The word “retard” is unacceptable in society, but that doesn’t mean bullies don’t still use it to torment their victims. “Retard” used to be used to define people with intellectual disabilities, but the word was even an insult to them. People over the years have used the word to label people as having no intelligence. It has been used demonize and degrade individuals who are different.
When I was a child, the word “retard” might as well have been branded across my forehead for everyone to see. It was a label given to me by my first-grade teacher and became a name I could not escape. I have a learning disability that made learning a struggle for me. To my teachers and classmates my learning disability meant I had no intelligence. I wasn’t smart enough to even do my own classwork. I quickly became the retard who would never make it through school on her own. My classmates called me a “retard” daily. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it I couldn’t.
Being called such a name caused emotional damage. After being called a “retard” throughout elementary, I began to believe it was true. I gave up trying to succeed in school. I allowed teachers to assign students to give me answers on test. I was defeated and left with no strength to fight back. The word “retard” cut into my very being and left wounds no eye could see.
That word hurt me so badly I found it nearly impossible to believe I was anything but stupid. What else could I be? I didn’t learn like anyone else. Just learning to read was a struggle when my classmates seemed to excel at it. I wasn’t like them. I felt like I wasn’t normal. My mom told me I was smart, and I just learned differently, but how could I believe her when everyone at school treated me like a dummy and called me a “retard”? I began to hate myself and sink into sadness and hopelessness.
That name was vile and evil in every sense. It ripped at my insides like a vicious animal. I craved to be accepted and to be like everyone else. Each time that name filled my ears a piece of me died. After school I cried in my mother’s arms and at night I struggled to sleep. I had nightmares of my classmates and teachers teasing me. I became afraid to go to bed. Sometimes I lay in my bed looking up at my ceiling as the word sang through my head. I asked God, “Am I a mistake?” I had to be one. Why would he make someone to be so stupid that she had to be pushed through elementary?
I went to a special classroom for extra help. My classmates called it the “Class for Retards.” I wanted to learn as easily as my classmates. I didn’t want to struggle with reading and math. Why did I have to be different? It wasn’t fair. Everyone hated me and I even hated myself. My insides were twisted into knots each day I went to school. I used my imagination to escape. I daydreamed of getting hurt so I wouldn’t be able to go to school. I even wanted the dreams to come true, but they never did. I was stuck in a prison of anguish and hopelessness.
In elementary school I wrote down what I was told to on tests even if I knew it was the wrong answer. I didn’t study, and I didn’t try to do classwork. I didn’t try to show them I could do things on my own, because I began to believe I was stupid. I couldn’t fight back. I depended on a girl who put me down every chance she could to pave my way through grade school. According to all my teachers she was a good friend and much smarter than me. How could I argue? Things came easier to her, and I did pass my tests when she gave me answers. This only confirmed to me that I was indeed a “retard,” a dummy, and that I lacked the intelligence to push forward on my own.
It wasn’t until sixth grade that I could ever accept I could do anything on my own. In sixth grade my teacher told me I had to take my tests by myself. No one would give me answers. I fought with my thoughts. How could I pass if I was dumb? There was no way I could pass a test. I was the “retard.” I did the test on my own and just barely passed.
In high school I dedicated my time to finding ways to work around my disability to succeed at my classes. I made the merit roll and honor roll and I was inducted into the Honors Society, but the wounds on my heart still bled. Depression settled in and slowly ate at me. I burst out in angry fits at home, breaking things and fighting my siblings. It took into my adult years to heal the wounds the word “retard” caused me. I spent years in therapy for mental illness caused by the bullying and a chemical imbalance in my brain.
Words hurt. Abuse isn’t just physical; it is also mental. Cuts and bruises heal, but the wounds on the soul never completely go away. They scab over causing scars that open from time to time when something triggers a memory you can’t erase. You learn to push those memories back and create new and happy ones. The pain of being called a “retard” still hurts me to this day, but I have reached past it and pushed forward. When I hear people use the word, I cringe.
No person deserves to be called a “retard.” It’s a word that should be banished from the tongues of all humans. Even though you may not hear that word as often nowadays, it doesn’t mean it is not still used. Bullies use any reprehensible word they can find to abuse a person who is different. Even words that are no longer acceptable. If you hear someone using the word “retard,” tell someone. Don’t stand by and watch an innocent person being torn apart. Stand up against bullies.
I have risen above all expectations my elementary teachers had for me. I’m a published author, and I have been a cashier for 26 years. I have a college degree and a loving husband. I stand in the light as an intelligent woman.