By Abbie Foster's StayStrong • March 10, 2018
From a young age I was bullied. At school, at home and pretty much everywhere I went. It felt like it was me against the world. It's strange really, how a few words can change the course of your life. For me it was more than just words but I am however not yet ready to tell that side of my story. When I was a kid I remember feeling lost, lonely and fragile. I was surrounded by so many people but I just didn't belong.
Moving up to high school was a real strange experience, going from the biggest kids to the smallest is a lot to get your head around. It wasn't long before the other kids noticed I was weak, and soon the bullying started once more but this time it was different, the words had meaning. Each name I would get called cut me deeper than a knife ever could, slowly but surely destroying what was left of that little girl. This continued for years, as we got older the comments got harsher with one boy even telling me to kill myself if not he'd do it for me. I feared going to school everyday, wondering what they were gonna say next, what would be the comment that tipped me over the edge.
By the time I had reached my final few years I found myself to be a shell of my former self, the little girl that once played dollies, danced and put on plays was gone. It was difficult to cope with the comments, names and mostly feelings I was receiving. I was having thoughts of destruction and began to deal with them in what would become a dangerous way.
For a long time I would keep rubber bands or head bobbles on my wrist, I used to tell people they were for school reasons but in reality they where there to calm me. When I was having these thoughts and comments I would flick the band against my wrist, it would give me a quick moment of distraction from the pain I was feeling inside. Flicking the band left no mark therefore there were no questions. I felt like I'd truly conquered the people and thoughts that controlled me.
Once my exams were over in my last year I decided I would leave school to go into the adult world to hopefully end the bullying. Although I wanted to continue my time in collage I just couldn't bare the thought of feeling like this again. But sadly this didn't change as I was bullied at one of my jobs by someone in charge. Once again I was feeling lost and confused, how could an adult treat a young person this way? As the pain inside for myself grew worse so did the amount I used my band; until one day I realised that the band just wasn't enough. I don't really know how but my brain had convinced me that I need to hurt myself worse to feel better. So I started to cut my thighs and upper arms with a compass from school, the release I received told my brain everything would be okay. I could once again control my feelings. I can't really remember the first time I cut myself, it's all a blur, all I remember is my body stinging in the shower the next day.
Life for me over the next few years became pretty routine, the thoughts of dying every time I stepped out of my house, every time I saw a lorry and every time I would look at a tall building were normal to me. Self harm became my way of life and my go stress release. I was feeling more down than ever and had even written suicide notes, I felt like I needed to explain why I had to leave. Problem was I couldn't bring myself to do it in an unselfish way. I couldn't bare the thought of someone having to find me or knocking me down, that was not fair of me to leave these people with those memories.
So I had to hold on, it was like I was slowing drowning in my own sadness and there would be no way out. It felt like this was going be my life forever or until actually went through with my plans. I didn't see me having any kind of future so what happened next really changed my life.
Once I turned 18 I thought things would change, I was officially an adult so things had to get better right? But once again I was wrong, life was still slowly dragging me along whist I was barely holding on. I had given up all hope of happiness and recovery. I still felt like I didn't belong.
All this changed in January 2014 whist sitting in my mums car. I remember this day like it was yesterday as it was the first day I felt true happiness for a long time. As I was sitting there I remember feeling numb, of course I had on a pretty convincing fake smile as usual, I couldn't let anyone see I was weak. As we were travelling down the road with my mum singing along to the radio a song started, one I'd heard before but never like this, the soft piano music began to play with words strong ' skies are crying, I am watching, catching teardrops in my hands'. Of course the song was Skyscraper by Demi Lovato. This was the first time the lyrics had meaning, those words of 'go on and try to tear me down, I will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper' hit home. I felt a lump in my throat, I felt my eyes filling with water but I had to stop myself, there would be too many questions.
Later that night after having an argument I once again felt numb, those thoughts of self harm where once again present at the forefront of my mind, I know I couldn't keep going on like this but what other choice did I have? The only way I could stop these thoughts is by giving them what they wanted; or so I thought. Then suddenly I remembered the song that I'd heard earlier that day; Skyscraper. I loaded up my laptop and searched for it on YouTube, the video was amazing, so simple yet so powerful, it worked, I began to cry. At the side of the video a suggestion for another one of Demi's songs came up: Warrior. I listened intently to the words, it was like she was inside my head, the song warrior was everything I wanted to be. 'Now I'm a warrior, now I've got thicker skin, I'm a warrior, I'm stronger than I've ever been, and my armour is made of steel you can't get in, I'm a warrior and you can never hurt me again'. These lyrics meant so much, the power behind them was filling me with pain and hope all at the same time!
Once the song had finished I clicked on another suggestion: Believe In Me. I listened to the lyrics an once more I was filled with emotion 'I don't wanna be afraid, I wanna wake up feeling beautiful, today, and know that I'm okay, 'cause everyone's perfect in unusual ways, you see, I, just wanna believe in me'. It was like she was singing everything I felt, I wanted to feel beautiful, wanted and worthy. It was so strange to me how someone who I've never met could say everything I couldn't.
The last suggestion I clicked on was 'Demi Lovato opens up about cutting'. I was shocked? I thought Demi was just this Disney princess, I didn't realise that she was hiding behind a fake smile too. It turned out we had a lot more in common than I realised And for the first time in years I no longer felt alone. From that point I decided that if Demi could get through her pain then so could it. I'm gonna wake up feeling beautiful after all.
A few months later my family and I went on holiday to Lanzarote, I had gained a little bit of confidence, wearing stuff that showed scars (although no one noticed), it didn't matter to me, I was somewhere with people I would never see again, who cares if they judged me? One night I was waiting for my step sister to get ready, I suddenly felt the urge to write, so I did. I wrote a message to myself and others in my notes on my phone opening up to some of my problems:
'As I'm sitting here, in a hotel room in Lanzarote, I feel strong.
You see up until about a month ago I had no confidence what so ever. I hated the way I looked, it got so bad that every time I'd walk past a mirror and happen to catch a glimpse of myself I'd either cry, get angry or have tears in my eyes.
There are many things about myself that I highly disliked, e.g. The dark circles around my eyes, the size of my nose and the way I smiled.
I used to walk down the street thinking people we looking at me and thinking I was a man or just feeling pure hatred towards me.
I've always had this thing about wanting to be liked by absolutely everyone, which probably boils down to my time in high school.
I left high school 3 years ago, but I still hear the voices of those that bullied me to this day, saying things like I wasn't good enough or that I should hurry up and go and die. Looking back I used to believe them and just felt useless. I used to think about how much better this world would be without me. These bullies would make it their days work to make sure I went home either crying or angry. I went from being really confident and doing shows in junior school to being a shell of my former self.
I have always had the most amazing friends that told me everyday how much I meant to them and that I was beautiful in my own way, however it is so hard to believe them when I was being knocked down at every hurdle and really didn't believe in myself.
I have always hid from cameras as I would hate the pictures that they held and the person they represented. I would never admit how low I was feeling as I was so busy helping everyone else, which I did enjoy. Not even my closest friends had any idea of how sad and depressed I got because I had hidden it so well.
In the middle of January 2014 something changed. I started listening to Demi Lovato's songs and absorbing the messages, I watched as she told her hard story to the world and how she felt so much better getting it off her chest and helping the world to talk. You see Demi was bullied for being 'fat', (even though she never was) which led to all sorts of problems including self harm, eating disorders and drug/alcohol abuse. Demi went and got help and is now '3 years unbroken'. Demi's story really spoke to me in a way that no other could. She showed me that I am beautiful and can feel that way if I just believe in myself.
Then suddenly it started happening. I'd look in the mirror and smile instead of cry, I felt the urge to take pictures and I liked it. I was feeling confident and it felt amazing! I felt free! Now when I think of those words the bullies said I just smile because I realise I am not that person any more. I'm a new version of myself, a better one, a stronger one.
I have now started opening up to my friends and being completely honest with those that I care about.
It's taken it's time but I'm finally starting to feel free! <3'
Then I decided to share it with my friends, the feedback I received was incredible, with comments and apologies. It felt as if I had just released a massive weight from my shoulders.
I went out and bought a notebook with 'Inspire someone today' written on it. I wanted somewhere to write my feelings down. Then I had an awesome idea, as well as writing my poetry I should get people to put messages and photos in the book. This became my personal book for when I became down, it was there to help me laugh, cry and love again. I completed this book and have since gotten another with 'Be the reason someone smiles today
Of course it wasn't an easy ride, I relapsed a few times, I was still suicidal most weeks but I could see a small improvement in myself, even if its 2 steps forward 1 step back, I was still going the right way. Along the way I had met some online friends called Lovatics (Demi's fans). We would cheer each other up on a bad day and kept each other strong. In September I was lucky enough to fly to America to meet one of those Lovatics, her name was Emily. I stayed with her family for a week, and I turns out that Emily's mum had bought her Demi meet and greet tickets for her birthday and as I was going the same week she had bought me some too! I was in complete shock, I really was going to meet the lady who told me I could be a warrior too.
America was amazing, we spent the week doing awesome things! We went to the beach and spent some time creating a poster for our concert. One side read 'Thank you for bringing us together' while the other said 'Now we are warriors'. We couldn't wait for Demi to see it! As we arose that morning the feeing of excitement arrived with worry and nervousness. We headed to the concert and lined up in the meet and greet line. So many other Lovatics were ready and waiting for their idol, it felt like forever until we got to the little curtain Demi was hiding behind, but finally it was our turn. As I walked through the curtain all I could thing was 'oh my, she's really real'.
Demi looked at me with a massive smiled on her face, my dreams were becoming reality. Our conversation still warms my heart today.
Demi: awww you have the same tattoo as me! (Pointing at now I'm a warrior)
Me: yeah, and I have the Lovatic heart on my wrist too
Demi: that's so cool
Me: yeah I got them for being over 100 days clean....
Demi: that's amazing! Well done!
Me: thank you so much
Demi: you don't sound like you're from North Carolina...
Me: no, I'm English
Demi: oh my god, that's so cool! Thank you!
She then hugs me tight, it was like she was holding all of my broken pieces together. Then we take a Picture and I leave. Those few minutes have been some of the best of my life.
We then go to the concert, Spencer West opens up for Demi with a wonderful motivational speech. He uses those Warrior words that so many of us in that room related too. It was then that I decided that I want to do just what he has done, I want to use my life, my past to help other people.
Demi then comes on stage full of fire, her vocals stretching across this massive room touching each one of our hearts individually. We are standing 2 rows from the stage and as she sings see walks in our direction, with our hearts still full of the memories of the day Demi sees our poster, smiles and waves at us and made our day whole.
A few days later I flew home to England with the feeling that I could take on the world!
Life went back to normal for me for the next few months with me relapsing on October 17th, this would be the last ever time I would hurt myself. I now celebrate this date every year as my birthday as it's the the start of when I really started living instead of just surviving.
I was then invited to spend Christmas with that same family I stayed with, they once again treated me as their own. I felt so special and couldn't believe they would love me like they did.
When the new year came I decided I wanted to share my story with the world, my words could really help someone just like Demi's did for me. So in January I made a video to that song that made such difference: Warrior. After that things went a little bit crazy, the video reached 1,000 views overnight, Regular Hero had named me as their daily hero and I received messages from people I was once scared of saying just how brave I was, it was unbelievable. To this date the video has almost 50 thousand views. I made a Facebook page called Abbie Foster's StayStrong. (StayStrong with no space because I believe if there's no space then there is no room for doubt).
From then I decided to make many more videos, each one different from the rest and each one highlighting an important subject of today.
I wanted to make even more of a difference so I got in touch with fixers who's motto is 'helping young people to use their pasts to fix the future'. You can see why I thought this was perfect for me. With fixers I wanted to show people just how far a little positivity can go and just how much it can change someone's day for the better. So we came up with a plan to make some Power of Positivity cards, each one would have a quote and a goal for the day; for example: 'You're beautifully and wonderfully made' and the goal would be 'look in the mirror and appreciate your best features... everybody has them. I got this idea from a book by Demi Lovato called Staying Strong 365 days a year which has a quote, explantation and a goal for the day.
Since working with fixers I have worked with many charities helping them make a difference in our community, I believe that everyone can make a difference, no matter how small they think it is, it will cause a ripple affect and others will join.
To this date I have made over 15 videos and written many pieces of writing but my favourite has to be a video I made for my second birthday to the song Fight Song, it explains my self harm recovery journey as I wanted people to know that things get easier, better even. This video has almost 60 thousand views and the feedback was wonderful.
I would like to tell you a little about depression, many people believe it is just sadness but I want to tell you it is much more than that. Depression is staring a the wall at 3am silent because you cant sleep and you're all cried out. Depression is sitting down in the shower because you don't have the energy to stand. Depression is thinking of every possible negative thought subconsciously until your mind explodes. My friend once told me a quote that she had heard from her idol Emma Blackery and I don't think I will ever forget it: "imagine you are walking in a forest, you are alone there is nobody around and suddenly you fall 60" down a well that wasn't clearly marked, you break your leg and now their is heavy rock on your leg. You can't move,your leg is broken and you are in pain and all you can see is a little light above you, you can't reach this light, there's no ladder to climb back up so you are stuck down there alone. That is what depression is. From here you have two options, now I've already said you are alone so here are the two options. You can; 1: you can wait until your broken leg is healed,chip away at this rock and climb up the well with your hands,and fucking exhaust yourself. Or 2: you can shout so loud and for so long until someone hears you and helps you out'
I would also like to tell you a bit about self harm, I have been told by many different people that self harm is just for attention, of course you get the odd one or two that do but most people do it so they can feel something or control their feelings etc. If you suspect someone is hurting themselves please don't get mad or take away their weapon of choice, just get them help. They deserve to know that they are worth more than hurting themselves.
Lastly I'd like to explain suicidal thoughts, I have been told I was selfish for being suicidal when there are people out there that don't get a chance to live and god knows I felt it when my friend passed away in 2011. The thing is suicidal people don't want these thoughts, we don't want to feel that the world will be better off without us. It's very distressing when you think these things and people agree with you, it's difficult to get through the days. Everyone deserves respect.
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could be but now I realise, I can be anything I want to be, so I'm going to inspire people. As for those people in my life who have hurt me well that's in the past, I'm not angry at them any more, I pitied them for a while but now I feel nothing towards them, no hate, no pain and no resentment. If they ever truly needed my help which some of them have I would do my best to help them. After all I'm not the same I was five years ago so why would they be? Besides everyone deserves a second chance to do the right thing.
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