It started in fifth grade. Before that point, I had been very sheltered and, though I knew about bullying, it had never happened to me. Then my best friend started to say some weird things to me. She’d put down activities I was partaking in, saying they were ‘Stupid’ or ‘Babyish’. She’d do harmless things like poke me, then claim it wasn’t her, even when I knew it was. But she didn’t stop. She’d be nice for long stretches of time, then BOOM, another jab at me. I regret to say that I continued to hang out with her. She was one of only three friends I had, and I didn’t want to be more alone than I already was. Her and another of my friends’ would get in fights fairly frequently, and I often found myself as the middle-man. At the time, none of this bothered me much. I had a strong support at home and was fairly confident in myself and the fact that I could do what I wanted, no matter how ‘stupid’ or ‘babyish’ they were.
The next year, I started middle school. By that point, that friend and I had gone our separate ways and I’ve barely seen her since. Middle school was a completely different world then I was used to. I found myself in the middle of drama I didn’t know about and didn’t want to deal with. One girl accused me of trying to break up her and her boyfriend (it’s almost funny since we were sixth graders, almost) and wanting to be with him, when I didn’t even like guys like that. Her alone, I could have dealt with. I talked to the guidance counselor and hoped things would get better. But then her friends started to approach me. Sometimes, they’d simply act curious, others, they’d get up in my face and accuse me of things I didn’t know existed. Even still, I had a solid backbone at home and a guidance counselor at school that I trusted. In the middle of the school year, I had a solid group of five or six friends. In January, a new girl came to school and I befriended her. I noticed that almost immediately, the rest of the group seemed to hedge away from me. They were still nice, but not as interactive as they previously were. It was exclusion, quiet exclusion, so I didn’t notice it until I was almost completely out of the ‘group’.
Things went from bad to worse starting in seventh grade. First, one of my best friends dumps me for the ‘popular’ crowd. She acted mean and very obviously kicked me out. After that, I simply wasn’t accepted any more. I had my group of two close friends and one or two other semi-close friends, but that was it. I was a smart kid. In all the advanced classes and reading whenever possible. I’d raise my hand to answer every question in class. Soon, teachers were saying “Someone besides Isabel please answer this question.” And while I get the idea, it singled me out in a place where being smart wasn’t necessarily cool. Kids would snicker behind their hands. But then those same kids would ask me for answers when they didn’t understand the homework. It didn’t make sense, everyone was always so hot and cold towards me. Then kids started to make fun of how I looked. Nothing major, but I was too tall and no one could see, or my hair was to fluffy and could I please get out of the way. Sometimes I was too slow, because I had to limp at points to due various issues in my feet due to playing soccer. Pretty early in the year, I started to have bad headaches and stomachaches. Though I didn’t realize it at first, I was purposely making myself feel sick so I could get out of school. My school was a place like most other public schools in the area. Fairly regular fights, inappropriate language, and a lot of teachers who did next to nothing when in the face of a student having issues. Anyway, pretty soon, my parents figured out that I had Anxiety. A doctor never officially diagnosed it, but all the signs were there.
That fall, a friend of mine died (not at school). That’s when my stomachaches got more common and everything else seemed to get worse. There were more fights and I faced more issues with other students every day. I went from feeling unwanted and not at ease, to feeling unsafe and scared. While I didn’t shout my beliefs from the rooftops, most kids at school knew that I wasn’t religious in the least. Apparently two of them didn’t, because when they found out, they said I was a satanist and that I would go to hell. Despite how horrible that made me feel, I managed to talk to the teacher and get them to stop. They didn’t apologize, but they stopped. I don’t know exactly when they started, but often when at home, I would have what I have deemed ‘breakdowns’. I might simply be talking to my parents, when I would start to cry at one thing they said and wouldn’t be able to stop. I got frustrated easier. My parents helped as much as they could, which was a good bit at first. At the end of the year, even though I wasn’t teased or bullied as much as before, mostly because I didn’t interact with people enough to be, strange feelings began to come over me. At the same time, I got into a private school in the area that would hopefully help with most of my problems. With only weeks left in the year, I mostly ignored the feelings and got through the early mornings, tests, and teasing. And I survived, I made it out of a bad place.
The summer came and I was more or less okay. I still had breakdowns pretty frequently, but I could deal with them about fifty percent of the time. The weird feelings didn’t go away completely, but I was able to push them to the back of my mind and focus on reading, writing, and the various other activities I did. Some days were worse then others, but overall, everything was okay.
School started in August. The few weeks prior, I was really freaked out. Would the kids like me? Would I be accepted? A few days into the school year, I met some likeminded kids, who I started to hang out with and we have decided to call ourselves the “Anti-Social Book Club”. They’re nice and funny, but even though I was fully accepted, the Anxiety came back with a vengeance. I’d started to see a therapist at the end of the school year, and started seeing her less when I believed I was getting better. Yet once the school year started, I was almost begging to see her.
Although I was accepted into the school, teenage girls are still teenage girls. Sure they talk to me, but many thought it was weird for how much I read. I quit the volleyball team a few weeks into the season because I couldn’t deal with the stress, and the girls on the team weren’t happy to say the least. At the same time, I confessed something to my mom. Those weird feelings had finally explained themselves. They weren’t just frustration and anger, but I wanted to do things. I didn’t get why and those thoughts and feelings scared the heck out of me. Why did I want to hurt myself? Even though the bullying had gone away and I was in a safe environment, how it made me feel had not gone away. The Anxiety itself was mostly genetic, but it was made worse by acts that had been committed, sometimes unknowingly, by kids at school. A place that was supposed to be safe.
Soon after I confessed to my mom, I went to the therapist again and then the doctor to be put on medication to help. And it did help. Now, almost a month and a half later, I feel calmer and don’t breakdown nearly as often. Yet the feelings are still there, always in the back of my mind. And in my worse moments, I would do just about anything to just make it stop. I haven’t acted on these feelings, which is something I am eternally grateful for, but they don’t go away.
Later that year, the feelings came back. I don’t know what triggered them, but they did. I had trouble eating for months, since I had a constant stomach ache, most likely triggered by stress. I asked my parents again for more help, and we went to see a psychiatrist. She officially diagnosed me with depression, and helped me get on some meds that would really help. While it was a bumpy start, I rarely have breakdowns anymore. Heck, I’m even managing to start high school this year.
Though I’m in a better place, there are still a decent amount of kids, who make me feel like scum on a regular basis. I’m in the lucky position where I have awesome parents and other trustworthy adults behind me, but that doesn’t mean it will just go away. Every day, I have to deal with this. Sometimes, it’s a fight just to get myself to get out of bed. But I manage to do it every time.
Kids, and teachers, will try to get me to do what they believe is good for me. They try so hard to get me to come over, join them, talk, when all I want is to be alone. Bullying doesn’t stop when the kid walks away. It leaves lasting affects on the person or persons. Make sure that they’re okay. You have no idea how good it feels just to know that someone is looking out for you and is interested in your wellbeing. While my bullying wasn’t nearly as bad as what some kids have to face, it flipped a switch that would have been better left off.
It’s a struggle to deal with the aftermath of these problems, but it can be done. And in the end, it’s worth it. The main thing keeping me going? Books. I once heard that in order to keep yourself going, all you need to do is think of one thing you’ll miss. And honestly, what would I do if I couldn’t read Ensnared, The Shadow Cabinet, Heir of Fire, or one of the hundreds of other books coming out in the future. So when I’m down and looking for a way out, I think of what I’m looking forward to, what I’d miss were I gone. And it helps every time. All you need is one thing, whether it be a baby sibling, a book, a class next semester, a new song, or the next episode of The Vampire Diaries. Even if this never truly gets ‘better’ I know that all I need to do is keep holding on.