My Middle School Bully Mocked Me On Facebook — Here's How I Took Back My Power


Rebecca Jane Stokes courtesy of the author

I was having a bad day earlier this week.

Yes, I am aware that everybody has bad days, but I don't know if everyone has this particular kind of bad day on which the whole world just seems to have gone dark. I'm talking about the kind of bad day where you have to remind yourself to do stuff like blink and breathe and not die.

Yeah. It's like that.

So on the day in question, I found myself battling with the voices of depression and anxiety in my head.


While I felt equipped to manage the battle with my own inner demon, I was not expecting my middle school bully to resurface on Facebook, and yet he did.

When I speak of my own inner demon, imagine yourself being followed everywhere you go by a really hot cheerleader who spends her days doing nothing but sucking down Red Bull and screaming at you about all of the reasons you're an ugly monster bound for failure and who will never be good enough for anything or for anyone.

Normally, I do my best to tune her out. I acknowledge the fact that these bad voices are raging away inside my head — and then I do my best not to listen to them.


But on this particular day, I decided to fight back.

I decided to try out a new tact of fighting her negativity with my positivity. That may sound like some hippie nonsense, but as I don't carry crystals around in my bra, you can trust me, I swear.

I opened up Facebook with the intention of posting just one positive thought I have about myself. I figured the easiest option would be to publicly state that I am proud of myself for my hard work in my career and how awesome it feels to know I've gotten to the place where I've gotten.

To quote myself directly: "I just want to take a minute and be really proud of myself for the strides I've made in my journalistic career. I had no idea I'd get this far and every day I am grateful to be given the opportunity to play with the big dogs."


Rebecca Jane Stokes' self-empowering Facebook postPhoto: Facebook/Rebecca Jane Stokes

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The moment after I shared those words I immediately felt better. I wasn't being phony. I wasn't being fake. I wasn't fooling everyone.

I'm a hard worker and a talented writer and all of my work and passion have paid off for me professionally. But this is not something I typically allow myself to think about, let alone share with the world-at-large.


Of course, then I started to worry about how my remarks might be received.

They were inoffensive, obviously, but were they worthy either eye-rolling or navel-gazing? Did I come across as an egomaniac or even as mildly conceited?

"Eff off," I said quietly to those familiar insecurities of mine ... and then I marveled at it all when they actually listened.

When comments started appearing on my post, I was pleased to see that some of the friends and colleagues I respect most were just as proud of me for acknowledging that I'm proud of myself as I was for daring to post the message in the first place.

That felt good. It helped. The clouds parted.

I am not the worst person in the world. I am just another person struggling down here on planet Earth and there is nothing lame or evil about that, no matter what my inner voice cheerleader chick might have to say about the subject at times.


That's why it came as such a shock when a comment appeared that offered a different perspective wrapped up in just one word: "Lol."

middle school bully's comment on FacebookPhoto: Facebook/Rebecca Jane Stokes

That's right. I took a risk. I jumped. I did something I needed to do for myself.

And there in the midst of all the enthusiasm and support, one person — my middle school bully — decided to respond by laughing at me.


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The laughter in question came from a guy I went to school with in 8th grade and saw every now and then throughout high school when I went to all-girls school and he went to our "brother" school.

(Can I just pause briefly to point out that the all-boys school had a pro-life club and we didn't? But that's another story for another day.)

This guy, who we shall call Timmy, was a pinhead at 13, and as it turns out, he remains a pinhead at the age of 34.

The very moment I read his comment, I came to understand what people mean when they use the word "triggered."

I was suddenly 13-years-old again with a knot in my stomach, terrified to face another at a school where I felt alone and disliked.


Back then, if Timmy had laughed at me or called me out on social media it would have meant ages and ages of tears and self-loathing. But now, was something different.

Rather than feel ashamed of myself, all I felt was just rage and incredulity, which I quickly acted on with a quick hit of the "block" option.

Well, I'll be totally honest. I felt rage and incredulity, which led to a quick ransacking of his Facebook pics so I could store for later use in uproariously funny memes, and then I quickly hit the "block" option.

This may come as a surprise, but 8th grade was an awful year for me.

I'm sure I'm far from being alone on this one.

I left private school, started public school, and then was moved to a parochial school where my siblings had already been enrolled. Clearly, I wasn't having the easiest of times.


The school I'd gone to for the first half of middle school had been an all-boys school until the year before I started, and they were still placing a heavy emphasis on athletics. How I wound up there I have no earthly idea.

Then when I moved to a public school, a kid who'd been held back three times pulled me onto his lap at lunchtime and told me to call him daddy.

Parochial school was supposed to be my salvation. It was anything but. This is the first time I have written this down, but going to that school was what led to me still fractured relationship with God.

I was raised in a religious home with smart, loving parents, and my perception of God up to that point was just so far removed from what I then learned at this school. "My" god wasn't a hateful, humorless, judgmental prude.


I sat through religion classes quietly wondering why anyone would bother praying to an entity that completely lacked humor or an understanding of the flaws belonging to all human beings.

So yeah, I had a spiritual crisis at 13. That was awesome.

Now add to that all of the normal hiccoughs of being a developing teenaged girl.

The kids at my new school had known each other since kindergarten and here I was, the new kid. I was also the odd kid. I was so odd that eventually, half the class decided to not talk to me. I still don't know why, but regardless, I did not fit in and I was deeply unhappy.

I met Timmy on my first day of school.

He was in my science class and sat at the lab table in front of mine. Even at that young age, he had a game show host smile that twisted with a sneer and blond good looks so intense I couldn't believe he didn't terrify every person who had ever seen a John Hughes movie.


He spun around on the first day to talk to me about his cologne. I immediately knew that didn't like him. He was aggressive and antagonist and shot me one of those, "I've got you clocked" looks that still make me want to commit a crime.

He was also always chewing gum and never got caught for it.

He then leaned over and whispered something into my lab partner's ear.

"He wants to know if you'll go out with him," my lab partner said. Timmy waited with a wicked grin on his face.

I don't know how I knew he didn't really want to go out with me. Chalk it up to, I don't know, a keen ability I have to sense when someone is trying to humiliate me. I said something along the lines of no, blushing furiously all the while.


Not long thereafter, all of my classmates simultaneously stopped speaking to me.

That was one of the two times in my life when I seriously considered killing myself, because if these God-fearing Christians couldn't accept me, what hope was there for me?

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It only recently occurred to me that he may have seriously been asking me out. Maybe he thought I was cute or maybe he had an urge to piss on anything new and claim it for his own. Whatever the reason, I don't think it's a coincidence that right after I said no, things got even worse for me.

But then I went to high school and I kicked butt.


I made friendships with some of the same girls who in 8th grade couldn't stand me. I was still weird and I still didn't fit, but I started to be more okay with that, and I've grown more okay with it every day since.

I was really passionate about theater and singing then (because, of course, I was), but the only theater my school did was limited to one weird annual fundraising show that was essentially a medley of show tunes sung by our music teacher's favorite students, and I was not one of them.

And every year they would ship Timmy in to sing and act in the show, and every year I'd see him in the hallway, and my stomach would fall to the floor.

Which is exactly what happened when he posted his "lol" on my Facebook post more than 20 years later.


It blows my mind that as soon as I took one second to share a moment of self-acceptance and pride, this old bully showed up out of nowhere, as contemptuous, phony and insipid as he ever was.

But this time, I clapped back.

I wasn't going to be silent. Maybe 13-year-old Becca would have stayed quiet and waited for the storm to pass, but 34-year-old Becca has no time for that.

To wit, I typed this brief reply before blocking the hell out of the dude: "Aw, life in [your town] not everything you'd hoped, [Timmy]? Wanted to take a time out to sh*t on a former 8th grade classmate's happiness? Oh you lovable card. Get f***ed."

response to middle school bullyPhoto: Facebook/Rebecca Jane Stokes


Of course, a lot has changed since 8th grade. I have changed since 8th grade and I'm sure you have too.

But bullies like this Timmy? They don't change.

Their pathetic attempts to build themselves up by making others feel small just become more obvious.

But that's the beauty of not being in middle school anymore. You don't have to be political or careful.

You don't have to worry about whether or not people like you.

You can tell bullies like this guy exactly where to go and then cut them out of your life.

So do it. Today.


Find that person on your "friend" list who isn't a friend at all and end that unnecessary cycle. The longer you keep people in your life who tell you that you're nothing, the longer you reaffirm the toxic voices in your own head.

It was an amazing turning point for me when I instructed my inner cheerleader to turn her ire away from me and direct it where it belonged — at Timmy.

It reminded me that this strength, this anger, and this power have been mine along ... and they're not going anywhere.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.