Growing up, my parents instilled in me one of the most important life lessons an adolescent could learn: "Treat others the way you want to be treated."
The second most important life lesson would have been understanding that not all parents taught their kids the first.
I was never bullied for one thing in particular. Every day someone would find something new to tease me about and before long, they would have an army of others behind them. The weight of someone else’s words doesn't seem that heavy until you find yourself carrying it.
I was a slim athletically-built 15-year-old girl with decent hair and cute clothes. I was the school's star softball player and I was dating one of the school's most popular baseball players and yet, my life was a living hell.
It soon became apparent that bullying didn’t know or care about physical appearance. It didn’t care how good you were at sports or how nice you were to strangers. Bullying doesn’t discriminate against its targets and it only sets out to torture them. Bullying also doesn’t stop just because you graduate from high school.
As an adult, I still deal with my high school bullies on a daily basis. Maybe I don't see their faces anymore, but the echoes of their words still scream at me. The things they said are carved into my mind and on my worst days, they are still how I see myself: through the eyes of my bullies.
Bullying may not take everyone’s life, but it will make you wish it did. I remember the nights I laid awake crying, wishing all of the pain would end. To this day I struggle with making new friends and trusting outsiders, because I know just what good friends are capable of.
I know exactly what it feels like to be an outcast and isolated innocent little girl. I remember not being able to go to my parents in fear that they wouldn't believe me, or take me seriously. I had no one to reach out to and I became a prisoner of not only my bully, but my own mind.
I guess it’s hard to speak up when those demons are still sitting on your chest.
My bullies didn’t win. My bullies didn’t win because I didn't let them win. We all deserve to feel loved and worthy and capable of anything at all time.
Don't let your bully win. If you or someone you know is being bullied, please, I'm begging you to speak up. Getting someone the help they deserve could potentially save their life.
It saved mine.
Susan Walker is the advertising representative for The Sealy News.