When I began going to school, I was already about one year behind everyone else in my grade, at least physically. Thanks to programs like Sesame Street – when I was four years old I already knew my alphabet, and I could even count to ten in Spanish. This allowed me to meet the basic requirements to get into Kindergarten, and pretty much the entire school “career” for me consisted of me getting picked on in various ways from kindergarten all the way up until college.

I had other problems stemming from sexual abuse, and also from a life of poverty – and so I was already very socially awkward (and that grew exponentially for a time) and the bullying added onto that other stuff to give me a whole slew of issues which factored into me being bullied even more. I didn’t have friends, typically. I wet the bed. I had anxiety (which was also hereditary and ran in our family, but it was heightened by all my struggles). We were also pretty malnourished most of the time, and I had fainting spells in school due to what we thought was probably an iron deficiency.

I was bullied on the bus, outside of school, in school, and even in church. There was nowhere I was safe, really, and thinking that way can really break you down mentally and spiritually over time.

When I finally reached high school is when the bullying finally came to a head. When a group of guys stood around me as I tried changing in the locker room and called me a “faggot” and said that they bet my balls hadn’t even dropped yet, I stopped going into the changing room. Despite my complaints to the faculty, the gym teacher said that all I had to do to get a passing grade in gym was to change with everyone else. I refused, and that was my first foray into rebellion. When I was openly ridiculed in one class, in front of everyone – I went to the teacher afterwards and explained in detail how it had made me feel. The teacher’s response was that he didn’t really think they were making fun of me, specifically – yet they had used several descriptors which described only me, and people were looking specifically at me, and one of the main people doing the ridiculing was known to have specifically hated me.

Next, I was targeted outside during lunches. I was dragged by my feet around the football field. Still no action by faculty. After getting off the bus, I was dragged into a snowbank and started being hit. Still no action. Then, I had a rock thrown through my window at my own home. I was attacked in the streets. My siblings were attacked in order to rile me up. I took my baby brother to the park, and I was threatened there – and so was my baby brother.

This was when I snapped – and in some cases, people are pushed so much that they will come to school with an arsenal of guns and shoot everyone because they feel it’s the only option or they are so full of rage and anger and think everyone is against them. Everyone in that school was lucky that I was not that kind of person. Instead, I began to fight back with the way I dressed. I came to school wearing lipstick, if I came to school at all. I wore women’s clothing, or I wore really bright, obnoxious colors and outdated and clashing clothes. If they were going to hate me, to attack me, I was going to show them that I didn’t care and that I would do what I wanted. I started to skip school, skip classes, arrive late. I began hanging out with friends, finally, but friends who did drugs. I became a drug runner. I started smoking and drinking.

This all coincided with my mother cheating on my stepdad, and joining a biker gang and having really intense parties at our house. During my sophomore year alone, I had more than seventy detentions, multiple weeks of in-school suspension, missed more than one hundred days of school, skipped my final exams, and had had many other issues throughout (summer school, Saturday detentions, etc).

I eventually was able to turn myself around by being in a stable home after my stint as a ward of the state, but bullying could have ruined my life. I had absolutely nobody on my side, nobody to help me. Any time I asked for help, it was put all back on me. Every time I showed my weakness, I was attacked. It turned me into a bitter, bitter, person. Still, there are stories of people shooting up schools or killing themselves – and I easily could have turned into one of those stories.

In today’s world, I’d like to think in the age of social media shaming that bullying is largely outdated, but as we can all surmise from the comments sections of a simple video on YouTube, this is patently false. Bullying is here and it sometimes takes different forms, but it’s just as devastating to the victims. I really could have ended up being a statistic, and I’m sure there are kids who end up being just that. As a society, we need to do a much better job of protecting our kids when it comes to this antagonistic hobby of the oppressors.