I am an outspoken person. I am bubbly, friendly, outgoing, loud, and I cannot sit still. I hate silence. I also come from a poor family, I have glasses, I suffer from low self-esteem and depression. I'm intelligent and I don't mind showing it. I have very few close friends, although I enjoy making friends. I do not party, drink, or smoke cigarettes.
According to a "flyer" issued at stopbullying.gov, I meet several requirements as a child to be bullied. I was different, I was annoying, I have anxiety, self-esteem, and depression issues, and I was less popular. I moved schools twice in my life: in elementary school I was moved in the middle of the school year to a totally different school. I only knew about 20% of the kids there (a lot of them had come from my small hometown -- it was a better school than the local one.) I made it through middle school with the help of a few close friends and an excellent sense of humor. When I transferred to high school, things got difficult. Most of the kids in my high school were from that town. I knew very little of them. My brother was very well-known, if not well-liked. (I KNOW he was a bit of a bully himself.) While we did not live together, we had the same rather uncommon last name and looked very much alike. I tried to make my way, but I was pushed back at every turn.
I have a personal story on bullying. It is difficult to share and talk about, but I try to make it a point to give this perspective.
Life was hard. I was intelligent and outspoken and teachers liked me. I made excellent grades, but the students who talked to me in class only talked to me to cheat off my tests. In the halls, I was shoved into lockers, pushed down stairs, called dirty names, and often students "accidentally" tripped over me. Honestly, I had done nothing to provoke these students. I often talked about it with a mentor of mine who observed my behavior. The only thing I could think of was that my personality is overwhelming.
In the locker rooms in gym, things came to a head. A student who was my age but much larger than I surrounded me with a group of her friends, called me names, taunted me, and backed me into a stall where we would change clothes. The girl took off her belt, looped it around my neck and then hung it from the hook on the back of the door. My best friend was in there and called the gym teacher, but I was already traumatized and terrified at that point. After that moment, I refused to go back into the locker room. The girls were suspended, but didn't leave me alone, and things picked up from there.
I engaged in after-school activities, but was teased relentlessly there. I never stayed after-school if I wasn't around an adult, and I never got there early in the mornings. I arrived as the bell rung, and bolted out of there as soon as I possibly could. I worked, I did my homework, and I tried to keep my head down. While it got better in some instances, the bullying got worse in others. I'm not sure what the catalyst was, but things got bad in classrooms and better in the halls. If I was not ignored in the classrooms, people muttered things under their breath whenever I spoke, threw things at me, or knocked books off my desks. In some instances, I was physically bullied.
At the worst of these times, I spent days crying in my counselor's office, in my mentor's office, or trying to think of ways to get out of school. I had two friends who talked me from the metaphorical ledge many times. Finally, finally -- I got into JROTC. I was quickly promoted through the ranks and soon became one of the top cadets -- I was very close to being in charge. While the bullying was better, it was still to the point where I lived a miserable existence.
I decided I had to leave. I had to get out of the school, but I needed my diploma. I needed college, a job -- I needed to prove that while they had affected me, I could overcome! And I did. After many meetings with my guidance counselor, I graduated high school a year early -- at 16. There were students talking about me one day, in a class -- talking about how I didn't deserve to graduate early, that I was a nuisance and yes, they said this to a teacher, "I should die." The teacher looked at these students-- students who had been torturing me, making my life utter hell, and told them that they were the reason I was leaving. They were the reason I had to get out. And if I stayed there another year, I probably would die.
I walked across the stage with my peers, students who had tortured and ridiculed me every single day of the past three years. I cheered with them as they graduated, and I walked away. There was absolutely no way I could have made it through that life another year, and graduating early was the best decision I could have made. While most graduating seniors cry because they will miss their friends, I cried because I had made it out alive. I was broken, I was terrified, and I was no longer the person I used to be, but I was ALIVE.
The whole experience changed me. I became quiet and introverted, for the most part. It is only as I have become an adult that I have "reverted" back to my old behavior. I have anxiety issues and a bit of paranoia, but I am more comfortable being myself.
I was one of the very lucky people to make it out of this type of experience. It sounds easy as you're reading it -- but trying living that life everyday. Knowing that people hate you and want to hurt you -- knowing that people wouldn't care if you died ... and for no reason. It is so hard.
The "It Gets Better" stories are inspirational. These are stories of people who went through bullying -- they were originally targeted for LGBT youth, but are now serving as messages for hope for all people who suffer from bullying or teasing. If you need something to speak to you, check out one of the videos at the posted link.
(see also www.itgetsbetter.org)