Gabrielle Bunton remembers it like it was yesterday. She was just 5 years old when the bullying started.
“I had a hormone imbalance,” said the 15-year old Bowling Green High School student, who remembers having to get shots in her bottom to treat her condition. “My bone mass was bigger than my body. It caused me to have at the age of 5 – I had the body of a 10 year old.”
Bunton said kids picked on her, calling her names.
“It made me feel terrible,” the junior from Bowling Green, Kentucky, said of the constant attacks.
Doctors said the teen suffered from a hormonal imbalance that eventually evened out once she hit middle school.
The students’ bullying however, did not.
“I was big. I was fat. I was ugly.”
She heard the painful words repeatedly from the boys at her school. One day, she snapped. “This little boy kept picking at me,” Bunton said of her first fight after years of keeping the effects of bullying bottled inside of her.
“The usual: I’m fat. I was still bigger than most of the girls in my school,” she said of the name-calling. “I finally just snapped, and he got beat up.”
Though Bunton admitted that retaliating “felt great,” she said her mother was not too happy. Runetta Arnold was even more upset that her daughter did not tell her about the bullying.
“My mom said I should have told her, so she could have handled the problem,” Bunton said. “She was sad because she couldn’t do anything about it.”
Bunton didn’t tell anyone of the bullying. “I just kept it in,” she said.
But the teen, who has an older sister named Josland and a younger sister named Catori, said that by the time she got to middle school, the bullying became too much to bear.
“Instead of just keeping it in all that time, I just started lashing out at everybody,” she said.
As time went on, Bunton came to see she could not force people to stop being mean.
“I feel like, at that young age, some people are not nice and some people are going to talk about you and it’s going to hurt,” she said.
What inspires Bunton is her mother.
“I look up to my mom,” said Bunton, who enjoys hanging out in her front yard and at the park, thinking and writing. “She has the same story I do and she always encourages me every day with any problem I have.
“She always wants me to do good. She always wants me to be better than what she was.”
Bunton has refused to let mean kids’ words stop her from caring about other people. She wants others to be happy, when many times in life, she has not been.
“I can make people laugh,” she said of the fun-side of her personality. “I don’t really like seeing people upset. If I have the power to make someone happy, I’ll use it.”
When her friend Katherine’s little sister died in a car crash, all the students kept reminding Katherine of the tragedy. Bunton used humor to help her friend feel better.
“She had came to school the next day. People kept reminding her of the moment. She didn’t want to really think about it,” Bunton said. “I just made her laugh just to keep her mind off things.”
Life has hit the teen hard. Her experiences have molded her. “Through all my life,” she said, “I’ve had to stick up for myself because everybody always made fun of me.”
It’s also made her more considerate of others’ feelings, she said.
“My friends come to me with all of their problems about basically stuff I’ve been through, so I know how they feel,” she said. Her advice about being bullied: Let someone know.
“It’s something small that’s going to get worse and you’re going to have to accept that people are going to talk about you. But you don’t have to go through it alone,” Bunton said. “Talk to your teacher. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to your parents.”
When Bunton gets older she said she wants to be financially successful, one day living in either Virginia or New York.
“I do want to become a journalist,” she said of her career plans. “And try to excel in that and be the best that I can be in that field.”
“Possibly starting on a family, being a successful journalist and giving back to my mom and my sisters,” she said. “I feel like up in the north, you have more possibility to get noticed and to have a better job.”
And as for those bullies – Bunton has some words for them:
“Your words got to me. But in the end, you can still talk about me, but I’ll be OK. Their opinions really don’t matter to me. They don’t have a say-so in my life.”