"If only Dolly knew what I know now"
I WAS in grade eight when I was first tainted with a label which would haunt me through my early teens.
My stomach still turns when I recall walking past a senior grade's classroom and hearing an older boy said "that's the girl with scars on her face".
Memories of my time as a shy schoolgirl, tormented over a problem skin condition, resurfaced when I heard the news of 14-year-old bully victim Amy "Dolly" Everett taking her own life.
If only she could have gotten a glimpse of the bright future bullied kids like us can have ahead.
I looked at her picture and asked myself "why is this still happening?"
In my first year of high school, I was diagnosed with cystic acne.
At any given time, I would have 12 cysts on my face at once.
More often than not, I would also develop them inside, on top or behind my ears.
I discovered I couldn't sleep on my side as it would be too painful and I couldn't wear a hat because the brim would push against the cysts on my forehead.
I would wake up with bruises on my face and the pain from that alone would make washing my face or putting make up on a painful experience.
I tried everything - "miracle" skin creams, washes, doctors, naturopaths and even changed my diet (one dish contained cicadas).
When I realised I had exhausted my options, I went to see a dermatologist and after a few years, I was finally cured.
I experienced a lot of pain in the years I suffered with cystic acne but it wasn't all physical - it was emotional too.
On one occasion a boy I didn't even know was walking backwards while staring at me before asking "what's wrong with your face?"
Another boy in my grade yelled "shut up scar face" in front of a large group of people.
Looking back, it baffles me how anyone could treat another person the way I was treated.
What's more devastating is there are children who are being treated far worse and in the digital age, the bullying can continue long after they go home.
No one should go home in tears nor should they wake up and dread going to school or online.
It breaks my heart that some victims of bullying feel they have no way out.
To those people I say this - things will get better.
It may seem like you're trapped right now but one day, you will look back and realise your own strength.
I have healed emotionally and the already fading physical scars will one day disappear.
Until then, they a reminder of my own battle through high school and truth I now know - it doesn't last forever.
If you or anyone you know is seeking support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.