Every time I hear of a teen attempting suicide I am thrown back to my teen age self; full of insecurity and self deprecation. I wanted to share the stories of adults who are living happy lives now, but who went through a great deal of pain as a youth and persevered to find freedom over time. None of us have perfect lives now, do not be fooled by what you might see on the outside we all still stumble and struggle with our personal demons, however I assure you it is very different from high school. For some high school is amazing “the good old days” but for many of us the best comes after school. There is a big world out there waiting for you.
My desire with this article is to create hope for a future that might be very hard to imagine right now if you are a child, teen, or even an adult going through a rough time. Know that others have been there as well. These are just a few personal stories from people who struggled in school but who’s lives have flourished since then.
I wasn’t always like this. Ya, I know you’ve heard this a million times yet it doesn’t make how you feel go away. I don’t expect my story to make your hurt disappear or even change but if you can hang in there I promise you that things will get better and you will have an awesome life. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had never been the prettiest, smartest, funniest, most athletic girl I had just always been average. I had friends and was able to do good enough in school to get by all that seemed to change for me very suddenly in grade 7. A new girl moved to town and she was instantly popular. She was funny, mysterious, pretty and confident. During P.E. one day she gave every girl in our class a nickname from the Sailor Moon cartoon, everybody but me. I was suddenly shunned. People I used to call my friends wouldn’t even talk to me, they all giggled and told secrets behind my back it was humiliating and made me feel worthless. That was also the year I realized I wasn’t very good at math. As it turned out not knowing how to do math made my teachers and parents somehow think less of me, in my eyes anyway. Now I know my parents did what they thought right at the time but weekly if not daily I was called stupid, useless, lazy and ignorant. We had argument after argument over test scores, report card grades and flash card drills, all of which caused pain deep within me. This went on for years.
All through high school I had trouble making friends and never fit in, this also seemed to be a point of contention with my parents and myself. I didn’t do any extra curricular activities, I didn’t belong to any teams or sporting groups, I didn’t go to birthday parties or even my own grad party, I was never invited. And I didn’t get any better at math. Teachers would often shame me by asking me to go up front and solve a math problem knowing full well I had no idea how to do them. I cried often and would wonder what my life could have been like if I was only good a math or was popular. I was very unhappy. A feeling of inadequacy followed me around daily until I graduated. I managed to graduate with a c- in math 11(the second time around) and not a true friend to share it with, but as suddenly as it started in grade 7 it ended the summer after I graduated.
My popularity status didn’t matter anymore out in the real world. My peers weren’t judging me everyday like in school. I didn’t worry about my next math test or report card I took life by the horns and moved on. I got a minimum wage job where my boss and colleagues didn’t know or care if I could solve a quadratic equation and I moved out on my own. I met an amazing guy who also didn’t care who I was in high school or how many friends I didn’t have he only cared about me as a person and this was a new feeling for me. A year after graduation went by and slowly my life was getting better. I was happy and not always thinking about my inadequacies. I made new friends who couldn’t care less about who I was in high school; to be honest we never ever spoke about high school. I went to university and was living my life for the here and now.
Fast forward 10 years and I am married to that special boy who treated me like I had worth. We are very happy living in Vancouver and raising our 3-year-old daughter. I now own a small business and love my life. Could I have predicted this when I was being verbally beat down and repetitively made to feel like a nobody? Absolutely not. I haven’t seen or even thought of anyone from my high school days until I was asked to write this article. My life has turned out unlike anything I could have ever dreamed and I know yours will too. I am not special or lucky or fortunate I am just average and I love that. High school is just a blip on the radar of your life you just need to hang in there I promise things will get better.
Heather – Mom and Owner of Dawn Till Dusk Day Care
I wasn’t always like this…….. I wasn’t always confident in my abilities and comfortable with my appearance. I wasn’t always down with being the center of attention or excited about being a role model. Fast forward from grade school to present day and I’m living a life full of so much love and fulfillment that I feel if I pinch myself I will wake up from a dream. I am an elementary school teacher, trainer, blogger and I am making my dreams become reality every single day. During elementary school I grew up along side beautiful girls who had hairless legs, arms, and eyebrows that were separated in the middle. I, however, had a mono brow, dark very noticeable body hair as well as a fine dark haired moustache. Not cute, trust me. Throughout my elementary and high school years I always felt a sense of insecurity. I would compare myself to others and never felt that I could be “the pretty girl that all the guys wanted.” Although I always had lots of friends and was not bullied, on the inside I felt that I didn’t measure up and never would. I spent most of high school stuck in the “friend zone” with the boys in my life, this sucked.
I was confident in my abilities as a student (I was super dedicated and prided myself on getting straight A’s and the highest work ethic marks possible), I knew that I was a good person, someone who cared about others and wanted nothing more than to support, listen to and help everyone in my life in any way that I could. Unfortunately at this time in my life I valued my appearance over all of these other abilities. I was so wrapped up in the greatest cause of my insecurity and what I saw to be my flaws that I could not focus on everything wonderful about me. I always joke that I have my sparkling personality (funny, outgoing) because I had to make up for my appearance in order to make friends, I laugh this off but I do truly mean it! The point I’m trying to make is this. Focus on your strengths, we all have them and it’s your job to make them grow. Accept your weaknesses, we all have those too. Understand that no matter how hopeless or lost you may feel as a child or teenager, things WILL get better. You have to have faith, believe that all of these experiences, good and bad, will help you become better and stronger in the long run. It has taken me hard work, sacrifices, dedication and focus to get to where I am. Somewhere along the way I decided it was time to STOP the negative talk and START believing in myself. I suggest it’s time you do the same.
Sandy – School Teacher and Fitness Instructor
Bullying is a preventable epidemic that has continued through society generation after generation. It baffles my mind that the cure for this disease requires only the change on mindset. It is like saying that we have a cure for a terminal disease and all we have to do is change our minds.
Growing up through grade school for me was not easy. When you know you are different it is easy for the other kids to know that too. I often felt excluded from social groups, pressured to be someone I was not and worst of all feeling like the real me was wrong.
Because I didn’t feel connected to my friends around me, I started hanging out in places where I knew I would be safe. Like being part of yearbook or other social type groups. Although I still hurt on the inside and didn’t truly love myself it helped me get by.
At times my anxiety would get so bad that my stomach would hurt to the point of feeling sick. Doctors thought it could be Crone’s disease or a different digestive issue but it was really just me living in complete fear of what would happen when I came out.
When I came out as being gay in high school every thing changed. I felt a new found confidence in truly owning who I truly am. It didn’t matter what other people thought about me and although the kids would still taunt it really didn’t bug me as much. I lost friends and grew apart from many but with that came a whole dimension of new, accepting and inspirational people who are still in my life today.
Finding who I am was not an easy journey, and it did not happen over night. There were a lot of tears, personal growth and reflection. It made me realize how things have to change, how we each influence change in our own way.
At the time, I reflected on how unfair life was and wished I had born different so I wouldn’t have had to go through the emotional pain. I knew that when I did survive and create greatness that it would be my mission to do my part in helping others through this very hard time in their life.
If each of us chose one act to better the world and encourage acceptance and most of all love, we would create a reLOVEution.
My life has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the most inspirational people who influence change every day. I knew that I needed to ask my colleagues to join together on a viral campaign to take a stand for those who feel silenced.
Loyal -CEO Loyal Hair Therapy
Today I am a passionate, adventurous, joyful and fancy-free yogi but many people are not aware that I spent most of my youth filled with anxiety and fear. In fact, I really hated going to school. Although I may have appeared to “have it all” on the outside, I often struggled with depression on the inside. Growing up I would spend every morning putting myself together to look my very best. The way I looked on the outside was an expression of how I would hope to feel on the inside~ cool, smart, beautiful, strong… I was generally tormented on the inside with thoughts and feelings that I was never “good enough”~ not smart enough, not cool enough. My efforts to “look good” would hopefully be enough to carry me through the day. I was a girly girl and really never enjoyed sports. Balls’ flying at my head was not my idea of fun. Dance was my choice of expression and fun but this was only offered after school. I struggled my way through most of my academics and at the risk of “feeling dumb” or even worse, “sounding dumb” I never asked for help.
Socializing was where I found most of my enjoyment growing up. I had a solid group of friends; I was the oldest of 4 kids and had the kind of parents that embraced all of our friends and whatever stray kids showed up at our house. As for most teens, my social life was the most important thing in the world and was of course, at times, quite complicated and dramatic.
Grade 7 felt like a big leap. Moving from elementary school to junior high is that awkward time of leaving your childhood and coming in to your teens where you begin the journey to self discovery. For me this was also where the bulling began. I was met in homeroom by one of my classmates with a daily dose of “nice face, want a gun!” After a while this began to wear on me. When I shared this with my Mom she lovingly encouraged me to “kill her with kindness”. I followed Mom’s advice but my subtle smiles and acts of kindness didn’t ward off the bulling. The bulling progressed in grade 9. Being pushed in to lockers and called cruel names were some of the uninvited adventures I experience daily in the hallways. Again, there always seemed to be a girl in my homeroom who had her hate on for me only now she was older, meaner and had a group of friends joining her crusade to torment me.
Unaware of what I now know as anxiety, my fear began to haunt me with unpredictable feelings of nausea and physical shakes. I struggled in social settings that took place outside of my own home or away from my Mom. Class trips and sleepovers away from my home where not an option although I knew I missing out on what my friends and siblings would consider fun! Even the simple things like going to a friend’s house for dinner was often anxiety ridden and not enjoyable. I struggled with dark thoughts and feelings and often wondered if the world would miss me if I where not around.
The bulling finally came to a head in grade 10 when I was delivered a hate letter with cruel statements and drawings of what was supposed to be me. My friends stood up for me took the letter to the principal’s office. The physical and verbal bulling came to an end although the fear, anxiety, depression and insecurity did not. I vowed to myself that when I was a “grade 12 girl” I would stand up for the grade 9 girls no matter what! That day came along at a party when a girl my age from the neighboring high school was bulling one of my younger sisters best friends. I stood up for her and told the bully that this was not cool and far from Ok. She fired back with insults and our argument became quite heated. It was like a scene in a movie where everyone crowed round waiting for the first fist to be thrown. My mission was to counter act violence and bulling so I walked away ~ at least I had stood up for what I believed in … without getting beat up. I then went outside and cried. A friend found me outside in the rain and told me I did the right thing and that I was brave.
The day to day bulling might have ended in high school but the depression and anxiety followed me around for years. In my late 20’s anxiety took over me and became so powerful that it completely controlled my life. I was consumed by fear and overwhelmed with feelings of nausea when considering anything outside my comfort zone. Though I frequently travel today back then even planning a trip to visit my best friend in Victoria, a place that I know and love, was enough to make me physically sick. I finally found relief physically, mentally and spiritually through yoga and shifted my focus to this new way of life that taught me how to love and respect my body, heart and soul. My yoga journey guided me to alternative methods of healing and with the help of somatic therapy I am now living my life anxiety free!
Unfortunately bulling doesn’t always end after high school. Being bullied isn’t a choice but how we choose to react to it is. Although I didn’t enjoy these past school experiences I am grateful for what they taught me. When people are rude, put me down or try to take away from me, I am reminded to take the high road, kill them with kindness, love bomb them, peppering them with love and positive energy! If my kindness is not enough to stop the bulling or negative energy then I find the strength and courage to speak my truth. Although this sometimes feels like the scariest thing in the world, in my experience my honesty and bravery is enough to shift their perspective and gain their respect.
Today I am committed to practicing yoga daily to honor the love, happiness and peace that I have cultivated within me but also to continue to gain the strength I need to receive life’s challenges with grace. As a yoga teacher I consider myself to be a little yoga Sheppard or peacekeeper~ offering yoga in many shapes and forms where ever I go. My hope is that these small offerings are like seeds that with time, love and patience will grow and blossom in to peace, love, integrity and respect, spreading throughout our world reducing or even eliminating violence, fear, anxiety and depression in other peoples lives.
We have the power to choose who we want to be~ to choose love over hate, to kill with kindness rather than violence, to rise up from the darkness and into the light. I’m not saying that yoga is going to solve all problems, but simply that with dedication and perseverance yoga will provide you tools to help navigate your way through life’s challenges with more ease and grace and embrace life’s joy with more love and gratitude. I believe that we are far more powerful than what we give ourselves credit for and are capable of being the change in which we wish to see in our world. One breath at a time, one step at a time, one love bomb at a time~ Believe in yourself, stay true to your heart and don’t ever let anyone take you down along the way.
Susie- Yoga Instructor, Owner Mocean Yoga
I wasn’t always like this… I wouldn’t say I had a particularly hard time in school, but I would never say it was the time of my life. I was filled with insecurity and self judgement. However in grade 8 I started to be bullied by a few girls in grade 10, I was terrified to go to school, to take the buss, as they took it too, or to be alone in the halls. I felt ashamed, I was so embarrassed I didn’t tell anyone. I lived in constant fear, this didn’t last too long as a girl that took my bus (older than me) stood up for me, then my older sister found out and stepped in, it came to a screaming match at the bus stop where some parents got involved and it ended right there. But what if I didn’t have them looking out for me. It pains me to think that there are youth being bullied like that for years.
From the outside my time at school looked just fine, good grades, friends, no major issues, still I felt insecure, fat, not pretty enough, not cool enough; like I didn’t fit in. I could never imagined I would be a yoga instructor and feel comfortable in my own skin. High-school is awkward for most people, know that the discomfort you feel has been felt by so many adults when they were in school and one day this will all be a distant memory.
The way I see it looking back, once you are out of school it is as though the fish bowl gets bigger. Right now you are stuck with the same people sometime for years, if you don’t fit in this can be hell. You need to know once out of school you chose who you see or spend time with. The drama and torment will not last forever. As a youth dealing with all the struggles that come with navigating high school, growing up, bullies, and social media, just to name a few, it can be hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Listen to us when we tell you the adults you see living successful lives were once youth as well, being bullied, failing school, living in fear,or full of insecurities. Never suffer in silence, find an adult that will understand and tell them how you are feeling, they might not be able to fix it, but they can support you through it. You are never alone.
I would like to thank, Heather, Sandy, Loyal, and Susie for sharing their stories. This is a very hard thing to talk about, I challenge all adults out there to get real with the youth in their lives. We like to remember the good times but it is important to be honest about the struggles we have had. No child should feel alone, talk about bullying, judgment, and insecurities; see if you can be the change in someones life.
Chelsea- Yoga Instructor, Owner Yoga Warehouse
Kids Help Phone: 1.800.668.6868
Youth Against Violence Line: 1.800.680.4264 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelowna Crisis Line: 1.888.353.2273