Fifteen-year-old Ally Del Monte is smart, funny, and flat-out gorgeous, especially when she smiles. Unfortunately, those smiles have been rare over the last eight years for Ally, who has been incessantly bullied since second grade.
Ally, a high school sophomore in Connecticut, writes a blog, Loser Gurl, where she encourages other teenage girls to feel good about themselves.
"I am so many things- a good friend, a great cheerleader, a good singer, and fun to be with," she writes. "I am also fat. And that is what some people choose to see. I want for other teenage girls to know that they are not alone. That by being overweight does not mean 'less than.'"
In a new post, Ally details how being overweight due to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and other medical issues made her a target from a young age. As painful as it is to hear her recount how the bullying became worse and worse as she and her peers got older, it's obviously much more difficult for Ally to tell these stories of personal humiliation.
Her bravery in sharing her story is breathtaking.
As part of her blog post, Ally created a video in which she details the astonishing cruelty that children and teens are capable of. She was shunned, pushed, tripped, spit on, shoved into lockers, and told that her mother should have had an abortion. Girls and boys told she was fat, gross, a whore, a slut, pathetic, useless, and worthless. They instituted a "game" called "Don't Talk to Ally Day," with the threat, "if you get caught talking to Ally, you're out."
At lunch, a kid told her to go throw up.
"It broke me," Ally said to me in a phone interview. "They hated me because another girl didn't like me and because I was fat. I didn't understand why they cared so much about how I looked, when they didn't have to live in my body. They didn't have to look in the mirror every day and be me."
Her tormenters would call her home every night and scream at her to kill herself. That no one would care, and that the world would be a better place if she was dead.
In one day, she received 270 hate mail messages telling her to kill herself.
There is only so much one human can take. In seventh grade, Ally began self-harming: burning and cutting herself.
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"I couldn't control the pain on the inside, or what they were doing, so at least I could control some pain on the outside," she explains in the video. "I felt some sort of power, because I was powerless. I felt helpless, and like no one could ever help me, because I was worthless and I was pathetic. They told me so many times, that I started to believe it myself."
Ally's mom Wendy knew that Ally was being bullied, but she didn't know how bad it really was. Ally was terrified to tell anyone, because she was afraid that the bullying would be worse.
"We did all the conventional things you're supposed to do about bullying," Wendy said to me in a phone interview. "I talked to the school. I had Ally block those people from her Facebook and her Tumblr account."
Ally never told her parents that it kept happening, kept getting worse. She also didn't want to tell her parents how stressed and sad she really was.
"I didn't want to upset my parents," Ally said to me in a separate interview. "I didn't really want to bother people. I know that sounds kind of dumb, but I don't like worrying people. And I thought people would think I was crazy, or that they'd put me in a hospital. I was scared."
When Ally was 13, she decided to kill herself.
"I was going take a bunch of Advil and my dad's heart pills," Ally told me. "I knew that if I took the pills, that I would die. And that it would hurt really bad. But I felt trapped. I didn't know what else to do."
Her hands shaking, Ally dropped a bottle of pills. Her mother Wendy heard the sound, went into the bathroom to see what was going on, and stopped her daughter from killing herself.
"I knew she was depressed," Wendy told me. "I knew she was upset. I just never thought it was to that extent."
Wendy took her daughter to a crisis center. Ally's counseling sessions were increased and she began taking medication for her depression.
"I was terrified to leave her alone," Wendy said. "I didn't sleep. There's nothing more terrifying, more horrifying, than worrying that your child isn't safe. I didn't know if she was safe from other people. I didn't know if she was safe from herself."
Wendy didn't know the full details of Ally's ongoing bullying until she watched the video that Ally made two days ago.
"When I saw that video, I cried all that night. I cried the next day. I cried while I edited it for her," Wendy said.
"I didn't know all those details. I didn't know that some boy spit on her. These are the girls we formed a mother-daughter book club with. I sat with them, I sat with their parents. After I watched the video, I was so angry. I wanted to call all those parents and say, 'how did you not know your kid was doing these things?'. But the thing is, I didn't know that it was going on either."
"As a parent, it's hard to talk about this," Wendy said. "It's not that I'm ashamed, it's that for a long time I thought it meant I wasn't doing enough as a mother. But I realized that it's not about how good a mother you are. You can't mother the bullying out of your kids' life."
Wendy hopes that other parents will be inspired by Ally's bravery and talk to their kids more about bullying and social media. She hopes that parents will be open to the idea that their child might be participating in bullying, so that they can help their kids stop.
"There's no precedent for what's happening right now with kids and social media," Wendy said.
"We're the parent generation that has to navigate this. It's uncharted territory. It's hard to know when to give them privacy and when to swoop in and save them. But you have to pay attention to what they're doing."
Since posting her video to YouTube, Ally has gotten a mix of nasty comments and messages of support from her peers. Although some students have accused her of lying or trying to get attention, Ally said that the positives outweigh the negatives to her.
"Why would I lie about something like that? I wouldn't put myself through that much hurt," Ally told me. "People are going to say what they're going to say, regardless of how I feel. I need to ignore it."
"The kids who had spit on me, they said 'that never happened,'" Ally told me. "But the only ones denying it are the ones who did it."
Just one day after posting the video, Ally knew it had been worth it to pour her soul out in such a public way.
"Today someone came up to me and said, 'you don't know me, but I watched your video last night. I was going to cut myself, but I didn't, because of what you said,'" Ally told me. "And I saw someone stand up for somebody else today. That made it worth it."
Other kids have reached out to her: A boy she knew in fifth grade said he was sorry, because although he hadn't bullied her, he also hadn't done anything to stop it. A girl who had been instrumental in the bullying has apologized.
Incredibly, Ally has forgiven her. When Wendy asked her daughter how she can even talk to the girl, Ally replied, "Mom, I can't ruin her life."
"But you almost died because of her," Wendy replied.
"But I didn't," Ally said.
"I can't even wrap my head around that kind of forgiveness," Wendy said to me. "She's been doing amazing things since she was little. And I keep being amazed."
Besides keeping up with schoolwork and writing her blog, Ally loves to sing and listen to music; her taste ranges from pop to metal to Frank Sinatra. She has a hard time trusting people, but has a small group of close friends. Her current goals center around helping others, and she cites Ellen Degeneres as a role model: "She doesn't just talk about helping people, she really does it."
Ally hopes to become a motivational speaker to help other teens struggling with depression and bullying.
"I just want other people to know that they aren't alone, and they aren't crazy," she said "And that it gets better. Suicide is a permanent solution to a problem that's only temporary."
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Watching this video and discussing it with your kids would be a great way to work toward making this a better, safer world for our kids. As a mom, and as someone who works with kids, I hope you'll share this video. If there has ever been a video that needs to go viral, it's this one.
Photo courtesy of Ally Del Monte, LoserGurl.com
-By Joslyn Gray
For 10 ways to bully-proof your kids, visit Babble!
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