Hearing stories about people who end their lives due to incessant bullying really does something to me. It makes me cringe, it makes me sad, it makes me remember all the dark places I once was becuase of bullying. But then it reminds me of how much more I am than those incidents of bullying.
Since I was young, I’ve been hurled insults and “jokes” all across the board. “She’s so fat,” “She looks like a boy,” “Look at what she’s wearing” “I’d rather fuck a whale,” “Don’t you belong at Sea World?” “You’re so ugly,” “You’re such a nerd,” “No one likes you,” etc etc etc.
All through elementary school, middle school and high school, I was bullied. It went from focusing on my weight and my looks when I was younger to becoming more personal, psychological attacks as I got older. I was in a constant state of paranoia because even my “closest friends” would laugh about how needy I was or how they got me to drive them somewhere because I was the only one with a car.
I did everything in my power to fit in. I tried to starve myself, I tried to change my wardrobe, I tried to be more “girly,” I tried to do things for people MORE. I sacrificed my own character and my own soul just to try to be liked, to not be laughed at, to not be talked about. I wanted to be loved but invisible all at the same time.
I remember being in elementary school and just being alone. I had friends, sure, but those friends didn’t help when it came down to facing those demons inside of me. It was hard enough to have gone through the things I did as a child at home, but then I had to go to school and also face rejection and pain. I would cry at home, I would rebel and I would latch on to people who were bolder, stronger than me, who would take advantage of me and use me for my resources.
When I was in middle school I thought about hanging myself. I tried to find rope. I mapped it out. But I never went through with it. Things got a bit better.
Then in high school, it all started again. I felt alone, I felt rejected on a constant basis, I could hear people talking about me, I was a loner. I would go home during lunch and drink from my dad’s stash of alcohol. I’d take bottles of random pills. I’d drink more. I’d drive back to school drunk. I drove and drove and drove and thought about driving my car into a building. Thought about driving off a cliff. Tried to walk into oncoming traffic. Cut myself. Punched myself in the face. Beat my head against the wall hoping to go unconscious.
My parents were persistent. They told me to love myself, told me I was special, told me to ignore the haters. They insisted on giving me self-worth when I was down to my smallest drop of any kind of belief in myself. My dad did this thing with me when I was about 10 that I look back on and am so grateful for. He would make me stand in front of a mirror, look into my eyes, and say, “I love you.” He would stand behind me and I wouldn’t be allowed to leave until I could say it out loud, convincingly, looking directly into myself. He used to say, no one else will love you unless you love yourself. So we’d stand there. Sometimes we’d be there for hours. I would look up, look to my side, look away, so ashamed of myself, so hurt with who I was, not wanting to look at myself. But he’d make me stand there, waiting patiently. I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful that he loved me so much and believed in me so much that he could do that with me.
I went to college. I met people like me. I connected with others. I found that I was worth a whole lot more than anyone in my childhood ever led me to believe. I found that I was an incredibly smart, witty person. I realized I had a great ability to connect with people on an emotional, personal level. I found that I was a great writer, a dependable person, I had a strong voice. I realized that there were so many things about myself that I absolutely loved. So there was no way I could ever consider ending my life again. I’m too amazing.
I’m thrilled to be here today. I’m thrilled to say that I love myself. Of course, I’m not perfect. There are things about me, on the inside and the outside, that I’d like to improve on. But that’s okay. I’m alright with that. Because the number of things I love about myself completely outweigh (hah pun) the things about myself I don’t like as much. I love who I am, I love what I represent, I love the fight I have in me, I love the stories I tell with strength, conviction and confidence, I love my aura, I love me so much, that no words, no sneers, no dirty looks could break me down. They may sting a little, they may pick at the scabs of those scars I received at a young age, but they can’t break me. Nobody has the power to break me down. Only I can determine how others make me feel and how they affect me.
I hope that some young person reads this. I hope you know that there is a whole world out there that you can conquer. If you just give it a chance. I know it hurts to be told “it’ll get better,” “hang in there,” but please. Hang in there. It will get better. Please don’t give up. Please try to find someone to talk to. Talk to me. I’m here. But don’t end your life. I know from experience that ending everything seems like the quick, easy fix. But quick and easy are nothing compared to the feeling of overcoming a hurdle, of accomplishing something big, of reaching a goal.