by Dylan Buckley
For me, there wasn’t a pivotal moment in my life where I had suddenly become a victim of bullying. It’s like the quote Elizabeth Wurtzel mentions in her memoir Prozac Nation, “There is a classic moment in The Sun Also Rises when someone asks Mike Campbell how he went bankrupt, and all he can say in response is, ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’”
That’s how it happens. You start off noticing the little things, how people stare at you, how people address you, how they avoid you at all costs. Then waves and waves of the abuse crash against you. It’s no longer whispers amongst peers or notes being passed in class. It’s violence, rumors, and outright hatred.
The bullying began when my mother had decided to move me in with her boyfriend during the third grade. My mother was struggling with her mental health and her alcoholism and my father was struggling was his drug abuse. Needless to say, things were less than ideal, and with my home situation being what it was, I was susceptible to becoming a victim.
In that school, I felt isolated. I had two friends, one had moved away only moments after I arrived and another one had hated me whenever she decided she wanted to. Most of the children either called me “smelly” or “weirdo” and did not hesitate to share their opinions when they could. I spent most of my time on my own or with my mother.
Luckily, we only spent a year there before my mother decided to take me to California to live with her parents. I was excited, I had only visited California before. Immediately, however, I noticed that I was different. The way I dressed, the way I acted, it was so strange compared to the other children.
I struggled to fit in with those around me in elementary school. I had more friends than I did back in New Hampshire, but I was still an outcast. No matter what clothes I was wearing or how I acted, people seemed to have a secret knowledge about me that I wasn’t aware of. Still, I remained fairly happy throughout those years, and despite the looks or the comments I wasn’t phased.
It was during middle school that it started to take its toll. I was being bullied by two kids who seemed to have a never-ending drive to torment me whenever humanly possible. The one would constantly stab me with whatever objects he could manage to find, calling me a “faggot” and telling me how terrible I was. The second would harass me in the locker room. Everyday I would come in to change and he would be ready to repeatedly hit me. Along with those two, I would experience the random kid, walking by and casually calling me “gay” or “faggot”. I thought that maybe once I got out of middle school it would get better, but this was only the tip of the iceberg.
High school was probably the worst four years of my life. I was depressed, I was cutting, and while other kids were out with their friends, I’d be holed in my room, thinking about killing myself. To add to that, I finally discovered that I was gay, which made it even harder to fit in. Each year it got worse. It started off with the same kind of verbal abuse that I experienced before, but come junior year, it turned into rumors.
It didn’t matter to anyone whether the rumors were true or not. All that mattered to everyone was that I was who I was, and that person needed to be taught a lesson. The verbal abuse escalated, to the point where I wouldn’t be able to walk home without people saying something to me. I barely left the house, and every time I did I was afraid that I was going to run into people that would say something in front of my family.
Senior year I decided to end it all. I couldn’t stop thinking about the past. I couldn’t shake the feeling that everywhere I went, people were going to hate me. I mean, I hated me. I took a handful of pills, which landed me in the hospital for a week and in therapy for three months.
Every story has a lesson. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m in the best position in my life or that I graduated from Harvard and made a million dollars because that’s not true, but what is true is that it gets better. People begin to mature and realize that their actions were horrible, and those who don’t won’t make it very far in life. You begin to realize that life is so much more than just high school and you’re going to realize that you are so much more than you or other people gave you credit for.
In the end, it’s all about making the best of what you’re given. I was bullied, but no one can tell me who I am. No one has the power to make me a victim unless I give it to them. No one has the power to do that to you either.