In the wake of Amanda Todd’s death, The Globe asked readers to share how they have coped with bullying in their lives. Here are the stories of seven readers, looking back on how they overcame years of struggle in their youth.
“I grew up in Winnipeg. I was short, chubby, rocked curls, and I was adopted. I had no friends in class, or at daycare.
"The problem got so bad that about halfway through Grade 4, I sat down with my mom and one of the [school] workers and told them that I was going to kill myself that evening, as no one would care if I showed up to school the next day. I couldn’t take another day of torture.
"I vividly remember the discussion to this day, the look of horror on my poor mother’s face, the fear in the eyes of the daycare worker. My mother (without her, I’m not sure I would still be here today) promptly phoned the school the next day and spoke to the principal...
"It did nothing other than increase their relentlessness. Nonetheless, I persevered, with my mother as my rock, and made it through.”
- Lindsey Belaire, 23, Edmonton
“I was bullied mercilessly in Grade 6 in Richmond, B.C. Time plus counselling as an adult helped with some of the scars but not all.
"At the time a new school did help, as did some new friends who were essentially instructed to take me under their wing until I could stand on my own again. My mother did call the father of the worst of the perpetrators, but she only had the courage to do so with an ex-cop standing next to her as she dialled.
"Children being repeatedly encouraged to protect each other, look out for each other and give each other a chance is so important. Adults need to keep their eyes open and model the good behaviour over and over. And the parents of the bullies need to be involved. Of course this is hard, embarrassing, difficult, complicated. But our kids need to know they're valued and irreplaceable.”
- Amanda White, 40, Vancouver
“I was bullied pretty badly in middle and high school, I was constantly called a whore when yet I was still a virgin. I had been hit in the hallways by males. Even some of the teachers singled me out.
"I too, like Amanda, switched schools… but decided I wanted to avoid schools at all costs so I dropped out and didn't get an education.... I had people messaging me and texting me saying they were going to run me over with their parents’ van and beat me.
"I moved to a different city and it didn't stop. It never ends to this day, I'm still bullied and ridiculed but you just have to be strong and show them that what they say or do doesn't hurt you. I have dealt with it my whole life and to be completely honest I don't think I'd be where I am if it wasn't for my baby. He's now five and makes me smile every day.”
- Megan Tschritter, 23, Taber, Alta.
“I couldn't stop thinking about her, her mom and dad, all her loved ones. I shed tears for her, a girl I didn't know but wish I had because I get her. I remember the mean girl in grade school. I had the bully in high school. Teased for being too skinny, for being shy.
"I remember the feeling of being an outcast, being excluded, being alone. I remember being sad. I didn't talk about it or tell anyone. I was ashamed. I knew I should just suck it up so I suffered silently. I don't remember how long it was or how it ended, if it did end. I guess I blocked it out.
"I was one of the lucky ones. I can't imagine how it might've been, how easily it can escalate in the age of social media.”
- Ali Hui, 43, Vancouver
“I was picked on for a number of things. I had a bully take a pair of scissors and cut a hunk of my hair in class, in front of the teacher. At the time, I had a nervous breakdown and screamed at the top of my lungs. I collapsed on the floor and cried for a long time. Everyone was staring at me, as if I had gone mad. My teacher at the time sat with me and held me as I cried.
"She again went to the principal and had that bully suspended for a week. She also kept a close eye on me in class, asking how I was doing, giving me opportunities to shine in the areas I had aptitude in – writing, drama, music. I was moody and depressed for a long time.
"I had contemplated slitting my wrists, overdosing on pills, hanging myself … anything to end the painful memories and the loneliness I felt. What kept me going primarily was my faith in Christ. The church community rallied around me. They encouraged me to come out every Sunday to play for service, to volunteer with children and youth, hoping to get me out of my shell.
"My mother especially encouraged me to work hard at my music, and her efforts led to my winning or placing well in several local competitions. Music and God kept me going, and the love of my family and friends sustained me. Let us keep a vigilant eye on our youth, and not let Amanda's sacrifice be in vain. Bullying is not a momentary phase – it is debilitating, lifelong, and a struggle no child should have to go through.”
- Amy Gee, 31, Calgary
“As a fat, uncoordinated, impulse-prone kid, I was picked on throughout elementary and high school by a variety of tormentors. I took to spending a lot of time alone.
"Every time I hear about a story like Amanda Todd's, I have to choke back tears, and rage. I think what stopped me from the brink of suicide was escapism. I know it sounds cliche, but I played Dungeons & Dragons and other games like that. For a few hours I could step outside this victim I was, to play the hero and slay the monsters. Anything to be something other than myself.
"I learned to hate myself very, very thoroughly. It's been 20 years since I've graduated, but I feel like I carry the emotional scars to this day. I eventually managed to fall in with a bunch of fellow misfits for mutual emotional support; we discussed Star Trek and films and video games, and managed to find solace. My friends, my gaming pals, and my fellow theatre nerds made life bearable.”
- David Brideau, 37, Kitchener, Ont.
“The other students in my school shouted names at me in the hall, the boys sometimes grabbing me as if I had no rights or dignity. I never felt safe in school.
"To this day I feel as though my school failed me. I cannot recall a single incident where I felt I was protected by my teachers. I began to have panic attacks every night, and when I did sleep would have nightmares about the tormenting. There was no escape, not even in my own head.
"It is not something I like to admit to, but I did write suicide letters, which always ended up ripped up in the garbage. I don't know exactly how I survived it all. There were many days when I didn't I want to.
"But things began to get better for me through music, writing, and especially theatre. I have the most amazing group of friends, a loving boyfriend, I am finishing my undergraduate this year, and have big dreams for my future. I couldn't ask for anything more.
"I wish with all my heart that I could have reached out to Amanda Todd, let her know that she was never alone in her pain, and also that her life will get better. For anyone else facing that same loneliness: You are not alone, just don't give up. Take that chance that your future will get brighter.”
- Kelsey Burton, 22, Caledonia, Ont.