I recently shared a blog on my Facebook page that resonated with me and generated a lot of comments. It was about being bullied, but not the stuffed-in-a-locker or suicide-inducing type of bullying, but being bullied by being ignored – by all of your friends. The author saw her bully years later, and the bully apologized saying she did it because she was jealous.
The reactions I got were mostly from those with whom I went to high school. They were a little perplexed as to why this particular piece touched a nerve for me – the pretty model, straight-A student, friendly enough to most everyone. They either had no idea that I had been bullied during high school or couldn’t imagine why. Well, I was. And it was for all those reasons above and more.
I was the pretty girl who gained more attention from boys in high school than before in my small arts school where everyone was awesomely weird or weirdly awesome. And once the Back to School edition of Seventeen magazine came out, the required reading for teens of my generation, the popular girls wanted to be my friend, too. But I was neither popular nor out-going. I had always been quiet, a good student, etc., and I didn’t know how to handle all of the attention.
I had traveled to New York, Tokyo, and Germany for modeling, but I was not comfortable in my own skin. The more I modeled, the more I disliked my body. I was self-conscious, and I was insecure about being an introvert.
In order to loosen up and not appear to be aloof (which I totally wasn’t, but was accused of being), I drank liquid courage at parties. That was poor decision one. And when I was drunk, I would make out with boys. Poor decisions two, three, four . . . I wasn’t shy when I drank, but I wasn’t myself, either.
Perhaps it was the choices I made while drinking or my looks or good grades or whatever, but after a particularly wild weekend, I went back to school to find that none of my friends would speak to me. At lunch I had to find a new table to sit at because there was no room for me. Not after three and a half years.
I was a senior and shy and suddenly had no friends. I was pushed out of my social circle, but more than that.
I was terribly lonely and a mess. My stomach ached so I stayed home from school and slept in bed. After a few days of this, my mom asked me what was going on. I told her. Not everything, because I had certainly made mistakes, but enough to let her know that I was a depressed. She took me to a therapist, and then we saw the guidance counselor at school. Attending classes with those who would hardly make eye contact and then talk about me behind my back was unbearable. I only had two credits to complete before graduation, so I was permitted to take two classes a day, and that’s it. No more embarrassment in the cafeteria. No more solo walks in the hall. In and out.
I wanted to participate in the senior year activities. (My big sister had always told me it was THE BEST year.) So I tried. But it was hard. I had to make new friends, and I wasn’t asked to senior prom. (I even asked a former boyfriend, but he already had a date.) I could have gone with a friend of a friend, but what fun would that be?
Upon graduating third in my class, I heard whispers of “How? I thought she dropped out.” But I hadn’t. I did what I had to do to survive.
I have since forgiven my former best friends and all those who ignored me. My mom has not. I had a blast at my ten-year high school reunion.
But I experienced the first of many depressive episodes that year, and I still carry the scars. The wounds are not gaping, but the memory has faded only a little. And it’s been 18 years. Half my life.
I understand that jealousy is cause for all sorts of behavior. And people make mistakes. I made and continue to make my share. Looks can be deceiving.
All I know is that I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone in the world. But since I survived and have since thrived, I am better equipped to empathize with those who struggle with pain.
I pray that all who have been through something similar know they are not alone.
And for those who belittle others based on this, that, or the other: “Don't judge people, you never know what kind of battle they are fighting.” - unknown
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.