TW: Bullying, Assault and Suicide
Hi my name is Erika, but everyone calls me Delilah and I am a Beautiful Disaster. While I was scrolling through the web on a gloomy pandemic day, I came across a woman wearing the coolest shirt. This shirt had two words on it that summed up a part of my life perfectly, and are part of what made me who I am today. Those 2 words were Beautiful Disaster. I had to learn more.
What I learned about that phrase made me emotional and took me back to a time that most would want to forget, but I was told never forget where you came from. I decided it was time to share a part of my story that COULD'VE ended in disaster, but instead made me the individual I became and have lived the past 52 years.
I grew up the daughter of true 1960s hippies, so you can imagine what kind of kid I was. I have never been one to follow meaningless trends or the popular path. I never wanted to look like everyone else...I enjoyed going to thrift stores and vintage stores in the 70s when I was in elementary school. I'd make or enhance my own clothes with bits and pieces of clothes I'd find at those stores. Because I did that instead of going to the mall like everyone in school, I was deemed the "poor kid who couldn't afford clothes".
Kids would hear their patents say, "Oh that poor child, she can't wear decent clothes." , "Her parents are hippies who won't spend money on decent clothes.", "How can parents send their kids to school looking like trash like that?" They couldn't have been more wrong...those words were all my peers had to hear and BOOM I was the kid who they bullied. And they bullied me hard.
First, it was the name calling. Horrible names, some of which I didn't even understand back then. My dad told me to ignore them which only made them more angry. That is when the pushing and tripping started. I would be eating my lunch and the bigger kids would push my face in my food or knock my food out of my hands or, worse, they'd literally spit on the food I was eating and the whole cafeteria would howl with laughter. I was so embarrassed I wanted to die right there. The friends I did have would get hurt trying to stick up for me. Eventually I found myself all alone - all because of the way I dressed. My life was a disaster and the only way I could change was to change me, but that would have changed who I am today.
I'd run home crying everyday. One day, my dad saw my clothes in the garbage and me sitting at the kitchen table with a JC Penny catalog trying to order "normal" clothes. "No no no Erika, you are not going to let them win" he said. I looked up at him with my beat up face and told him "It's been 4 years of this, I can't fight any more. I'm sad and I don't want to be alone any more." He told me to hang in there because I'm a leader not a follower. He also told me, "You are so cool you just don't know it yet, but you will." He, then, handed me a book with blank pages and told me when I feel this way to write it in this book and it'll take the power out of what those kids do to hurt me. Hence my first Journal. (That was the first thing I ordered from BD, the journal. I love it.)
Fast forward to middle school. The bullying followed me there. However, what I also found was other kids just like me. All kinds of different kids. I didn't stand out so much, so I really made some cool clothes. I still got bullied, but I'd wear my bumps, bruises, and inside pain with pride because I didn't let those mean kids take who I am away and I knew I wasn't alone. I was part of a group of misfits who helped each other.
Getting to school was a different story. I had to take a school bus. Though the ride was only 15 minutes, it was my daily 15 minutes of fear and horror. I was alone for those 15 minutes and the bullies got their thrills in during those 15 minutes. They'd rip my clothes off me, spitting on me, and once when I tried to run away this boy grabbed my arm to stop me, broke my wrist, and dislocated my elbow and shoulder. The worst part? I was the one who got in trouble. The principal said that the kid was only trying to help me. Help me do what? None of it made sense but I gave up trying to make sense of all that mess long ago.
Time went by and then came the point in my life that changed everything..
(This is why I relate to Hating Me Won't Make You Pretty - The t-shirt dress was the 2nd thing I bought from BD). I started to notice that mostly guys were teasing me now. I'd get sideways glances from girls and even some compliments on the trippy clothes I'd make. Some even offered me money to make them clothes. Of course, I said no because I had fought this lifetime be my original self and stay unique. I felt like making clothes like mine would defeat my whole purpose of fighting for so long. One girl didn't like being told no by the likes of me and she made sure I knew it. Whenever I'd wear something she liked, she would first try to bully me out of it and when that didn't work she tried ripping it right off my body!
There was this specific baseball hat that I spent weeks trying to perfect. I had small dollhouse furniture that I had glued onto it making it look like the furniture was coming out of the hat. It turned out really cool and I was thrilled with it -couldn't wait to show it to my misfit friends. I saw the school bus coming and got this sick feeling in my stomach, but I ignored it and got on the bus. As soon as I did, someone grabbed my hat off my head. Everyone was laughing even the driver. I tried to get to the back to fight for my hat. I was screaming for them to stop, trying to play on their heart strings, but that was impossible because those kids had no heart. Someone grabbed me from behind keeping me from being able to save my hat or get off the bus. I remember thinking why is the bus not moving?
The person holding me from behind was the bus driver!!!!! I'll never forget his old beer breath hitting the back of my neck as he laughed and egged them on to rip it apart, and that's exactly what they did. They ripped my pride and joy apart slowly, piece by piece. It was so agonizing that at first I didn't even notice that pig bus driver had lifted up my shirt and was touching my breasts in front of the bus load of kids. I was in HELL.
I thought I was having a nightmare, I kept trying to wake myself. When I realized this was happening to me, I remembered how my dad told me to fight someone who would grab me from behind. I did it and the driver let go long enough for me to get to the door. He grabbed my shirt, but I ran away, ripping my shirt right off .
I made it home and no one was there. I ran to the upstairs bathroom and fell to the floor. How could I ever face anyone at that school or anywhere again? I had been molested in front of 30 people who did NOTHING to help me. I still get emotional thinking about it to this day.
Sitting on the bathroom floor, I grabbed a piece of paper and pencil outta my backpack and quickly wrote a note explaining everything in detail that happened that morning. I, then, turned on the bath water to fill the tub. I took a blade out of my fathers shaver. I changed into a bathing suit because I didn't want to be found naked. I grabbed the blade, got in the tub and started slicing away at my wrists. To get the pain off my mind I thought about some things my dad told me. "People who see things they don't understand get scared because they don't have the words to make sense out of it" or "When people get scared like that they either fight or they run, those who fight usually let jealousy take over, but that makes their fight weak they will forever never be happy with who they are they don't have the courage to be an individual." After all that thought, I had done some serious damage to myself and darkness was starting to fill my vision. I was starting to slip under the water. Dead by suicide at the ripe age of 11.
As I felt myself slip away I heard my mother screaming, "She's in there, but the doors locked...HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME... Erika open the door please..............."I came to in the hospital hearing the doctor telling my parents "It's a shame - an 11 year old shouldn't know the word suicide, let alone know how to commit it....". Turns out my misfit friends heard about what happened on the bus and told the principal, who then contacted my dad at work. No cell phones yet. My mother had driven him, so they both came home to find me under a pool of water and blood, but had gotten me out of there just in time.
My parents pressed charges against many people. It was in all the news papers and local TV news. It's a felony to not help a child whose getting physically, emotionally, and mentally abused. And, because their actions led to a suicide attempt, they were charged with attempted manslaughter. The bus driver is still in prison to this day. Turns out he was a big time child molester and had 2 kidnapped girls locked in his basement when cops went to take him into custody. His wife was in on it too. She shot herself in the head and died.
A lot came out of that day. A lot stopped because of that day. My parents not only took me out of that school, but we also moved across the river far from that snotty neighborhood.
When I hit high school, I was full on Punk Rock chick and had found my first tribe. The bullying had stopped. I had older, bigger friends who made it clear I was never alone. They became my life long friends. I'm 52 years old now and I still dress like nobody else. From time to time I get sideways glances and I hear little remarks like she's too old to dress like that...but no one is going to take me out. I am a strong self-assured woman. Many of my friends and family are gone now. That's what sucks about getting old....losing everyone you love then finding yourself alone like in the start of life. Isn't that Perfectly Imperfect?
I relate with all the collections of Beautiful Disaster. I must say the journal is my favorite item from your brand as it reminds me of my dad who gave me my first journal. He passed away long ago, but I think of him and his words of wisdom daily. Throughout my 52 years of life each one of your quotes I have lived by. I think all of us have, but there's those of us who wear it with pride because we are no longer afraid to be the incredible individuals we are meant to be and fought to be.
Thank you for this opportunity to tell my story. I feel a whole lot lighter getting that off my mind.