My interview with Isa was a really interesting experience. Her story shifted my perspective on how I view someone who is considered a “bully.” Her story is really inspirational, and it shows how forgiveness can go along way and become a really liberating experience.
Leland: Tell me a little bit about your background, were both parents in the picture? As far childhood went was it a pretty good experience? Any traumatic experiences?
Isa: I grew up in Winthrop Harbor which is a suburb of northern Illinois. If I went north enough I could go to Wisconsin if I go east enough, I’m falling into the lake. Both of my parents were in my life, my mom is a doctor and my dad is an electrical engineer I believe. My childhood was pretty alright I guess, although I wasn’t very good at most academic work. Teachers would always keep my worst grades for some reason and then at parent-teacher conferences they would give them to my parents, and a reoccurring factor that kept being brought up was “Hey I think your kid needs to be put on medication for ADHD” and my parents never did that for me. I don’t really remember any traumatic experiences, but throughout my whole life, my dad wasn’t the best guy growing up. In a few ways I would say I’m like my dad because we are very outward, and extroverted people. We like making connections and we like hanging out with other people, except at home it was very different. There, my dad was really angry for no reason. He would start going off about random things and would break stuff. Luckily I don’t do that, I just play video games.
Leland: Whenever you went into middle school/high-school did things get any better?
Isa: I’d like to preface this by saying that I went to a catholic elementary school, catholic middle school, and a catholic high-school. Being a transgender person in that environment was not good at all so that was that.
Leland: What was is it like to be a trans person in a catholic environment? Was is it pretty hard to go to school?
Isa: I actually realized the trans thing later on in high-school. During junior year is when I really solidified my sexuality. Before that, it was really just straight up being gay which was not fun either. It was the kind of catholic school were every year we were forced to have a religion class were the teachers would go off and say things like “gay people don’t exist” or “trans people are confused about their bodies, and they are just uncomfortable and want to change themselves into things that are not real.” Essentially that’s what they said.
Leland: What escalated you starting to go down hill with your depression?
Isa: It was in middle school and I’m going to change the names, but I had a bunch of friends and one of them which I’m going to call Stacey, and I were really close friends. We were best friends in middle and high school, except the thing is, is that the group of friends we had around us were not very good people in fact they were legitament bullies. They would really enjoy making fun of other people for absolutely no reason. They would excuse one of our teachers specifically I know for being a child molestor, and they would keep on say it and saying it out loud to the class. They would generally put down everyone around them and people could clearly hear what they were saying but no one ever retaliated towards them. I did not like our friend group and at the time, I wasn’t really sure what was happening mentally with myself. Anyways I ended up blaming it all on my best friend Stacey. I decided to write her note instead of talking to her directly . I ended up writing her a very long letter that said “Our friends are horrible and we should not be with them and you’re kind of enabling them to continue being mean and this is not good.” On the flip side of this I look back on it now and this was 6 years ago and a lot of things have changed since then, but at the time I wrote the letter I picked out parts of it that I knew she didn’t like, and they were really insensitive comments that didn’t need to be said. To top it all off I wrote the letter anonymously and I put it in her locker. I knew that she had been dealing with some tough things at home, and she had been self harming. So a day later she got it and she came to school with her arms covered in cuts and I realized that it was really stupid of me to write that. Anyways, stuff had really started tumbling downhill for me there. A month later her parents had ended up giving the letter to the school and the school understandably pulled me out of class and was like “Hey, we are considering expelling you because this sounds like you are telling a kid to kill herself ” At the time I was more upset with getting expelled then actually what I had done. At the very end of it all in 8th grade when we were graduating the whole friend group had split apart and we all hated each other. I actually ended up going to the same high school as stacey, and all of us just stopped talking to each other. That summer is when depression hit me the hardest and I know it’s weird to say, but I really feel like I deserved it after doing all that. My parents would say stuff like “Why would you do that?” and the faculty at my middle school all hated me and didn’t want to talk to me. So that summer going into high-school was realy really hard. I was always alone and I didn’t want to get up out of bed. I did a really horrible thing and I realized that later. This all escalated for a while and I never wanted to self harm because it reminded me too much of her. It ended up getting to the point where I was on the roof of my house and I was trying to woe myself to jump off of it.
Leland: So I’m assuming that must of been the lowest point of your story, or your “rock bottom” so to speak.
Isa: Yeah, absolutely. The thing is, is that I actually did end up jumping one day. Considering that it was a one story house all I did was fall into the bushes and I just kind of laid there and went “ Well I can’t even do that right.” So I got up, went inside, and I just moved on.
Leland: It’s amazing how you went from the bully in the story, to someone jumping off the roof of their home, to where you are now. You were the antagonist opposed to the protagonist.
Isa: Yeah, to be honest I really enjoy telling this story, because it’s not a normal depression story I would say because I wasn’t necessarily the victim of anything I was really the bully of this whole situation. So I really like telling this because it’s another perspective, and it is another way to look at the situation. I used to be mortified to talk about this because I never wanted to tell it. Looking back on it this was probably one of the best growing experiences I think I’ve ever had because it taught me how to not be a horrible person. I remember my freshman year she was still at the same school I had gone to and I was really anxious, and still had suicidal thoughts and didn’t really do anything about them. Yet over time I realized the only way to really get over my anxiety was to kick my own butt. The closure to this story was in my sophomore year of high-school we were both in the same theater class and I was working in sound and she was in makeup I was sitting backstage not really doing anything because I didn’t really have a job at the time before I became the stage manager. She came up to me which was not normal because the makeup crew never really came back stage that often. She came up to me and I remember distinctly I was sitting there eating gummy bears and she came up to me and was standing in front of me. For whatever reason my very first thought was to offer her one so I held out my hand and asked her if she wanted one which I thought was really stupid but she started crying then I started crying and we walked down the hall way and the distinct thing that happened was we were sitting on that bench in this hall way that I had always walked through and I’ll always remember this hallway and we sat there and she said “I know what we did was wrong, but I think after all this time I’m going to forgive you.” and that was probably the best thing that had ever happened to me essentially.
Leland: Was that the moment that you think you truly took your life back?
Isa: Yeah, of course.
Leland: What do you think led her to apologize?
Isa: She didn’t apologize to me I apologized to her, and she forgave me. She came up to me because we both felt really bad cause the entire freshman year we avoided each other. I mean we would see each other in the hallway but we just kind of noticed each other and would keep walking. There wasn’t any eye contact and this was the first time we really ever talked to each other since that whole summer. When I apologized it was a massive weight off of my shoulders because the entire 2 years I just carried this burden with me and it was the worst thing in the world.
Leland: If you could go back in time, and tell yourself in middle school right before you wrote that letter knowing all that you know now what would you say?
Isa: To be completely honest whenever I look back on it I really wouldn’t change anything because that whole incident has shaped me into the person I am now, and if I never went through that then I would probably still be a horrible person now, then I am right now. Because now I try to actively go out and try to help people, I try to make sure that everything I say is positive to people. I definitely don’t right anything anonymously.
Leland: Why is life worth living now? What is your new excuse to live life?
Isa: Life is worth living for other people. I really enjoy talking to people and interacting with other people, and making friends, I am the type of person who loves to go in to group chats and ask “Hey! how is everyones day?” If somebody is going through a problem I love to try to talk it out with them, and try to help them feel better. So generally if feel like your going to do nothing with your life, which I generally thought that I wasn’t going to do anything. The very least thing you can do is make life fun, even if you think it is pointless. Make life better for other people, and yourself as well.
Isa was so so kind! and I was very fortunate to be able to listen to her tell it. The on thing I loved about her story, is that it shows how forgiveness can go a long way, and relieve burdens that hold us down in our own lives. Isa is currently studying stage management, and is on good terms with “Stacey.” Thank you so much once again Isa! I hope and pray that this story can inspire someone out there.
“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”
– Bryant H. McGill