This is just a part of my story, but it is not unlike so many other kids’ experience. I tell my story because I hope that the light at the end can guide someone out of a dark place.
In 3rd grade I would walk the perimeter of the playground alone. Never stopping. Never standing still long enough for anyone to notice. If I looked busy when my classmates started harassing me, the teachers were more likely to pick up on it. In 4th grade I was pulled into the school counselors office twice a week to play card games and whatnot with the other “targeted” kids during lunch. It was supposed to help us feel less alone, but it was more like putting a bullseye on our backs. In 6th grade, the kids on the bus would write ”Die b*tch” or ”No one actually cares” or “Go kill yourself” or ”When will your stupid story end?” On balls of notebook paper . Each one hurled to my assigned seat on the bus with enough sting to make it count. Those kids took every opportunity to sink their words of stone into the depths of my soul. In 7th and 8th grade I was poked with sewing needles daily, publicly teased, spit on, tripped, and harassed- to say the least. The teachers spoke about “not letting it get to me”. The administration told me they were trying to help when they asked for names. I found out the hard way that they were as powerless as I. I became a ‘library assistant’ so that I wouldn’t have to go outside for recess. By 9th grade, I stopped hoping for help. I avoided the cafeteria at all costs. I didn’t speak unless spoken to. I spent most of my time in the nurses office because well…. school was sickening. When I was raped by a boy I hoped could be my friend, my battle with depression took over. After wishing I was dead on my 14th birthday, I was marched into a scary hospital with solitude rooms, kids screaming and crying 24/7. It took me five days to get out of there. When I got home, the principal and guidance counselor pulled my parents and I into a meeting to say they thought I should stay home for the remainder of the year. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to guarantee my safety. School wasn’t an option anymore. I wasn’t safe there and everybody knew it. Finally.
In 10th grade, I moved to a small, Christian private school. Things got a lot better. I made a couple friends and started opening up a little. But the issue certainly wasn’t fixed. Rumors of a past scandal spread- it’s high school what else is new? No one bothered to ask for the truth of the events he boasted about. I went on with each day just like every other and it was mostly okay. I learned to survive and even smile. I finally felt safe. I found out that I love choir and science- of all things. I started writing poetry and performing at open mic nights. I was becoming a version of myself I actually liked. Senior year I met a girl that I really liked. I was so petrified of the feeling in my gut that said I might be gay. I’m a pastor’s kid (X2 because both my parents were pastors) living in a small, southern town and the only openly gay kid I knew was kicked out of my school after he came out. So, this was not a thing I wanted to be labeled. But I took the risk anyway. On our first date we went to see Finding Dory in the theater. I kissed her goodnight and my entire body got chills. I knew in that moment that well…“I’m like super gay”(to quote Kristen Stewart). On our second date a stranger asked us to stop holding hands while we walked around a shopping center. We went home instead. I was so afraid of the kids at school finding out that I was literally sick to my stomach every day. One day a boy who sat behind me in class, leaned over and whispered, “I bet I could turn you straight… see ya after school….”
I ran. Fast.
The rest is a blur. I started having flashbacks of my rape which no one knew about and everything came crashing down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stand. I was completely consumed by fear and self-hate and despair until I couldn’t take it anymore. I attempted suicide.
I was rushed to the hospital and got the help I needed. The first person I came out to was a girl I met in the hospital. She said something I’ll never forget. “Sarah, you have a light in you. You make everyone in here smile and feel safe. I know you don’t see it, but it’s there. It’s always been there; you just need to let it shine.”
Today (almost 4 years later) I am out and have an amazing support system! I was the first of several out members at my church and we are thriving. I received a life-altering assistance dog that has totally transformed my mental health. Oh! And I found my passion working as an after school teacher where I get to help kids who are being bullied too. I have found a beautiful way to combine all the things that make me who I am to create this collage that is my life. I am so glad I stayed to live all these tomorrows because I turned out to be a pretty badass human being.
Submitted by Sarah.