Recently, I got called into the psychologist’s office at my high school for a consultation. One of my teachers told me that she’d been watching over me for two and a half years (I’m halfway through my third year of high school, seventeen and a half years old) and directed me to the office.
I initially had trouble opening up; mostly because of the shock I experienced when I got asked whether there was something wrong. It felt like lightning struck me on a clear sunny day. I was silent and awkward and smiley the first few times. In the past three years, I’ve never shown any signs of depression or suicidal behavior, mostly due to fear of getting the same reactions I got a couple of years ago when I attempted to open up to people (particularly family members).
Now I’ve decided to tell my story here, on this website, for some odd reason.
When I was in sixth grade, I started getting feelings of alienation from other classmates. I felt different in an indescribable way – it wasn’t particularly intense or anything, but it was still there, and it was a drag.
That was when the bullying slowly began and gradually escalated as time passed by.
I was about 12 years old, I think. Students pushed me around and I had no friends, nor support from my family members. During that time, I went to private English lessons in a private school and also took tennis classes. The bullying got worse bit by bit. It wasn’t very physical, to be honest, but the words they said broke me. At about that time, I started to cut. Not very deep, mostly just scratches. I would usually wrap my wrist with gauze so that it wouldn’t be directly visible (frankly, I wasn’t too good at that).
Then seventh grade came.
And things got worse.
At one point during this period, things did get slightly physical. One of my classmates from school transferred to my English group, and managed to turn the other students against me. They said the same things to me like in school: “You should just kill yourself”, “You’re ugly/stupid/worthless” etc. They also tugged my hair or pulled at my sleeve or gave me a kick or two from the back of my stool.
Up until that point, I remember having one friend. Her name doesn’t matter, she will remain anonymous, but I will tell you that she was very dear to me.
But like all things in life that also had to end, at some point.
My father decided I needed to take better and more efficient tennis classes, so he made me transfer to another tennis club, in an all boys group. I, as a 13-year-old girl, could not easily just adapt to the new setting. Besides, because of my worsening situation, I began to change in the aspect of personality. I began having more outbursts and irrational anger emissions (for example, I would get mad at her if she didn’t reply to my messages within a short period of time). So with time, I lost her, and at that point I truly felt – and was – alone, in this mess.
At more than just a few points in my life, I tried to tell my parents, but all I got was dismissal. The idea of telling my parents, especially my dad, scares me to this day. I start to shake and whenever I try thinking about it in-depth, I reflexively start weeping.
It felt like you’re under some murky waters, looking around, completely conscious but unable to do anything. Unable to wave your hands and push yourself to the surface. I couldn’t go to my parents, I had no friends to turn to, so I headed to the thing that was easily accessible to me – self harm.
Flash forward to a year or a year and a half later. The day before me and my family were supposed to go on a vacation, I confessed. To tell you the truth, their first reaction was horrible. My mother was in shock, didn’t react in any way, just started to rub her face in order to remain calm, and at some point started to cry. My father said “Really? Why didn’t you cut deeper? If you’re already getting into that, why not just kill yourself and end it all?”
Now, while this may seem a bit drastic (to say the least), specifically coming out of a parent’s mouth, it was not completely inappropriate. Although I do wish he would have phrased it differently, honestly, because at that time it destroyed a little part of me that to this day I cannot piece back together.
Anyways, although it did not begin so, the end to me and my parents’ conversation ended not very unpleasantly. Truthfully it felt like the weight on my shoulders had been lifted – at least temporarily.
So then.. When did it return?
I’ll jump to the last year of primary school (14 years old). There was a scandal at school in which I was directly involved. There were rumors circulating; people talking about me having sex in the school’s toilets with a boy from my class. My classmates started talking, the teachers started questioning and sending me to the principal’s office, the boy started to pressure me and actually say things like “If you don’t tell everyone that nothing ever happened, I’ll fuck your life up.” or some other bullshit like that. However, instead of returning these comments with emotional behaviors like cutting or other forms of self harm, I did quite the opposite: I resorted to dismissing my own emotions and made myself distanced and unemotional. To this day, because of that particular moment, things that seem normal and completely doable to other people sometimes seem confusing or, in extreme cases, impossible for me.
During that period, I started getting “closer” with one (at that time problematic) girl in my class. We were on and off all the time, she was the type of person with a very explosive personality while I was quite the opposite. She caused fights while I was ruining away from them. And the boy decided to brainwash her, and make her doubt everything I ever said up until I managed to explain what actually happened and that she was being lied to (the lie doesn’t matter too much, it’ll take an extra paragraph to explain anyways).
To sum up, I spent that period running around offices and running away from myself. I do remember that some teachers did attempt to reach out (and I am extremely thankful), but I couldn’t accept it. During that time, I’d cut my long hair very boyishly short – I felt ugly so therefore I wanted to look ugly.
After primary school comes high school (it’s how it works here). I applied for one of the best high schools in my city, for the English bilingual class and I passed the test.
My high school life had begun and almost everything was left behind me. I did feel free for a short while, but the feelings and experiences I had have left a big dent in my personality and probably to some extent even in my psychological development. Not that I was mentally ill or something drastic like that, but I never really mastered basic things that, as it seemed to me, others already had and didn’t think too much of.
The first half of my freshman year started off a bit wobbly. I had made a promise to myself to be extremely careful, and therefore I did not speak a lot, unless I really needed to. One of my classmates from primary school was in my class, and if that were not the case, I’d be living a completely different life. She was with me almost always, she was really trying to make me open up (at least that’s the impression I got, I think) and make me communicate a bit more.
The second half of freshman year began and I started smoking. I remember the date – February 4th, year 2016. Finally, I’d found something that calms me down and, in a way, lets me self harm in a completely subtle way to other people. I was an addict even before I’d lit my first cigarette.
My first real friendships blossomed with the first box of cigarettes. I traded my lungs for the one thing that I’d always prayed for – true, heartfelt friendship. Someone to like me, to greet me, to want to be with me. To walk by and turn their head toward me with a soft smile, not a cynical smirk.
The three girls were in my class, but the first time I spoke to them was completely by accident. I saw them frequently outside during the breaks between classes and thought that they went out to smoke, so I asked them for a lighter. They got excited that I decided to start, and to keep it short – our friendship began.
My life has improved very much; I have great friends, my parents are slowly adapting to me, my school life is overall satisfying, the bullying is in the past.
But… I feel empty, without a sense of direction in life. Social life is hard and lately it’s taken a toll on me, psychologically in particular. I began cutting again recently, the number of cigarettes I smoke a day has doubled over time and I’ve been feeling sick physically and having trouble doing some simple things, like getting up in the morning or dressing or taking baths. Not many things are even a bit fulfilling, and every fulfillment that does happen lasts a relatively short time. There are dents and holes and scratches in me. I’m forgetful, at times irrationally reckless. Certain smells, sounds, voices, nuances – literally almost anything, can remind me of something traumatic and I’ll start getting anxious or sad or faint.
Often, a sentence pops up in my mind. “I really wish I would’ve died back then and there”.
But I didn’t. There was probably some voice whispering to me not to go and to try staying here. Perhaps some subconscious curiosity, who knows.
Now I can hear the same voice saying, clearer than before “It might be better not to wish for such a thing“.
When that happens, I close my eyes, wipe my tears and draw a breath, feeling the sadness go away into hiding, getting replaced with some peculiar but fulfilling numbness.
In those moments I realize that maybe there is something somewhere that’s keeping me together. The bonds are very labile, but they’re still holding.
Maybe there is some reason.
Just maybe. ?