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|
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|
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.