My story is like so many others that I hesitated for a good minute before deciding to put pen to paper. Who am I to disclose my life to an unknown audience, under an anonymous name, with the pretense that they should care enough to read it? But I’ve come to realize that talking about these things is better than doing nothing, and hopefully by sharing my story I can encourage one of you to talk to someone else.
From kindergarten until the ends of my elementary school career, one of my good friends at the time and I were practically inseparable. We were the clichéd peas-in-a-pod duo, with weekly sleepovers and obligatory movie nights. We were so close that our parents were almost sick of the other. On the surface, we were perfect.
It was during the middle of fifth grade that I figured out that there might be something slightly wrong with the dynamics in my best friend, Bella, and mine’s friendship, and that there had been for some time. Especially during my last two years of elementary school, I was quiet, timid, and painfully aware of my growing insecurities. Where others blossomed into social circles of their own, I struggled to maintain other friendships that I had outside of the one with Bella, and it was easy to fall back into the throws of our relationship. She was practically all I knew from the age of five and thus had become my constant.
It’s hard for me to say that I was bullied, because in the back of my mind I know that there are so many others who have had so, so much worse, but I really can’t think of any other word to describe it. Let’s just say, me being the doormat of the friendship is probably an understatement. I was easy to take advantage and harass, as she knew I’d never snitch or do anything of consequence. The few times that I did try to stand up for myself left me feeling a little bit weaker and a little bit less okay. I thought something was wrong with me, for her to treat me this way. She didn’t act like this with anyone else, so it must have been a problem of my own.
Thanks to a friend I still hold dear to me now, I escaped the toxic friendship and transitioned into middle school with relative ease. I felt okay again, with friends who didn’t pick out my flaws loudly in front of her friends, or question every little thing I did. Life was good, better than it had been in years.
That is until Alexis. Now, I know what you’re thinking: really, another girl? I just got out of a bad friendship, and I immediately switched to the next; I must have been seeking these people out.
That statement wouldn’t have been so far off. When most girls had grown out of their awkward phase, I was battling hormonal acne that made my mom and dermatologist grimace alike, and hadn’t caught on to clothing trends or popular phrases. It makes sense to me now, why I would pick relationships with girls who would so easily walk all over me and dominate our friendship. I needed a constant in my life, and that was what they gave me.
The problems I faced in this friendship were significantly darker; perhaps it was my growing awareness of my insecurities, maybe it was the stress of sixth and seventh grade. Whatever the case, my struggles came full-frontal. I spent nights in my underwear in front of the mirror, poking at my thighs and waist and stomach and wondered, was that the reason for all of this? Was I just not good enough for the world?
The internet became as much as a curse as it was a blessing, as it gave me an escape at home from the real world, but introduced me to less healthy ways of self expression. I scratched my wrists and the insides of my arms daily, too afraid to use a razor, and dug my nails into my palms whenever I said something I thought was wrong. Panic attacks entered my life like an unwanted relative knocking at your door. I was convinced it would never end, that I’d be stuck hating myself and my own body until I escaped for university.
It took me two more years to go to my school counselor, and it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I see now that it was the best decision I ever made. I had no idea how much I needed to talk to someone, anyone, about what I was going through. For so long I’d kept so quiet, only divulging carefully thought out snippets to my parents and friends. Keeping mum was what was holding me back from ever letting myself heal.
Talking to school counselors and therapists is not something that we should be ashamed of. Even people with problems that they believe to be too small to talk about find themselves feeling so much better after sharing their issues. It’s not so much listening to what the other person has to say, but more expressing oneself freely without the worry of being judged that is so crucial.
My most difficult life challenge was not so much freeing myself from Alexis and Bella, or overcoming my insecurities, or even realizing how to recognize a bad friendship for what it is. It was more learning that no matter how bad the situation, confiding in others is what can bring me back to the present. I won’t lie and tell you that I don’t suffer from the occasional panic attack or fit of anxiety, or that my life is now roses and sunshine, but I will say that I would be nowhere where I am today if it wasn’t for talking to another person.
If you’re reading this and what I’ve written sounds painfully familiar, I want to tell you that you are strong and you are so, so much more loved than you could ever imagine. I am proud of you for reading all the way through this, and proud of you for making it through life thus far. If you are in crisis, or suffering through whatever you may be going through, please, please please don’t hesitate to call Teen Line at 310-855-4673 or visit our message boards. Stay strong.
Denise – 15 year old