Written by Sandra Robinson
I recently celebrated my 47th birthday and thought, “Wow! If only I had the insight that comes with age I have now when I was a teenager and younger adult”. My lack of self-esteem was astounding and the Internet would have been such a valuable tool back then if it existed.
When I was a teen and young adult, there weren’t websites to go to; schools didn’t have bullying policies in effect; you didn’t talk to your parents about personal stuff. Everything was secret and private. Corporal punishment was still in effect in the 1980’s at schools. It was a different generation where silence, pretending, and bullying was considered “kids just being kids”. However, if you were in the midst of it all, you knew that it was more. Much more that no one would even bother listening to if you could talk about your problems.
I had to struggle through all the insecurities, bullying, weight issues and eating issues alone. I went on my first diet when I was 5 years old. At the age of 12, I stopped eating and had to be force fed by my parents. I could no longer throw away my lunches my mother packed. I had a letter from my mother and doctor I had to eat with the school nurse daily. At the age of 19, I lost 75 pounds and kept it off for years. But I didn’t eat hardly anything. My head still had this love/hate relationship with food. All of the years of dieting backfires when you hit a certain age as a woman. Not eating results in weight gain. I still struggle at times with what I know is right and what all the years of dieting had programmed my brain to think about food and eating.
I look back on my life and wish I had the wiser woman I see now to set me down, take my hand, and lovingly talk to me from the heart. I would love to tell my teenage self that I am going through everything for a purpose. As I grow and mature, I will use what I have went through in my life to help others and would become a more empathetic, confident, loving person because of it all.
The old adage “easier said than done” is not so easy, is it? People saying, “Oh, you just need to ignore what others say and love yourself” only seemed to work for me when I wasn’t in the throes of being bullied or the brunt of a fat joke. Bullies are like predators who can smell and spot insecurities quickly. They will prey on people they secretly wish they could be like: nice, good-hearted, trusting, those not afraid to be different; and attractive.
I didn’t like my looks in elementary school but by the time I turned 13 I was becoming more attractive. I was always being complimented on my beautiful smile and face; yet that would get lost in the fat jokes and comments. Dr. Phil has a saying, “It takes a thousand Atta boys to overcome one negative comment we receive”. As humans we tend to focus on what is negatively put out there about us.
I would be the one in school to set with the girl or boy who was alone. I didn’t care what people were saying about him or her. So while I was insecure, I was still considered different because I didn’t follow the norm. I defended others who were verbally attacked yet I could not, or would not, defend myself.
In the 80’s while AIDS was a hot topic on the news, being gay and bi-sexual was a hush hush topic everywhere else. I had a few gay male friends in school but it was never talked about amongst us. I was just there for them when no one else was. The bi-sexual teen who was my best friend for 5 years was killed by a drunk driver when he was only 16 years old. He was an amazing young man and I could see beyond what the other kids were seeing. I still think of him every day and I am so proud of his bravery. He was himself and he didn’t care what other people said in a generation when it was not “cool” to be so different.
I was brought up in a very religious, Christian home and homosexuality was a topic only discussed at church as a sin. Regardless of whether I felt it was right or wrong, I also knew that being a Christian meant not judging others. People were just people to me. I didn’t see labels. I saw their hearts. I saw the loneliness, insecurities, the wanting to belong. Unlike the bullies, I didn’t use what I saw to weaken others. I used what I saw to try to encourage and lift others up.
By the time I was a junior in high school, I was well-liked and I couldn’t go down the hall without several kids shouting out my name to say hi. There were a few boys left who wouldn’t let me forget about my weight but I was no longer bullied by girls who were heavier than me.
I would tell that young girl today, “Look at what you are doing for others even though you are suffering. But you can’t see beyond the suffering to realize that you are an amazing young girl and woman. Your beauty shines from the inside out. You refuse to see how many kids are drawn to you because of your personality and light.”
I know I haven’t been a teenager for three decades but I remember what it feels like so clearly. It is as if I blink my eyes and that is how fast the time went. But unlike when I was a young girl, I see the whole picture now. Not just the clips of the movie I chose to focus on back then.
I have struggled for 26 years with a chronic illness that worsens as I get older. I became ill when I was just 21 years old. My son has the same condition but his was caught early. I try my hardest to focus on what the purpose of my struggle is – not the illness. I was put on this earth for something special. I know it with everything in my soul. I wouldn’t have been given so many trials to overcome and endure if I wasn’t meant for something greater. Focus on something greater.
Please stop by my website, I’m Ticked – Chronic Lyme Disease, if you would like to comment, contact me or be a guest blogger.