Thursday, October 30, 2014

Beating My Bullies (Part 2): The Road to Recovery

Yesterday I posted the first part of a story that ran this week in the Edgerton Reporter about the abuse and bullying I went through as a child, and how it affected me as a teen and adult. This is the second part of that article, my message to others, especially today's youth. Please read it and share with someone you love: a friend, sibling, your children, grandchildren. I became adept at hiding my pain, and by sharing, you may be helping more than you know.

A roller-coaster ride
During the past 10 years, my life has taken ups and downs. The depression I first swallowed in middle school as a result of bullying came back in waves. I still struggle with self-image as a result of the bullying I went through. It is hard for me to form relationships, hard for me to trust men. I have been lied to, manipulated and abused.

Myself at 19, as a freshman at UW-Whitewater
Bullying is a poison that can seep into the soul, leaving behind mistrust, self-doubt and self-loathing.

Three years ago, I re-discovered a gift given to me by a Secret Santa when I was in college. It was a refrigerator magnet with a quote by Souza:

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

The message hit hard. I realized that if I wanted to be happy, I had to do things that made me happy. I had to stop waiting for happiness to arrive and appreciate the blessings I was given and greet each day with a smile. If I let what other people think of me define me, I will never be happy.

As an adult, I have turned my back on the traditional conventions of society. I have gone out in public wearing margarita sunglasses, donned a purple 'fro and tutu for a 5K race, of which my friend and I were the only ones in costume, and experienced the joy that a game of laser tag can bring.

Dash for Diabetes in May with my friend Nicole
The effects of being harassed and abused in my youth still linger. I still struggle with self-confidence, still want to be good enough for someone to love. I will most likely battle those insecurities for the rest of my life. But I no longer allow other people’s judgements and perceptions to define me.

My story is one that I have shared with just a few, until now. We are living in an age where bullying can spread outside the classroom and onto Facebook and other social media platforms. We are living in an age where secrets can destroy lives, and where teens have taken their own lives as a result of bullying.

As a reporter, I get to share stories of triumph, tragedy, love and loss. I also know that I am not alone. My message is for today’s youth, who are not only growing up and learning who they are, but who are doing it during the age of social media.
A message of hope and healing
As you grow up, there will be people who will try and tear you down, who will tell you that you are not good enough. A part of you will believe them, and happiness will seem a far goal. You may feel like you are alone during this struggle, but you are not. There are people in your lives, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, neighbors, who love you and will be there to help you, if you have the courage to reach out and ask for help. I made the mistake of not going to my parents or other adults for help. I struggled in silence. I hope others can learn from my mistakes.

There is beauty and blessings in the world around you, and you can find peace in your gifts. You might be the next Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Brett Favre or Selena Gomez. Whether you can wax a verse like Shakespeare or just enjoy the simple, yet majestic beauty of a colorful sunset, find happiness in the world around you. Embrace your gifts and enjoy the beauty you contribute to the world.

The wise words of Souza struck a chord and changed my life
Bullies gain power when you give up. Do not grow up with your eyes cast downward. Just like you miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take, you may miss a great opportunity when you avert your eyes from the world around you. A genuine smile can be your greatest defense. I have had challenges thrown my way, but today I know that even in my darkest moments, love and hope are always possible. Your life is what you make it, and the only power someone has over you is the power you allow them to have.

Happiness begins with you. Focusing on the positive can be challenging, especially when the negatives seem to loom over you. But if you embrace life’s treats, your own gifts and love the life you have been blessed with, the sorrows will seem less ominous and no bully can keep you pinned down.

You will find that life is a wonderful and precious gift. You are not wasting space, and the world will not be better off without you. You have the power to impact the world and your community in wondrous ways. You do matter, you have worth and you are loved. You are perfect just the way you are, and your life brings happiness to other people.

You are not alone. 

The issue of bullying is very near my heart. If anyone has questions or would like to speak with me, I can be reached by email at

-Thank you for listening,
Rachel Anne Wittrock

1 comment:

  1. Well said! God made us exactly how he wanted to and loves us unconditionally!