I was a late bloomer; as recently as six years ago I lacked assets, to say the least. As you might imagine, I was teased and taunted with all kinds of nasty names. Airport runway.
It isn’t a big deal now; puberty hits some later than others. But back then, such words hit me hard. And as puberty progressed, the insults took different forms and intensified.
Maybe she stuffed her bra. So they named me “Tissue”. People kept asking me for some, and laughing when I didn’t know what they meant.
The bullying progressed from the merely verbal to the physical. My books got shoved into the bin. I walked into class one morning to find my papers overturned and Coke “spilled” onto my chair. At recess, my diary was taken from my bag and my classmates read through it without my consent.
The most painful part was that I had nobody to talk to.
I didn’t know who to trust. Whenever I thought someone was being friendly toward me, I would later find them laughing with their friends behind my back. About me.
So I stopped trusting people. I’d keep looking back when I walked around in school, out of fear.
Even the head of the performing arts group I was in got involved. On the day of our performance, 5 minutes before going on stage, I was told that I would not be allowed to perform.
Dressed from top to toe in my stage outfit, my soul was shattered; nine months of blood, sweat and tears flushed into the gutter.
I locked myself inside my room and cried my heart out.
I lived every day detesting school. I’d force myself to go, then rush home as soon as the bell rang.
Teachers found out, but my nightmare continued. By then, my plight had spread online (thanks Twitter) and become impossible to hide.
I wanted to run away from it all and get off social media to shield myself, but I found myself trying to defend myself online. I was also anxious to see what others were tweeting about me.
By Sec 3, I had retreated into a shell. I lived every day detesting school. I’d force myself to go, then rush home as soon as the bell rang.
I don’t even know how I managed to survive secondary school.
It’s been years since then and I must confess the scars remain. But though they hurt, each tells a tale of glorious redemption.
I’ve come to realise that with God, all things – even painful, tragic, terrible things – happen for good.
In my own struggles, I became awakened to the inaudible cries of other silent strugglers around me. God placed His heart for them in mine. Though I see in them the fear I once carried, and the same demons that used to torment my miserable, lonely existence, I also see love – the same relentless love the Father has for me.
In them I see the chains that gripped an unguarded mind struggling to make sense of it all, all culminating in helpless isolation, where every stare is interpreted as judgement, and every comment feels loaded.
But I also experienced His grace abounding to me in raging rivers. I wanted others to experience that, too.
I can only look back in wonder – that I didn’t only survive but come out stronger and wiser than I could have dreamt. As I bore the weight of my past, God called me forward. And as I walked to Him, He did the deep healing work in my heart.
He brought me a special bunch of schoolmates who showed me what real love looked like. They took me as I was, broken and all, and healed me back. Through them, He restored my trust in people.
He taught me that strength isn’t always about retaliation or revenge. It’s about love.
Recovery is often a long, long road. For years, certain words still made me uneasy. I’d distanced myself from typical “girly” norms, because the girls I knew were all “one kind”. I was socially awkward, and often lied to blend in with the crowd. I was desperate for acceptance.
Well-meaning people advised me to just “be yourself”. But I wondered how, when “myself” was what got me bullied for 4 straight years. Then I learnt that I should simply be the woman I was made to be.
In my own struggles, I became awakened to the inaudible cries of other silent strugglers around me.
I want to say to anyone who’s been hurt by others, or is still in a position of pain: It sometimes feels impossible to trust or talk to people. But while some people hurt us, there will always be others who can help you, who care, and who will always be there for you.
You are never alone until you decide to be. Don’t decide to be, because you are loved with an incredible, unconditional love.
For healing to begin, you must have the courage to open your heart to God and connect again with others. It might take a while – 3 years for me, all the way through A-levels. But it will come if you allow yourself to trust people again.
Lastly, to those who threw me down so hard for 4 years of my life: I forgive you.
The little girl who cowered beneath your caustic, battering words … she might’ve been a late bloomer, but her time has come.
This woman knows who she is and the path ahead. She walks it out unhindered by her past, free and strong. She doesn’t have to fight for scraps. She freely receives, freely gives. She knows her strength and uses it ferociously for good.
Nothing shakes her. She knows she’s deeply loved. A fire has been awakened in her heart.
Thank you for empowering her to help others, offer them strength and hope through the storms of life that they may one day stand on their own two feet.
And that woman will laugh fearlessly, not at the plight of others, but because she’s learnt the meaning of grace. And armed with that, she will make the world a much, much better place.