I got locked inside a restroom cubicle. Silly as that sounds, I didn't think so at that time. My fingers were starting to hurt from trying to open the lock. They soon became numb so I instinctively screamed for help. No one came. After about several more cries for help, it dawned on me that I was going to be late for a class.
I did what any high school freshman would do and snuck under the cubicle's opening. And as if I wasn't having a bad day already, two of my classmates walked in and saw me crawling halfway through the cubicle's door.
They laughed. Of course. They didn't even help me get on my feet. I even tried explaining the situation to them but I don't think they heard me because they kept laughing so loud. Before I left, I begged them not to talk about it with anyone else, especially to the boys in our class. I knew that if the boys found out, they would never forget about it and I would be known as The Girl Who Crawled Out of a Cubicle for the rest of high school.
Although teasing me about the incident didn't last long, people's bad impressions of me certainly did.
One day, my closest best friend and I were chatting on Facebook. We all lived far from each other. She sent me a link with a sad emoji. I clicked it of course and saw my classmate's post. She didn't name me in her post but I knew it was about me. I knew this even before I looked at all the horrible comments where someone eventually guessed me. They called me names and cursed at me.
I was shocked. I was scared. I was embarrassed. But most of all, I was hurt.
I racked my brain for anything I might have said or done to them that have caused them to bash me that way. I came up with nothing. I knew I didn't do anything wrong to deserve their harsh words. I didn't know what to do. I was young. I couldn't hide my feelings from my parents so I shared what happened and they told me how to fight back. In a way, we confronted them privately on Facebook. The girl who posted it told me to grow up. I even recall her saying "that's life". Two other girls involved apologized while the rest just seenzoned me.
Shortly after, I brought it up with our guidance counselor—or my parents did; I can't remember. The guidance counselor talked to my parents separately and he told them that I should have called for help. He also asked my parents if it was really that funny.
He was probably thinking it wasn't worth his time and that it was something that could be easily dismissed. Indirectly and unconsciously maybe, he was blaming me. He was, in a way, placing the fault on the victim. He perceived me as overacting.
At least he still talked to everyone involved. He gathered us in his office to discuss the matter. I don't know what stopped me from saying what I wanted to say and should have said. At the end of the coversation, I didn't feel confident that they understood my point.
I wasn't upset about them laughing because I admit it was truly funny. You see, I would have been okay with a lot of things. I thought it was something I could laugh off. I hoped it was one of those embarrassing moments my batchmates and I could look back on with happiness instead of hate.
What happened that day was hilarious. I accept that. But posting it online, especially on an online public platform, crossed the line. Online bashing is cyberbullying.
It also would have been okay with me if they just kept it to themselves like an inside joke of some sort. The fact that I was able to see it meant that they either wanted me to or they were just foolish enough to forget that there was a button for hiding posts and comments from people they wanted to hide them from. I'm sure many people saw it. Even my best friend who was living on the other side of the world got to see it before I did.
The damage was already done. The bullies took notice of me. They saw me as an easy target since I was sensitive. Each day, I spoke less in class because they constantly snickered at me. In the hopes of gaining friends and the bullies' favor, I tried my best to help everyone in need even when they continued to abuse me.
As much as possible, I submitted to igorance because I thought that if I ignored them, they would eventually stop.
They didn't. They always found a way to twist something I said or did. Most of them probably didn't know but I always knew when the girls bullied me indirectly. They would talk about me behind my back or say things out loud without mentioning my name.
The boys were much more upfront with verbal bullying. Sometimes they would even throw clay and paper balls at me. Half of the time, I couldn't tell whether they were just paper balls or spit balls because sometimes they were holding straws. Some of them would also ball their fists at me to scare me into thinking they would punch me.
They continued to bully me and take advantage of the help I was willing to offer. Whenever I tried to stand up to them, I would almost immediately get knocked back down again. They would either laugh at me or cut me off before I could even say anything; causing what little confidence I had to disappear completely over time.
Teachers tried to help but I later realized that only I could have truly helped myself get through it. I just wish they told me that. Maybe they could have helped me realize things that I'm only beginning to understand now. I admit that I have also done things I'm not proud of. I don't blame others much anymore for what happened because I had my faults too.
Looking back, I was immature, but they were too. They missed the point. They didn't see that all I wanted was respect.
Now, I don't need their apologies anymore because I already forgave them. I just hope they at least changed for themselves.
Michaela Marie B. Alcasid hopes to bring comfort to her readers and inspire them to act against bullying. She is currently studying BS Development Communication (UPLB). She's still haunted by her bullies but she's not as scared of them as she was before.