Healing Wounds and Helping Hands

Circa 1990

Me, Circa 1990

I’m a lucky woman. I have people in my life who are passionate about the things that matter to them. In fact, they are so passionate that they know, to the depths of their souls, that they can change the world one person at a time. And I believe they’ll do it. How could I not? Recently I had the opportunity to be at August McLaughlin’s Facebook party where she candidly discussed her eating disorder and the ties to self esteem. She shared two powerful videos. One was about her journey to healing and the other centered on education and insight on a parent’s impact on their child. Check it out!

Another great friend is Ande Lyons from Bring Back Desire. Her mission to help educate women on the beauty and joy of accepting yourself. She is a huge proponent of exploring your sexuality and discovering your inner diva. She believes that self discovery is the key to personal happiness and lasting relationships. She’s creating a safe environment where women are welcome to go for tips, pointers and to ask the questions they may be too afraid or intimidated to ask elsewhere. She understands the struggle on a very personal level, and through hard work, love and dedication has managed to keep her love with her darling alive. In fact, they just celebrated their 25th anniversary!

They’re not the only ones, either. I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded online by people who have such strong senses of self. People who’ve taken the things that have personally impacted their lives and converted them from areas of weaknesses into platforms of strength. It’s great to know I’m not alone.

Most of you know that self esteem and words are near and dear to my heart. Today I thought I’d share with you a bit about how I chose the causes that most impacted my life. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until recently that I connected what happened to me my first two years of high school with bullying. The below is the story of how it impacted me.

Many of you know that my brother died right before my freshman year in high school. What you may not know is that after my brother died, I transferred schools and our family moved. It was too painful living so close to the site of my brother’s accident and there were just too many ghosts (memories, not literal) in our apartment. Fortunately, the hospital my mom worked at offered employee housing at a discount in a great neighborhood. Our church also approached my mom about giving my sister and I scholarships to go to their private school. They thought our faith and positive attitudes might be a good influence and would allow us to continue education in a “Christian” environment.

A couple of itsy, bitsy problems with their plan. That particular private school went from preschool through 10th grade, then the kids went on to boarding school. What did that mean? These kids all grew up together in a very sheltered environment. Many of them grew up in neighborhoods surrounded by people of the same religion, went to church school, then off to private colleges within that denomination. Once they graduated some would go into the secular world, but most would work either in teaching in that denomination, working in hospitals of that denomination…and a spare few would venture out into the “real” world. The other problem? As if their being sheltered wasn’t problem enough, my coming in from the outside made me “fresh meat”.

On my first day of school there were a total of 2 new students in my class. Pretty much all the girls within my general age range hated me on sight because they knew that a new girl coming in was going to draw male attention. Oddly enough, I understood that and wasn’t overly bothered. It only took a couple of weeks for most of the guys to follow suit.

This had never happened to me before. Raised by a mother who told me I could do and be whomever I wanted to be, I was a very confident young lady. In fact, the above picture of me was during this time. After hearing how ugly, stupid and untalented I was over and over again, cracks began to appear. Within one month of starting at this school I was told by a kid I’d gone to church with since I’d moved to this country that he’d heard I’d already been through about 20 boyfriends. Apparently I was also the biggest slut in the school despite the fact that I was “ugly”. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t really dated anyone because I was too busy grieving my kid brother’s loss (we were best of friends despite the 4 year age difference). When I did choose to date, I selected guys I knew from my old world…in public schools. I still remember hearing my schoolmates tell me that I was lying about my boyfriends because there was no way a “public school boy” would be interested in someone like me.

One thing to know about me? Even then I had pride in spades. I realized two things pretty quickly. First, though my instinct was to fight (and yes, I’d done it before…heck, I’m part Spanish and Chinese–pretty much guarantees a temper). I quickly realized this would not be a viable option. Not only could I not afford to get into trouble, my mother did not need more stress. Second, there was no way in heck I would let these people see the body blows their words were causing.

I still remember one particularly painful Friday night when one of my male sophomore schoolmates came by my house before our church youth group meeting. That night I learned just how bad my reputation was. As we were walking in he told me, “I don’t believe it now, but I thought you should know. —- told me that if I asked you out on a date I could get laid by the end of it.” I was so furious that though it was snowing and the dead of winter, I stepped outside with no coat on in an attempt to cool off once the guy who told him that (yes, despite it all, I am still choosing not to name him to protect the not so innocent) arrived. I didn’t even feel the cold.

It was my choir and voice teacher that want in, got my coat, put it around me and sat on the step beside me. She wrapped a comforting arm around me and told me this:

“It’s hard to be where you are right now. The problem is you’ve been through too much. Seen too much. So despite the similarity in years, you’re decades older than your classmates. I’ve been where you are. They’re hurtful. Immature. And they have no idea how badly what they’re doing hurts. As unfair as it is, you will find that despite the fact that they pick on you and are mean to you, when the chips are down…you’re the first person they come to for advice. They know you’ve been there. That you know how to cope. Chances are you also won’t date guys your own age. Eventually they catch up. They grow up. Eventually. But hang in there. You’re tougher than they are and they need you.”

Oddly enough, she was right. Even stranger…I didn’t know the full extent of the damage their body blows caused by words had inflicted until springtime. There was one upperclassman guy that I’d become friends with. He had never quite comfortably fit in with his group…and most of his friends, like mine were outside of this small community. He also lived in my old neighborhood, so one day he invited me to come with him after school. I was elated. That’s when I blew myself away and realized that when you hear something often enough you start to believe it. Words can be insidious. I don’t even remember what we were talking about initially…just the explosion.

Me: Well I’m ugly, so what does it matter?
Friend: (Stopped car in the middle of rush hour traffic on busy street, turns and looks at me, shocked.) Excuuuuse me, What did you just say???
Me: You heard me.
Friend: You know that’s not true. The girls only say it because they’re jealous.
Me: (shrugged) Whatever. I could understand if it was just the girls. Most girls haven’t liked me very much anyway, but it’s the guys, too.
Friend: (Stared me in the eye as if willing me to believe him) The guys are just saying it because they’re pissed. Most of them have asked you out and you’ve completely blown them off. Not interested. This is their way of getting even.
Me: Well, it sucks.
Friend: I know. Ignore them. Don’t let it get to you. You know what they’re saying’s not true.
Me: I thought I was. Guess it’s easier said than done.

The funny thing was that I didn’t realize how closely the teaching staff had been paying attention to what had been happening. Back then, it would have been labeled “growing pains” or a part of growing up. People got picked on. The trick was to survive it. The word Bullying in conjunction to what happened to me…well that’s a recent bit of connecting the dots as I’ve watched all these poor young kids going through their heartaches…made that much easier by the internet.

It wasn’t until one of my female classmates who had a tendency to be a bit cruel and gossipy bore the brunt of some teasing that I found out that the teachers had been watching and cheering me on. You see, this young lady was tall, but not at all endowed in the bosom department. She also had the misfortune of having the last name Chestnut. Typical of boys, they began to use the word “Chest Not” rather than her actual last name. Considering she could dish it out, I’m sure you’re not at all shocked to hear that being the target, she didn’t handle it very well at all.

She walked up to our homeroom teacher and whined to him about the fact that the boys were “making fun” of her. His response shocked the heck out of me. Instead of sympathy, here’s what he said:

“You’ve been going through this for a few days. Imagine how it must feel to be some of your classmates. There are people, one person in particular, in your class who have had to deal with you guys treating her like this for over a year and she hasn’t said anything once. Imagine how hurt she must feel.”

That same young lady who’d been whining came looking for me to give me a hug and to apologize for ever making me feel the way she was feeling right then. I thanked her for her apology and dropped the discussion.

When sophomore year ended I begged my mom not to send me to boarding academy and she concurred. That summer I got very sick. In one month’s time I lost over 10 lbs. Considering I only weighed 105 lbs to begin with, my family became concerned. I’d completely lost my appetite. Most foods made me nauseous on sight or by smell. I would get nauseous and shaky at the idea of leaving the house (now I recognize I was probably having anxiety attacks). While at my grandparents that summer there was only one thing I could eat that would not make me sick. Plain cake doughnuts. I only drank Sprite or water and I discovered the healing properties of mint (by way of mint flavored gum). It was the only way to keep me from dry heaving.

The moment I got back home my mom made me see a doctor. He asked me if I was pregnant. He didn’t believe me when I told him I was a virgin until he did tests and they came back negative for pregnancy. What he did discover was that I had an “unrealized depression caused by lack of vitamin B-12”.

It took me months of forcing myself to eat, of bringing water and mint gum with me everywhere…of forcing myself to go out, but I began to recover during my junior year. The carefree wild child I used to be was gone forever. She was replaced by someone who became very controlled. Careful with both words and temper….and I realized something else. That “unrealized depression”? Technically, maybe that’s what it was…but in reality it was simply relief. My body and my mind had, for two years, stayed strong for me. Blocked tears and fears and protected me from people out to hurt me. They’d been on the defensive…”Never give them the power of letting them know they’ve hurt you”. Finally, once I knew I wasn’t going back…I was safe. Once my body knew everything would be okay…it gave itself permission to crash, to feel.

For me, the trauma became a physical manifestation, not emotional. In fact, concerned about how the kids were tearing themselves and each other apart…and fully aware of the damage words could inflict, I went back to that school and found my English teacher. I asked her if I could come back and talk to her class about my experience and the damage… maybe prevent someone else from going through what had happened to me. She asked me to speak to 4 classes from 7th grade to 10th grade. I did. Honestly, I don’t know if it did any good, but I had to try. If it made a difference to even one person, it was worth it.

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Since that time building up peoples’ self esteem and helping folks realize the power (both good and bad) that words hold have been passions for me. It comes from a very personal place. I was fortunate. I had a mother who’d already built a core of strength within me by giving me both faith in myself and God. Yes, it was shaken….but my foundation was firm. A little focus and I was back…and stronger than I’d been before. Not everyone has that.

Not everyone has the courage to speak up or speak out. Those of us who do have an obligation to do so. Be the strength for someone else when they run out of their own. Be their belief when they lose sight of themselves. Be the friend to hold them close and build them up when they need it…because as strong as you are…there will be a day you’ll need it, too. I guarantee you, when that day comes…they’ll be there for you as well.

Have you ever been made to feel like less than you are? Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart based on personal experiences? Do you have a poem, quote or thought or song to share that makes you feel strong or confident…or can help build someone up? Please share it… You never know what simple act you may have done that could help strengthen a soul or change a life. Look at those little moments that did it for me!

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38 thoughts on “Healing Wounds and Helping Hands

  1. Our Life In 3D says:

    Somewher along the lines I gave up caring what other people think. It doesn’t matter. I find I can live with myself a lot easier that way; maybe its the other way around. Really, the only ones hat I think their opinions matter are my boss, my spouse, and my kids. The rest you just have to laugh at. Oh, except you . 😉

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      LOL! You got smarter about the people you surrounded yourself with and the opinions you allowed to filter into your psyche. 😉 Great for you! It definitely helps.

      I think had my emotions not already been battered by the loss of my brother and being pulled away by everyone & everything familiar to me thinks might have been very different. I also came to realize that regardless of how much you believe in yourself, if you hear something often enough you start to believe it. I also believe that often God will allow things to happen to you so that later you might be strong enough to help someone else. Without my faith and the confidence my mom had instilled in me since inception it probably would’ve either done permanent damage to my self Estéem or taken me much longer to recover.

  2. Yatin says:

    There’s a simple rule about being hurt. People hurt you when they see something in you that they don’t possess. And there’s even simpler reason to put behind things & look forward.HEALth starts with Heal(ing).

  3. Professor Taboo says:

    You’ve accurately identified just how utterly powerful words really are Kitt. We should choose them much more carefully and much more wisely, but without diluting our own feelings; which makes the art of articulation of paramount necessity!

    Here’s another point to ponder: on the metaphysical or Quantum level, even our thoughts affect our immediate environment. Yes, they do translate into body language of course, however, but intuition is a person’s gift (psychic gift if you will?) and anyone or everyone who has it “sharpened” to receive will consciously or subconsciously identify those feelings/thoughts. Hmmm.

    Wonderful healing story Kitt. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thank you. One of the greatest things I’ve noticed about my friends here, you included, is that they all have adversities that they’ve turned into triumphs in their lives…things that have caused them to pick up the flag and make their stand. They give voice to those who are suffering in silence…their messages two-fold: you are never alone & you, too, can overcome….and they reach out a hand for anyone willing to grab it.

      Self-esteem, particularly in women, has always been a hot button for me. Before I went through my own challenges I couldn’t conceive how anyone could believe so little in themselves. After my own personal experience I realized first hand how subversive little digs and jokes here and there could be. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Furthermore, we tend to say things not always realizing the state of mind the other person is in or the past/issues they may carry. Those all go into how a person responds to our words. I try to choose my words carefully now. I’d much rather build people up than tear them down. (Doesn’t mean I’m perfect there…or that I don’t have a very nasty side when provoked…it just takes me a while to get there.)

      • Professor Taboo says:

        Very well put Kitt — you’ve mastered the art of articulation; no surprise huh? But you’ve (we) had to learn the art of patience (ultra-patience?) and collaboration while still being true and honest to ourselves haven’t we?

        And you took the words right out of my mouth as I read your reply: You (no one) is ever EVER alone in any experience in life! All you have to do is swallow that (egocentric) false pride and become a truer human being… like the rest of us. 🙂

        God, and I am SO human it frustrates me and energizes me at the same time! LOL

        • Kitt Crescendo says:

          LOL! Yeah, the whole being human thing is truly a double edged sword. I am totally cracking up right now at your last sentence because I’m soooo there!

          Thanks, my friend. You’re awesome.

          • Professor Taboo says:

            Right!? Sometimes I wish I was narcoleptic so I could just shut-down my humanity for awhile and let everything….umm, return to “normal”? Would I have to walk around with a mattress? LOL

  4. Cowboys and Crossbones says:

    Isn’t it wonderful that you had teachers, family and a friend recognizing the situation you were in? I hate to hear of the difficult time in your life but it’s obviously a lesson you carried and will carry forever. I was in a relationship for many years that ultimately tore me down to the core because I laughed too loud, I was too close to my family, I dressed too gaudy, etc..etc…and after hearing things over and over, I, too, believed what was being said about and to me to be truth. And you know what? That will never, ever happen to me again. But it a lesson I carry with me every day, as my reminder that I am enough. And I love who I am.

  5. blowingoffsteamandmore says:

    Thanks for sharing this story! You were a slut? I was a slut too! And a bitch, apparently. Actually, I was date raped when I was 14, after which a friend proceeded to tell EVERYONE that I had “done it” and the story turned into a completely different one than the reality. I didn’t defend myself because I didn’t want to tell the truth and get in trouble with my parents (so I thought), so I let it be. It didn’t matter much because girls HATED me, even before that night, because I was athletic and pretty and strong willed and wasn’t afraid to speak my mind. What they didn’t know is that after that night, and partly because of what happened after, is that I was broken. I actually believed a lot of what they said about me after hearing it for so many years. They actually went so far as to push me in the hallway and follow me home, banging bricks together threatening to smash my face and cut off my hair (which was long and pretty). One girl cornered me in the bathroom and threatened to beat me up so badly my mom wouldn’t recognize me. I can fight well with words but have never been in an actual physical fight so this was terrifying! I didn’t run, though. I fought back the only way I knew how, with words, but unfortunately made them hate me even more AND, weirdly, taught me that my words didn’t matter because people would hate me anyway. I am SO glad I am not in high school anymore and that I am strong enough to handle people like that now. I actually feel sorry for them. Worst years of my life though, hands down!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Tears clogged my throat as I read your story. I’m so happy you’ve found a place where you can be yourself and accept who you are…and don’t give a flying fuck about what other people think. (I’d apologize for the language but I think it’s extremely appropriate when dealing with such bullying bigotry.)

      Sadly one of my best friends in Jr High found herself in an abusive situation in high school. Because she was so athletic, she hadn’t had many boyfriends in Jr High. We were the three musketeers back then–the brain, the flirt and the jock…yes, I was the flirt. You messed with one, you messed with us all. Obviously we became separated when high school started and she found her first boyfriend. He systematically undermined her confidence and self esteem, got her to quit most of her sports and alienated her from most of her friends…and then he started hitting her (in places no one would see). I wondered why, when I came back junior year, she distanced herself from me. It wasn’t until a few years ago when we reconnected that she told me the truth. She’d managed to find a way to break free from his hold by going to a different college that was “too far away” for them to continue. She sought help. She told me that she’d been afraid to tell me then because she knew the best way to rile my temper was to hurt the people I cared about. Although she was physically strong enough to kick his kiester herself, she was too cowed. She knew I wouldn’t be. It’s also one of the reasons we never went to any of our high school reunions.
      My best friend in high school was acquaintance raped at a party because she was too drunk to fight back. At least with her, I was able to be there…to listen and care and not to judge.

      As for your words not mattering…It may not have prevented the venom those people spewed…but I have to believe that it was your mind’s way of telling you that you were strong and still capable of standing your ground and fighting back.

      I’m constantly in awe of women like you and then strength they carry to simply cope and get through. *Hugs*

      • blowingoffsteamandmore says:

        Thank you! That means a lot! Sorry to hear about what your friends went through. It’s amazing how strong we can be!

        • Kitt Crescendo says:

          It truly is. Situations like yours and theirs and my own (which was to a much lesser extent than all of you) are part of the reason Self Esteem and words have always been so important to me. If I can help even one person find their inner strength, it’s worth it.

  6. Christy Birmingham says:

    That teacher was very wise to point out to the girl that you (without saying your name) were going through a worse situation for over a year, rather than to offer the sympathy that the girl craved. I have a few teachers I remember who really helped me. It is so sad to me that Bullying still occurs. BTW, I felt like I was right there with you as I read your words – that’s how good this post is.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks, Christy. As for not naming names…in such a small school there was really no need, but you’re right. He let her draw her own conclusions. It was probably an important part of her growth (self actualization) process.

      As for bullying…I suspect it will always be there until everyone is willing to speak out against those that bully. The flip side, though, is that we need to somehow find a way to instill coping skills in our youth. Too many of them shut down or run to medication (both legal and non) to hide from their problems rather than learn how to face them and overcome.

  7. Emma says:

    Kitt, you amaze me with your honesty and how much you share with us. You were a strong kid, a lot tougher than I was. When I was a moody teenager 🙂 and feeling sorry for myself or just a bit down, I’d put on SFW starring Stephen Dorff and shout out loud So F**king What. It did help. It was like a mantra that could perk me up and make me stronger and able to deal with whatever was bothering me.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Really? I like Stephen Dorff, so I’ll have to check that out. As for sharing…If my candor helps just one person feel a little less alone…or maybe a little stronger, more courageous…or hopeful, then it’s not in vain. When my heart compels me to write something, I listen and follow.

  8. Laura Hilger says:

    I think music in general is very uplifting and very cleansing, but I would say that above all, exercising and even better, exercising or just being in nature, helps me through tough times. After focusing on something else like that, it seems to provide the space to cleanse, heal, and problem solve. Thanks for this post Kitt!

  9. Phil says:

    Another amazing post Kitt. I can also relate to this scenerio as I was one of those kids who were picked on or had nasty things said to. After a while you start to believe it, as it hurts and you get sick of fighting back. Then a funny thing happened as the years went on. I developed both physically and emotionally. I did not care what they thought or said. I became a stronger person than them, Even better now is that when I see some of these people they look horrible. Living well is the best revenge as the old saying goes.

    Temper? I am half Italian and Norwegian. Talk about stubborn with a temper! I had my fair share of brawls with these idiots when younger. Now I just laugh at them. I would have been your friend back then – you were a cutie!

  10. Gloria Richard Author says:

    It took two rehabs and a savvy therapist who was a recovering alcoholic to cut through the BS I’d offered up to most psychiatrists and therapists. “Just give me some pills to take away this anxiety.”

    It took getting back to the inner child, exposing the hurts doled out over my junior high and high school years to realize why I had a hole in my soul that I tried to fill with alcohol and [insert a plethora of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant] medications.

    Like you, I sucked it up and told no one how I felt. I became a people pleaser, a co-dependent, a not-good-enough young adult. Unlike you, it took decades before God bonked me on the noggin with a wine bottle to get my attention. “Hey! Look up, not back!”

    I recall when my oh-so-caring Doctor gave me The Purpose Driven Life. I gifted that book to someone. I didn’t have forty days to fix my anxiety. I wanted relief now!

    It took turning things over to my Higher Power (who I choose to call God) to find serenity. The most precious gift.

    I wish there were a love option for expressing how I feel about this post, Kitt.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      *Hugs*

      Gloria, I’m so sorry you had to go through so much pain and heartache to get to your point of healing, but I’m glad you found your serenity. You are a beautiful, wonderful soul. I’m so glad we found each other here.

      As for the higher power? I call him God, too.

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