There was a girl I used to know, back in the late seventies, who absolutely dreaded going to school. The thought of turning up every day kept her awake at night, made her physically sick. She was terribly unhappy, even before her mother left her while she was at school one day, without even saying goodbye. This abandonment made the girl’s misery much more intense. Was it her fault? Didn’t she love her mother enough? Was she too naughty? or, God forbid, did her mother not love her? Why would she just leave? Why?
The girl was now even more alone than before. A fringe dweller I thought of her as, because she never really related to the rest of the kids. Her thoughts were too candid, too honest…and her words at times were unintentionally hurtful or grossly misunderstood. She didn’t think before she spoke, but those few that knew her well, understood that she was a really good person. It wasn’t enough to stop her punishing herself. She stopped eating and became painfully thin…anorexic possibly, but we didn’t know about that back then, not until Karen Carpenter died of it anyway.
The vultures, those smart-ass good-looking girls with the curvy figures and the large crowds of friends, were primed for attack. The girl was weak, someone they could attack and make cry, to feed their evil sensibilities. Snappy Legs they called her, which they shortened to ‘Snap’. It stuck, and soon everyone forgot her name and called her Snap.
Every morning they would wait at the school gates – despite the girl’s best efforts to sneak inside. They would taunt her, telling her how ugly she was, how she had no boobs, how no-one would love her, how all the boys hated her. They’d threaten to bash her, throw punches and food at her face…and if she dared tell her Nan who worked in the school office, then she was attacked even more – dobber, sissy, weakling…and worst of all…cry baby. This sensitive girl I once knew could not help the tears, and tears attract bullies like kids to a schoolyard brawl.
She couldn’t talk to her dad about it because he was distant, heartbroken at the loss of her Mum who left him for a travelling salesman. Her Nan was a no-go zone, her few friends knew what was happening but kept their distance because they didn’t want to take sides and get bashed too. There was no-one…so she bottled it inside, desperately wishing that she could just die and not have to deal with it anymore.
That was a way out, wasn’t it? She had thought of suicide so many times before, was obsessed about it, even though she knew it was wrong. If she wasn’t around they would have no-one to pick on. They would be blamed for what they had done to her, surely? They would grow up feeling bad about it for the rest of their lives. Her dad was too busy to miss her, her Mum didn’t care anyway, so what did she have to lose?
She spent hours trying to figure out a way. Just how would she do it? She didn’t like pain, maybe pills? What pills, where would she get them? What about car gassing, that wouldn’t work, dad would be home then if the car was here. Hanging? Oh gross, what if it didn’t work, that happens sometimes in the movies right?
Just then, the girl’s thoughts were interrupted by a younger girls tears. Her sister came bursting into the room, running in to jump on her lap, to be saved by her big brother’s bullying. Big Sis always saved her…always. The girl I used to know realized then how silly her thoughts were, that what she was contemplating would truly destroy the life of the little girl she had to look after. Her sister was only four and had no mother, she needed her big sister…and her big sister needed her.
The girl was lucky. She could so easily have made the wrong decision…and she came very close, just by even contemplating the issue for so long. But, she put it behind her and endured the years of bullying. Her family never knew, she still keeps it bottled inside, those evil dark thoughts well behind her… but a present reminder of unhappy times. You can tell it still affects her now, as she writes this piece in an attempt to explain how someone can get to that dark place. Yes, I was there…
…the girl I once knew was me.
This mini memoir was inspired by the retelling of the suicide of Michael Hutchence, and the recent suicide of Charlotte Dawson. We will always wonder why? But, it is not for us to judge what happened, instead perhaps to empathise, and try and understand that when you feel that you are totally alone in the world and that all hope is gone, opting out may seem like the only viable option. I was only twelve and had reached rock bottom as far as my world was concerned - not being around anymore was more favourable to me in that moment than facing up to the bullies every day of my life.
Luckily for me it wasn’t meant to be that way. I was saved.
My heart goes out to those who weren’t.
If you ever feel alone please reach out to those who can help.