For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a stutter.

The majority of my schooling life, I’ve been a victim of bullying. To most of you, a simple task like reading in front of the class might seem like nothing at all. To me it was a source of endless anxiety. 

There were times when people in my school actively ensured I had no one to spend time with at school breaks. So I either spent the time outside in the yard, alone, or hiding in a toilet stall, too afraid to face whatever waited outside those doors. For me, school meant going 30+ hours a week without smiling; depressed and scared for my mental health and security every moment.

It’s exhausting pretending to be ok when you’re not. I was too proud to admit I was hurting and, didn’t want to be seen as weak. I’m a very private person and I didn’t tell my parents or anyone what was going on for a long time. My emotions bubbled away inside, and the longer I concealed them, the worse it got. 

Eventually I reached breaking point, finding it too hard to attend school. My parents saw through the attempts to hide my sadness, and often suggested seeing a therapist. The thought of opening up to someone about my condition seemed like a nightmare, but I finally attended an appointment. 

And thank goodness for that. I started to see progress from the first session. I began feeling comfortable talking about my emotions to family and even close friends. I also opened up to two teachers I trusted at school. Not only did they help me process my own emotions and do whatever they could to help me, opening up prompted them to take direct action on bullying at the school. Looking back, that’s the thing I’m most pleased about. It means other students will avoid the dark path I went down, the negative thoughts and nearly non-existent self-esteem.

I learned it’s important that, after accepting what we’re going through, we never just sit there and let it happen. Every day I walked through the school gates I knew exactly how people would treat me, how they’d make me feel and exactly how I’d look back on the day when I was lying in bed at night. Despite this, I just let it continue, day after day. 

I wish I’d acted sooner. That could have countered some of the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness and despair and maybe my road to recovery would’ve been shorter.

But healing takes time. And while I let it run its course, I found other ways to help my mental health and wellbeing. I generally overthink things, but in soccer and writing I found two things I’m passionate about that get me out of my own head. I was able to escape my own mind and find a peaceful place within myself.

I still deal with depression and anxiety, but I’m proud to say I’ve found ways to manage my condition. Now towards the end of my high school years, I wake up every day with a positive mindset and a desire to face whatever challenges come my way.

I’m not saying these will work for everyone, but they did for me. I hope my story shows that there is a way through. And it starts with talking.

Related reading: Being bullied at school, it's not fun and games

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