Heather With Filter

Trigger warning: self-harm, depression, suicide

For the first 16 years of my life, I was the total opposite of what I am now. I was extremely insecure, isolated and just a very vulnerable kid. I had no confidence, and my head became a very dark place due to the bullying and treatment I received over the years, stemming right back to my first year in school. I was an easy target; I was shy and sensitive, and kids can be cruel, but I’m a big believer that a lack of education on the consequences of bullying has a big part to play in this.

I would go to school every day to be called the most horrific names and have cruel pranks played on me. I distinctly remember having my first thoughts of suicide at 8 years old because I could not understand why the other kids hated me so much and wanted to make my life so miserable. Now that I’m an adult, I can understand that these other kids probably had no idea they were having such an impact on me, and over the years have learnt to forgive these people for my own peace.

As I went into high school, the bullying only escalated. I was getting taunted every single day, called every name under the sun, only now, in the age of social media, I couldn’t get away from it. I was being told the world would be better off without me, that I was fat, ugly, and useless. I would get threatened and told I should have been aborted. It was constant, and over the years, it took its toll on me. I was so miserable, had no confidence and just wanted an out. I believed everything the bullies were saying to be true, and this led to my first attempt on my life at 11 years old.

I wish I could say it got better from that point, but the suicide attempt only made the bullying worse. I started self-harming, and by the age of 13, I just couldn’t go to school anymore; I could not face it. Still, I was constantly being harassed on social media. This took away virtually any sense of happiness, and I spent the next 5 years in and out of the hospital because I did not want to be here, and any chance I got I would hurt myself because I believed everything the bullies were saying to be true. The final blow was when I was 16, everything became too much, and I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel, so I took what would’ve been my last ever attempt on my life, but also the point I would start changing for the better. I don’t remember much, just beeps and doctors. It was a miracle I was alive. I had to stay in the ICU, and all my loved ones were told to prepare themselves for the worst. My very close call with death changed something in me; I decided I couldn’t live like this anymore, seeing the pain this had caused my family broke me, and from that point, I decided I would fight for myself. I wanted to live, not just survive.

"I believed everything the bullies were saying to be true."

Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy, it felt impossible at times, but I wasn’t going to give up. I started surrounding myself with positive influences and talking about my experiences. I wanted to be the person that could help my younger self, and on this journey of self-discovery, I started running, and it changed my life. It’s got such a massive part to play in where I am now: a happy, confident and strong person. I’ve learned so much over the past 5 years, and I am beyond grateful to the amazing people who have helped me along the way. I still struggle, and this has been a hard journey, but I am living proof that you can turn your life around and create a beautiful life no matter what you’ve been through.

However, I was certainly not the last kid to ever experience this horrendous bullying, and some kids won’t be as lucky as me. Youth suicides happen daily, and I am passionate about trying to change this. This challenge of running 160 miles over 5 days in Tanzania isn’t only for my younger self: this is for the millions of kids out there that are just like I was. They deserve to be seen, and they deserve the help I was never given. I may be putting my mind, body and soul through the ultimate challenge of running 160 miles, but that doesn’t even begin to compare to the hell I have lived through and what millions of other kids are going through right now; I am doing this for them.

"This is for the millions of kids out there that are just like I was. They deserve to be seen, and they deserve the help I was never given."

As someone who was relentlessly bullied for the best part of 10 years, this charity and what they do is so close to my heart. I know first-hand just how bullying can have a massive effect on a kid's confidence, self-esteem and overall mental health that can last years. I am lucky I have been able to overcome the worst of the effects bullying has, but not everyone is so lucky. Kidscape does fantastic work educating kids and adults on the effects of bullying and how to stop it, while supporting victims of bullying and their relatives.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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