janradder: (Superman)
[personal profile] janradder
When I was in fifth grade, I was horribly and mercilessly abused by a boy who had been my best friend. Why he turned on me, I still don't know. He just did. And over the following months he made me feel lower and less like a human than anyone ever has in my life. And he convinced just about everyone else in the school to do the same thing to me. I wandered the playground each day, trying to avoid the other kids, because as soon as one of them saw me I knew I'd have to listen to his or her taunts and ridicule. And there was never a safe place for me to go, because someone always found me -- either Robbie, or one of his toadies, or just some random kid that felt like making me feel like shit. I sometimes joke about it now by saying how the kid in school who everyone made fun of, made fun of me, but it was true. And the things that happened to me in fifth grade have haunted me for the past thirty years.

Last fall, our son Éiden came home telling us that someone was bullying him, and I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach because here was one of my worst fears coming true -- that one of my sons would have a childhood like mine. We called the school and spoke to his teacher, and the school handled it as well as anyone could hope -- they put a stop to the bullying, and made sure that Éiden was okay. And he was okay.

But I wasn't. I started having flashbacks to fifth grade. And for two days I became unable to do anything but sit on the bench near our door and cry and rock and remember what had happened to me and feel that same fear and dread and self-loathing I felt when I was ten. After two days, I'd stopped crying, but I started struggling with issues of self-esteem again. And I've been struggling with those issues ever since, which is why I finally went to see a therapist again a few months ago.

Over the course of our sessions I agreed to write a letter to Robbie, though I said I'd never send it to him. I wrote a letter, and then I wrote another one. And then I realized that I really did have to send him something, because part of what had been bothering me all these years was that I'd never stood up for myself. I'd fought back when he or someone else started a fight with me, but I'd never told him off. I'd never said, "I'm done with you." Instead, I'd futilely hoped that he'd come to school one day and tell me that he was my friend again.

So I wrote another letter.  And this afternoon, I mailed it to him.

I don't expect a response from him. Honestly, I don't care if he responds. After sending that letter, for the first time in thirty years, I am finally free of Robbie Grahame. I've been carrying him around for so long, listening to his words and taunts and put-downs, and letting myself believe them. And I've been going back to that place in my life over and over, reliving it again and again. I feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted from me. And I've felt so incredibly relieved and happy and proud of myself.

When I walked out of the post office and turned on the radio in my car, I heard the line, "Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999," and I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to be playing. I went home, ate lunch, and then smoked a cigar on my front steps to celebrate what I did. And I thought about my past, and how I'm done with that kid. And instead of thinking about all the crap I went through, I thought about the good memories I have from that year, like my friend John Lucas, who was on my baseball team, and all the great times we had at each other's houses talking about comic books and drawing and looking at his superhero collection. And I haven't thought about those memories enough. But I need to.

This evening, I went and found a photo of myself, taken on a fifth grade field trip. In the photo, I'm sitting on the steps of a church in my home town, and I'm smiling. I look genuinely happy. Every time I've looked at it before, all I've thought was how this was taken during the worst year of my life. But when I looked at it today, I didn't see that at all. I saw myself smiling, and happy. I've been holding onto that image, because it's just as much a part of my life as the bad stuff. And it's time I start giving it just as much room in my life as I've given all the crap.


Date: 2011-04-26 04:33 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Jan, I'm so glad you've finally put a little bit of closure to this. Cute pic of you, I think your nephew looks a little like you here! And of course, glad to see you were rockin' with my fav performer! Love, your sister.

Re: closure

Date: 2011-04-26 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Nikki. I have to say, I feel even better about it today. I'm really glad I wrote that letter.

By the way, I really, really, really need to mail out a package to your house. I've had stuff sitting here for you guys since Gia's birthday and just haven't packed it up to take to the post office. Hopefully I can get that done this week.

Date: 2011-04-26 10:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silk-noir.livejournal.com
Oh honey. Wow.

Date: 2011-04-26 04:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Yeah. It was pretty incredible.

Date: 2011-04-26 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stephanieburgis.livejournal.com
You are really strong and brave, and I am really impressed by you. *hugs*

Date: 2011-04-26 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Stephanie.

Date: 2011-04-26 03:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mia-mcdavid.livejournal.com
Thank you for sharing! I LOVE that you are finally free of these horrible memories. They still exist, but they no longer enslave you.


Date: 2011-04-26 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Yes. That's good way to put it. Thank you, Mia.

Date: 2011-04-26 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennreese.livejournal.com
As always, I'm inspired by how you're handling something really, really hard.

Date: 2011-04-26 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Jenn.

Date: 2011-04-26 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snurri.livejournal.com
Hey man, I'm so glad that doing this has made a difference for you. I doubt that I could have been that brave in your place.

Date: 2011-04-26 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you, Dave. It did take a while to get to the point where I could send that letter. I think what finally pushed me to do it was that it was either that or continue on with the way things had been going, which I really couldn't do anymore.

Date: 2011-04-26 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xjenavivex.livejournal.com
Thank you for paying enough attention to what was going on with yourself to go back to counseling. Thank you for doing the work to make that worthwhile. I can't thank you for taking the step of sending the letter. I am too amazed by it. Proud doesn't sound right either. I'd try rockin' awesome but that might not cover it. Jan, I respect and admire you for so many reasons. This is just one more. I am so glad taking the action and mailing the letter has helped. You deserve your happy memories.

Date: 2011-04-27 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for all your kind words.

Date: 2011-04-26 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dans-la-reine.livejournal.com
brave and sexy and spring
little you = sweetheart, I'm so glad you stuck up for the little guy.

Date: 2011-04-27 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. I'm very glad I stuck up for him too.

Date: 2011-04-27 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dsgood.livejournal.com

Good for you!

Date: 2011-04-27 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janradder.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, Dan.


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