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Don't Be Afraid to Fall
I feel like I’m falling. Down and down I go, never reaching any certain point, just on a downward spiral. When you’re falling, you’re always waiting for the inevitable end, waiting to hit something, but I just kept falling. If I didn’t die from impact, I would die from the suspense.
I was walking down the hall, flinching at the sound of every locker door slamming. I was so pathetic; I flinched at every sound, held my breath every time someone was near me, expecting everyone to hurt me. I wasn’t living life, I couldn’t. I was always waiting for the torture to start again.
As if on cue, I was slammed into the wall by a girl named Jolene. Hurting me seemed to be her favorite pastime. “Dumb b****. She doesn’t even know how to walk right.” She turned and gestured for her minions to follow. I sat there for a while, trembling, desperately trying to regain my cool. You’re fine Emma. Don’t let them know they hurt you. You can’t let them win. I slowly stood up and brushed the dust off my jeans. I wouldn’t let them win. I couldn’t.
The next day it seemed that all my tormentors had suddenly joined forces. They followed me around talking about me obnoxiously loud.
“I wonder why Emma is such a slut. She’s not even pretty.” Jolene said.
“Yeah, she’s just some fat, ugly b****.” Blanca added.
“I heard she gave it up to her last boyfriend. But then she thought he wasn’t good enough for her. Dumb whore, couldn’t even keep her pants on.” Another added.
I couldn’t control the tears flowing from my eyes. They had done it. They pushed me over the edge. I wanted to turn around and tell them to shut up and to get a life, but I couldn’t. It was like . All I could do was stay there and listen.
“Why is she so easy? I bet she gives it up to every guy she meets. Maybe we should buy her a chastity belt for Christmas.” Jolene said. All her friends laughed in approval.
“That wouldn’t help much. I heard she does oral too. At least she won’t get pregnant, unless she already is!” the girl grabbed me and turned me around. “Look at me you whore!” she saw my tear filled eyes and this egged her on even more. “Aww, the slut’s crying. It’s the hormones, huh? You just couldn’t keep it in your pants!” then she pushed me to the floor.
I was fed up with this abuse; I just couldn’t take it anymore. “Stop it. Why won’t you just shut up for once?” I said as I stood up. I had to make a stand.
“Why don’t you make me?” she said as she pushed me. I tried to walk away not wanting to get in a fight, but she wouldn’t let me.
She grabbed my arm and shoved me into the railing. “Oh, you don’t want to fight? Don’t be a pussy!” She said as she threw me to the side. She smacked my face as soon as I got up. “Fight you little slut. Fight!” she came towards me ready to hit me again when the bell rang.
She looked at me with pure disgust. “You got lucky b****. Next time you won’t be so lucky.” She shoved me to the ground and then she left.
I sat there for a while. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed by the fear of what would come. She was going to get me. She was going to hurt me. I couldn’t run away from this.
You’d think the abuse would stay at school, but it didn’t. Somehow their words had followed me home and taken away my safe haven.
I sat down at my computer, trying to find relief in the internet, but all I found was more ways to get hurt.
Messages kept popping up on my browser. My curiosity got the best of me and I read them. Worst mistake of my life.
Blanca: You’re such a dumb b****. And you’re a little skank too. You’re so fucking fat, you look like a whale. I wonder why anyone likes you. Little pussy, you wouldn’t even fight her. You better grow some balls and fight back you little s***.
Jen: Yeah, you’re such a slut. Why don’t you just kill yourself? Nobody even wants you here. You’ll probably give us an STD you dirty skank.
My inbox was filled with messages like these. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I could do. I wanted to tell somebody, anybody. But who would listen? I sat here for a while just reading and rereading the messages. More and more would pop up. All saying the same things: I hate you, you’re a dirty whore, you’re so fat and ugly, the list went on and on.
I knew I had to tell someone. I told the only person I knew would make this go away. My sister, Lauren, came and looked at the screen. She was filled with such anger and disgust.
“How the hell could you let them do this to you, Emma?”
“I didn’t do anything. I don’t know why they don’t like me.” I looked down ashamed.
“I’m telling mom.” She turned and walked through the doors. I ran after her. “No, Lauren! Don’t! Please, she’ll make it worse. Please don’t tell her!” I pleaded.
She turned around and “Emma, she’s the only one who can make this stop. I’m not going to let them treat you like s***.” She turned and kept walking. She was right. This wouldn’t go away on its own. I needed help.
I peeked into the dining room where they were talking. My mom’s face was a mixture of emotions, she looked mad, sad, and confused all in one. She was quiet for a minute and then she looked over at me with pained eyes. She walked up to me and asked, “Who sent you this?” I silently shook my head, but she grabbed me. “Who did this to you?” her words were frantic. This hurt her just as much as it hurt me.
I looked at the floor, to ashamed to show my face. “Some girls from school.”
“Some girls from school? Are they in your class?” She looked at me. When she received no reply she asked again, “Are they in your class? What are their names?” I looked down. I couldn’t answer her. They’d find out and everyone would hate me for it. A tear rolled down my cheek.
“Sweetie, just tell me. I want to help you. I can make this go away.” She said holding me. “I’ll make this go away. I promise.”
I sobbed, “You can’t. This won’t go away.” She slowly stroked my hair, comforting me. “I promise I will do whatever I can. Just tell me their names.”
I looked up and told her. I felt like I was ratting them out.
“Jolene and Blanca?” she asked.
“Yeah. They’re in all my classes.” I looked at my feet.
“ I’m going to call your counselor.” She said as she got up.
“No you can’t!” I stared at her with fear in my eyes. If they got in trouble my pain would only greaten, I was sure of it.
“And why not?” my mother asked.
“They’ll know it was me. They’re going to get me. They’ll hurt me. Everyone will know it was me and I’ll be known as a snitch for the rest of my life.”
“I’m not going to let them hurt you again. This is the only way.” She gave me a hug. “Did I ever tell you the story of when I was bullied?” she asked.
I looked up at her shocked. “No. You were bullied too?”
“Yeah. These girls didn’t like me very much. So they wrote a letter saying horrible things about me, calling me names, and passed it around the whole class. They made it into a petition and everyone signed it. Then they passed it to me. I was devastated.” She smiled weakly.
“What did you do?” I asked shocked.
“I told my mom of course. She was pissed off. She sent a copy of a letter to the parents of every student who signed it and made sure they were punished.” I stared at her with wide eyes.
“But mom, it was different back then. And grandma is really scary.”
“That may be, but I just don’t want anyone to mess with you, okay?” she gave me a weak smile.
“Okay.” She got up and called the counselor. “He’s going to call you in his office tomorrow so don’t be afraid, okay? I sent him copies of the messages as proof.” I looked at her afraid. I had so many doubts and fears rushing through my mind. I was scared, but in a way relieved. I felt as if I could finally start over.
We were in class when they called Jolene and Blanca to the counselor’s office. The ooh’s began as everyone wondered what they were going in for. A few of her minions shot me dirty looks. Five minutes later I was called in and received puzzled looks from everyone. The few that did understand what was happening were fuming. To them I was a tattle tale, a traitor, a snitch.
The walk to the counselor’s office was nerve racking. I stopped every few steps looking for a way out. How could I sit and talk to the two people who had made my life a living hell for the past year? I stopped and was ready to run and never come back. Stop Emma .You have to go. They need to pay for what they did to you. Okay, I can do this. I took a deep breath and walked to the door. I opened it and walked in the counselor’s office. The two girls were seated in spinny chairs and I was expected to sit in between them. I slowly sat down trying to avoid their eyes. The counselor looked at me trying to read me. I wouldn’t let him. I wouldn’t lay myself out like an open book anymore.
“So Emma. You know why we’re today, huh?” I nodded my head not looking up.
He sighed deeply. “Girls, could you step out for a moment?” He gestured at Jolene and Blanca.
“Oh yes, sir.” They walked out acting like little angels. What a façade.
“Okay, let’s get down to business.” He sighed dramatically. “Well, Emma, I don’t think they’ve done what you’ve said they’ve done.” He said. Tears formed in my eyes. He thought I was lying?
“They’re two of the top students at the school. They’ve had a clean record. I mean, what would suddenly make them start acting out?” he asked. I didn’t know what to say.
“But you got the papers; you saw what they wrote…” I started to say.
“Are you sure this is them? MySpace is full of people impersonating others…” He looked at me like I was some naïve first grader.
“Yeah I’m sure. They make my life miserable every day. Why don’t you believe me?” I said fuming.
“I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I just don’t want to punish two innocent girls just because someone said they did something.” He said. He used this voice that made me sound stupid. I hated it.
“I’m not making this up! I showed you the letters!” I said fuming.
“Calm down. Well, what do you want me to do?” he said looking at me with a mocking face. Why was he asking me? He was supposed to know!
“I don’t know.” I said. In all honesty, I didn’t. I mean how could I?
“Well I can’t do anything if you don’t know.” He said. His face was mocking and so were his words.
“But I don’t. I mean I-” I stopped speaking. No words were coming out, I was talking nonsense.
“How about this,” he said putting his hands on the table, “Why don’t we send a copy of the letter to their parents and be done with this whole problem?” he sat back and smiled. He thought he had won, thought he’d fixed everything. But he hadn’t. Not even close.
“That’s all?” I asked. No detention? No suspension? Zero tolerance policy my ass!
“Pardon me?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing. That sounds fine, I guess.” I knew this wouldn’t fix anything.
He clapped his hands and stood up. “Well, that’s great. I’ll be in contact with their parents. You may go back to class now.” He gestured towards the door.
“Thanks. I guess.” I said as I walked out the door. I should feel relieved. I should feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. But I was scared. Scared they’d find me. Scared they’d hurt me again. Scared I’d be alone.
Talking to the counselor helped, I guess. Both of the girls wrote me letters saying how sorry they were and how they couldn’t wait for us to be friends. I knew the counselor put them up to it, because they were still as cruel as ever. They just couldn’t be seen doing it. This protected me from the physical abuse and any contact with them, but what it didn’t protect me from was them spreading rumors.
Each one they told spread like wildfire. A few people would start whispering to each other and point at me. Then they’d all laugh and walk away. Then a few days later some idiot would come up to me asking, is that true? Then he’d run back and tell all his friends he talked to the school whore.
It was like their voices were everywhere. The torment was never ending; it followed me everywhere I went.
Their words echoed in my head, never going away.
“I heard she’s been pregnant for a while.” She said.
“Yeah, you can almost see her baby bump.” Another one added.
“Yeah, she looks obese.” Jolene said.
“Yeah, she’s been putting on some baby weight.” He said.
“I heard she’s been with over 20 guys.” Blanca said.
“She probably doesn’t even know who the father is.” The last one said. There laughter rang in my ears. It was cruel, mocking laughter filled with hatred.
I was numb, I couldn’t feel anything. I was glad I was numb, because otherwise I’d be in tears. They thought I was fat. Is that why they didn’t like me? I knew I was bigger than other girls, but wasn’t that because I was muscular from sports? I was 110 pounds in fifth grade, when the average weight was 96.
I was desperate for people to like me. Is that it? I’m fat and they all know it. But I won’t be for long.
I began to not eat. I’d go all day only eating a granola bar. At dinner, I’d find clever ways to hide my food. After a while I began to look sick. I hadn’t lost much weight, but my healthy glow was gone, and my eyes had this dull, empty look to them.
“Why aren’t you eating?” my mom asked. She was worried, I could tell.
“I’m just not hungry.” I said, blowing off her question.
“You must be. I haven’t seen you eat a thing. You just came back from swim practice, you must be starving.” My mom handed a plate of food to me. Pizza, my favorite. But it was all wrong. It smelled revolting as I had lost my appetite for food of any kind. Just the thought of eating it made me gag.
“I’m not hungry. I had a big lunch.” I lied.
“You didn’t eat anything after school. I saw you.” My sister said. S***, she had caught my lie. What was I going to say now?
“I ate at school. I was in the cafeteria.” I lied again. Why was I doing this to them? All they’ve ever done was love me and I continued to lie to them. Why was I such a bad person?
“Emma, look at me.” I was starting to zone out on a chair when she began to hold my face so I looked at her. “Emma, when was the last time you ate?”
“I ate at lunch today. I already told you!” I tried to look away but I couldn’t. She looked so pained. I was hurting her, over and over again.
“Don’t you dare lie to me.” She looked at me with the saddest expression I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t lie anymore.
“A few days ago. I’m just not hungry anymore.” My confession brought her more pain then it did to me. She was falling apart, just like me. I couldn’t be doing that to her. Could I?
“Why are you doing this sweetie? You’re so beautiful.” She reached out for my face but I wouldn’t let her. Tears rolled down my cheek.
“I’m fat! Everyone thinks so!” I sobbed. Everyone knew it was true.
“No you’re not! Not even close. Why can’t you see how beautiful you are?” she asked.
“Because I’m not! I’ll never be pretty. Or skinny!” I fumed.
“Who told you that? Are those girls bothering you again?”
“No! Just drop it.” I ran off to my room and locked the door.
“Sweetie!” she called after me but it was no use. I wasn’t going to listen anymore. I was done.
The next few days were quiet and my house was filled with this ominous silence. It wasn’t like we didn’t have anything to say to each other, it’s just that we didn’t know how to say it. School wasn’t any better. As much as I tried to forget the rumors and the harassment, the more it happened.
I was all alone. No one was there for me. People avoided me like the plague. I’d spend hours in my room curled in a ball crying. I had no purpose in life, no goal. I was falling into nothingness, slowly losing sight of everything I had loved. I had been so hurt, so full of pain. I was so bitter; I hadn’t felt happy in a long time.
I was a shell of my former self. I wasn’t just missing pieces, I was horribly, completely empty.
But soon it would be all over.
I tried so many things to try and make it go away. Nothing could make me forget the pain. Nothing could make the hurt go away. I was disgusted with myself. There must be something wrong with me if so many people think so. Maybe I’m too fat. Maybe I’m too ugly. Maybe I’m a tramp. I probably deserve to get called names. I deserve to get hurt.
The thought engulfed me; I was obsessed with trying to hurt myself, because I felt I deserved the pain. I got a needle and dragged it across my arm. A thin line of blood trickled down my arm. I enjoyed the pain; it was the only thing that made me forget my problems. It took my mind off the real world long enough for me to feel happy, even if just for a short time.
This never really helped. As much as I loved the fact that it made me forget, it was only temporary. The problems at school got worse; I was shunned by my own friends. I had never felt so alone.
I hated being at home by myself. It meant I was forced to be alone with my thoughts. Today was especially bad; it was like having nightmares during the day. I relived every comment, every hit, every cut, it felt as if I walked into the garage and saw a rusty knife. It was large and sharp and I wondered how it would feel to slice through my skin as I slowly bled to death. All my problems would disappear. I wouldn’t be a burden my parents anymore. It’s not like the kids at school would miss me. It seemed like everybody’s life would be better if I weren’t in it.
I picked up the knife and felt the blade with my finger. It was so sharp. I should do it. I had to do it. This was the only way.
What are you doing? Are you crazy? You have so much to live for!
“What do I have to live for? Everyone hates me! I’m better off dead.” I shouted at the empty room. I turned and the room spun and my voice echoed. I pressed the blade against my skin. I could feel my blood pumping through my body. The room filled with the sound of my heartbeat.
Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. It echoed in the room, slow and steady.
You have everything to live for! Why end your life when it has just begun?
“Everyone would be better if I was dead. That’s what they all want.” I waved the knife around, yelling at an invisible person.
I pressed the blade farther and blood trickled down my arm. My breath quickened. My heart rate increased. I was terrified. But of what?
Stop! Don’t do this! Think of your brother, think of how he’ll grow up never knowing his sister. Don’t do this to him.
That was true. He had just been born. We had almost lost my dad a little while ago. They couldn’t lose me too.
I began to shake. My knees buckled and I dropped to the floor. I laid there crying, still holding on to the knife. What was wrong with me? Why was I doing this? I didn’t hate life. I had so many things ahead of me, yet I was ready to throw it all away. Was I crazy?
I had gone crazy. I was completely insane. How could I do that to myself? I had never wanted to die. I almost let a moment of insanity destroy me. I had almost let them win.
All this time I had been falling, preparing myself for impact. Somehow, I didn’t hit the ground. It’s like I had been given a second chance, and I was slowly starting to crawl out of the hole I had dug for myself.
All I could do now was try and forget what I had almost done. This was practically impossible; the scars and nightmares were constant reminders of my ordeal. I had fallen apart and I was trying to put myself back together.
Every counselor I’ve ever talked to has always told me that forgiveness was the key to my recovery. But I couldn’t forgive them. I just couldn’t. They had destroyed me. I hadn’t smiled in a long time; I don’t even think I remember how. I wasn’t incapable of forgiveness, I just couldn’t forgive them. I couldn’t even forgive myself.
In recovery, it’s the little things that matter. The little spurts of happiness, the start of a smile, sleeping through the night… I was finally starting to feel normal again.
Time can heal most wounds, as it did with me, but you can’t fully heal until you let yourself be happy again. Because in the end, you are your own worst enemy.