Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month ... My Story.

As October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month I thought I would share my story. 

I moved from Massapequa Park to Cold Spring Harbor in 1990 and attended a brand new school, Cold Spring Harbor High.  Bullying started right away.  I was a very slender, very pale adolescent. I wore thick rimmed glasses and had no fashion sense.  Our school ran from 7th - 12th grade and I would often be the subject of many grades bullying objection, whether I was thrown into lockers, called a fag, spit on or had my hat taken off my head and thrown around while calling me a loser.  This was an every day occurrence for me.  It began from the second I got on the school bus to the moment I got off the school bus.  I would get punched, laughed at and ridiculed daily.  

I had two friends in Junior High school.  One was Chris and the other was Amy.  These were my only friends, but the friendship ended in 8th grade on a school trip to Washington DC.  Chris and I were roommates.  I think peer pressure had the other kids in the school asking Chris why he would remain friends with me and so during the trip, Chris proved to the other kids his strength by beating me up in the back of the bus with five other guys joining in.  My shirt was ripped, my body was bruised and I held back tears.  Sadly, no teacher came to my aid and when I told a teacher I wanted to go home because of this brutality I was laughed at and sent back to be punched and kicked for the rest of the trip.   

I remember the trip very vividly.  The trip concluded on my 14th Birthday.  I remember my mom picking me up after the bus let us off at school.  I remember getting home, going up to my room and swallowing pills.  

I remembering being upset I woke up.  

I continued to be bullied throughout my days at school.  Because I was a daydreamer, I would often get teased by the teachers as well as the students.  I remember one teacher in particular would make me a case study for the students, telling me I was dumb and would never go anywhere.  She, in turn, would tell my parents I was disrespectful in class and I would be punished for my actions both in school and at home.  At times it felt like I couldn't get a break.  

In the Summer of 1993 I attended my first theatre sleep away camp.  I was sent for 9 weeks to Stagedoor Manor.  I remember being on the bus to Loch Sheldrake and surprised nobody was beating me up or calling me names.  The bigger shock was the reaction I got when I told a counselor on the bus that I was listening to 'Godspell.' The reaction: Everyone started singing 'Godspell.' THIS WAS MY HOME.  For three Summers I felt loved, supported, understood, celebrated, determined, optimistic, relieved & fulfilled. I performed 9 different shows throughout my Summers, from 'The Secret Garden" to "A Little Night Music." 

But, every Summer has to come to an end and back to school and reality I'd go.  

When I was a senior, we had a section of the school called 'The Commons' where we'd go and eat our lunch.  One day, I went to the table I always went to and the words "YOUR A FUCKING FAG" were scratched in to the table.  I looked up to see a group of kids sitting by the fireplace laughing.  I started choking back tears, went to leave and was pushed into the wall, screamed at, spit on and tripped.  

I was 17 years old.  

I went home, wrote my suicide letters and overdosed on sleeping pills. 

I was rushed to the hospital, given charcoal to drink and some other disgusting tasting drink I don't remember the name of.  

I remember getting wheeled in for x-rays and there was a boy, around my age, who was taking the x-rays and asked me why I'd wanna kill myself.  I remember crying and being embarrassed but also wishing I could be the one to ask that question instead of answer it.  I was put into a mental hospital for the night.  The nurses were incredible.  The people there understood me.  They took time out to talk to me and ask me questions.  The next day my parents took me home but I secretly wanted to stay longer.  

I graduated from High School a few months later.  In those last few months, life slowly started getting better. I got the opportunity to make some new friends - Chicky L., Christine B & K, Jessica C. & Elissa S.  This was my group.  I could tell them everything.  I even was able to tell them that I had a crush on a boy in my grade named Kevin Spellman.  We'd call him Karen and when any of us saw each other in the hallways we'd say 'Karen's looking hot today.' 

After a Summer in which I would get called back for the role of Mark for the first national tour of RENT (after sneaking into an audition after being typed out) I started my freshman year at Emerson College in September of 1996 where I'd meet one of my best friends, Ellyn Marsh and some other incredible people and mentors who would help transition me from an insecure kid to someone who started to have hope for the future.  

Getting to college I found those who believed in me and supported me.  Sure, there was still the dramatics of life but I finally felt free. 

I can't imagine being a kid in this new social media world.  I can only imagine how much worse it must be.  I still get bullied by people on twitter and facebook, tagging me to let me know how worthless my work is. My skin may be thicker now but sometimes the armor isn't always on.  It may still hurt at times but I am older and wiser and am now able to block those assholes ;)  

My story is told because I am one of the few that made it through the bullying.  So many others don't. 

I have a lot of young followers.  Many who go through the same obstacles AND others that are 'the popular' kids.  The truth is, if I had one person to love me and help make my days at school manageable, life could have been so much easier.  

Please be good to one another.  If you see someone being picked on, stop it.  If you find yourself gossiping about someones lack of affordable clothing, stop it.  If you notice a girl or boy dealing with sexuality and being teased for it, stop it.  A smile, a 'hello,' a 'come sit with us for lunch today,' can go extremely far.  Be the Chicky, Christine, Jessica and Elissa and make someone feel special, important, loved.  As dramatic as it may sound, you truly may be saving someones life.  

For those needing someone to talk to, there are incredible helplines. Remember, you are NOT alone.  I LOVE YOU and so you now know there is always someone in this world that loves you and wants you here. Who else is going to sing my songs when Shoshana Bean or Ramin Karimloo get sick ? 

Please use the helplines below. 

BRAVE (which stands for ”building respect, acceptance, and voice through education). The hotline’s number is 212-709-3222. Kids have 24-hour access to professionals who can provide supportive listening, crisis intervention and suicide risk assessment.

CYBERBULLY HOTLINE - http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/how-it-works.html 

THE TREVOR PROJECT - The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
The helplines number: 866-488-7386

CHILDLINE - For any kids in the UK that feel like they have nowhere to go, childline is available online at http://www.childline.org.uk and phone : 0800 1111.

xx - SA