IMG_0324Something you should know about me is that I was seriously bullied as a child from first grade through middle school.  I laugh when I tell my husband that I was like “Gru” in Despicable Me 2 where in one scene it shows children running and screaming from Gru for fear of catching “Gruties” :). Once in high school, I no longer was bullied like before because the kids that bullied me were watered down by the incoming middle schools full of kids that didn’t know me.  But, that didn’t stop me from being alone. I had no idea why they kids picked me to bully so badly, and I still don’t today.

By the time I entered high school, I believed I was a nobody, a nothing, and an embarrassing one at that.  In the beginning of high school, I remember not having any real friendships.  I did have a few people I could say were friends, but I don’t remember socializing much.  I remember every day at lunch, just wanting to find a place to sit that wouldn’t look like I was eating alone, or a place where no one could see me eat alone.  I did eventually find a group of people to talk to and sit at lunch with, and they are really nice people, but I just didn’t trust people enough anymore to open up and show any part of who I was inside. I was active in high school; so if you looked at me on paper, I looked like I was doing well.  Yet though I did a lot of activities, I never really hung out with anyone.  I ran varsity cross-country, swam on swim team, ran varsity track in 800m, 1500m, 3000m, and 1600m relay, wrote for the yearbook, played violin in orchestra, and last but not least…sang in choir.

My voice was always different from the other girls.  I couldn’t sing along to the radio and sound anything close to the singer.  I just couldn’t sing pop.  I was embarrassed of my voice.  I thought it sounded too “womanly” and “old”.  I was made to sing opera.

I started choir out of pure competitiveness.  The girl I was competing with, all the time, for 1st chair in orchestra started singing in the choir at school.  I thought, there was no way she was going to beat me at anything, so I joined too and fell in love.

Now please, my singing friends….don’t kill me, but boy was the choir music SO much easier than the orchestra music! However, learning to reign in a voice and cultivate what you cannot see into something beautiful is VERY hard, so we have some props due our way too. Coming from both sides of the musical word, instrumental and vocal, I find that music is equally hard in each it’s different way.  That being said, high school choir music was so much easier to read than orchestra music was.

By my sophomore year, I was starting to figure out that I could sing and that my voice might not be so embarrassing like I thought.  By my junior and senior year, I had risen to be among the best singers in the school and the only one who could sing very high and operatic.  And bonus…I finally had a place to sit and have lunch. The choir room.

By my senior year, I knew most everyone, and they knew me.  Actually, I should say I knew who they were, and they knew who I was, because that’s about as deep as it got.  I still just went to school, did my sport, sang my lessons, and came home.  No sleep overs, no movie nights, etc.

Looking back, I might have been able to foster some meaningful friendships, but after years of bullying and other experiences I just didn’t trust anyone to even let them get close.

In college as a voice major, you learn acting, presentation, and grace in your singing.  It actually is a great place for an introvert to hide, believe it or not.  You can always hide behind a character.  It’s always the character singing that aria, not me.  At least they would never know if I felt the same way as the character I was singing.  They never knew how much I could relate to my songs I chose. It was a great way to tell the world who I was and not face the fear of rejection. I still did not make any really close friendships, and once again I feel that was partly my fault.  I did however have a few friends who I let get closer.  (A certain A.L.S. and J.P., if they’re reading this, were two who were dear to me.  I wish I had leaned in more.).   I was just scared.  I believed I was an undesirable bad person.  I was scared to let anyone in lest they see me and reject me as I was before.

It’s stupid, I know.  As I read this, I realize so much of my self-worth could have been saved had I not bought into what the bullying was telling me.  Fast forward 12 years (I know 12 years!) and my wall of distrust has finally started to crack.  It’s all because of a little boy and his special needs, the effects on my marriage, and my faith being tested.

My little boy is not so little. In fact, he’s a big ten-year-old boy. With autism. And OCD. And ADHD…

His needs have always been a major source of stress in my life, but until lately, I was able to be the little actress I was trained to be and make everyone believe I was ok and in control. I was used to not having close friendships, so I was somewhat already used to the loneliness that comes with raising an autistic child. Until lately…

Lately he has had a much harder time controlling his emotions, staying on task, socializing, etc.  Our main concerns were his anger and aggression (Thankfully, he is just fine with our kids, doing rarely any more than just typical big brother type stuff.), and his extreme hyperactivity.  I kid you not.  He has, many times before, woken up at 3am and stayed up all night bounding, yelping, grinning, squealing, running, and skipping down my halls.  All.Night.Long.

Leading up to this year, the stress of raising our son has taken a toll on our marriage, tested my faith, and has done as much as it could to strip me emotionally bare.  Yet I still barely maintained the ability to put on my act.

Until I just couldn’t anymore. And I realized I needed help, and I was alone. I needed friends.

What was happening in my life was so difficult, I had to start telling people what I was going through.  I had to start crying on some shoulders, and opening up trust.  My husband and I belong to a married-with-kids type of group at church.  They had known us for years, but we never really did anything more than socialize at church and a few out of church functions here and there.  My wall of distrust started to crack one day when I tried to share a prayer request for our son, and I broke down and cried.  I don’t cry…in front of anyone…ever.(minus my husband).  I blogged about it in Weakness, Trust, and the Power of Community.

Not anymore.

People had to know.  This is getting just too hard to do alone anymore. We need others to come along side of us and tell us that somehow it’s going to be ok.  That they will be with us, pray for us, and love on us and our family.

I have one friend who I’ve known for 10 years (we’ll call her J.F.L), and sadly until recently I’ve hidden the full extent of who I was. I was afraid she’d change her mind about liking me. I can be  stupid sometimes.  She’s one of the godliest women I know, and she has lifted me up every time I see her.  Anyone who knows her is blessed, and I love her dearly.

I realized that my hiding from people may come across as snobbery or dislike.  Wow, that is the farthest from my intention.  To all of my friends that I am more friends-on-a-Sunday-to-Sunday-basis: I am so sorry.  I value our friendships and would love to see them grow.  In many ways I am new to putting myself out there, but I am trying.  It’s sad that I waited until now.

I still have trouble talking about my past experiences with being bullied. It lasted almost 10 years.  I was emotionally and, on at lest one situation I can remember, physically bullied.  I can relate to those stories you hear about on the news about bullying and it’s sometimes tragic conclusions, and my heart breaks for those kids.  After a while , you start to believe the lies. Then you learn to not trust your heart to anyone.  Being alone feels better when put side by side in comparison to being bullied.

Thanks to some wonderful people in our church group, I’m beginning to let go of the fear. Part of it comes out of the fact that my life has become too hard to even be able to fake-survive it on my own. The other part is, people are reaching out and showing that I may be safe being myself. Some have loved on our son, watching him at church so we can attend. Others have prayed; offered encouragement and statements of solidarity with us. I was given a gift that may have seemed small to the person who gave it, but I held it tight the rest of the day tearing up many times. What she didn’t know was my love languages are gifts and words, followed by quality time. Her words and prayers spoke to my heart, and her gift made me feel like I mattered.  For the first time in my life, the pain and effects of all that bullying are melting away.  I still have a long way to go, but thank you friends.  I value you and appreciate you.  Forgive me if I seem standoff-ish or ambivalent.  It’s not my intent.  I need deep friendships. I want to do coffee dates and play dates.  I want to trust and be confident in my value.  God never intended me to walk alone.  I now realize that.  I am also realizing something else.  I have friends! 🙂

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Sarah

As always, positive comments are welcome. Negative hurtful comments will be trashed before I can even finish reading them. I have many readers who are emotionally vulnerable, and I will not post comments that will further harm.

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Sarah