I slipped into the bathroom with my backpack, praying I wouldn’t run into anyone. I walked to the handicap stall, shut the door and sat on the toilet. I pulled out a brown paper bag filled with the lunch I made myself that morning and placed it on my shaky knees. I pulled out my perfectly sliced cheese sandwich in a Ziploc bag and took a bite. Then, I pulled out my water bottle from my backpack and took a sip.
I heard footsteps. I made sure my paper bag didn’t crinkle. Silence.
With my head hung down, I walked out of the bathroom half an hour later and rushed to class. I was twelve years old and this was an ordinary twelve o’clock lunch period for me.
As I slipped into the classroom, I took the first empty seat I could find.
I sat there alone, silently praying that we didn’t have to work with partners today.
It all started three years earlier, in fifth grade. He told everyone at school that they weren’t allowed to talk to me in class, lunch or anywhere else for that matter. My classmates all listened to him and avoided associating with me at all costs. They mindlessly followed his orders—even if they didn’t make the least bit of sense. It was a known fact that once he victimized you, your social crowd at school diminished.
My teacher’s voice quickly snapped me out of my thoughts.
“Good afternoon, class. Each of you will form groups of four and read the directions on the board. We’re doing group work today.” My teacher said.
My heart sank as I waited for the humiliation. I watched as my classmates started choosing their partners and immediately felt the heat from my cheeks turning them bright red. I gained the courage and forced myself to stand up to look for a group to join.
I made eye contact with him. His vicious eyes stared right back at me, managing to make me feel like a strand of hay in a mountain of needles—vulnerable and weak. We both knew what was coming. Except this time, I didn’t think I could handle him tormenting me one more time.
“No one sit with Mayssa, she’s a spaz and a loser,” he shouted. The entire class snickered and whispered cruel comments about me.
Spaz; the one word that stung more than any other. My face flushed.
I sat back down in my seat, head down, fighting back a flood of tears. From what felt like an eternity, I sat in my seat and worked on the project alone for the last hour and a half of class. I could still hear the snickers and giggles behind me. My eyes were glued to the clock.
I tried to stay strong each time he made me feel worthless. Every ounce of me wanted to fight back and tell him that he was wrong—that I wasn’t what he made me out to be and that his insecurities are the reason he’s a bully. I was victimized for years, simply because I didn’t act the way that others did in my school. Although I didn’t have the confidence and courage to speak out about it as a kid, I do now.
I’ve been tripped, I’ve had things thrown at me and I’ve been told to kill myself. I understand what it’s like to be hated for simply being me. I don’t know why he decided to hate me, but his comments affected the way I grew up and how I felt about myself for years.
He isn’t the only reason I felt worthless as a child. What really made me feel that way is all the people that watched and didn’t do a thing about it—from the inactive teachers to my very own classmates.
One needle doesn’t do much more than a prick, but with what feels like a world of needles, it’s difficult to overcome and heal from countless wounds. I was pricked over and over again until I felt like I was going to drown.
I went each and every day hiding this part of my life from everyone that I loved—from my friends outside of school to my own family. It wasn’t until I finally graduated from high school that I could even admit to myself that this was once a part of my childhood. I still shudder each time I think about him.
“Tattletales” are looked down upon, not only by students, but also by teachers. I had this dilemma throughout middle school; if I told on him, I would be hated and called a “tattletale”. If I didn’t tell, I’d have to keep living the way I was. It wasn’t until I switched schools that I could finally begin to escape it.
“Bullying” is an overused word. We overuse this word to the point where we don’t even understand what it means anymore.
Some people think of a bully as a strong person who degrades a weaker person. For me it was much more than that; it was being mentally and physically tormented from when I woke up in the morning to the moment I set my head on my pillow at night. It was being afraid to step into school and it was relief when I stepped off at my bus stop. I knew his insecurities were the reason he was bullying me, but I didn’t have the courage to use my power to stop him.
Now as I look back at it, I’ve realized that I’ve become someone strong who can take just about any kind of criticism and hate. I’ve finally grown to love every part of myself and not care what anyone thinks.
It was a struggle that I managed to survive—a struggle that I haven’t been able to talk about until now, but now I finally am.