You hear the word bullying a lot right now.
Schools are trying to stop it, adults are trying to raise awareness around it and kids are trying to survive it.
I am now one of those kids trying to survive bullying, but it wasn’t long ago I just wanted it to end. I wanted everything to end.
I grew up in a small community and there weren’t many families with ‘brown faces’ like mine. I started being bullied in kindergarten because I was different and being singled out for my differences has never stopped.
The pressure I felt at school has always been intense. I was always terrified of what word or action was coming at me next.
I was 11 years old when the symptoms of my depression, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder became noticeable to my classmates. Even then, I experienced hallucinations and voices, which are triggered when my anxiety is heightened.
Because I was viewed by many of my peers as different, I was pushed down a flight of stairs, thrown into a creek and punched in the face. In the last few years, with the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, the bullying moved online. At one point there was an ‘I hate Chelsea’ Facebook page out there and a Twitter account that took a poll on whether or not I should kill myself. Outside of those pages, if I tweeted something out about a band I liked I would also get a mention back from someone in my school that saw it and thought I would be better off dead.
By the time I was 12 I was experiencing suicidal ideation and started self-harming. At that point, my anxiety was getting worse every day because of bullying.
By Grade 9 I began missing a lot of school and had attempted suicide.
My family didn’t know what was going on at school until my brother’s now ex-girlfriend told my parents something was wrong. She noticed I was wearing long sleeve shirts in 30 degree weather to cover up the marks on my arms.
I was taken to emergency at the hospital nine times. I didn’t feel like they believed me when I told them about the voices in my head or the hallucinations I was having. I didn’t think they could help me. The longest I stayed in hospital after a trip to emergency was one week and two days.
I was seeing a psychiatrist who told me I needed to be at Ontario Shores, but I was too scared. I had gone online to ask others on forums and chat groups about what a psychiatriatic hospital was like. That was a big mistake.
I was convinced that if I went to Ontario Shores I’d have to wear a straight jacket and that there would be bars on the windows and that they would fry my brain.
As this was happening, things were getting worse at school. Instead of just suicidal thoughts, I was having homicidal thoughts. As my illnesses were getting worse, I felt like I was going to hurt someone.
Eventually an incident at home took the decision to go to Ontario Shores out of my hands.
I felt I like I was never meant to live to see 17. I was in a deep and dark place when I first came to Ontario Shores. But now, after months as an inpatient, I am thankful that I walked through the doors when I did.
My worst fears of coming to Ontario Shores disappeared almost as soon as I got here. The building is bright with lots of sun coming through the windows. The staff I have worked with care about me and they are teaching skills I can use to help manage my illness and symptoms.
When things get intense, I use skills I have learned through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to help ground me and get me through.
I am not cured of mental illness. I am learning how to live with it.
I have met some great people who have experienced similar challenges in their life and I now have a solid group of friends who accept and love me.
Before I thought living a long life was not for me. Now, I feel like I have a future.
I am beginning to transition back to school and eventually back home.
I am sharing my story because up until a few months ago I thought I was alone. Mental illness and the endless bullying were overwhelming. I didn’t have the tools to deal with either.
Now I am making progress and want to help others who might be in the same place I was.
I think if I would have heard a story like this when I was in the midst of my lowest moment, I would have reached out for help.
I also want teachers, principals, parents and all adults to know the impact bullying and social media bullying can have on kids. We need adults to take our complaints seriously. We need adults to teach us when to seek help. And, sometimes, we need adults to speak for us when we can’t.