Mental Health Art Exhibition
The Brooklyns - bullying
I could feel Brook’s heel on my back. The pain was intense. I wanted to move but couldn’t; she was like a superwoman towering over me. Surrounding Brook were her followers, the little Brooklyns. They were all gathered around in their impeccable dresses and layers of makeup. With smirks on their faces, they frantically composed threatening messages and defamatory stories to post. They were like wolves searching for another victim, someone they could crush just as they had crushed those before me. But I wasn’t going to be their next victim. I swung my arm around and flicked her heel away from me, then I got up and washed away the dirt on my skirt.
That evening I looked at my bare back in the mirror; the red mark still visible; tomorrow, it would be a bruise, but they would not bruise my pride—they would not crush me. I put my shirt back on and sat on the bed. I listened to music and got out my diary, but mum’s inner voice kept interrupting my thoughts. Mum had always told me to love myself; only then I’ll be able to see other people’s love for me shine through. It would outshine any hate that came my way. She told me that with self-love comes confidence and self-esteem; she talked about protecting my dignity, shield of love...bla bla bla. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded awesome.
I sat on the bed and looked at my diary but found it hard to write anything down. I felt defeated, wounded, and humiliated. I couldn’t put all that into words. I closed the diary and lay on my bed until sleep got the better of me. My eyes were feeling heavier and my head lighter. My body was all relaxed. The dream finally took shape as I stepped inside it. They said you can control a lucid dream and guide it to where you want it to go. I wasn’t lucid dreaming, but boy, it felt good, or was I lucid dreaming?
I never really thought I had beautiful qualities until I came face to face with the Brooklyn gang. Then I thought, I’m not that bad. But for mum feeling ‘not that bad’ wasn’t good enough; feeling great about yourself was much better. I think I’ve just entered my lucid dream.
In my dream, Mum was in the yard with gumboots and a shovel. She passed me the shovel and told me to dig deep to find the fantastic qualities I had. I laughed at her as she was raving on about self-image being timeless and fluid and how we see ourselves changes while we remain the same. She said: “otherwise, how can it be that one day you feel an ok person and another day you’re the best, and the day after you feel the worst person ever.” It made sense, but I rolled my eyes anyway; I grunted a bit, snatched that shovel, and started digging my insides.
I didn’t admit it to her, obviously, but I was curious to see how fantastic felt like, what that awesome version of me looked like. I persevered with that dream; I really didn’t want to wake up from it. I held on to that heavy shovel, sometimes wanting to hit my mother over the head with it; but then, as I kept digging, those amazing and fantastic qualities started popping out. I loved what I was digging up; it felt incredible. It was awesome! I was worried I would become some freaky narcissist who thought I was the best.
Then I had this great idea to paste everything I had found on my chest as a reminder of who I really was. That gesture was only intended for me to see. My light shone too much for some though, and that’s when the Brooklyns decided they needed to outshine me. The dream felt so
real; that light was bright and warm at the same time. Then I heard myself say, “What is your problem, Brook? Why do you want to compete with me? There is enough light here for everyone.”
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was mum again, “what now, mum?” Honey, they can’t see the light; their insecurities don’t allow them to see the light already shining on them. They need to show they are bigger, better, stronger.”
Am I dreaming? This feels so real! Suddenly, I felt I was fading away from the dream. My mum said something about giving Brook the shovel so she could dig too; I ignored her, and just kept digging; I wasn’t going to share that shovel with anyone. I brought myself back to the dream. I was still shovelling; this dream is lasting ages... I’m still shovelling! With the beautiful qualities I dug up, I made a shield to safeguard myself against Brook and her offspring. Mum never mentioned anything about heavy artillery and weapons, did she? Nevertheless, I made myself an arsenal to use against those little Brooklyns.
With a destructive arrow, I slung my self-assurance, which hit Brook’s pride. My steel shield of apparent indifference fooled them—I lay on the floor with a smile while her heel dug deep into me, which attracted more admiration from onlookers. I was intelligent, although they tried to fool me into thinking I was stupid. And my looks? Well, they nearly had me believing I was an ugly duckling.
One of the Brooklyns handed me her ‘Brook Lotion,’ a toxic over-the-counter beauty lotion that contained poisonous ingredients, and told me I needed it. With a firm hand, I pushed the lotion away,
“Thank you, Brook, but I don’t need it, and neither do you. You’ve put too much lotion on, and it’s clogging your pores; it has covered up all your nice features. Without that insecure lotion all over your body, you’re not that bad.”
Brook took two steps closer to me; she was taller than me, even in the dream. Hang on, am I still dreaming? I did a reality check with my palm and finger. Yes, I’m still dreaming. Sweet. Brook, apart from her little Brooklyn gang, which she had manipulated, didn’t have a best friend; I suddenly felt sorry for her.
Brook and the Brooklyns moved forward and took a menacing position. They unintentionally displayed my physical imperfections in a way that they appeared graceful and stunning. They did it so masterfully that being ok now looked stunning, magnificent, and glorious. Finally, I understood what mum was trying to tell me about beauty being fluid; our appearance doesn’t change, but our perception of ourselves changes. That was all great. I love myself, but that didn’t stop them from bullying me.
Still in my lucid dream, I handed Brook the shovel and told her to dig deep to find her good qualities. The moment I gave her that shovel, I regretted it; that shovel will come swinging my way and reduce me like a flathead within seconds. I became agitated in my dream and looked around for Mum, but then thought that Mum would give me some other utensil, like a welder to weld my wounds or some other heavy machinery to eradicate all the roots of insecurities and self-doubt that had spread like deep roots
No way, better to stay in my dream and suffer. Brook was now holding the shovel with an angry look as she took a few more steps toward me.
Then the knock on the door came. “Honey, Dinner is ready.” That was Mum’s voice Dam, I’m awake.
“Mum, why did you wake me up? I was dreaming; now I’ll never know the ending!”
“Dreaming at 7. pm? Dinner is ready; you’ll have time to dream tonight. You still have homework to do, no time for dreaming now, honey.”
I ignored her and googled bullying. The first obvious suggestion was to ignore the bully and talk to a parent or teacher. Another less obvious one caught my eye. If it’s safe, speak to the bully. You gotta be kidding, right! Like I’m supposed to go up to Brook and say what? Why are you bloody bullying me? I searched a bit more, and other sites said the same thing. WHAT? Did they all attend the same crazy university to get their psychology degree? How can you talk to a bully?”
“Violet, it’s the last time I’m calling you; dinner is on the table.”
“Ok. Ok, I’m coming.” I sat at the table, still sleepy. “Mum, what would you do if someone was bullying you?”
“I’d talk to them or ignore them.”
Not you too! I thought.
“Do you need to talk to someone, Violet? Maybe, like me? She asked with a smirk.
“Since you think you know everything, how do you intend I talk to these bullies?”
“Oh! are you getting bullied? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I didn’t reply.
“Now, honey, remember what I told you: when the going gets tough, you think of the wonderful qualities you have.”
“Yes, Yes, Mum, I was doing that when you woke me, I was dreaming of the shovel, the heavy artillery, and weapons.”
“Heavy artillery? Weapons? I never said anything about heavy artillery. Now Violet, don’t you do something stupid that will end you up in jail.”
I smiled. She is pathetic when she is serious
“Who is it?” Mum asked.
“It’s Brook and the other little Brooklyns.”
“Well, to start off with, that girl has a few problems at home from what I’ve heard, so be kind to her.”
“I’m kind to everyone, Mum, but it’s not as if I can get close to her.”
“Don’t tell me she has hit you.” I could see the look of fear and hurt on my mother’s face.
“No, mum, it’s not that bad. But today outside the school grounds, she made me trip and then dug her shoe in my back, but it was only a few seconds; it was nothing.
“It’s never nothing Violet. I bet she spreads rumours, calls you names, and says you are a little overweight which she would rephrase as you’re an elephant or similar. Oh, and I bet she tries to turn your friends against you. Did I get those right?”
“You missed one. They play tricks on me.”
“So, tell me about this arsenal and weapons you were talking about.” She asked.
“Just something I made up, or I probably read it.
“Oh, is what you read age-appropriate? Weapons of mass destruction?”
“I never said weapons of mass destruction; you said that. Anyway, it’s metaphorical, just like your shovel.”
“What shovel? I never mentioned any shovel!”