumors about me, who threatened me, who gagged at me in the hallway, who called me names, who told me to "starve myself" were to read this, they would still think that i was over reacting. I would like to say again, I do not blame my peers. Kids are assholes. I was one of the people that they picked. And it's as simple as that.
After losing some weight due to a thyroid disorder, I was labeled and cast out as "the anorexic."
Which is exactly what I became.
Not because I thought I was ugly. Not because I desired thinness. But because I stopped caring about myself. I stopped caring FOR myself. If everyone was going to say that I had an eating disorder, why not make this one true. I skipped school on days that I was too sad or sick to go. And I caught backlash from my teachers. Because "I was playing hooky." My teachers talked down about me to other students when I was gone, and then they treated me badly when I was there. Which then made it okay for the students to do about me and others. There was no winning. There were very few teachers who made me feel like I had a safe place to be.
Again, I wish to God that I was the only person that this happened to. I couldn't tell you how many of the people I've talked to in the past 24 hours have had to deal with serious mental illnesses after attending Neligh-Oakdale High School, and how many people have had to build themselves from the ground up. Bullying is normal. Bullying to the point of mental illness is not. Plenty of the former students brought their concerns to the administration at Neligh-Oakdale, but it's clear that little to nothing has been done to impart actual change at the high school. This is now an issue of the institution.
If a child comes to a guidance counselor, principal, or teacher saying that they are depressed/suicidal because of the way that they are being treated, it is up to said administrator to take action. If they do not take action, exactly what is happening will continue to happen, and will only get worse. Said action can be as simple as the following:
1. TAKE THE STUDENT SERIOUSLY.
2. TELL OTHER TEACHERS TO BE PARTICULARLY ATTENTIVE TO THE STUDENT
3. GIVE. A. SHIT. Nothing, absolutely nothing should keep you too busy to care for a student who is brave enough to come to you with their concerns. Talk to the student! Listen to them! They aren't just high school kids going through a tough time *~clearly~* it has LONG TERM EFFECTS. HANDLE. IT. AS. SUCH.
My boyfriend (God bless him) regularly stays in with me and cradles me when I am too anxious or sad to go out. He still has to make sure some days that I am eating at least once a day. My friends and my family have witnessed just how badly my anxiety can heighten in the blink of an eye. And just how quickly I can go from being okay, to wishing that I was on another planet, away from everyone and everything. I cannot meet new people, or do new things without constantly wondering, "do they hate me, too?" "Do they think that I'm stupid, that I'm ugly, that I am invalid?"
Again, the worst part is that I am a dime a dozen when it comes to Neligh-Oakdale students.
I came out of it. No thanks to NOHS. I was lucky enough to have the backbone of my family and the trust in my faith. Too many students don't have that. Too many kids do not have families who are willing to listen, to be there, to help. Which is why the institution exists. To guide, to teach, and to prepare children for the future.
Guide kids to kindness by being kind.
Teach kids to love what they do by teaching them how to love.
Prepare kids for the future, by listening to them today.
I would be lying if I said NOHS has done nothing for me. Neligh-Oakdale taught me how to be fiercely independent, because no one was there for me; and how to love people without prejudice, because no one there did.
I am no longer afraid of Neligh-Oakdale, because I know who I am. But it has taken me FIVE YEARS to figure it out. Are you going to let other people wait that long, or are you finally going to get off your ass and do something about it.