This 19-Year-Old Was Bullied As A Kid — So She Wrote A Survival Guide For Others Like Her

Photo courtesy of James Bartolozzi

Like so many kids in middle and high school, Aija Mayrock was bullied. She was harassed both in person and online from ages 8 to 16. She received hate mail and death threats from people she had never even met. But Mayrock knew that she wasn't the only kid suffering through this cruel, near-constant abuse, and she resolved to help other young people by sharing her own story. She channeled her experiences into screenplays, poems, spoken word pieces, and finally, a full-length book called The Survival Guide to Bullying.

Part practical guide and part inspirational memoir, The Survival Guide to Bullying speaks directly to young people going through the same pain and fear that Mayrock went through as a child. The guide is a mix of survival tips and personal anecdotes, interwoven with "rap poems" that encourage kids to find a creative outlet as they work toward healing. It is positive, poignant advice from someone who's been there herself. Mayrock self-published her book at just 16 years old, hoping to make her writing as accessible as possible. She has since been picked up by Scholastic, and her words have impacted kids all around the world. Mayrock continues to advocate to end the bullying epidemic.

Mayrock is also an accomplished actor and screenwriter, and her film Diego received a Silver Key from Scholastic’s Art and Writing Awards. She is currently working on her next book, a work of feminist fiction. "It is all about women’s issues, women’s rights, gender equality," says Mayrock, "so kind of a different direction, but very much in line with, I think, telling important stories that need to be told.”

Even as she moves on to new challenges, Mayrock hopes that The Survival Guide to Bullying continues to inspire kids to keep going, and to get out there and tell the stories that need to be told.

She Was Inspired To Write The Book After Her Own Experiences With School Bullies

“When I was 8 years old, I began getting bullied. I had a speech impediment, and I became the target of relentless bullying, in person and online, for about eight years," she tells Bustle. "When I was 14, I moved from New York, where the bullying took place, to California, because my dad had a job opportunity there. I thought it would be my new beginning and everything would be fine. But in my freshman year of high school, a girl who I had never met dressed up as me for Halloween and posted it online. It went viral, and I received death threats and hateful comments. I was really at my lowest low. And around that same time, I noticed that there were a lot of news stories about kids and teens committing suicide because of bullying. I realized that this was an international epidemic, and I wanted to find a way to show these kids and these young people that suicide was not the answer, that they could survive, and I, too, understood what it felt like to feel so hopeless and alone. And so I made a commitment to myself that I was going to write this book and do everything I could to get it into kids’ hands.”

At 16 Years Old, She Chose To Self-Publish Her Book.

“So, essentially, I self-published because I was 16 when I really got into writing the book and finalizing it, and I noticed that people really weren’t going to give me a shot or an opportunity," she says. "I got rejected by a lot of publishers, and I think the reasoning was, they thought that a 16-year-old didn’t have the voice or the credibility to talk about these issues. And my response to that was, ‘I’m talking to other young people. That is the whole point of the book, I’m telling them that I’m there, that I get it. I’m not even through that dark tunnel yet.’ So I decided, you know what? Who cares. I’m going to do everything I can to still get it out there, so that’s why I self-published. And then I was really lucky that I got my big break with Scholastic giving me a shot.”

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She's Still Floored By How Many Kids Have Been Impacted By Her Writing

“It’s very hard for me to wrap my mind around that, because I think with writing, you never fully know who’s reading it, or how they have been impacted by it. I do a lot of touring, and a lot of speaking and performing spoken word, so when I get to meet the young people who have read my book and who have been impacted by it, it’s like this incredible feeling of joy for me," she says. "Because that was my dream, to be able to take my experiences and help other young people. So it’s totally a dream come true.”

Drawing On Such Personal Experiences Was Painful, But Ultimately Therapeutic

“The writing process, I would say, took like two, two-and-a-half years. And if you look at my drafts to my finished product, it really goes from dark to light. Because writing for me was not just this thing that I wanted to do to help people, it was my therapy. It was the way that I really was able to feel for my experiences. So it was extremely difficult in the beginning, and I think one of the most difficult things was for me to actually realize the extent of what I had gone through," she says. "During the times that I was bullied, I think I really played it down, because I didn’t want to have to deal with the reality of what I was going through at the time. So, to fully, kind of, look myself in the mirror and face the facts was really painful.”

Mayrock Hopes That Her Stories Inspires Others To Write Their Own Truth

“People are always so hesitant to write their stories, or stories that they’re passionate about,” she says. “And I would say, writing a book is not that scary. It’s just writing your truth, and standing behind what you believe. And I hope that anyone who has the desire to write will go ahead and write.”