Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bullying: The problem that never seems to go away, part 3

Next week I have a book coming out that deals with the aftermath of, and healing from, bullying. This week I'm running a three-parter on the topic of bullying. This is Part 3 of 3. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In my experience, bullying peaked in the sixth to eighth grades, declining in high school (but never disappearing—there are bullies even in the adult world).

After high school, I did not dwell on the topic of bullying anymore, although it affected every relationship I had. My default assumption of not being liked was firmly entrenched. It colored the way I saw the world, the way I treated others, the way I expected to be treated. In her book Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons spoke to women whose mistreatment by their peers in girlhood stayed with them for decades, influencing relationships of all kinds. This rang very true to me.

It’s why, when I finally decided to write a book in which bullying was a major topic, I chose to come at it from that perspective. There has been a backlash against bullying in recent years; it is no longer seen as a necessary and natural part of childhood, something that just has to be accepted and endured. More and more people have been speaking up. There are books that discuss bullying from an inside, immediate perspective: how it affects people at the time, how it begins and how it ends.

But I wanted to address the aftermath, the lingering psychological damage. I wish it hadn’t taken me years to confront this part of myself, and I hope that maybe some people who read my book will receive relief sooner: to have the comfort of knowing they’re not alone, to challenge negative default assumptions, and to know they do not have to be victims forever.

I chose to write fiction, and I did not borrow literally from my life. The names, the characters, and the actions described in the book do not represent the facts of my own (or anyone else’s) real life. But the emotions and thought patterns are as authentic as I could make them, having lived them. The book is not only about bullying. It’s also about friendship, and romance, and hiking—all subjects dear to me. But underneath everything runs the challenge of a girl struggling to break free from victimhood, to be complete and happy, at home with herself and others.

Until It Hurts to Stop comes out September 12.
I also recommend Rachel Simmons's book if you're looking for nonfiction on the topic that focuses on bullying among girls.


  1. Thank you for sharing this part of your life experience with us. Looking forward to the release of your new book next week.

    1. Thanks, Mieke! It has felt freeing/empowering to write about it.

  2. This is such a beautiful series of posts. I'm so sorry for all you had to go through. I think I was lucky to escape most of this kind of bullying, although I certainly remember nasty, stupid put-down comments, both from kids and adults. My son experienced some of the serial stuff in elementary school, but thankfully, life seems to have changed for him much earlier than it did for you.

    I am so impressed at your courage and generosity in writing about this, both here and in the book. Looking forward to reading that soon!

    1. Thank you, Becky!
      It's actually been a relief to write about.