By Aakash Palathra, Member of the Co-Lab Mental Health Hub

Imagine a dark, dark prison, where you feel like you could never get out of the endless torture. Day after day people would come to torture you taking your soul away from your passions. Despite your pridefulness making you unable to falter, it was just fuel to the embargo, making the insults harsher, the duration feeling like eons knowing I would never tell anyone, that I would “fight on”. I had to go through this constantly during elementary school and constantly pondered the value of my own existence. I was shackled in the worst time of my life but worse, I lost a portion of my childhood.

I remember getting beaten up, insulted, experiencing lacerations not only to my body but to my mind. I remembered getting insulted, separated, shoved, kicked, slapped, racially slurred. Slowly the darkness accumulated around me as my teachers went away, my friends went away, my parents could not help me despite all their efforts. They were gone, gone, gone. I got framed for things I did not even do; people were spared when they should’ve been punished. Slowly the dark wrapped around me like a veil separating me from the outside world. My own “friends” made an account that poured hatred against me. The darkness kept covering. I questioned myself. The common understanding of me at the center of all this trouble. The darkness kept covering.

An immensely painful thing about bullying is that it spreads, giving individuals usually two options – to become the bully or the nonchalant bystander. Most were bystanders yet it was painful seeing the handful of bullies. Hatred spreads like a plague – you either rid it from you or let it fester to spread it to others. It fills your mind with motivation and incentive only to fulfill its goal, to hurt, to make one suffer. It feels wrong, illogical, for the bully not to bully because this hatred is a parasite, relying on you to make their dreams a reality. If not…

Yet, somehow, I survived these horrific elementary school years. Thankfully my outrageously large ego spared me from any worse actions or thoughts.  It could’ve gotten worse for me, but as I stated earlier it had a cost. They knew they could do it because they knew I wouldn’t tell anyone, ask anyone, get help from anyone.

The last but most important thing I had was support. That was the light that reached me from beyond the dark veil. Though my parents found it difficult to help they tried to comfort me during these frustrating times. I had a couple of friends that I desired to continue fighting for. I had the belief that somehow the dots, the stars would align and I’d be able to escape from the prison. After elementary school, I had that break to be able to go to a new school. This was one of the most fortunate periods of my life. But it might not have happened. I may not have been lucky.

Regardless of the happiness, I obtain now I will forever be scarred by the bullying I experienced within my life. I find it hard to trust people I don’t know for long periods of time. I tend to avoid social cliques with certain criteria, and I find it hard to converse with others.

To the bullies, it’s a parasite and you must rid it from yourself. It will ruin your lives and it will be the only thing you focus on. To the bullied, it’s hard and you will need support whether it be internal or external. But if you are able to overcome it, you will be unstoppable.

If you are a teen and want to help reduce the stigma around mental health, join our weekly meetings virtually led by teens with adult mentors. Sign up for our Hub orientation here.