Photo by David Paz

Britney Michelle Perkins remembers when the bullying started in second grade. A boy in her class started mocking her because she was overweight.

“I liked him so much. He was my crush,” she says.

Once he threw a ball at her because he thought it would bounce off her body due to her size. Then he laughed about it with his friends.

“That made me hate him and not talk to him anymore. I hoped he would die because I was so mad,” she says.

The boy’s bullying only intensified in middle school.

“He would tease me in class, outside class, when I was going to the bathroom, when I was going home. He would insult me all the time, “ Perkins says.

“I would hear, ‘Oh you’re fat,’ ‘Nobody wants you,’ ‘I wouldn’t date you,’ ‘You’re the last person on Earth that I would ever want,’” she says. “Those comments really got to me.”

So she began fighting back. “I started beating people up. If someone had a problem with the way I looked I didn’t care about hurting them,” she says.

She also started bullying others. “I thought, ‘Okay, if people can hurt my feelings, I can hurt anyone else’s,” she says. “I decided that I was going to be rude to them before they could be rude to me.”

At the time she was being bullied, Perkins did not seek help at school. It wouldn’t have made a difference.

“The school would not have done anything more than tell them to stop or call their parents,” she says. “Meanwhile, everyone told me I was going to be fine and that I was going to get over it,”

But things got worse.

“I would just come home so mad. I didn’t understand why people were treating me this way,” she says. “I thought I was such a nice person.”

Over time, she fell into a depression. She began pulling out her hair and isolating herself from friends and family.

“I would sleep all day so that I wouldn’t have to experience all the pain I was feeling,” Perkins says. “If I’d been dying, I wouldn’t have screamed for help because I thought I deserved to die.”

At home, she didn’t share her experiences because her father, whom she calls her best friend, was also struggling with depression.

He felt as though he was failing me as a daughter, and I did not want to add more pressure,” she says.

Even though Britney did not seek help with her father, she did follow her mother’s advice to seek comfort in prayer during difficult situations.

Before I started praying I would feel hopeless, like nothing could save me,” she says. “After I started praying, I did not feel quite free [from the hopelessness], but I did feel like I could move on past that point,” she says.

When she started high school, the change in atmosphere helped but her depression continued.

“I had been angry for so long that I didn’t know how to be happy again,” she says. “I’d spent so long hating myself. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.”

Throughout the years that Britney dealt with her depression, she refused to seek professional help because she did not think therapy would help her overcome her issues.

“I didn’t want to confide in someone that was getting paid to listen to something I thought was so serious,” she says. “I did not want anyone to think I was crazy and prescribe me medications I did not need.”

She says she’s gained strength over the years, but she still doesn’t let her guard down with others.

“In college, I’ve tried to keep to myself and not make new friends,” she says. “The people I talk to are people I’ve known since ninth grade who helped me through everything.”

She credits her core group of friends with cheering her up and helping her get through her bad days. “They can make me laugh even when tears are rolling down my face,” she says. “They’re always making jokes and then I’m good again.”

These days Britney still copes with depression by staying guarded.

“I keep to myself so that no one knows anything about me, so they can’t bother me,” she says.

She is also shifting her focus towards her future. She is planning on moving to New York and wants to pursue a career in acting.

“I just want to go to the city that never sleeps,” she says. “I want a new start.”