Trigger warning: depression and suicide
When I was in middle school, I was bullied. Others perceived me as being a lesbian and “weird”, both of which were at odds with the small-town-Minnesota community I was in. Multiple times I went to the counselor’s office and eventually spoke to the principal to make the mean kids stop. Each time, I was told to “avoid them” or “ignore them.” Whether or not they were ever spoken to, I’m not sure, but I do know the effects on my mental psyche were huge.
I went to a therapist to talk through some of the issues. I was pretty sure I was straight, but I thought maybe everyone at school was right. Did they see something I didn’t know? My mom telling me “it would be easier if you were a lesbian! Men suck,” didn’t help. But neither did being a 13 year old girl.
The worse part was feeling so alone. I was new to town and didn’t have friends I could confide in. Finding notes on the floor that talked about how “dirty and gross Katie is” told me that yes, in fact everyone was talking about me behind my back. I turned to the internet and friends I made in chat rooms or on neopets to relieve some of my pain, which may be the only thing that got me through it all. Neopets. I’m serious.
Every night I would cry, think I was worthless, and couldn’t imagine things ever getting better. This is when I became more and more depressed, beginning to fantasize about ending it. How could I envision life getting any better when it was so terrible? Wouldn’t taking a knife to my wrists or a handful of pills make things better?
One day, I eventually had enough and retaliated against someone that had been taunting me mercifully. I got into trouble and had to take an anti-bullying class. Because I, was the bully. Oh, the irony.
This was my rock bottom. My mom brought me to a doctor and I was placed on antidepressants. Yet, this only made me feel worse. Before the effects really kicked in, I just felt crazy and weird for needing them in the first place. The logic of their existence, and that clearly I was not the only person on them, was not enough to make me feel better.
And then eventually the school year was over. My mom let me change schools and I was able to move past that terrible point in my life. Sort of. But it is my own experiences with bullying and depression/suicidal thoughts that makes me so passionate about these issues in state law. State Sen. Scott Dibble has been a great proponent of anti-bullying measures, but as of yet, has not passed any laws.
According to MPR, the new legislation Dibble is working on for 2013 could change a lot of things. Until now, every law proposed has been more about the punishment of bullies. But the conversation should be shifted to the prevention. This is what is happening and I couldn’t be more supportive of it. Favoring local control (leaving it up to each school district to determine how to handle) assumes children and parents speak up at a high level. This alone means things are already out of control and the student has a supportive parent that does anything necessary. Why not one standard for all of Minnesota? A standard that protects students by better training teachers and administration how to handle it.