I could start now with my entire biography, but that’s not really the story I want to tell. I want to tell you the story that changed me, changed the way I look at life and changed the way I feel, live, act and just the way I am. I know it probably sounds cheesy but anyways. It all began on Wednesday morning September 1st 2010. Right the date probably already gives away that it has something to deal with school. Well it does.
That was the day I went to 9th grade. Probably not such a weird thing for people from Belgium because usually that’s not a big change, just another year. Well for me it was a big change. For the first time I went to school by bus, because for the first time I went to a school that was more than 1km away from my house. Until the year before I could go to school very close to where I live, but I finished that one. I had always been used to a small school, not big at all. In primary school we only had one class a year, which never consisted out of more than 22 pupils. In my entire middle school we were with about 80 students. My point is (and just to state Ellen Degeneres: and I do have one) I had never been used to tons of people at school. So this was also the first time I was in a school together with over 700 fellow pupils, from whom I only knew my twin sister who also had to change school that year. None of my friends from middle school picked the same high school as I did, so there I was with my sis in an all new situation.
I’m not the kind of a person who just walks in a classroom and starts to introduce herself to everybody. I remember that Wednesday as it was yesterday. I walk in that class and suddenly I was the center piece of attention, something I really don’t want. Everybody was suddenly quiet and staring. The teacher came up to us and asked us a couple of random questions and then she showed us where we could sit. Then we did all those things everybody has to do during the first hours of a new year of school. They give your diary and you should fill in every detail on the first page. You get your schedule for the year, the teacher presents herself. The first day wasn’t so bad at all. It was a Wednesday so by noon we could get out of there.
So after the big first day I didn’t really make any friends. This was no surprise, if you ask me. I’m very shy and I know that, especially in new, big groups, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Everything in my body just stops me to go up and talk to somebody. So I hoped the second day would go better, then I’d have to lunch with someone right? Second day in school, classes start, you meet new teachers,… but that’s not where I want to go. I mean my teachers were nice and I kind of liked them (in a way you like teachers of course, I mean they’re still teachers). The school where I go has this thing they call ‘classhour’ which in 9th and 10th grade is on Tuesday, first hour. In this hour someone came up to me and asked if I knew someone she’s friends with. And of course I knew them, they were my best friends in middle school. The night before I talked to them for hours about our new schools and the weird people and about how much we missed each other at school. So we started talking about them and it turned out that she lived pretty close to them and that she knew them a little. Well this was the first friend I made in my new school. Later more on her. The morning flew by and then lunch came. I had lunch with my sister, which was the first of many lunches of my sis and me at school. I talked to a couple more pupils at school, but just about the random subjects such as the weather and how we wanted summer to come back.
The first month in that school flew by, it was good. I missed my old school and friends. It would never be the same again. I didn’t really make any other friends that month. But after that month trouble started. My first friend in school, I’ll call her N. (I swore I’d never say her name again), had a best friend in school. Her name is Brooke and she was really nice, a bit quiet but after a while we figured out that she also had a twin sister. And here comes the problem, after a couple weeks hanging out with them at school, we got better along with Brooke then we did with N. and Brooke spent more time with us then with her. Something we didn’t know then, but do know now, is that N. has some serious mental issues. She couldn’t really handle the situation and started acting very annoying, it’s not really the right word but I can’t think of any better way to say it. From that day on my sister had a meeting with the adjunct principal every week. The reason why I wasn’t the one with the big troubles, was because I knew the exact moment when I had to be quiet and when I could say something to N., my sis just kept talking.
We ate lunch with her anyways, she was nice sometimes. The thing is, there wasn’t anyone else to have lunch with the first days. Afterwards we heard that N. wasn’t the most liked girl in school, she had been in trouble before for treating the people in a wrong way. To give an example she hung someone with his hood on to the coat rack just because she didn’t like him, she never gave another reason. I didn’t get that memo though. It got from bad to worse. She never hurt me but she did hit my sis a lot of times, she even knocked her down once during PE. The reason why she did all these things were never really clear at the time, but it probably was because she was jealous. She felt like we were stealing her friend. She wanted the friend to herself, she did not want to share.
I came home from school every day with a different story of what happened. But one day I came home with a story that scared my parents and put them to action. In religion we had to create our own city with its own laws and facilities. We had to form groups of four. My sis, Brooke, me and Gemma, which made four. N. did not like that at all, she put up an entire show, she even included tears. As always the teacher gave in on her, that made us a group of five. No one looked forward to the project anymore. When we decided on the name and facilities, we only had to come up with laws we considered important. N. went for it right away, I quote: “It should be allowed to kill people without getting punished because I’d like to kill these twins.” That’s what scared us all, the entire class, the teacher, but especially my parents. You might think, that it wasn’t that big of a deal but we actually considered her capable of doing that.
My parents jumped to action and the day after that at 6 pm they arranged a meeting with my parents, the principal, Brooke’s parents and 2 teachers. They talked it all through and figured that she had been visiting a therapist for a long time but no one ever told the school about her problems. But that didn’t help us any farther. They couldn’t expel her because technically she didn’t do anything wrong. The only thing we could do was report everything she did wrong and build up a file, so when she messed up big time they had enough to expel her. She never got kicked out.
We were so busy handling the situation with her that we never really realized what was happening around us with the other people. That was the least of our worries back then. But that’s not what changed me, well actually it did change me a little. At the end of the year it was over though, so I could move on. It only changed the way I look at people, since then I never trust anyone fast anymore.
During the beginning of 9th grade I didn’t really see what was happening around me, I still was that quiet, shy girl I was in the beginning. But my mom signed my sis and me up for the ski trip with school in the Easter holidays. My only friend I had then in school didn’t sign up for that, so it would be just my sis and me. Thing is I hate skiing but my mom was so excited about us going there and she already paid for it, so we went along on the trip.
It was pretty much the worst trip I ever made. Everybody was having fun on an amazing vacation with their friends and I was just sitting there counting down the days till I could go home again. I only went skiing one day, the first. But that day someone didn’t find anything better the use me as a bumper. For the next days I said I was sick. They believed me, until the last day, then they forced me to go along. But the day before something went wrong with switching skies or something, I don’t know the entire story behind it myself but in the end someone’s skies were gone. So one of the teacher offered them that she could use mine and that I could just go up the mountain and watch the others. I didn’t want to do that either, but she didn’t believe my sickness anymore, so I had no choice. Me and 2 other girls went back to the hotel to switch skies. That didn’t turn out good, because they did not fit the other girl so we all went up the mountain without skies and we just sat there talking about what happened. Someday in that trip we had an afternoon of and my sis and I were just sitting there and a teacher came up to us to tell us that we had to go and mingle with the others, so we could make some friends. Since that day on the teachers blame me for not making any friends, they blame me for the way I get treated at school.
The Monday after the trip I had to go back to school, something I really didn’t want to do. The situation with N. didn’t change. I mean we had more conversations with the principal and so on, but she just kept annoying us and treating us as *****. But something else did change, afterwards I do realize it didn’t really change then, but it was the first time I saw the way they looked at me at school, the way they thought about me. Rumors spread incredibly fast. Suddenly I was a lonely girl, who smelled. Soon they found nicknames for my sis and me. Ever since then I heard those nicknames being yelled at me every single day. I pretend like I don’t hear them, but I really do and it hurts. It hurts to know that because of one person keeping me busy that I didn’t have the chance to really be me and to make friends. They all still thought of N. and thought I was a lot like her. So no one bothered to get to know me.
The actual problem
Let’s speed up this story a little. After 9th grade N. went to another school and I never saw her again. Which I did not consider a bad thing. She left the school because they were digging too deep into her business. But that did not change anything about the others at school. In 10th grade everything got a little worse. Every lunch I was sitting with my sis in a full school restaurant, just me and her at a table. I didn’t like that at all, but I never made any other friends and right now everybody hated me. Probably not everybody, but whoever didn’t hate me didn’t have the guts to stand up for me or help me or even just talk to me. Not that I blame them, I understand.
Whatever they all say to me is probably not such a big deal, but the thing is they got in my head. They actually got me to believe that I’m not worth it, that I smell, that I’m just a ‘loner’, a nobody. I may act like I don’t care or that they can just go on. But every single time someone comes up to me and starts talking to me like they’re more than I am, like I’m a little kid. Some guys come up to me pretty much every lunch to ask me if I want to date them and they just stand there laughing every time I say no. Normally I always have this clever answer ready but at those moments my brain just stops functioning. Since 11th grade they also started getting more physical contact. It even became a new game in school: push your friend and use me as a bumper. I hate it! Obviously. But in the end I liked that more than the touching some of them do now.
I think I’ll just start talking in the present right now. Explain how this changed me. I always loved going to school. But today I’m counting down the days till I finally get to leave. When I was in 8th grade and had to pick a school to go to my mom told me to pick a school where I felt good. Well the school I’m going to felt good at first. I liked the fact that there was a forest close and that it was open and not to high. If I only knew then what I know now. I don’t regret my choice, the school is good, I just don’t like the people and they don’t like me either. They’re in my head and I’m even starting to believe them. Through high school I lost all of my self confidence and I even started hating myself. I hate myself that much, that whenever they treat me the way they always do, I just let them do and afterwards I just hurt myself a little more. Hurt yourself? Yeah, I know it sounds bad, but for me it’s just a daily thing. Over time it just became a habit, my reflex. It’s not just physically, which is the easiest, you bite of your nails or hit something or cut, but somehow I found a way to even hurt myself mentally. I can’t really explain it, I just know the exact thing to think about when I want to hurt myself or just bring myself down. At the outside I keep smiling, but on the inside I’m dying.
I’ve never really told anyone about all of this, because I don’t want to bother them with that. My parents are busy and I don’t really think they would react to it in a good way. First of all I’d get a lecture on why I didn’t tell them earlier and second of all they’d go talk to the people from school. I just think that it would make it worse. So I always kept it to myself, I never really found the right person to tell everything. Until February 2013, one weekend of that month I went on a trip with my youth movement. A lot happened then that hadn’t happened before, most in the negative way. I don’t know why, but there’s one girl from there who’s different then everybody else. I can honestly say that I love everybody there, but with her it’s different. She understands me like no one else does. I trust her more than anyone else. The week after that weekend we called and chatted and texted for hours. Somehow in less than a month I fully trusted her. I told her my entire story, from beginning to end. Not all at once, but she knew it all pretty fast. And she understands it, she listened to me nag about that way too much.
For the first time in a long while I have the feeling like someone cares. I got the feeling that I’m not alone. I know that I can count on her. Whatever I tell her, it stays between us. No one understands what makes us work. I don’t know how she does it, but she just makes it easy to tell her stuff. When others ask me how I am, I will just say that I’m fine so I wouldn’t have to explain, but somehow she knows or feels that something is wrong and then she starts asking questions and that’s what I need, otherwise I won’t say what’s going on.
At the beginning of June 2013, I was at my lowest point. I was just done, I couldn’t take it anymore, I was tired of it all. I planned on not telling her, but she found out. So we started talking about me hurting myself and I told her exactly what I all did and what was going on in my head. It became a late night conversation. At that point I was just done, I did not want it anymore. I just couldn’t take it at that time, because she told me that it hurt her to hear about how I get treated at school and that sometimes she just feels pain because of it and that just was too much. I was very close to doing something very bad to myself when my phone starts vibrating. She’s trying to contact me through Facebook. I initially planned on not telling her and just talk to her and say everything I want her to know. This might be predictable now, but she figured out something was very bad. And we started talking about what was going on in my mind and I don’t know how she does it, but I answered every single question honestly, I let her know exactly what I was planning to do. She begged me not to hurt myself awfully. I just went in this weird kind of a coma that night, I didn’t really sleep, but I also did not answer her anymore. I scared the hell out of her, by not replying anymore and I’m still very sorry about that. So first thing in the morning the next day was replying to everything she sent me the night before that I hadn’t seen. She barely slept, but was satisfied that I was still there. That day we talked about it and I promised her that whenever I thought about those things again that I would talk to her instead of doing something bad to myself. She asked me to stop hurting myself at all, I promised I’d try. I can’t tell her that I stopped totally, but I’m doing it less now. Because every time I do it, it feel as if I’m hurting her and as if I’m letting her down and I really don’t want that.
I’ll never be able to tell her how much she has done for me, but I’ll do the best I can to make her proud. Today I got a reason to try, a reason to fight back and stand up. Someone who believes in me more then I believe in myself. I can’t tell you right now that I’m the same person as I was before. I’ll never be, I lost a part of me that I’ll never get back. But at least I now have somebody who knows the real me and still loves me unconditionally. I’ll never be able to tell her how thankful I am for that.
Trying to get better
Not hurting myself was harder than initially expected. So we figured that we had to change my reflex, not just stop it. I had to find something else I could do, something but myself to abreact it on. She helped me with that, right now I’m trying to change it. Every time I’m not fine I find some sort of sport to do. So since then I ride my bike to school, every evening after school I ride my bike home very fast, not to be home fast, just because usually that’s when I just need to release some anger. Sports really helped me with that, just kick a ball or play tennis or ride my bike or just some pushups even help.
I just need to find a way to make my head empty. Next to sports I found a couple other ways. Another way to clear my mind is music. Music has been there for me when no one else was, this really sounds cliché. I listen to music every day. It keeps me going. Right now I have about 1.500 songs on my iPod. Music explains things I never really could say through words. It helps me clear my head. That gets me through.
It’s been about a week since I graduated from high school. I counted down to that day for a long time. But now that it’s over, I want to do something with what I’ve learned. The past week my friends have got me thinking about who I am and what I want to do. I still lie to them, which doesn’t feel good at all, but I’m not ready to tell them the entire story yet. I do know who I want to be and what I want to do. I want to help, I might not know how to solve bullying or how to get someone to believe they are worth it. But I know how it is to feel like you’re alone and I don’t want that for anyone. So that’s why I decided to share my story, to share how I got in it, how I felt and what helped me survive. I want to help others make it through, let them know that it really gets better! That you shouldn’t give up on yourself! I might not totally believe in myself yet, but I’ve come a long way already. This will be a work in progress for a long time for me, but I know that I’m not alone in it and I’m worthy of being here. I want everyone to know that! Because everyone is here for a reason and I want to help others find their reason. Even if I can just help one person, it’s enough. I just want to help.