Blog /February 2011
My daughter encountered her first bully yesterday.
At recess, a classmate teased and repeatedly rehearsed a perceived failure to my daughter, telling her she was worthless because of it. I believe the exact words used were, "You suck!"
My daughter tried to explain to her classmate that her inadequacy to score in their team sport was caused by her inexperience as a player and that with a little patience and time she was sure to manage her responsibility better. Try as she might to gain understanding from her peer, my daughter was unable to reach common ground, equity, and support, exposing her to further ridicule.
Although my daughter walked away physically unharmed, the effects of the ordeal were apparent as she recounted the details of her school yard episode to me. I could see that there was an unspoken question behind her eyes. My baby girl wanted to know why. Why would someone judge her so harshly and treat her so unfairly based on circumstances that were beyond her control? I offered my daughter a safe place to vent and encouraged her that although she may not have been the best on the playground for that brief moment in time, she is still valuable and important. I let my daughter know that she still has so much to offer and should not define herself or her classmate by this one situation. I encouraged my daughter to use this as an opportunity to relate to others the way she would have wanted to be related to. I encouraged her to increase her sensitivity to others need to be encouraged.
For those of us who find ourselves facing the "bully" of stigma in mental health, we must always remember the bigger picture. We must replace misinformation with facts by sharing our story and remaining careful not to transfer the mistreatment and judgment we receive to others. We must seek to understand and find our role in becoming part of the solution. Finding solace, comfort, and safety in environments that are meaningful to us is our right and privilege. For my daughter, she came home to the ready and loving arms of her mother. We must keep in mind for some, their loving arms may belong to the priest, pastor, imam, or any other spiritual leader/caregiver and that is their right and privilege to embrace them to which we, as the larger community, should be respectful and supportive.
Today when my daughter returned from school she had a much better day. It wasn't because her classmate treated her better, but because today my daughter had a different outlook. My daughter realized that she belongs to a unit filled with love and acceptance; this helped her face her classmate with confidence and determination to make the playground a welcoming environment for her and others.