I haven’t posted much about this past year with Eliza, because those posts probably would have been filled with anger and venom at the bully who tormented Eliza last year and the system that failed her.
As I wrote in my last post Eliza was the target of a bully at school. And I mean a real bully, not just some kid who occasionally acted inappropriately (because let's face it "bully" is an overused term to describe any kid who didn't play well with others in the school yard).
Because of the bullying, Eliza went from a child who loved to school to one who begged not to go.
From a child who was not irrationally attached to me, to a child who would say at night that she wanted to go back to being an embryo in my uterus so she would be safe.
From a child who loved the noises and sights of the city, to one who wanted to move to Saba because there are no scary things or people on Saba.
From a child who enjoyed her five minutes of privacy while I stood outside our door while I took the dog out, to one who had to watch me from the window to make sure I was safe.
From a child who loved watching Taxi TV in cabs, to one who would close her eyes and cover her ears until I turned it off.
From a child who was not afraid to go out of the house, to a child who literally would not leave the house ... for weeks.
The first day Eliza cried and begged not to leave the house was awful for her, heartbreaking for me. It was the first day of summer vacation and my mother and I were taking Eliza to her favorite diner to have her favorite waffles. The diner is 100 feet from our building. Eliza made it ten feet from our building entrance and then ran back and hid in the bushes sobbing and shaking. She did not know what she was afraid of, just that she was afraid of everything out there, bad things that might happen, things she couldn't even articulate. We went back in and I hoped this would pass. Then it happened again and again. Eliza didn't want me to go to work, she was obsessed with something happening to me, happening to my mother. This was not just the typical 8 year old curiosity about when we are all going to die.
When we absolutely had to leave the house Eliza would either where a cap pulled down over her face or one of my scarves over her head. She wore a special pin to protect her. We had to walk a certain route that was safe. Not only couldn't we take a bus, but we couldn't go near a bus since, thanks to the graphic ads on buses by the FX Channel. Eliza wrote a letter to the mayor (still unanswered) asking why such scary things were put on buses for children to see.
Eliza started seeing a psychologist to deal with her fears. In my nightly talks with Eliza at first she wouldn't tell me what she was afraid of. As time went on though Eliza began to tell me details of what she was afraid of. She was afraid of being sliced open, of being stabbed of being shot, to name a few. A pretty graphic list of ways she was going to die. After weeks of me gently asking her why she thought these things might happen she told me that those were the ways the bully told her she would die, apparently at his hand.
Eliza's anxiety has improved with months of therapy, reassurance and coping skills. She is less afraid, but still has many moments where she is so afraid she wants to be an embryo because she was safe then. We'll continue with therapy for the foreseeable future and I am hopeful things will continue to improve.
I don't know where the bully is now. Eliza is in a new school where she feels safe. It saddens me that a seven year old child could do and speak the things he did. I am angry at his parents for failing to recognize he needed help. I am angry at myself for not realizing the extent of the damage he caused sooner. I'm not sure my anger will dissipate anytime soon. Maybe when Eliza feels safe again.