WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — It was 3 a.m. on a Monday when Wendy Del Monte awoke to a thud.
Thinking it was one of their cats, she wandered into her daughter's bedroom. There, she found her daughter Ally in the throes of despair, shaking, gripping onto a bottle of her father's heart medication. The thud had been the bottle falling to the ground.
"The world just stopped," Del Monte recounted. "She said, 'Mom, I don't think I want to live anymore.' "
Ally was 13 and in eighth grade.
Her suicide attempt was the result of years of bullying, abuses that escalated from being called fat to receiving 272 messages on her Tumblr account telling her to kill herself.
"It's what I lived with every day," said Ally, 15. "I've been told every disgusting thing you can imagine."
Ally kept the bullying she endured at school and online from her parents and school officials, afraid, she said, she would be called a snitch or that her problems would get worse. Mostly, she wished it would get better.
Today, the 10th-grader is speaking out, sharing her story in the hopes of helping other kids who are struggling with bullying and depression. Earlier this month, she posted a video on her blog, LoserGurl.com, detailing the torment she endured.The response has been mostly positive from kids around the world, many of whom have said her video saved them from hurting or killing themselves, she said.
"Continue to be strong and brave and stand up for yourself and others who are being bullied," said one posting. "I applaud your efforts and know that your mother is proud to call you her daughter. Anyone would be."
Last month, police said Internet bullying led 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick to jump from a concrete silo tower to her death in Florida. Police arrested two girls, ages 12 and 14, charging them with felony aggravated stalking for leading the cyberbullying campaign against Sedwick. The arrests came after one of the girls boasted about the suicide on Facebook, and said she didn't care.
"This could have been my daughter," a tearful Del Monte said. "It nearly was my daughter."
For Ally, bullying started when she was in the second grade at King Street School in Port Chester. She had gained 60 pounds, she said, because of the medication she was taking for Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease, both autoimmune diseases of the thyroid gland. Classmates and even her friends began to taunt her, she recalled, saying her stomach was huge and that she was gross.
The harassment persisted in the fourth and fifth grades, when a popular boy waged an effort to get everyone to hate her and exclude her, saying she couldn't play on the playground because she would break it and that she ate too much. Some of her friends confronted her, saying they only kept her around to laugh at her.
"I had no idea at all this was going on, and I was the uber-mom," Del Monte said. "I was PTA president and I was at the school all the time. So how did I miss this? I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for not knowing it."
King Street Principal Sam Ortiz started working at the school two years ago and is not familiar with Ally or her story. He said, though that the elementary school takes bullying very seriously and that its philosophy goes beyond zero tolerance.
"We take a more proactive approach. We try to teach our kids how to treat one another in a positive and kind way," Ortiz said. "Kids at this age need to be taught how to interact with one another."
The Del Montes moved to New Milford, Conn., when Ally completed the fifth grade. She was immediately known as the new fat girl, Ally said. Sixth and seventh grade, though, were good years as she made friends and participated on the cheerleading team, she said.
But in the eighth grade, one of her friends turned on her. Prank phone calls and texting followed, with kids telling her she was pathetic, worthless and that her mother should have aborted her. She was pushed into lockers, spit on, tripped. Kids started "Ignore Ally Day."
Multiple calls by The Journal News to the principal at Schaghticoke Middle School in New Milford were not returned.
Instead of reaching out to others for help, Ally turned to cutting and burning herself as a way to release her anguish.
"I couldn't control what they were doing and the pain I was feeling on the inside but I could control that external pain," she said.
After Ally's suicide attempt, her mother got her help, therapy and medication and became more vigilant of her Internet usage.
"A big, huge part of this bullying problem is social media," Del Monte said. "These kids are hiding behind a computer screen."
But just as social media can be used for ill, it is an outlet that Ally is now using to spread a positive message. This year, she claims, she has talked 67 people out of committing suicide. She has started an anti-bullying campaign online called #bebrave because it was bravery, she said, that saw her through her darkest times.
"My story is not for me. It's to help other people," she said. "By sharing my story, I hope I can show kids that it does get better."