We drove to my grandmother’s house out in the country to pick up my little sister, Summer, who was not yet old enough for school. I remember my mom doing a lot of talking in the car—she didn’t seem angry, much to my relief—but she did sound hurt and told me that she had no idea that I was being bullied so badly. She said all she wanted for me to do in school was my best, and that she knew biology was hard and that she just wanted me to work as hard as I could to learn it. I was feeling better about the entire situation by the time we got to my grandmother’s house.
Until we saw my grandmother crying in the front yard with my three-year-old sister clinging to her. My sister had found my grandfather dead in the garden, and my grandmother had called an ambulance to come try to revive him. They couldn’t, and my mom had now lost her father.
That day at the counselor’s office was never mentioned again. A couple of months later, I was crying and trying to explain to my mom why I had made a forty on a microscope test in biology, telling her that I couldn’t make the microscope work because my eyesight was so bad. She listened, then said matter-of-factly, “Well, if you think you have it so bad, just go ahead and commit suicide if you want to.”
When I would get really, really low, particularly when there was no reason for it (which is a hallmark of bipolar disorder), I could still hear her words years later. I don’t think she meant what she said seriously. I think she was trying to give me some perspective on the situation, telling me it wasn’t as bad as all that. But for a fourteen-year-old with self-esteem issues who desperately needed to hear that she was still valuable as a person even when she didn’t make top grades, her words may as well have been knives in my gut.
I shut up and went about my business, but for a very long time, I hated my mother after that. I hated her for not showing me that she loved me no matter what, and I couldn’t wait for the day that I could leave home and get out from under her anger. I know now that she was simply doing the most she could for me in encouraging me to reach my potential. But the scars run deep, with me constantly questioning my self-worth in the bad times. I know now that my worth doesn’t lie in accomplishments but in who I am in Jesus. As long as I rely on that truth, I know I am more than a conqueror in Jesus, leaning on him to carry me through the tough times. But I wasn’t that strong in the faith when I was young, and I continued battling bullying and teasing until my senior year, when I was confirmed as salutatorian of my high school class and my peers had finally realized that doing well in school might not be such a bad thing after all.