I am honoured to know the writer of this piece that I am going to share with you. Emily Wright’s experiences with bullying, addiction, homelessness and recovery is truly inspiring. We can turn our lives around and be the people we want to be.
Gone Girl: I was a private school kid from Rosedale—until I ended up on the street
She had loving parents and all the opportunities and privileges in the world. Then she discovered drugs.
My parents gave me a great chance at life. I grew up in a three-bedroom house in Lawrence Park, where I spent weekends riding my bike and making mud pies with my younger brother. At Christmas, my parents took us on vacations to Hawaii and London and Kenya. In the summers, we rented a cottage in Muskoka, where we built teepees and chased frogs. One year, knowing how much I loved acting and tap dancing, my parents sent me to an elite arts camp in the Catskills.
In 1992, when I was seven, we moved to a sprawling Edwardian house in Rosedale, effectively upgrading from middle class to nouveau riche. My father had risen from a working-class childhood in Montreal to the upper echelons of Bay Street finance. The new house was his prize for all he’d accomplished, a way to show the world what he could do for his family. Growing up, I was provided with unconditional love and support. My mother made a point of encouraging my artistic side, making me costumes for dance recitals and driving me to extracurricular activities.
My home life was as idyllic as a ’50s sitcom, but school was torture. In Grade 1, my parents had enrolled me at Branksome Hall, the private girls’ school in midtown. From the moment I arrived, I was constantly, cruelly bullied. Every day at recess, kids would steal my boots, stuff them with snow and hide them in the playground. I’d run around in my green stockings searching for them while the teachers rang the bell and hollered at me to get in line.
At Branksome, a school known for its academic rigour, I struggled with my studies. (I had a learning disability that wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16.) I was also a deeply sensitive and trusting child—I expressed my feelings, which only made me more vulnerable. When my mom confronted my teachers about the bullying, they’d tell her I was being too touchy, that I needed to pull up my socks and deal with it. I made a few friends in my neighbourhood—kids I would play with on weekends and after school—but I was always worried they’d discover whatever my classmates hated about me and disappear. Over the years, I developed a chameleonic tendency to change my personality for whomever I was with—a dangerous pattern that followed me into adulthood.
I switched schools seven times in the next decade. At most places the bullying intensified, chipping away at my self-esteem. In Grade 7, I landed at the co-ed private school Montcrest, where the kids called me fat and scribbled BITCH in my notebooks. To fill my friendship void, I became addicted to Yahoo chat rooms—primitive, unfiltered oceans of lonely teens searching for a connection. In Grade 8, I became involved with a handsome lacrosse player who lived in Mississauga. After chatting for a few months, we started dating in real life. I was 14; he was 17. That summer, he came up to my cottage for a weekend, where we made out in the bunkie. Before I knew what was happening, we were having sex. I didn’t intend to lose my virginity that night, but I don’t remember saying no. The next morning, he went back to Toronto, and I never heard from him again. I emailed and called him every day, but never got an answer.
A few months later, I started dating a new guy who was a couple of grades ahead of me. We were fooling around behind school one day when he suddenly pinned me to the ground and raped me. When I arrived at school the next day, he told everyone I’d had sex with him. The girls hissed “slut” as I walked down the hall. I started to believe them. I didn’t tell my parents what had happened, but my behaviour had them worried. “I feel like I’m losing you,” my mom kept telling me.
And she was. I barely went to school for the rest of the year, partly out of mortification, partly due to the sudden, severe migraine headaches I’d begun experiencing. My mom and dad took me to every neurologist in the city, but nothing came of it. I managed to pass Grade 9 through frantic cramming and sheer luck.
To read the rest of Emily’s story please click on the link: Gone Girl by Emily Wright