I mentioned a while ago that I had agreed to help with a study being undertaken by the University of Bath on the impact of bullying in later life. I’ve been tardy in actually completing the forms but have just finished them today.
The hardest questions to answer were how did this affect you and why do you think it happened? It was 18 years ago and I still don’t know why I was bullied but I still live with the mental scars of what happened to me.
Even now the way I react to friendships is affected by what happened to me back then. I was stripped of my self-worth by the people I had called my friends for 4 years all on the basis of a series of lies they had agreed among themselves.
I have no idea why they turned their backs on me that Monday morning and fabricated a lie about a call I supposedly made to one of them over the weekend, slagging off someone elses mum. In truth I rarely called anyone, I still don’t call friends now, I text, social message or email. Even when I said I could prove with telephone records I hadn’t made the call the bullying didn’t stop, they just made up new lies.
One day they surrounded me (6 girls) in the corridor and started talking about my brother who would have been 4 at the time. He went to a playschool at the end of the road my school was in. They said they knew where he was and would hurt him to teach me a lesson.
I’ve never been so scared, I ran all the way to his school in tears trying to get there before they had chance to touch him. As I got there my Mum was picking him up. I was hysterical mumbling about what they said and how we had to get my brother away from there. She marched me straight back to school to confront the headmaster, but it was already too late. I was broken in a way I’ve never been able to heal.
The closest I ever came to understanding why they turned on me was on my last day at school. For 4 months I had been constantly mentally tortured to the point where I was scared and alone everyday. Even up to walking into my exams I had people talking about me.
On the day I picked up my results I was walking out of school as saw them in the distance laughing and joking. I broke down in the middle of the playground and the most unlikely person picked me up. Someone who had barely acknowledged my existence throughout the whole of my time in the school put their arm round me and said “Fuck them you won.”
Then more people hugged me, people I didn’t know but who knew what had happened to me. That was when someone said they had done it because they wanted to change social groups and thought I was holding them back. But it backfired as it turned out and the people they had tried to befriend had been looking out for me all along. Having someone who barely spoke to me in all my years at school tell me that they never thought I would finish the year but they were proud I made it was something I never forgot.
I walked out the school gates that day a broken person, lost, afraid and alone. I thought it was all over and I would never have to see those people again, I was wrong…
I got a job in the Tesco that was opening straight out of school before the college started, as I walked in the door on my first day the first thing I heard was “look who just walked in, I’m going to enjoy working here.” If it wasn’t for the woman who recognised me from Junior School saving me I would have walked out there and then. There couldn’t have been a better time for my old dinner lady to pop up and look after me.
When they were together they would try their mind games but eventually they saw there was no place for them. I made some powerful friends and left them behind. I wish I had left behind the scars too.
I have wondered on occasion what I would do now if I ever saw any of them again. I came face to face with that a few years ago when I had an induction for a new job and prayed the person named on my letter was a different person to the one I knew at school.
I wasn’t that lucky, I had to sit in a room with the ringleader of my misery as she acted as if we had never met. Only I knew she remembered me because I saw the fear in her eyes, one word from me and her house of cards would come down.
Either that or my constantly clenched fists, having to physically restrain myself from knocking her into next week, had intimidated her enough to not catch my eye. (I should point out that I am not a violent person by nature but that fear of losing my self-worth again brought out my aggression.) There was a hint of embarrassment too but what could she say after all that time.
My biggest fear was her making a comment about the past, knowing I would struggle to control my reactions. The awkward silence and tense air between us was unbearable but my hostility to her was evident from the beginning.
She had after all, years before, told her parents that I had punched her in the face when really she had been given the black eye by someone else, which turned into me being threatened with police action at school.
So how did the bullying make me feel at the time? Alone, hurt, depressed, I lost all my self-worth, I couldn’t even bear to look at myself in the mirror, I didn’t trust anyone and found it hard to make friends and became very isolated.
I still struggle to trust people now. A part of me doesn’t care enough about myself to understand why anyone would want to spend time with me. I assume that I will get hurt and inadvertently try to sabotage the relationship and end up getting hurt, thus proving to myself I was right to mis-trust. Very un-healthy and unfair behaviour.
It is something that I have recently had to work hard at. I couldn’t ruin my life anymore by letting the past control me. I changed everything and now I’m in a no mans land where I know who I don’t want to be and what I don’t want but have no idea who I want to be and what I do want.
I won’t ask for help because I already pushed my friends too much through my depression. I can’t talk to my family as I can’t bear to see the disappointment in their eyes anymore.
As a child nothing phased me, I was larger than life, “A right Charlie” my Granddad used to call me, well still does. I wish I had a shred of that confidence now. I feel myself slipping away from everything I know and drifting further into the unknown and I have nothing to stop me sinking.
I’m scared and alone and I have no-one to blame but myself. I am trying to change, to heal those scars. But it takes time and patience and comes with mistakes and lost hope and tears and sadness.
I really hope that in the future I stop sabotaging the good things that come my way because every time I do those girls win again and I become that person who can’t look at herself in the mirror. The person who is afraid of her reflection and ashamed to see the person she allowed herself to become.