A few days ago I witnessed a very strange incident and I haven’t quite been able to shake it off.
I can’t determine what’s bothering me more: the simple fact that it happened or the fact that I did not speak up when it did.
It was a boring, drab day just like any other. My batchmates and I were sitting on the uncomfortable metal chairs in the tiny classroom in the basement of the hospital building, waiting for the teacher to arrive and unwillingly impart her so called ‘wisdom and knowledge’ on us. The room was filled with the low chatter of girls engaging in mindless gossip.
Suddenly one of the girls called out to another (Let’s call her X) and said, “Oh, remember when you wrote that letter about all the girls being mean to you and how that made you wanna leave college? And then our professor read it out loud in front of the whole class? That was so funny!” This was followed by a unanimous eruption of laughter and then everyone proceeded to recall details and make jokes about the letter and that whole drama that happened way back when we were freshman.
A little backstory on X and why she wrote that letter:
Everyone goes through a bit of a tough adaptation at the start of college because you’ve been plucked out of your comfort zone and put in a brand new place with brand new people and you have to make your place and find like-minded people and all that. X had a slightly tougher time than most of us and she was relentlessly bullied by everyone for quite some time. After a while, we discovered she had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and was taking very high dose medication. The bullying might have dulled down a bit, but even then it definitely did not stop. Neither did the inappropriate remarks made about X behind her back. As a result, the past 5 years haven’t exactly been the easiest for X. She has had to take several months off every academic year because she simply couldn’t get out of bed but despite all that she is still sitting right next to all of us, ready to take the last set of exams that will conclude our journey through medschool.
So, since when is it okay to mock someone’s mental health like this? And that too, so openly to their face. It’s fucking ridiculous.
I’m not saying that the girl who brought it up had any ill intentions or did it to deliberately hurt or humiliate X, but I do wonder what the fuck happened to her common sense. (No offense to her.)
Granted this is not something X looks back at with fond memories and I’m sure it’s not a pleasant topic to discuss for her, so why can’t we, as her peers, respect that? Why can we not respect her enough to encourage her rather than continuously remind her of what she has had to go through? Why is there such a lack of empathy in all of us?
While this was all going on, I was so surprised at everyone’s reaction, including X who just continued to laugh everything off like it was no big deal. I kept waiting for someone to say how inappropriate it was, but no one did- not even me. I just sat there and watched it all happen; didn’t take part in any of it but did nothing to stop it either and I’m ashamed of myself for it.