This has always been one of the topics I never quite know for sure how to address. But like I said, I want to keep things raw and natural here. Yes, there was bullying, mainly in school. Before using a wheelchair, since I've always been tiny, I used to go by in a baby stroller for long walks. Or else people would easily carry me, or I would take a few steps if it was a small path. I got my first wheelchair on fourth grade. An Invacare Action Junior I believe, back in 2004.
Before that I had never felt like "the kid in the wheelchair". I was not exactly integrated with other kids, but I didn't feel so much like an alien either. Back then I had a strong and outgoing personality. My tendency for performing arts had already made its way into my life and I liked organizing plays and shows with the other kids. But the truth is, as soon as they all started with jumping ropes and playing football, I remember spending more time looking at them and wishing to be able to do it, than actually finding ways to be part of it.
It didn't take long before I started being the last chosen one for every group activity that didn't include arts or writing (they'd see me as an advantage on those). But it was all still us being kids and not knowing how to fit me in. My (long lost) strong personality did not help much either.
By then I had started leaning more into reading, watching movies, listening to music and mainly having mentally expanding talks that lasted forever after dinner (which were insanely boring for most kids) including topics like "what are we alive for?". Predictably, that increased my already growing isolation, and I gradually stopped making an effort to be a kid doing kids stuff. So by the end of elementary I was already the weirdo. Still, being quite an imaginative girl, some kids liked getting me on make-believe playtime, which I quite enjoyed too.
I had a tendency for football, never liked watching it but liked the feeling of running around after a
ball, I remember trying to play in my walker, or on the floor on all fours (destroyed endless pairs of shoes by dragging them around like that, it was my main way of moving on my own). It worked, even though I was never an advantage for my team. As long as they'd let me play, it would work fine for me, I never aimed to be a pro anyways, but at least I had something to do with them.
The worst was obviously yet to come, though. Pre-pubescent teens have a natural way of becoming cruel, it seems. And as soon as me being a goalie on my knees stopped working to captivate them (God knows why), it all started to happen. I still wasn't the kid to remain quiet, and would outsmart most of what they said to me with comebacks. But it was pointless, I was the one wanting to conquer their company, not the opposite. It eventually it got to the point the teachers started to reprimend my behaviour, since I had become bitter to them as well, saying "you shouldn't be like that, it is you who needs them after all". And I believed that, for far too long.
As years rolled on they started being more subtle. It was not so much what they said anymore, there were no comebacks I could defend myself with. By then, it was all about looks of disgust, passive aggressive notes, not opening the doors to let me in (I could not do it myself), and despising any kind of closeness to me.
So I started getting quieter too. My mind was not for them anyways and that way I would not have to fade myself off just to fit in. And then adolescence kicked in. And it was a nightmare. If no one liked me before, and I had more friends being teachers than students (even though they still condemned me for "not making an effort to get along even though you need constant physical help"), then it became a jungle of "lets see who can make it worse". Which went from destroying my stuff to calling me a whore for wearing shorts, or leaving me alone when I had no walker or wheelchair near (there was a scheduled set of 2 people each day designated to be "responsible" for helping me, so I could at least survive. They hated it and so did I. As bad as it was, that got me feeling like a damn awful burden, to add to the rest)
I had never felt lonelier than when I was around 12 /13 years old. They started to despise me out loud. Luckily for me, the human brain tends to wipe out what is too painful, so it is mainly diffuse memories right now. I took silence as my weapon. Emotionally too. I became like a wall. Never talking unless strictly necessary, and avoiding eye contact as much as I could. Thought it would eventually stop, but it was too long for me being the ugly duckling to make it forgetable. The last drop though, I remember clearly, was the whole class setting up a fake messenger account as a boy named Daniel. I fell for it. Lonely as I was, I would happily throw myself all in for anyone who would bother to even say hi. "Daniel" started telling me he was in love with me. Again, I fell for it. As soon as I accepted to be his girlfriend "despite the physical distance", hell came lose and I was the easy unashamed dirty bitch.
Obliously depression found its way in. Strongly. I was never diagnosed. I hated psychologists. I hated motivational talks. I hated them telling me what I already knew (hello I always had excess thinking, not lack of it, was it that hard to see?). Either that or telling me I was just an attention seeker lacking life ambitions.
Suicide found its way in too. By the age of 14 I had attempted it 4 times, since there was just no point on being the outcast disgusting burden for everyone. Each time I failed my self hatred increased. It was all an unspoken topic at home, even though my parents obviously noticed, since I would only cry as soon as I locked my bedroom door. They did not neglet it, we talked about me and my life, but I guess they were always sure I was stronger than that, so we never quite grabbed the bull by the horns.
On 10th grade I found my crew. The outcasts. The queers and nerds united. We were only 4, but my goodness were we loud. Theater saved me. We started making our own projects. More than that, the deeply embedded idea of going to Lisbon gave me hope, and hope was the key to keep me going. I knew at least some minds would be bigger there (here!) and was I damn right!
I honestly feel I started to live 4 years ago, when I came to Lisbon. Self-acceptance has even already started to be a thing now! I was so damn right. My place had always been here, closer to the artits, the open minds, the free spirits, the crazy ones, the ones who take the leap... they are not that many either so far, but oh my are they great!
Let's not make this all rainbows (yes, LGBT+ pun intended, I am a damn winged unicorn - will also talk about that soon) and happy endings though. Bullying did not make me a better person. Not does depression. Nor does anxiety. Nor does all the suicidal shit. Nor the damn wheelchair. I told you I'm not a motivational coach. It almost fucking tore my wings to pieces. It eventually came to an end, though. And as for the ones who bullied me, I never heard not even about their shadows anymore. But I'm sure they heard about me, and will still hear for many years, sorry not sorry. I am not unstoppable, but you bet I am stubborn! Try harder next time.