I have to tell you, this social media stuff blows my mind.
Have you ever noticed how one person can shout all over social media “The sky is purple” and (s)he gets a thousand followers, but if you say the same thing, you’re ignored or laughed at? What the heck is that all about? I’ve got a couple of friends who can shout out, “Life is awesome!” and they’ll get 1000 people to comment and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.. However, if I said the same thing, hardly anyone would ever notice.
I don’t get it. The experts tell you to socialize with others. Do things for others. Be kind and it will come back to you ten fold.
The experts lied.
I talk to people. I mean, I genuinely talk to people. I ask them about themselves, what they love, what they dislike. I talk to them about their pets. We share pics of our pets. I post pictures of books I’m reading. I comment on books they’re reading. I do everything my fellow successful socialites do, and while they continue to get 2k followers a month, I remain at 200 after a year or more.
I’m not exaggerating.
So, what’s the scoop?
My 17-year-old inner Gollum says:
Sometimes, I think he’s right.
Even as a kid, I’ve never been the one to catch the attention of others. You know how some people can walk in a room and everyone gravitates to them? Or someone speaks and everyone listens? Yeah, that’s not me. I was always the speck in the corner that was lost in the shadows of the silk plants. I was and am the one who gets passed over in a conversation. It happened twice this Christmas. I was telling a story and someone else butted in with whatever he wanted to talk about, focusing everyone’s attention on him, and I was left standing there, thinking What the hell? Did this person not see or hear me? The second time, I retreated to the kitchen and washed dishes while blinking back the tears. The sad thing was, it was my husband who interrupted me twice. And never once did he apologize or even recognize he hurt me. When I told him later he hurt me, he waved me off and said the same thing my mom always said: “You’re being overly sensitive. You need to get over it.”
I shrank further in my shell, and another small part of me died. That’s what happens to someone who has been verbally abused all his or her life.
Remember that old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Yeah, that ‘s a lie. Words do hurt people, and every time a person is beaten down with words, the more that person retracts into a hole where (s)he can’t get hurt. A place where other people can’t come in. A sad, lonely place where tears are frequent and praises are too few to count. A place where self-image is clobbered until there is no self-image left. People like me find socializing a horrible chore. We feel and believe that we have nothing of value to say or any words worth listening to. So, to keep from being hurt, we say nothing at all, or as little as possible. We nod and smile. We make pleasant talk when out with others. We might even take a Xanax to keep the anxiety to a minimum. But to those of us who have been and continues to be verbally abused/ignored, and then told we are being over-sensitive when we expose our feelings, we never learn to Grow up and get over it. We learn to keep our feelings inside because no one cares to hear them.
One of my favorite songs when I was a teenager was At Seventeen by Janis Ian. The words echoed everything I believed about myself.
I can’t tell you how many times I contemplated suicide as a teen. Even tried it once, and grew angry at myself because it was one more thing I failed at. Of course, now that I’m older and have kids of my own, I’m glad I didn’t succeed, but at seventeen, eighteen, all I wanted to do was die so I didn’t have to feel the pain anymore.
Why am I telling you this now on the heals of Christmas and the start of a new year? Because maybe someone who feels the way I did as a teen (and sometimes now as an adult) will find my words, and maybe my experience and words will have some sort of impact. A new year brings new beginnings, and for someone suffering from verbal scars, every day needs to be viewed as a new beginning.
What advice can I give to a teen who is hurting from bullying or verbal abuse?
- Seek help if you can from someone you trust. It could be a friend’s parent, a dear friend, a counselor at school, a teacher. Maybe even a certified counselor if you can convince your parent(s) to take you. These feelings are real, they hurt, and they shouldn’t be ignored.
- Try to find something about yourself that you love and focus on that. Do you have pretty eyes? A contagious smile? Are you an artist? Do you like to write? Focus on those things that are wonderful and unique to you and immerse yourself in those things. It helps to push the negativity away and develop some self-esteem.
- Create a mantra and say it to yourself every day. Put notes around your room, inside your books, on your mirror, notes that will remind you of how wonderful you are when you think no one else can see it.
- Be yourself, no matter what. I know how much you want to fit in and be like others, but if you have to be something you’re not so you can “fit in”, then that’s not the crowd you want to be a part of . Find those who love you for you. They are out there. They are who you need to be around.
- If you are a teen and suicide seems to be the only way out, please contact any of the following:
Teen Health and Wellness Hotline
If you are an adult, please call:
Take it from someone who has been there, suicide is not the answer. There is a beautiful, new world waiting for you, a world that is willing to embrace you. Life is not as bad as it seems. You also don’t have to go through the pain alone. There is help out there. Never give up. You do matter to someone, even if you don’t think you do. And try to remember, you may be like me. You may never be the one who gets all the dates, or the accolades or even all the raises and praises at work. Sometimes, it may feel like the entire world is against you. You may not be Mr. or Miss Popular, you may never be GQ handsome or Vogue beautiful, but you are you, and that is something no one else can be. Take pride in your individuality. Hold your head high and face the new year with hope. There is always hope, even beneath the darkest cloud. Life may not be perfect, but it is a wonderful adventure.
Trust me, if I can get through the dark days, so can you. All you have to do is believe.