Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Me? by Chloe B

Why Me?

What did I do wrong?
Was it my hair?
Was it my smile?
Was it my weight?
Or was it the fact that I’m smaller than you?

Why did you hit me?
Why did you laugh when I started to cry?
Why did you threaten to kill me?
What did I do wrong?

Why won't you leave me alone?
Why keep on hurting me?
Does it make you feel better?
It doesn't for me.
I wish we could be friends.
I wish we could get on.
Why did you pick on me for so long?

I hear voices
Taunting, teasing terrifying
Why me?
What did I do?
Leave me alone.

I'm cold out here.
Please let me in
Stop laughing.
Don't laugh at me cry.
Give me my clothes.
Don't make me stand here in the cold rain.
Why me? Somebody help.
--Chloe B

Below is a letter I wrote to Jodee Blanco a woman who wrote a book about her experiences with, and now does seminars to try and stop bullying in schools. I heard her speak on the Diane Rehm show and was amazed at how accurately she described my experience. On her website, I was particularly interested in her list of symptoms of what she calls "Adult Survivor Syndrome" describing the permanent damage that bullying and teasing can do:
  • A nagging insecurity that makes you second guess yourself to the point of negatively effecting your daily life
  • Compulsively driven in your career or the opposite extreme of never living up to your full potential
  • Susceptible to abusive romantic relationships
  • Tendency to over-extend yourself to others for fear of abandonment, rejection, or exclusion
  • Fear of bumping into former classmates that can be so extreme you avoid necessary errands
  • Negative voices from school keep replaying in your head, making you a hostage to self-doubt

Anyway, here's the letter:


I wanted to write you this letter to thank you for talking about this issue on the Diane Rehm show. I’m what you call an adult survivor of peer abuse. Listening to you talk was like finally having somebody put into words just what I went through in school. For years I have wondered those exact words, “what’s wrong with me?” since something obviously must be, right? (insert sarcasm here) My therapist didn’t officially diagnose me with PTSD, but she did say in one of our sessions that I seemed to have many of the symptoms and that the trauma wasn’t one big event, but just a constant feeling that I wasn’t emotionally safe anywhere.

I won’t go into details of my story because I’m sure you’ve heard most of it before -- obviously because you describe it so accurately. There’s just one small story I’d like to share. I was in 5th or 6th grade and we were standing in line after Music class. A girl named Bonnie was hassling me as usual when her best friend Melanie came up and asked what she was doing. “Oh nothing,” she replied, “Just teasing Karen.”

It was one of the most hurtful things anyone ever said, and for years I’ve tried to figure out why. It wasn’t making fun of anything about me in particular (I don’t even remember what she was teasing me about seconds before). It was such a simple statement of fact, and when I write it or tell someone about it, it sounds trivial. But as I listened to the interview, I finally figured it out. You used the words “Socially Expendable.” I wasn’t getting teased because I was skinny or tall or dressed funny or had a larger vocabulary. It was because I was socially expendable.

I don’t remember the specific words of most of the teasing because deep down I knew that those things didn’t matter. What I do remember vividly is the feeling of being small and insignificant that those kids gave me. In effect, Bonnie was saying, “Oh nothing, I’m just cutting this girl’s heart out.” in an offhand way that showed that my emotions meant less to her than dirt. That’s why it hurt so bad.

I guess I’m writing to tell you something you already know. You can tell kids that they’re not getting teased because they’re fat or gay or smart or whatever. I was tall, blonde and slim, with a figure like a Barbie doll (though I didn’t wear clothes that flattered it). They got singled out because they were vulnerable, and the specifics are just incidental.

Thanks so much for all you’re doing in this desperately needed area.

-Karen Ahlstrom

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    I am So sorry those things happened to you. When you described that girl saying she was "just teasing Karen," I felt like I was being hit with a sledgehammer and it didn't even happen to me! No, that was not trivial by any means. Kids can be SO cruel, and it does leave lasting effects on the recipient.

    I am so glad things are better for you now. I'm glad you are part of our family, and that you and Peter found each other.

    Love, Kathey