I have a bully.
It started in middle school. She would follow me around, taunt me and tell me I wasn’t good enough. In her mind, I never did anything right. I was simply ordinary.
She pointed out things she knew I was insecure about. She made me stress about my schoolwork. She made me cry. I felt trapped.
Going into high school I had hoped maybe she would leave me alone. On the first day, I walked into freshmen orientation, but immediately I kn
ew she was there.
I felt her eyes on me as I walked from class to class. The thought of being in those hallways debilitated me.
One week was particularly bad. I missed five hours of school one day because she made me cry. That’s when the episodes started. My fingers and toes went numb, my vision got blurry, my hands shook. I couldn’t breathe.
Not long after, she started following me home. In fact, she followed me everywhere. The store, the softball field, out with my friends. She was always with me.
At night, she kept me awake wondering. How would she terrorize me tomorrow? How would she embarrass me? When would she find m
e? Or, would tomorrow be the day that she finally left me alone? Deep down, I knew she wouldn’t go away, but I still hoped. Every day, a little sliver of that hope left me.
I wanted to tell my family, maybe they could help. But, she told me that they couldn’t, they wouldn’t care. I believed her. I was ashamed of telling my parents what she thought of me. As soon as I told someone about it, that made it real, and real meant that I couldn’t take it back.
Eventually, people started noticing. My teachers asked me why I was quiet, or why I cried in class. My friends noticed I stopped joking around, and we never hung out.
That’s when I found out that I wasn’t the only one. She was bullying other people and she had been for a long time.
She was the most prevalent type of mental health illness in adolescents.
The Child Mind Institute says that nearly 1 in 3 teens knew her. She even targeted girls more than boys by a 2:1 ratio. Some say she singled us out because of genetics or brain chemistry. Others say it could have been life events.
It is important to note that everyone has a healthy dose of anxiety. Everyone feels nervous about bills, school or relationships at one time or another. However, an anxiety disorder in constant fear and worrying that is unproportional to its cause, and interrupts daily life.
She is with me all the time. By now, we are inseparable.
It was one of those things where if I didn’t talk about it, I’d thought it’d just go away. Of course, it didn’t.
From the outside looking in, it was hard for people to understand. For some, they never would. From the inside looking out, it was hard to explain.
At some point I realized: I couldn’t do this by myself forever. I needed help.
I told my friends, my parents and my teachers. Most of them understood.
But she still follows me, and she always will. I can feel her presence, and it still intimidates me. But, now I know I am not alone.
I still worry for her other victims. I hope my siblings and friends don’t meet her.
And if they do, I hope they know that they know they aren’t alone.
If you know her, reach out for help. Find a school counselor, talk to a trusted friend, or tell the trusted adult in your life.
She creates a broken system that tells you that you are nothing but ordinary. A system that tells you, “You are not good enough.”
A system that is just that: Broken.
But, what is broken can be fixed.
I got in contact with a medical professional and we came up with a plan of action. I sought out healthy ways to deal with my anxiety. I found a voice and learned to advocate my needs for my mental health.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, I am a part of the mere 37% who seek out treatment for their anxiety. A number that, in my mind, is way too low.
My system still has cracks and dents, but the road to recovery is a process. Mine has only just begun.
I am working to repair my system.
So can you.