As soon as secondary school started everything changed.
In primary school everything was relatively simple – sure there were the beginnings of popular groups as well as some school bullies, but it was relatively easy to make friends and I never worried about who I was going to sit with at lunch or play with at break time.I managed to get into the very popular all girls’ school after some persuasion from my primary school teacher, where I’d be going to the same school as all of my friends. I was excited, even though we had ugly as hell brown uniforms that consisted of brown blazers, brown and white striped shirts, and to-your-ankle brown skirts.
Secondary school started and it was exhausting and scary. The timetable felt really long, the school had too many staircases, and there were suddenly 150 girls the same age as me.
The one thing I didn’t expect was my friends making new friends without me. Our little group of primary school kids started to dissolve as each girl made new friends and started creating their own friendship groups. Needless to say, I was trying to cling on to my old friends as much as possible, which of course, made me become less fun and less cool to hang out with which consequently made me a lot less popular.
I started to feel depressed, drawing my own gravestone within my notebooks and wishing I was dead so that I didn’t have to go to school anymore. I was so utterly heartbroken by my very best friend hanging out with other people instead of me, that one moment before woodwork class began I burst into tears, begging her to still be my friend.
As you can probably guess, this sort of behaviour only worsened the situation. I started spending most of my lunch breaks sitting on a computer in the library, trying to hide from old friends so that they wouldn’t realise how much of a loner I had become.
What I hadn’t realised quite yet was that a lot of the girls had decided to start becoming women overnight. They were more interested in make-up, boys, fashion and being a teenager. I was still enjoying video games, drawing, making up stories and being a kid. All my primary school chums had started growing up without me.
One day in June at the end of a very boring and very humid IT class, my stomach was cramping so horribly I thought I was dying. I clutched my belly and was extremely grateful that my mum was picking me up that day, instead of having to walk the 45 minute journey home.
Turned out I was having my first period, which didn’t feel very grown-up or lady-like as I had imagined. The cramps were horrible (and still are). I had a day off school out of the kindness of my mum’s heart.
Not being at school was great. No reminders of broken friendships, no busy corridors between classes, no worrying about who to sit next to. I got to spend the day with my nan – our regular babysitter – and all we did was watch Audrey Hepburn movies (skipping any songs because my nan hates musicals but loves Audrey).
Then the weekend happened and Monday loomed closer. I did not want to go back to school.
So I was ‘ill’ again. Same old tummy ache. Same day of movies and day-time TV.
Then I was ‘ill’ again. And again. And again. I faked being ill for so long that I didn’t go back to school until September. Thankfully because it was just Year 7, I didn’t miss anything very important.
I begrudgingly went back to school for Year 8, trying to tell myself that I can and will make friends this year. Thankfully I did manage to make a new best friend, as well as become friends with a group of popular girls, which unfortunately turned into a not so great experience that you can read about here.
Year 8 was also a disaster because I began to cut myself. I’m not sure why I did it to begin with, but I do remember that when people in my class started noticing me because they wanted to see the cuts on my legs, it felt good. As terrible as that is, I started cutting myself more to keep getting the attention from all of my classmates.
I remember cutting my calf with a razor over the bathtub whilst my family were downstairs watching TV. I remember it bleeding more than I expected and almost crying for help. I remember my mum getting angry with me when she saw the wound on my leg a few days later.
I didn’t cut myself for very long. After cutting my leg a few times I started hurting the back of my hand, rubbing the skin off with my knuckle until it bled. The wound was horrible. Mum was upset with me for that one. I don’t blame her for her reaction – she simply didn’t know what to do to help me.
One time I recall telling her that I thought I needed to talk to somebody, like a therapist. She unfortunately brushed it off. I now think that seeing somebody would have been a great help to me, as my teen years were full of depression, anxiety and poor self-worth, but again, I don’t feel any anger or blame towards my mum. She had her hands full with my (then) problematic older brother, my angry and miserable father, and my two younger brothers, as well as a fairly stressful job. I don’t think she had ever had to deal with mental illness before, and I can imagine that as a mother, having your child actually need to talk to a therapist may feel like a somewhat failure on her part, even though it really, really wouldn’t have been.
So why have I told you this story?
Because when visiting the doctors a few days ago, she asked me whether I had had any previous mental health issues. I was incredibly anxious about just going to see her, and so during this appointment my mind went a bit blank, even though I knew I had had body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) as a teenager. Later on that day I thought about my early times at secondary school – how I had had similar thoughts to those I had during my depression over the last year. Maybe I had been depressed before. Maybe it has never truly left. I don’t know.
It’s sad to think of an 11/12 year old girl in such a terrible place emotionally. I know I’ve never been the best at making friends but, it’s incredible how loneliness can affect your state of mind and your self-worth, even at such a young age.
At the moment I regularly feel like I am not worthy of seeing anybody. I cancel friends coming to visit, I get stressed out before going to appointments – heck, I’m even a bit apprehensive about visiting my family next week.
I wanted to tell this story because I wanted to tell you all these key things, which are also things that I need to tell myself:
I hope that you lovelies aren’t sobbing buckets over this post (like I am). I hope I’ve made you feel less alone in how you are feeling and how you are thinking. I also hope that this story gives you some courage to seek the help you need. If you do ever need to talk, feel free to contact me at any time.
Let’s get better together shall we?