Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beating My Bullies (Part 1): Living in Fear and Darkness

I made a very personal decision recently and decided to publicly speak about my personal experiences with bullying, anorexia and depression. The following is the first part of the story that I published in this week's edition of the Edgerton Reporter. I will be posting the second half tomorrow. I hope you help me by spreading my message. As difficult as it was to put everything down in print, I feel it is my duty. If just one person is helped, it will be worth it.

October is the month of spooks and ghouls, breast cancer awareness and visits to the pumpkin patch. It is also National Bullying Awareness Month. Bullying is something I am all too familiar with. As a child, I lived in fear of my classmates. Being the lone Catholic in a Lutheran school is not a fun position to be in.

Darkness and despair
I was fed mouse, under the guise of whipped cream, during a birthday sleepover for one of my female classmates. My hands and feet were bound during my sleep, and my classmates laughed when I woke up and was less graceful than usual.

If it was not the girls teasing me and making jokes behind my back, the boys were there to physically assault me. I was punched and kicked on an almost daily basis, never hard enough to bruise, but it hurt all the same.

My senior picture, one month before school started
One day, after being punched and kicked repeatedly by one classmate, I returned to my classroom in tears. When the teacher asked what was wrong, I told her what transpired. Her response? She could not believe me because she knew there was friction between the male student and I, but she could not believe him when he said he did not physically hurt me because he was always getting into trouble.

My personal possessions were destroyed or hidden. I had to return home one cold winter day without a coat after someone stole it from my cubby. My parents were forced to purchase a second winter jacket for me, and that one also disappeared. Both were eventually “found” by a classmate, but no one knew how they were “misplaced.”

I was 13 the first time I contemplated ending my life. With no friends and no teachers taking my side, I lived in fear when I went to school. I had nightmares about being beaten to a bloody pulp and left for dead. I was ridiculed on an almost daily basis and told that I was retarded, fat, ugly and no one would ever love me. After three years of fighting, I began to believe the mantra. I had no self-confidence and began to believe that the world would be better off without me. I was just wasting space.

My Catholic upbringing and the belief that I would burn in hell for the rest of my life is what saved me and kept me from ending my life. Fear can be a strong motivator. But happiness eluded me.

Welcome to the jungle
I found a piece of happiness in the bigger pond of high school. I was still teased, but thankfully not beaten. I made friends and found inclusion in my high school’s band program. And yet, at the back of my mind, the bullies were still winning. If a relationship did not work out, I thought it was because I was not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough.

My senior year of high school, the depression hit hard. My boyfriend was distant, and I was determined to earn his love. How? By being a better athlete, musician and student. I improved every single one of my cross country meet times and threw myself into my music. I earned three bids to State Solo and Ensemble, and three more state first place medals.

Come track and field, I left it all on the track, PRing by 20 seconds in the mile run during my first meet of the season. But it came at a cost. I became anorexic at the start of the school year. I would eat lunch with my friends, and clean off my tray. But 50 percent of the time, that was the only meal I ate all day.

My depression led to anorexia, and I dropped 30 lbs. in 7 weeks
I weighed 170 pounds at the start of the school year. By Thanksgiving, I had dropped to 140 pounds, and everyone told me how good I looked. On the outside, my life seemed perfect. But inside the bubble, it was dissolving into madness.

Consuming maybe 800 calories a day and being a three-sport athlete do not mix well. I came close to blacking out when sitting in class, and I was sick for most of the year. I would retain a common cold for three weeks, be “healthy” for a week, and then catch another bug. By denying my body of necessary nutrients, I was impairing my body’s ability to fight off infection and illness.

What saved me, of all things, was the dissolution of my relationship. After everything I tried and went through, my efforts were not good enough. That is when I took a good look at what I was doing to myself, and realized how toxic the relationship was.

Although my eyes were opened to the form of self-abuse my depression had taken, my dark cloud was still hovering. My road to recovery was just beginning, and it would be years before I would once again bask in the sunlight.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Rachel I had no idea! Thanks for sharing, I was bullied too and had some of the same self confidence issues. It's great that you are helping others with this story! God bless!