I will admit that one of the perks to having created this blog/website is the opportunity to make contact with and learn about other people around the world who are also involved in the anti-bullying movement. When I first started this site, I certainly felt alone as an adult who still felt like there were long-term effects from bullying. I have learned now, almost 5 years later, that there is a world full of us and that many others are also trying to make a difference. Jeanne Bannon is certainly one of those people. She has written a book called “Invisible“. The book gives a very good portrayal of the suffering that girls in particular go through with female bullying and asks the question of what if you had the power to become invisible? Would you take revenge on your bullies with this power? I asked Jeanne to share her childhood story of bullying as a guest blog and she has graciously done so below. ~Alan Eisenberg
Everything Happens For a Reason.
Hmmm, that’s the saying, isn’t it? I wrestled with this one for years asking myself, if this is true, then just what is was the reason for the two years of hell I went through in grades 7 and 8? For those days where I refused to get out of bed and face my day; pretending to be sick rather than deal with the threats from the bullies who were awaiting me at school.
Just shy of my thirteenth birthday we moved; mom, dad, me and my little brother. We’d lived close to the city of Toronto and my parents felt our neighborhood was getting too congested and a little unsafe. We’d had a man open our front door and walk right into our house. To do what, we luckily didn’t find out. Our family dog, Candy chased him back out onto the street in a hurry. So, with this episode our future was written…off to the suburbs we’d go.
The house my parents ended up buying was large and roomy. Finally we’d have more than one bathroom. We went from just 1,200 square feet to over 2,400. I wasn’t happy to be leaving my friends especially since I’d just started junior high and I loved my school, but the new house was kinda cool.
The town we moved to was called Woodbridge and consisted of mainly Italian immigrants. It was 45 minutes north of where we used to live but felt like the middle of nowhere. I went from junior high where we had lockers like the kids in high school back to the way it was in elementary school – one classroom with one teacher. There was no moving from classroom to classroom, no lockers, no elective courses to chose and for me, no friends.
Although my mother is Italian, my father is of Irish ancestry and as a result my last name, Bannon, marked me as an outsider. I was called “mangia cake” – a derogatory term used by Italian Canadians to describe people of Anglo descent. It means ‘cake eater’ and is a put down as to the type of food they figured Anglo-Canadian’s ate, such as those high in starchy white flour and sugar. And even though I do have Italian blood, I wasn’t Italian enough for the kids in the neighborhood.
Verbal abuse was hurled at me on a daily basis. I was no good because I was not Italian. Some of the kids said they were going to think up a cruel nickname to stick me with and not call me by my given name, Jeanne. This was the horror of all horrors for my then 13-year-old self, as there was one other kid in the school who’d suffered such a fate and she was shunned…a pariah. I’d rather take the beatings that were threatened.
I had kids chase me home a least once a week, threatening to beat me. I never took the bus because I’d be in a small space with too many haters. One day a fellow classmate stomped all over my brand new white Adidas running shoes while we waited in line after recess. So I found a way not to go out for recess. I volunteered in the library and did so every day for two years until I finally escaped my torture and went to high school.
During this time in my life I was in constant fear. I told no one because I thought it was my fault. I wasn’t good enough. After all, I was inferior. I wasn’t 100% Italian. I deserved the abuse and besides if I told, I’d have to face my humiliation. Others would know I wasn’t any good…teachers, my parents, the rest of my family. It was too much to bear.
I went through a depression, but of course, didn’t know it. I could not have put a name to those dreadful feelings and the anxiety that churned in my stomach on Sunday evenings when I knew school was coming the next day.
Another horror I had to live through was the constant threat of someone hurting my little brother. I stood guard over him in the morning before the bell as my classmates had threatened to beat him up too. Again, I told no one.
After what felt like a small eternity, high school finally came and I was free. I chose to go to the public school rather than the Catholic High School where most of the kids from my elementary school were going and as a result, found a group of friends from varying backgrounds, Italian included, who accepted me for who I was.
As an adult looking back over those two horrifying years, I see the lasting marks. Occasionally they surface in the form of low self-esteem or feelings of rejection. But with the passing years also comes wisdom. I’ve learned that the bullying was not my fault. I did nothing wrong. I didn’t deserve such treatment. But it took some therapy and a lot of years to come to this understanding and to really believe it.
Now, does everything happen for a reason? I think the answer for me is yes. Although my years of bullying were painful and stayed with me for a very long time, I can now tell my story and in the process, perhaps help others who are going through what I went through.
In telling my story, I wrote a novel titled INVISIBLE in which the protagonist, 17-year-old Lola, is picked on because she’s overweight and extremely tall. She wishes she could just disappear…and one day she does. Though this newfound superpower seems, at first, a way to avenge all the wrongs done to her, Lola learns that she must stand up for herself and face the bullies head on, despite the temptations and possibilities of her newfound ability.
Writing INVISIBLE was cathartic for me but I wrote it in the hopes of helping others; kids who are in the shoes I once filled. If I can inspire and give hope to one kid through my novel, then my time as a victim was not spent in vain.
Jeanne Bannon has worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years. She started her career as a freelance journalist, then worked as an in-house editor for LexisNexis Canada and currently works as a freelance editor and writer.
Jeanne has had several short stories published and won first place in the Writes of Caledon Short Story Contest. Her novels, The Barely Boy and Dark Angel were finalists in the 2010 and 2011 Strongest Start Contests. One of her short stories “Thom’s Journey” is part of an Anthology entitled A Visitor to Sandahl and is available at Amazon.com.
Invisible, her debut novel, is about a teenage girl who isn’t happy with herself and wishes she could disappear. And one day she does. Invisible is available on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Solstice Publishing website.
When not reading or writing, she enjoy being with my daughters, Nina and Sara and her husband, David. She is also the proud mother of two fur babies, a sweet Miniature Schnauzer named Emily and Spencer, a rambunctious tabby, who can be a very bad boy.