"A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it, really mess it up, but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out, and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they're sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind and that those scars will never go away, no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child: they may say they're sorry but the scars are there forever"

When I tell people that I was bullied as a child and teenager, they look at me as if it is no big deal. Everyone gets bullied occasionally, they say. Not many people recognize it as something that can do serious damage, even today. I was 8 years old when the Columbine shooting occurred. I've watched episodes of Oprah that discuss young children killing themselves because of bullying. I watched as the child of a family friend nearly self-destructed when his friends turned on him. I have seen my classmates turn to drugs, alcohol, and cutting. They would change themselves desperately just to be accepted. There are studies showing just how damaging bullying can be, and how the effects are long lasting. Still, not many people I have personally talked to about what I have experienced view it as a tragedy.

When I first read the above passage, I was amazed that someone finally got it. I know nothing about this teacher. Maybe she had been bullied, or was close to someone who was. I don't know, and it isn't important. What is important is that she understands in a way that most people I have encountered do not. She doesn't view it as harmless, or kids being kids. She doesn't say that there's nothing that can be done. She took a regular occurrence in schools and showed her students just how damaging bullying can be. How many of her students fully grasped the point of this, I do not know. I was almost in tears reading this, though. The fact that someone understood and shared it with others affected me more than I can ever say.

If you look at me in passing, you won't see the way I have suffered. You won't know how much bullying changed me. I did not act out in the ways others did. I did not drink, smoke, take drugs, or have sex to feel wanted. I did not change myself in a desperate attempt to fit in. At least, not completely. I never cut myself or attempted suicide, but I will admit to wondering if anyone would miss me if something did happen. Not many people know the real me, how damaged I am. Not many people ever will. I wish I could speak out, but every time I have tried, some well-meaning person tells me "It couldn't have been that bad. You're still here, aren't you?"

My experiences may not have been as traumatic as the experiences of others, but they were traumatic to me. My name is Olivia, and I am a 22 year old graduate student. If you will let me, I would like to tell you my story.