High School Drama Queen

March 3, 2011
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About one in every 12 U.S. teenagers suffers from mild to major depression. Although I had heard many stories about teenage depression, I didn’t know anybody who had suffered from it, so I was unaware of how serious it was. I grew up as an only child. My parents are loving. I always tried to surround myself with happy and upbeat people. Life was good. Little did I know how wrong I was.
If someone had told me that after middle school my life, when I entered high school, was about to nose dive, I never would have believed them. Unfortunately, nobody was around to warn me of how crazy my life was about to get.
In the beginning of my freshman year I started hanging around with two girls: Maddison and Tina. We always had a bunch of fun together. Over the course of about a month the three of us developed a pretty close friendship with one another. Or so I thought. We often made little jokes about one another, but always avoided hitting on the sensitive spots. I thought that we would be friends forever. Then one sunny day in September of 2008 it all came crashing down.
I had just sat down for lunch with a bunch of other friends and I heard a buzzing sound coming from my back pocket. Immediately I knew that someone must have texted me. I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. The screen read “One New Message…Maddison.” I thought the message was going to be something funny or a bunch of useless knowledge about some current high school drama that I really didn’t need to know. What I read was something quite different. “Ryelee, you look like a boy today. Why don’t you try to get in touch with your feminine side for a change?” I couldn’t believe what I was reading! That one single message was just the beginning of my world turning upside down.
For seven miserable months the messages kept coming from Maddison and Tina. “You look like a lesbian! Ryelee is the goddess of the drama queens.” Texts were not all they did. The two of them would laugh and stare at me all during class while I innocently sat there trying my hardest to avoid more of their cruel and harsh words. I felt like their eyes were burning tiny holes into my body. Whenever I tried to ignore them they always found a way to get my attention.
I was sinking lower and lower. Almost every day after school I would go home and cry my eyes out for hours and hours. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to deserve this pain. Soon I began isolating myself in my room and refused to go out with my other friends.
I started to lose interest in all the things that I had once loved and before too long some of my friends began noticing my odd behavior. Now even they were turning on me. They started referring to me as the bipolar child. Deep down I knew that I wasn’t the same Ryelee, but I couldn’t build up enough courage to tell my parents how I was feeling. I was afraid that if I told them then they would think it was their fault, or worse, they would be disappointed in me for letting others push me around. Eventually I knew I would have to tell them, but building up the strength to say what was on my mind wasn’t quite as easy as I would have hoped.
If it had not have been for the most painful message I received that February of 2008, I may never have told my parents why I was always so sad. “You look like a monkey…your family is SO poor Ryelee…your real parents probably gave you up for adoption because you’re so ugly and they didn’t love you.” To this day those words still linger in my head. Receiving a text message similar to that one forced me to try and wash away the pain - with alcohol, smoking, and cutting. Even after I finally told my mother about the teasing, and always feeling depressed, the messages continued to haunt me for another year.
My parents dragged me to therapist after therapist searching for the core reason of my emotional issues. Talking to a complete stranger for an hour and a half was definitely a strange feeling for me, but after a few visits I soon became my normal talkative self. Talking to another person about my feelings helped me a little bit, but what really pulled me out of the hole I had fallen into was something I learned to do for myself: writing poetry. While dealing with depression I fell in love with writing poetry. Whenever I wanted to cut or drink I immediately grabbed my notebook and wrote everything out in poetry form. Instead of crying for long periods of time or grabbing a cigarette, I chose to grab my journal and a pen.
Poetry gave me the freedom to let all of my feelings out without physically and emotionally hurting myself. I also fell in love with writing short fiction stories. As a young kid I always enjoyed writing, yet it wasn’t until those two painful and frustrating years that I developed a passion for writing. I know that there were many people in my life, people who really cared about me. Thankfully, many of them still are in my life. Yet, nothing compared to the way my pen and paper cut me loose from the strangling depression that often had overwhelmed me.
I was getting better, and finally in the summer of 2009, I was actually aware of a feeling that I felt had deserted me forever. I actually felt happy! My two new best friends, my pen and paper, and the poetry they helped me create, made me happy in a way I never believed possible.
The week before junior year began I went to my last therapy visit. My therapist told me that I no longer needed to see him anymore. The biggest smile spread across my face! At that moment I knew that everything was going to be better. I don’t think I have ever felt happier than I did in that one moment.
I wish I could tell you that after going through and dealing with depression my whole world turned right side up and everything went back to normal, but nothing is the same as it was two years ago. Nothing will ever be the same again. Hopefully in time all my battle wounds will fully heal. Only time will tell. I’m still very self conscience about the way I look, and not a day goes by without me having one “blue” moment. The big difference is now I have gained enough confidence and strength to keep those feelings from overpowering me as they once did.
Now that I have experienced the painful feelings of high school bullies and depression, I use that personal experience to help others who might be suffering with the same pain I felt for so long. School is supposed to be a place for growth and for learning, not a place where teenagers are isolated and made to feel worthless by others who can only feel good about themselves by bullying others. Those sad souls need therapy more than I did.
Bullying has become more and more pervasive. It has morphed from playground bullying in elementary and middle school to cyber-bullying in high school and beyond. The tragic incident at Rutgers University in 2010, ending in a college student’s suicide, focused much needed national attention on this growing problem. I did not need to read the news of this young man’s death to feel his pain. I had felt it firsthand. I also know that I was lucky. With my pen and paper in hand, I will to add my voice to the many others who have experienced bullying, overcome it, and are now helping others find their way out of that dark hole that can swallow them and leave them scarred for years to come.

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