One young New Mexican has not only survived being relentlessly bullied, but has made it her mission to tell her story, with the hope that she can save lives and prevent bullying from starting in the first place.
Eighteen-year-old Brandy Dolen is author of the book, "What Really Happens," which describes her multi-year ordeal with bullies, and presents strategies and warning signs for parents and teachers. Dolen, who is from Roswell, will be presenting her story to students, teachers and parents during two sessions on Wednesday at San Juan College. Her presentation is being sponsored by the student club AGAVE, which stands for All Great Accomplishments Value Equality.
Dolen's story began when she was an 11-year-old 6th grader. A gifted student, Dolen dreamed of going to Harvard one day.
"I was a nerd and was proud of it," she says.
Surprisingly, the boy who turned out to be Dolen's bully wasn't one of the popular kids. He was another gifted student.
"He started harassing me and making me feel really insecure, to the point where I started cutting myself because I couldn't deal with the pain he was causing," she said.
The bullying became a daily ordeal for Dolen, and the main bully recruited four of his friends to join him in repeatedly telling Dolen that she didn't deserve to live and should commit suicide.
Afraid to tell her parents, Dolen did let some teachers know about what was happening. The teachers said they would address the problem, but no steps were taken to end the bullying, and the school's principal was never informed.
Eventually, the bullies' messages began to sink in, and Dolen attempted suicide twice.
By the time Dolen entered high school, her main tormentor was in a different high school and his friends had quit bullying her.
Ironically, however, Dolen was unable to continue going to school.
"The stress had taken such a toll on my body that I began having seizures and hallucinations, and had to drop out of school. I was diagnosed with (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a direct result of the years of bullying, and was unable to return to high school. I earned my GED (diploma) outside of school."
Because of continued anxiety attacks, seizures and hallucinations, Dolen's dreams of going to Harvard have been replaced by a passion to educate kids, teachers and parents about bullying, and how to recognize the warning signs that a student may be the victim of bullying. She travels throughout New Mexico delivering this important message.
Brenda Mendez coordinates the college's Hispanic Latino Center and is the AGAVE group's sponsor. She said the group decided to ask Dolen to present at the college because bullying affects everyone, not just middle- and high-school students.
"You even see bullying in college. In fact, there's been a lot of research recently that it is happening more and more at college," said Mendez. "We wanted to bring her (Dolen) here so we could give something beneficial back to the community."
During Dolen's Wednesday's presentations, she will not only relate her experiences, but will talk about what she could have done differently, and what others could have done differently to stop the bullying. The earlier presentation will be geared toward students, while the evening session will help parents and teachers with strategies for recognizing and dealing with bullying. Dolen's father will speak at the evening session from a parents' point of view.
Far from being bitter about her bullying experience, Dolen says she pities the boy who made her middle-school life so miserable. Anyone who could choose to hurt someone else so badly has to have something internal torturing him, she says.
"Because of what I went through, people often see me as a victim. But I'm one of the lucky ones - I'm still here," she says. "I'm a survivor, and if I can keep one person from killing him or herself, or keep one person from being a bully, then it's all worth it."
Dolen's first presentation will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the second presentation takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Both presentations are at the San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Center. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, call 505-566-3874.
To contact Dolen for more information, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leigh Irvin may be reached at email@example.com; 505-564-4610. Follow her on Twitter @irvindailytimes.