I’ve come to understand now as an adolescent that the value you have in your life is not the value that others place on you but what you think of yourself and how much you think you’re important.
Six years ago things were different.I grew up as a late bloomer; I lacked assets, to say the least. Thanks to that I was teased and taunted with all kinds of names one can envision – from airport runway to god-knows-what-else. Now thinking back on it, it wasn’t a big deal, but back then, when you’re finding yourself and slowly getting in touch with who you are as a person, that is bound to be very impactful. The taunting didn’t stop there, at first, it was verbal, people thought it was funny, and of course they didn’t want to call me by my name ‘cause that would give it away. Instead they called me ‘X’. It was terrible, and even more hurtful to know that it’d been going on a long time before someone told me.
Puberty hit me, and the nature of insults changed. Someone made a comment – maybe she stuffed her bra. And it stuck. So it got from verbal to physical annoyance and my books got shoved under the waste paper basket, I walked into class one morning to find my paper overturned and Coke ‘spilled’ onto my chair, my diary was taken from my bag while I was at recess and I came back to see a few heads bent over my table reading my penned down thoughts. I got called ’tissue’ and people kept asking me for it and laughing at my blur responses. It didn’t just hurt, but I didn’t know where to hide my face. The best part of it all was that when I wanted to talk to someone about it, I didn’t know who to trust because whenever it seemed that the person was friendly toward me, I would see them laughing and staring at me with their friends and that made me feel scared. It reached a point where I would look behind my back when I walked around in school because I did not want to be followed.
By sec 3 I retreated into a shell, I lived everyday wishing I need not go to school. I went to school and rushed home as soon as the bell rang. It was a terrible feeling. It reached the climax when the issues reached the conductor of the performing arts group I was in. There were some issues (which till this day I am not sure what about, but I knew who were involved) and in the end, I was told that I was not allowed to perform 5 minutes before we went on stage, and that was after I was dressed from top to toe in the performance gear plus giving 9 months worth of practice, sweat, blood and tears. That broke me. I went home to my room and locked myself inside for a good while, and when I came out, I vowed to myself that I would pick myself up and prove to those who did this to me that I was better than they said I was.
Then somehow the teachers found out, and I felt as though there was a glimmer of hope that it would stop. But there came the world of twitter and it moved online, and now no one could control. I was caught in a spiral of wanting to run away from it all, and get off social media to shield myself (and live in denial) but I also wanted to see what people were ‘indirect tweeting’. I don’t even know how I managed to survive secondary school.
Fast forward and it is 2015 and about 3-4 years since it all happened.
Going through this when I was younger was no mean feat, but it shaped me (both in a good and bad way) and when I grew up it helped me learn to pick up people who were going through this and tell them that there is a way out.
On reflection back then I think the fear was real. “What’s the point of telling anyone when it would not get better?” I was afraid, lost and mostly helpless. As such I retreated to my bubble and went to school each day praying and dying to go home the moment I stepped into the compound.
3 years down the road I must say the scars still remain. They might be just scars, but they tell a story. Back then I had no one to pick me up, I literally was left alone, and it felt like the bullying came from every side, what was worst was when it was in all forms and the hardest one to tackle was the attack on the mind. After a while, it was no more about what people said, verbally or online, but the stares that came your way which your mind would interpret and scare you further. It felt like when you were around them it was bad; when you were not around them it was worse because you could not ‘control’ how you felt.
In a way I am thankful I survived it all and came out stronger. I have no idea how I made it through if not for God who gave me strength through that whole period and friends in JC (woot woot you know who you are) who took me as I was, broken and all, and healed me back. I would never be the same girl I was before it happened for those 4 years but it taught me character and how to stand up (if not for myself back then, for others now).
The recovery was not easy; I would cringe when the word used on me was merely mentioned in a perfectly normal situation because my mind associated that word with hurt. I was afraid to be like the girls because they were all, ‘one kind’. I did not know how to react in social situations, and I lied to cover up my fears because I did not want people to see me differently from others. I was desperate for acceptance and yet had no idea how to achieve it. Furthermore, one of the most frustrating statements to me was: be yourself, just be yourself. But for me I wondered, how to be myself when ‘myself’ was what got me bullied for 4 years. I was hated on because I was different, wasn’t it?
I want to say to anyone who feels that way; it is sometimes impossible to talk to people because some of us have reached that stage where we literally trust no one because everyone who seemingly says ‘you can trust me’ will blab. But we need to get it out, and there are people who can help you, there are people who care, and we are here for you. You are never alone in this and there is a way out. Talking it out is the first step in recognising where you are and how you can help yourself, and then the healing may begin. It may take a long time, for me it took 3 years, all the way till post A levels. But it must start.
Lastly I would just like to say to those who threw me down so hard I lost my breath each day for those 4 years of my life, I would like to say: Thank you for teaching me how to be strong. You may not have wanted it this way, but the little girl that you battered with words (because words are stronger than anything else), both verbally and online, the scared child who cowered under your sniggers and abuse has now grown into a powerful young lady, and you are the cause of it. You have empowered me to help others, to bring them out of whatever they are going through, to help them stand up. Remember that some whom you slam down, they will come back fighters, stronger than ever before. I am living proof of that.
On a side note; writing this is kind of cathartic because it’s the first time I actually voice out how I feel and really put it into words. –