“Are you big, hairy, and scary?”
I’ll never forget those words as long as I live, words asked to me by the meanest girl in my class back in 5th, maybe 6th grade. I don’t really recall anymore since I’ve long forgotten most of those two years of my life.
“Well? Are you?”
The girl laughs. “So you don’t have any pubic hair yet? You’re not developing?” More laughter.
My face becomes red with embarrassment. Of course I was. Wasn’t everybody at that age?
A few days later the same girl approaches me. Her eyes twinkle. “Are you big, hairy and scary?”
I know the right answer this time even though it seems so wrong. “Y…yes.”
The girl laughs raucously. “Eeew, that’s gross.” She leans in close and deepens her voice. “You are BIG and HAIRY!” Other kids standing nearby snicker at my expense and I crinkle my nose because her breath stinks.
The girl approaches me for a couple more days after that, but I ignore her. Finally she leaves me alone, but those aren’t the only taunts I received as a young girl in elementary school. Rather, they were only one of many, meted out by both the kids, AND the teachers.
I think back on it now and I’m sad. I was that puny kid that let everyone pick on her and kick around like she was a piece of trash. I was that ugly girl, the weird one that liked unicorns, dragons, and faraway places. I was the girl who wore her mother’s old clothes because they made her feel better during the hardest days at school, the one who daydreamed in class, praying that one day she would be away from that place. I was that dumb girl that made bad grades and felt like she was nothing.
Looking back, I realize that I just didn’t feel like I was nothing. I WAS nothing.
Fast forward to the end of my senior year in high school. Somehow I had managed to drag myself out of that hole. I was on the honor roll, had friends, and had even managed to bag myself a college boyfriend. But in my eyes, I was still that dumb girl because I had to study so hard, and I wondered what was wrong with my boyfriend because he liked someone who wasn’t all that pretty.
Fast forward through college, the first years of my marriage, and having my children. I knew I suffered from bouts of depression because I was medicated for it after the birth of my first son. That was scary, because I was either unable, or unwilling, to take care of myself.
Fast forward a few more years. I had my fourth child….and I became terribly ill. The stomach pain was hideous, and I was in the bathroom all the time. I went to the doctor. They ran multitudes of tests only to finally settle on IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I saw a couple more doctors and they determined the same. However, it was one of the last ones that told me she wanted me to do something other than take a bunch of meds. She wanted me to do something about my mental health, determined that much of my problem was because of that.
I resisted. I mean, who wants to believe they have a mental illness? But I did it. I went to see a psychiatrist. It was only in his office that I remembered my struggles at school, not just with the kids and my grades, but my anxiety. Every day was an epic battle to talk myself up enough just to function. Everything was stressful, especially how I’d deal with the other people I’d see there. I always felt like I was alone, with no one to tell my fears. And I was sad.
I never told Mom and Dad. I didn’t realize I had anything to tell them.
I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. Instead of getting those manic highs I get intense anxiety. My lows are clinical depression. I’ve been taking medication for a few years now, and it feels like a part of me has become unlocked, the part that was always afraid to stick up for herself.
The days of being kicked around like trash are over.
I’m glad that someone finally told me to seek help. My IBS isn’t gone, but it’s better because I’m not struggling with debilitating anxiety every day. The depression is still there, but manageable.
For everyone out there like me- never give up. You never know what may lie unlocked within you, just waiting to be freed.
About the author: Tracy Chowdhury is the author of Shadow Over Shandahar – Child of Prophecy and Warrior of Destiny. She is the co-author of Dark Mists of Ansalar – Blood of Dragons, and is a contributing author to the anthologies, Missing Pieces – Volume 1 and Missing Pieces – Volume 2.
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight