If someone asked if I was willing to make a new career as an anti-bullying advocate I would say ‘no’. Probably more emphatically than that but it’s important you know that, yes, with the experiences of recent years I have become passionate about dealing with bullies. I have zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour and if any of our children were to try it on they would have more than they bargained for to deal with once I was made aware of it.
I copped a double dose of bullies in recent years and it has been enough to make me sick. But it gets worse than making you sick..
There are people out there who should know better. Those who have bullied and know they have done wrong and those who incite it, the ringleaders who really need to be held to account by the justice system of the area of jurisdiction. The consequences of these peoples choices can be far further reaching than they could imagine. In fact, farther than most of us would imagine. Especially when the target becomes one of our children.
I stood outside an emergency room door. The door had a sign high up saying ‘Room Cleared’. I looked around hoping to catch a nurse or staff member. I needed to go to the bathroom but at the same time wasn’t prepared to leave the side of my child despite the fact they were sleeping. I felt they were safe but my own fears were at their peak and I needed another set of eyes to watch over them for my own sense of wellbeing. I was broken but not yet prepared to cry.
I had sat on a chair in the corner quietly praying over my child as they lay on the futon. It felt more like a ‘family and friends’ room where they put relatives of trauma patients heading directly into emergency surgery than a place to put someone who had earlier wanted to take their own life. As I looked over my child I wondered how things got so bad inside their head that this was, to them, the only way out and if things would ever get better. Would they?
No one tells you as a parent that even when you take your child away from their bully/bullies that the echoes of their voices don’t just go away. No, those voices echo, over and over and over again in your child’s head without ceasing. They create the undertone of their self-belief, self-worth and sense of trust, hope and faith in the community around them. It uses negativity to eat away at their sense of foundations, no matter how strong a rock they truly stand on. It eats them alive and sets their future friendships and relationship up to fail before they begin with every interaction degraded by that voice in the head telling them that their experience with that person ‘is not real’ and that their perception of reality can’t be trusted. The voices that bullies seed are dangerous and, sometimes, deadly.
The fallout of bullying will also break you as a parent
The hardest thing is a parent is the regret that haunts you. I found myself breaking inside with regret, regret over choices I had made. I had regretted caving to the limited choices of schools presented to me as options during family court proceedings. I regretted not fighting harder for schools that I saw as being better for the needs of my child, ones that had real policies in place and had them accessible to parents. I regretted not fighting to protect my child from those particular peers. I hated myself for trusting the school to deal with it and not taking the matter directly to the parents of those involved. Even today I wonder what would happen if those parents knew what their children were up to. But having all of the hurt and guilt inside it breaks you.
I went about a 24/7 vigil of my child to ensure history didn’t repeat itself. Always wondering what was going on in that head of theirs. Was there any thoughts of proceeding with the escape plan to end one’s own life and what that plan might change to look like? Sleep deprivation then gets the best of you too. With no school for respite to catch up on sleep I was cat napping in moments when I could. Paranoia steps in too when they want to do the normal things like take their bike for a ride. You wonder if they are going to actually go for a ride safely or whether the voices in their heads are taunting them to complete their previous endeavour. It is a living nightmare for any parent.
It was not until days later, after seeing a doctor, that we got referral to a psychiatrist. Then we had that appointment which is another story that is just not social media suitable. But it is enough to say that I was given the chance to let myself off the hook of all the pain that I had wrapped around my thoughts about all that had happened. It was also the beginning of a plan to get things back on track.
In the early months of the unfolding disaster passion steps in. No matter how broken you feel as a parent you use everything you have to ensure that your children don’t see it. You take every ounce of energy you have and throw it at every potential support you can find. Without schooling, from a few weeks before this incident, there were phone calls made to the district office of the Department of Education. What they don’t assure you of at the time is that there are resources to help, they just aren’t going to tell you about them until they have assessed that they are relevant to your circumstances. Then there was the unfurling of medical supports, at a cost, for everything needed because having a label apparently makes a difference.
Of course, this process takes time and your passion initially is focused and determined on helping your child. By the end, when you are actually in the face to face conversations of how to move forward, where your voice is still child focused there is a definitive voice in your head screaming that if someone doesn’t help you to help your child then Mumma Bear is going to maul someone or something because she is so tired that she has no self-regulation left. Truly, the stress and sleep deprivation will take you to your wits ends and maybe just a little further too.
But eventually services come into place. Then, you start the very slow process of getting things back on track. It needs to be slow too or the train will derail off it’s tracks more often too. And no matter what you do there will be derailments, you just become more prepared for the possibility. It can’t be helped. It takes time with a huge amount of courage and love and patience.
Slowly, you learn what it is to sleep again too. Slowly you feel more human than bear. Honestly, can’t tell you how long that took.
Things aren’t perfect. I’m still on the school’s speed dial, there are still derailments but they have been manageable. I recommenced at work in January which was a breath of fresh air. Even if it’s highly variable hours to respond to the needs of my family I love that I can be back doing something I enjoy.
It’s been almost seven months since that night at the hospital and it’s probably been the last couple of weeks that I can say that I have felt like my normal self. It’s a great milestone even if it doesn’t have a definitive date attached to it. Yes, it is awesome to feel as normal as one can feel whilst pregnant, working, studying, volunteering and helping out at home too. Just all in moderation.