Turning Pain Into A Purpose
Headaches. Stomachaches. Occasional bed wetting. Persistent coughing. These are nothing new to parents, but instead of being merely age-old earmarks of childhood ailments, these symptoms could turn out to be manifestations of something deeper and more sinister. Numerous studies have explored the emotional effects that can result from bullying, finding that children who are bullied are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, self-mutilation, and anxiety and suicide, but new studies have shown that clear physical effects can be tied to bullying as well. We now know that school-age children who are continuously bullied by their peers are roughly twice as likely as their counterparts to experience psychosomatic symptoms in addition to the emotional toll. These include headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, persistent coughing, bed wetting as well as various sleep problems.
As a former victim of bullying, Victoria DiNatale knows a few of these symptoms all too well. The twenty-four-year-old anti-bullying activist travels across the low country speaking to thousands of elementary, middle and high school students about the dangers and consequences of bullying and cyber-bullying. During her presentations, DiNatale is an open book when it comes to her past experiences as a victim. She takes a very clear and sometimes brutally honest approach when relaying her encounters with bullies in middle and high school. Starting in the sixth grade, she was tormented daily and had to routinely endure seemingly endless verbal abuse, which led to a persistent cough and deeply-rooted anxiety. The only explanation offered was in the form of a note written by one of her aggressors, which stated that attacks were due in part because the bully feared DiNatale would take her friends. In middle school, one boy went so far as to wish her dead, causing her parents to withdraw her and her brother from school to enroll in another. Sadly, in high school her tormentors continued, and at one point posted a degrading YouTube video about her, which ultimately led to a criminal defamation conviction for one of her aggressors. “It was a very traumatic experience that led to me developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which required two years of therapy,” she says. “Because of that experience, I feel like it’s my responsibility to reach out to others who are also hurting in the way that I was hurt.”