October is National Bullying Prevention month, and we want to do our part in tackling an issue that affects more than 30% of our young people across the nation. In our request for community members to share a personal story or experience, we were touched by one story in particular. The following story is from Lorri Borgeson, a current college student and aspiring nurse.
My personal experience with bullying is a long one.
When I was born, I had a congenital defect called cloacal anomaly. It is a collection of defects that occurs during fetal development involving the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems merging into one outlet. Basically, this means that I have to use the restroom in a more frequent, “unique” way.
Because of this, I became an easy target for bullying. It started after a major surgery that I had during the second grade, when all the other students found out about my health condition. They teased me every day at school, making me feel worthless. They constantly cussed at me and called me names, telling jokes and singing songs about my health condition (and not in a nice way).
During lunchtime I would always sit alone, because if I tried to sit with my classmates, they would get up and move to a different table. I felt completely alone, with no friends and no one that I could talk to about my situation. The worst moment was when some students told me straight to my face that no one would miss me when I’m gone. Even worse—I had actually started to believe them.
During this time, I was at my lowest point in life. I was constantly getting bullied and having low self-esteem, and I started to believe what the other kids were telling me. I was severely depressed, even suicidal at one point. That’s when I sought help.
After the three years of bullying, I was finally moved to a different private school to finish my middle school years before moving onto public high school. With the help of a therapist, I grew a lot in terms of my confidence and accepting who I am. But I still wrestled with many insecurities and trust issues. It wasn’t until I attended a camp called Youth Rally that I was able to overcome these issues and regain some sense of self-worth. (Youth Rally is like my second home now—it has had a profound impact on my life!)
Looking back, I think some of the teachers and principals could have done more to help in my situation. Of course, when things got out of control they would step in, but they weren’t normally around when I was getting called names and bullied. It would’ve been nice to have just one teacher that I could turn to, who could help me with my problems. Even having just one person be on my side would have made a world of difference to me.
I wish the schools had provided a forum to talk about bullying in an environment where communication is welcomed. I wish the kids who bullied and teased me knew how it was affecting me. Of course, every school has a code of conduct, but I always felt like my school never complied: very few got punished or were sent to detention, even after an authority figure learned about what had happened. It seemed as though they received only a minor slap on the wrist, nothing more. Schools need to provide the right information and train authorities on how to intervene in these situations.
Now, I’m fortunate to have a great group of friends and family that I can rely on during hard times, but I never had that growing up. Looking back, I wish I had someone to vent to instead of keeping everything in. If someone is being bullied, the biggest thing he or she can do is to find someone to talk to.
Finding a community or shared interest can also be extremely helpful—I know that is one of the things that helped me most. For others who are witnessing perpetrators or victims of bullying, don’t be afraid to step in. Sit next to those kids who are by themselves or walking alone.
Today, my life has turned 180 degrees. I’m currently working at a Cheesecake Factory while nannying for a wonderful family. I’m also attending community college, with my sights set on nursing school in the near future.
I’ve had many surgeries over the years to help correct my physical defects and live a “normal” life. It wasn’t always easy but I’m so grateful for every experience that I’ve had, and I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing doctors, nurses, and family to help me during those tough times. I am now a more confident, outgoing and loving person.
I would never wish my experience upon anyone, but I’m glad to tell my story as a way to help others who might be going through the same thing. I just hope people can realize the impact that bullying can have on others, and to make a difference in a positive way.
From our staff: Reading about Lorri’s story makes us wonder if there could have been measures put in place to prevent this behavior from happening. Could the school have implemented policies to mold a climate of respect and accountability? Were there any indicators in the school information system that could have raised red flags early on? How can educators build a safe and happy environment for our students to thrive? That’s the challenge we are facing today.
Do you have ideas on how schools can reach out to students like Lorri? Share your ideas below!