First Occurrence: Age 8-10

The Preliminary Situation

In second grade, I was enduring the third year of severe bullying by my classmates--I could not go five minutes without my classmates picking and teasing about anything and everything I did. They even picked on me for breathing weird. Adults at school told me this was "just how kids were" and I'd have to "suck it up," but for a child of my admittedly high-strung temperament, it was hell. There was simply no peace at school for me, and so school was a source of double anxiety for me--anxiety about my academic performance, plus anxiety about being in such a hostile environment. But, when I cried about being picked on, my young teacher sent me to the office because I was "disruptive" and "out of control." (Little did she know, she was simply attacking the symptom rather than solving the real problem.)

I was taken to the office twice, and on the second visit I was warned that if I had another "outburst" in class that led to an office visit, I would face suspension. That suspension, I learned, would live on forever in my permanent record. The school also suggested that my parents take parenting classes, and instituted a regimen of daily behavior reports--if I was "bad" at school, then I received a school-authorized spanking at home.

My Reaction

As a 7-year-old who lived to please others and was already obsessed with "perfect records" in everything, the notion of a permanent blot on my record horrified me, and the behavior reports frightened me even more. My parents, despite normally erring on the side of giving freedoms rather than taking them away, did try their best to go along with this school-instituted program, since they had been assured this would solve the "problem behavior issue." After a couple of spankings at home, and still fearing the terrible third office visit, I did what I could to survive the situation. Namely, I forced myself to be quiet and not cry.

In the short term, my teachers were astounded and praised me for my "magical turnaround" in behavior. "See, we knew you could be a mature young lady!" "All it took was a little discipline!" This praise, unfortunately, merely solidified my resolve to be the quiet little girl they all wanted. The underlying problem of classroom bullying had not been solved--my newfound quiet did not stop the onslaught in the slightest. I just simply had learned that my teachers did not want to hear what was going wrong in their own classroom, and that my complaints would always fall on deaf ears.

Depression Creeps In

My emotions, already quite volatile and dramatic given my personality, thus were pressurized under a cork of resentful obedience. I was quiet, all right--quiet and angry. Over the next few weeks, I began to resent and then to hate my classmates, my teachers, my school life, and even my out-of-school life. But it was a strange sort of hatred, a cold, lifeless sort of emotion that didn't simmer so much as eat away at my mind like an acid.

By the time I turned eight in the middle of the school year, I was merely existing, not really finding much happiness in anything anymore. This is when I began to think of death not as a fearful thing, but as a blessed relief, an escape. As a result of my depression, I became even more perfectionistic, even flying into rages over not being able to complete video game levels perfectly. My reasoning was that being perfect was the last thing I had left to me, and if I couldn't be perfect at absolutely EVERYTHING, what good was I? Why did I continue to live, if all I was ever going to be was a screwup and a problem child?

My schoolwork did not suffer during this time--that, at least, I made sure of. Doing my schoolwork correctly and on time was part of "being perfect," the daily struggle to prove I was still worth something. But my work was often interrupted with fits of crying, especially over math--its difficulty taunted me nearly as much as the classmates around me. I even suffered what I now know to be my first anxiety/panic attack because of the Computational Math section of the Academically Gifted qualifier test, given during my third grade year (while I was still suffering from depression, unknowingly). But in all other subject areas, I strove for and usually attained those beautiful 100-point scores, over and over again--and punished myself with blows on the back of the head and the fronts of my thighs if I didn't.

The End of the First Cycle

By the end of fourth grade, I had pretty much pulled out of my depression on my own, thanks to discovering my musical talent and having played on a community girls' basketball team. I had a little bit more camaraderie (despite a bit of teasing from teammates), and I had something else to learn and do well on. I had about a year of relative peace, even after being cut from the basketball team in fourth grade; I cried over it, but the loss of basketball practice meant a gain in writing and reading time, both of which I had learned I loved greatly. I did experience some anxiety over schoolwork in fifth grade, but it was nothing like second grade.

Little did I know at the time, my second cycle of depression was looming ahead, coming right on the heels of verbal and physical abuse I could have never imagined for myself.