People act like life is so different after high school; like if you weren’t ‘popular’ it doesn’t matter because things would suddenly change.  Be better.  Become better.

In some ways, I guess that’s true.  Things are, in many ways, easier to deal with.  Small dramas no longer feel like they are potentially life-ending, earth-shattering bad.  Constant melodrama subsides.

But, as many people will tell you, people don’t magically wake up one day and realise that they are dicks. People will continue to make mistakes (after all, we are only human) and even worse, some people will intentionally set out to hurt you.

So while life does get better after high school, that doesn’t change the fact that people do get bullied after high school –dancing manwhether it’s due to work place problems or extreme nastiness of random strangers.  I’m sure you, like me, saw the pictures of the “Dancing Man” – a random man, who was overweight, dancing at a nightclub.  And I’m sure, you, like me, saw the devastation on his face when he realized that there was a group of people taking photos of him and laughing at the fact that he was dancing happily.  Fortunately for this man, a large group of women made it their mission to find him and sweep him with a large amount of compliments before offering him a chance to attend a private dance party.

Unfortunately, “The Dancing Man’s” story is not all that uncommon – and sadly, not everyone gets a happy ending, where the entire internet bands together to shame the bullies and metaphorically lift up the victim.

I don’t know where my story of bullying truly starts (please note, I’m twenty-six and not in high school) – to this day, no one has really explained whathappened or what I ever did to warrant the behaviours I’m sure to mention soon.  The few people that did give me an explanation as to how I suddenly woke up friendless have explained that, when I became extremely and chronically ill, this was “too much drama” and that was the end of it.

Which would be fine, I guess, if the first girl within my friendship circle, who we will name “Lena” (for anonymity purposes – I have no desire for “revenge”), decided to make it her mission to ensure that as many of our mutual friends as possible would not only take her “side”, but to create hate towards me.

Because, for a while, I was quite sick, I didn’t notice when it first started happening. When Lena first fell pregnant, I organised a gift for her.  I’d noticed we hadn’t really talked an awful lot, and she didn’t really reply whenever I messaged her.  At first I dismissed it; she was busy (understandably so) and I’d been incredibly sick, so when I was better, I thought I’d put together a bunch of different “girlie” items- bath salts and candles and scented moisturisers. I wrote her a lengthy card explaining that I was sorry I hadn’t been properly there for her, at least not the way I’d been previously, but I was getting better now, and so happy for her.

It took her two days to respond to me.

When she did, she told me we weren’t friends.

I was confused – in previous conversations I was her ‘baby pumpkin’, and she was proud of me and loved me. She’d said so repetitively. I asked her what I’d done and tried to apologise.

She told me to ‘f- off’, along with several other choice words.

I was devastated – a friendship I had cared for had ended and I couldn’t understand why.  And she wasn’t interested in giving me a chance to explain, or understand, or even be told what I could have done to her so I tried my best to move on, and let go.

However, I suddenly started to notice that every time I invited some of my friends from that same friendship circle out, there were a lot of flimsy excuses like, “We ate here last week, sorry” whenever I tried to organise anything.  Soon, it became apparent that was the problem. People I’d once considered my closest friends were no longer speaking to me – and as the months wore on, they would make sure I was painfully aware of this.

Some of them would make faces every time I spoke to them – which was made more difficult by the fact that I worked with some of these people.

More often than not, though, whenever I did speak to them, I was met with stony silences and the overwhelming feeling I didn’t belong.

The worse it got, the less I found that I could speak.  There were literally times where I just stopped speaking at all.  Everything I was doing was wrong and, as I worked with a few of these people, going to work was becoming unbearable.

No one wanted to listen.  The few people I told an edited version of what was happening either didn’t believe it or shrugged and said, “Some girls are bitches.”

Which is true.  However, imagine getting so sick that you need help to shower.  Then, imagine you feel like you are losing your mind because you feel like no one likes you … only to discover that while you never badmouthed Lena to anyone, she did it to you.  And she didn’t stop there – she actively tried to recruit people to dislike you, as one of your friends casually mentions while telling you you shouldn’t care.

And instead of people giving you any chance to explain, or to even understand what is happening, a large amount of people you thought were your friends took her side.

And stopped being friends with you.

And then, both at your work and in public places (like the grocery store and the movie theatre), did their very best to hurt and humiliate you in every way they possibly could.

And no one believed it was happening.

And the people who did this were described as “amazing” and “so nice” and you … were not described that way.

Imagine the darkness that spreads over you, the despair you feel as you fight to accept that you are hated, at least by some, and have been betrayed enough to be unsure of who you can trust at all.

This is a reality for some people.  It reads like a high school drama because, in some ways, it is.

But, unfortunately, bullying does not end just because you graduate.  I can assure you that, if you participate in it by act or omission, you are destroying someone.  There are still some days that my heart feels so empty that I imagine it resembles a shell at the beach; filled with nothing but the sound of roaring emptiness.

And there are days when I’m certain I’ll be fine and I’ll wake up to discover this was all a bad dream and I will be okay.

I’ve learned several important things as this situation grows.  I’ve learnt that I feel anxious every time I go into town; every time I see these people, and I try to smile and be polite, I’m greeted with hostility and contempt.  I’ve learnt that sometimes the people closest to you will betray you, and hurt you, and do so without any cause or reason.  I’ve learnt that my actions and words are so incredibly important – I’ve always thought that I am a kind and empathetic person; now, I process almost everything I do and say in the hopes that I will not be one of those people that stood by me and did nothing.

But most importantly, if you are reading this – even if you aren’t the perpetrator, don’t respond with indifference or say “some girls are”.

Some girls may be bitches, but it doesn’t mean their actions do not leave a mark, and sometimes all we need is someone to listen.

Originally published on The Melodramatic Confessions of Carla Louise.

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Published by Carla Louise