Saturday, 3 October 2015

Scars of bullying

After a scroll on Pinterest I noticed some bullying awareness pins that touched a raw nerve.  One was a long image of different people with written messages on their hands and faces relating to how people judge them and what they conceal inside.  Having anxiety and depression, and having to conceal my true feelings from the judgemental, I could empathise greatly.  But it took me back to why I am as I am.

I have always been a quiet and reserved child, why, I don't know, that's too far away to analyse.  But maybe that was why I was bullied.  I was an obvious target, I never spoke up and I learnt to believe that it was my fault why I was picked on.  Primary school was not too bad, however I do remember the pain of being excluded from friends.  If I'm honest, it sounds normal, who has not been excluded at some point?  But once my primary education was over, it got worse.

If I could delete memory like deleting computer files I would erase everything from 2001 to 2006.  Sounds pretty extreme, and I do risk ridding good memories, but if it meant never experiencing my most horrendous panic attack, being imprisoned in a year long depressive episode and being mentally healthy today, then sure!  The bullying I experienced affected my life so greatly I now, at the age of 25, have no confidence in my ability to do anything, hate every aspect of myself (physically and emotionally) and have little friends because I cannot trust anybody.

So what happened to screw me up?  I shan't go into detail, but run over it briefly.  You'll see why soon, and you'll thank me for it.  I started year seven with braces and short, curly hair.  Right there my appearance was mocked and taunted, especially when other students were trying to fit into their new peer groups at my expense.  Because of this I became quiet and shy, another trait to pick, because I could not speak up to defend myself.  Then came my enthusiasm towards learning, you see I came from a school which was in special measures, had an embarrassingly low GCSE pass rate and a dire reputation for poor behaving students inside and outside of the school grounds.  The school was an awful institution.  Anyway, I was picked on and called a 'boffin' for listening to my teacher and actually doing my work.  I'm rubbing my forehead in disbelief as I type this.

It was established that I was the girl who everybody picked on.  Girls, boys, years above and beneath me, even a couple of teachers joined in too!  And speaking of teachers, well, they knew full well what was going on, they just turned a blind eye.  Some felt sorry for me, but that was as far as it went.

And then, at the beginning of year nine in 2003 it got too much and something broke inside me.  I had my first panic attack, and my worst.  I thought I was dying.  Only a few months before I was diagnosed with a scoliosis, a curved spine, and now I was tormented with a mental illness.  This became new material.  I was bullied for being deformed and mad.  For a thirteen year old girl, who was trying to make sense of the world and my place within it, this took a massive hit on my self image and self consciousness.  And then, right on cue, the depression hit.

I couldn't eat, I slept most of the day, I didn't wash, I didn't want to speak to anybody.  A, then, 14 year old girl, spending all of her time in her dark bedroom in week old clothes.  That was not normal, whether you are 14 or 40.  But nobody thought the same.  People didn't think that teenage girls could get depression, there was no reason to get me help.  'She'll grow out of it' they said.  That never happened, instead the depression took a tighter, and more damaging grip.  Then there was the 'They're jealous of you' excuse- jealous of me?  Sure, they can have my depression if they are that jealous!

Despite being so ill and still being bullied day in day out, by which point was becoming physical (hit by tennis rackets, stones, rulers and other unidentified objects), I still went to school every day.  I have no idea how I did not commit suicide, because by that point the bullying had been going on for two and a half years continuous.  I couldn't tell you if I was brave, or still had hope, or whatever, but by God the deadly, crippling thoughts were there.  I still think back to that determination to continue, because if I was put back there I don't think I would last again.

But, I'm sitting here today, alive.  I have accomplished many things, I am married to my best friend, I am lucky enough to have a mortgage and I have even written a book.  OK, I don't have a social life, my phone barely rings, I see myself as a total failure and I never did accomplish getting a degree, but one has to remind herself that life is not all that bad.  But that's hard, because one is still depressed.

Do I forgive my bullies, the stupid teenagers who picked and picked at a human life so much that they left it broken and scarred?  No, I have tried, but deep down it still hurts and no amount of counselling, therapy or spirituality can stop that.  I have to live with this, I doubt they do.  I doubt they even remember who I am or what they did to me, and that hurts in its own way.  I suppose it hurts to not even receive an acknowledgement that what they did to me left a permanent scar which I have to live with forever.  If I'm honest, it would not make a difference to me, it would not undo anything.  But what about the adults who stood by and watched, the ones who could have done something?  That just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  If it were me I would not and could not stand by and watch, I would say something!  Children and teenagers rely on adults, be it their parents, guardians and teachers, for protection, and we should give them that protection.

Maybe it's because times have changed.  Today we see childhood bullying as abuse, whereas when I was at school is was just seen as part of growing up and pot luck whether it happened to you or not.  There was no solution to it, it either went away on its own or you moved schools.  I'm glad, for the sake of today's and tomorrow's children, that there is a better attitude towards bullying thanks to research into the damage that bullying can do which, I'm afraid to say, lingers long into adulthood.

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