[Trigger Warnings: Bullying, Death threats, Hate messages]
High school is supposed to be the best years of your life, but that wasn’t always the case for me. Throughout high school, I received hate messages and death threats on a daily basis. Surprisingly, even my teachers jumped in and gossiped about me. I never understood why everyone was so invested in my life when in fact, I shared none of it. I was always amazed at how they came up with creative stories about me.
I started experiencing this in 8th grade, but it didn’t bother me until 9th grade—when everything in my life reached rock-bottom: I was having problems at home, my mental health was crumbling, I was trying to figure out how to raise my sibling on my own, plus I was in a toxic relationship. I didn’t know where to turn for peace and solitude.
You wouldn’t think I was having problems when you saw me in school. I always appeared unfazed and never showed defeat, perhaps because of my eldest child syndrome. Nobody got a reaction from me unless it was warranted. But deep inside, I was completely overwhelmed. I would skip school to spend the entire day in my room. It was my way of finding peace and disassociating from whatever was going on. I used to daydream a lot as a form of escape, and I did it all throughout high school. Though I knew I’d have to return to reality the moment my sibling got home, I was just relieved to have that little space – somewhere safe, somewhere I could let my guard down. But I knew I had to rise to the occasion someday.
There came a point in my life when I realized I needed to make a change. I was fed up with the bullying culture in my school, and more fed up with how no one did anything about it; so in 10th grade, I ran for and won the position of student council president.
My entire term revolved around bullying. I proposed support groups for students who were bullied. During my term, the student council held classroom-to-classroom discussions about the issue. It was an advocacy of mine to make sure the victims knew they weren’t alone and had someone to lean on, because I didn’t. I suppose in a way, knowing they were seen and heard made me feel seen and heard.
The number of times I saw hopelessness in the eyes of students whenever they cried about their experiences was overwhelming, and it made me want to stand up for them. I thought to myself, “If I cannot stand up for myself, I can do something to stand up for them.”
Despite my experience, I could say that high school was the best years of my life because I learned how to channel my pain into something productive. That was when I found my passion for helping people. Looking back now, I honestly have no idea how I survived everything I went through, but I hold this experience close to my heart. I tell myself, “If I survived all of that, I can survive anything.”
Editor’s Note: Being the target of bullying does a great number to a person’s mental and emotional well-being. If you find yourself relating to this experience, know that you are not alone, you do not deserve to be treated poorly, and that you are worthy. Perhaps like the author, you can channel your pain into something productive, but if it all becomes too overwhelming, please feel free to visit our directory for a list of mental health services available in the Philippines, or call the NCMH hotline (09178998727) for emergencies.