He felt his whole body tingle as the tip of the knife grazed over his Adam’s apple. He closed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to witness his own demise. He didn’t even know if he was capable of following through with it. He just thought that what he was doing was the right thing to do.
Years later, Ahmed Ali, 19, recalled that day he attempted to kill himself.
Ali had undergone violent and rigorous bullying throughout his middle and high school years. He describes himself as curly haired with dark eyes, skinny, and somewhere in between tall and short. He believes there was no reason for his classmates to target him except for the fact that he was socially awkward at times.
Ali is the youngest of two children. Having lived in South Carolina for the first 6 years of his life, he then moved to live in Jordan for another 6 years before moving to London and then eventually returning to the states.
“It started off with silly, petty, forgettable kinds of bullying such as name-calling, but in middle school, it escalated into something else, something that was harder to forget,” he said. “The years in 7th and 8th grade were the worst experiences I had when it came to being bullied,” added Ali.
From being shoved into corners at Amman International School in Jordan to the mocking of his hearing disability, Ali has experienced it all. It came to the point where he became numb to the incessant taunting that was happening.
Ali explains that his school wasn’t a bad school. But, the social rejection that he faced in his educational experiences is often what he remembers the most.
Ali recalls a time in 7th grade when one of his classmates spit into his birthday cake as it was being made. Ali’s sister, Fatimah Ali, was the one baking the cake at their home. Ali believes that if his sister were not present, the situation would have worsened.
He had no idea it had happened until his sister told him afterwards when he had already eaten it. His sister caught the boy spatting in the cake, and scolded him to stop but he had already spat once.
“I’m relieved I don’t get to see the people involved anymore; it’s quite frankly why I refuse to eat birthday cakes as often as possible,” said Ali.
More traumatic incidents occurred on a daily basis with Ali. He recalls a time when someone asked to use his Ipod while it was plugged in his ear and then suddenly raised the volume to the max.
“The kid knew I had a sensitive ear. It hurt more that he did that knowingly,” said Ali.
Eighth grade for Ali was a lot worse since the bullying was no longer just in school but on computers as well, mainly through MSN messenger.
“That’s when they started harshly insulting my family and that made everything 10 times worse,” he said.
One of the aspects Ali was being made fun of for was approaching someone for help, so he never thought of doing that in fear of his bullying escalating.
Because of that, Ali felt like he could no longer deal with all this ridiculing.
“No one was in the house at the time, you know just being alone with the thoughts, and I went to the kitchen and took a knife, went back to my room and closed the door and just stood there,” said Ali.
Ali explained how this entire situation was perplexing for him.
“I was confused as to what I was going to do with the knife and how it was going to happen, I was going to slit my throat but I didn’t know how,” he said.
As he stood thinking about what he was doing to do, Ali had a religious epiphany and realized that this was not going to solve anything.
Ali is a practicing follower of the religion of Islam. In Islam, the act of suicide is considered a major sin.
“I realized its not worth it and I immediately took the knife back in the kitchen and that was that,’ he said.
Realizing the gravity of what he could have done, Ali decided to deal with the situation for good.
He had initially held back on informing school authorities of what was happening with him because going to someone for help was something he was constantly being made fun of for.
“Once I realized the gravity of the situation and how it was going beyond my limits, I didn’t even care, it was really the only thing I could do at this point,” he said.
Ali began saving his chat history and documenting everything that was being said to him virtually.
His mother tried everything in her will to contact school authorities and inform them of what was transpiring with her son. At first, according to Ali, school authorities took this matter lightly but slowly afterwards they dealt with the situation.
“It took time, but the bullies eventually simmered down, and I ended up moving schools the next year,” he said.
Ali moved to London that following year and attended American School of London for two years.
At his new school, Ali says it was hard to overcome the past but ultimately he was able to let go of what happened and finally move on.
He admits that his bullying experience has made him lose a lot of his self-esteem.
“The depressing effects until today resonate with me and it’s the reason why I am reserved at times,” he said.
After his suidcial attempt, Ali feels that he became more judgmental of people and struggles with opening up to others.
“I fear meeting terrible people, and I end up not talking to anyone at all. This, though, made things worse because others just thought I was not an interesting character, so I forced myself to become a more open person,” he said.
Ali explains that his shyness has now decreased substantially and it has become easier for him to interact with others and make friends.
He has been working on being the first to approach others and initiate conversation.
Still, Ali believes that many positives came out of this incident. He believes it helped build his character more rigorously and has opened new doors for him.
“It made me know what it was like to be depressed and on the brink. It allows me to be sympathetic with people in similar or worse situations,” he said.
Ali mentions that because of his bullying experience, he was able to explore his musical talents. He has been playing the guitar, drums and piano for 5 years now. He describes the guitar as “the place where his inspiration was sparked.”
“Music helped me overcome the pain, really, I mean some songs remind me of the anger, and how grim the circumstances were but some songs also made me feel better,” he said.
Just a year after Ali started playing the guitar, he began composing and preforming his own, unique music.
“At first, I was just doing covers, but after that, the fact that I recorded my own music helped heal my reputation and inner self to some extent,” he said.
Performing live on stage also helped Ali get over this experience. He was always receiving positive reception and that encouraged him to compose more original songs.
“Performing made me feel better personally, it was like a remedy. It thrilled me and I began making new friends outside of school,” he said.
Two years into performing, Ali gained the reputation of “the cool guitarist.” He self taught himself how to perform cool tricks such as playing the guitar behind his back.
“I still perform these days not to overcome past experiences, but just for the thrills of performing. However, I know there will be times ahead where my performances will be meant for overcoming other obstacles in my life,” he said.
He explains that with time and music he has been able to move on from the whole ordeal and still believes that he got lucky.
“I know there are people out there who have gone through worse experiences, so sometimes I feel lucky or at least grateful that it was something I could gradually overcome,” he said.