"I was often punched for no reason other than for someone to look like the ‘bigman’ in front of their mates. The lunch my mum had paid for was knocked out my hand so that I wouldn’t have any, or I was made to feel so intimidated that I gave my lunch away. Every lunchbreak there were these same two kids who would gang up on me, one would grab me whilst the other threw punches into my stomach."
My time in education was memorable, for reasons both good and bad. I reminisce my younger years almost every day and I often wonder what secondary school would have been like, had my primary school friends stayed with me.
I will never forget the people I shared my primary years with, even if they no longer remember me. It was a time in my life when I didn’t have to worry about other people’s perceptions of me. There were no friendship groups within a class; the class was just one big friendship group. I was made to feel valued from the day I joined to the day I left and in turn I valued everyone else the way they valued me, I felt wanted rather than needed. By needed, I’m referring to my later years when people would only be friends with me on a temporary basis whilst their other friends were absent.
Leaving such a tight knit group was always going to be hard, I didn’t realise quite how hard it would be but it didn’t take me long to find out.
I was a shy kid and that probably stemmed from being an only child from a split family; I also moved house a lot when I was younger so there was never really an opportunity for me to make friends within my neighbourhood. I knew that sadly, when I did make friends, our friendship wasn’t going to last.
As a single child, people would always say to me, “You don’t realise how lucky you are being an only child, being spoilt and getting all the attention.” This may have been said as a way of comforting me but it only made me more upset. You could give me attention and all the money in the world but I would swap that in a heartbeat if it meant having a brother or sister. I never wanted the attention, I never wanted luxury items, all I ever wanted was someone I could play with and someone I could confide in when I felt so alone.
Being shy made me vulnerable, particularly at secondary school where I became a victim of childhood bullying. I was very mature for my age which people didn’t like; I wasn’t what they wanted in a friend. I wasn’t easily influenced, I never have been and I never will be. I knew what I stood for and I knew right from wrong. I was never going to change, not for anyone. If you don’t like me, you don’t like me, if you like me, then great. But I’m not going to change who I am to fit in with who you are.
I can see how the bullied can become bullies, I don’t believe for a second they want to be a bully but if it’s a way of hiding their own insecurities through finding someone else’s then I understand why they might try it. For me morals were something I never veered away from, being polite and respectful was instilled in me. What I have become as a result of bullying is more judgemental, I’m very wary as to whom I class as friends, I study people more.
From very early on in secondary I saw people being easily led and being dared to do things. The troublemakers would often carry their reputation from primary school so the word had already got around that they were not to be messed with. When trouble meets trouble they rarely clash, instead they become friends because they are too fearful of eachother. They would often harass and then dare the people who looked weak and shy to steal something from someone, push someone over, punch them, ask them for money. That person would be too scared of the consequences to say no. If someone has accepted a dare once, they are going to accept it again. They have made themselves part of the group and a bully, so it goes on.
But as the saying goes, “It takes more courage to stand alone, than hide behind a load of sheep.” It was a big school and I know there were many people like me, getting bullied, I saw bullying happening all the time. I didn’t become friends with those people at the time because I thought it would make me more of a target and I would get laughed at for being with them. They probably felt the same about me. One of my strategies to prevent being bullied was to say hello to anyone and everyone, even the hardnuts from my year because I wanted to try and build friendships that would give me a feeling of protection, if ever I needed it. I was fully aware; I didn’t have a brother or sister at home to put their arm around me and give me advice.
Unfortunately, the protection I worked so hard to gain never came. Instead people would team up on me, breaking through my defences with verbal and physical abuse and do everything they could, to take away the little confidence I had. It worked.
I was mimicked for breathing through my mouth, instead of through my nose. I was often punched for no reason other than for someone to look like the ‘bigman’ in front of their mates. The lunch my mum had paid for was knocked out my hand so that I wouldn’t have any, or I was made to feel so intimidated that I gave my lunch away. Every lunchbreak there were these same two kids who would gang up on me, one would grab me whilst the other threw punches into my stomach. Wherever I went, whoever I was with, I was made to feel that I didn’t belong there. People would laugh at me, so I would go away. I would then take myself to registration early or the next lesson because I knew that people wouldn’t be there yet.
What I didn’t know at the time were those incidents were nothing compared to the bullying I would experience later on in secondary, which started with someone making animal noises at me every time I walked past them. To start with I didn’t think anything of it, I laughed it off. But then it kept happening and I found out that it was a ‘so called’ friend that instigated it. I approached them about it, asked them why and for them to stop, but they ignored me. The verbal bullying had a lot more impact on me than the physical bullying because the verbal bullying was something everyone could clock on to. Few people saw the physical bullying that went on, so I could deal with it easier. It was the constant goose noises that hurt me because I was being humiliated in front of anyone and everyone and everyone would refer to me as goose.
Apparently I ran like a goose, hence the goose noises. That same ‘friend’ would later get his mates to make the same noises at me who would then get their mates to make them too. Before I knew it, everyone was making goose noises at me. People would actively come and find me, just so they could make these noises at me and wind me up. I would be waiting outside of my next lesson and everyone would crowd around me, chanting “Goose, goose, goose.” Even in lessons people would make the odd goose noises at me, or on the bus to and from school. There really was no escape.
I would walk through the front door of my house with loads of pent up anger every day, I put this down to the lack of control I had and not seeing an ending to the problems I was experiencing. I would take it all out on my mum, arguing with her over the stupidest of things. I never meant any of it and I’ve said some terrible things to my mum that I wish I could take back. It was out of character but my mum saw it more as ‘being a teenager'.
"I never wanted my family to know about my bullying experiences because it would have broken their hearts but the more I kept it in, the more it was breaking mine. My mum has anxiety so I didn’t want to add to her worries and I was more afraid to tell my dad because I didn’t want to be seen as weak."
I never wanted my family to know about my bullying experiences because it would have broken their hearts but the more I kept it in, the more it was breaking mine. My mum has anxiety so I didn’t want to add to her worries and I was more afraid to tell my dad because I didn’t want to be seen as weak. I would encourage people to speak up if they find themselves in the same shoes I was in but make sure the person you speak up to is someone you can trust. Trust your family over your friends. And remember there are lots of bullying charities and most of their employees would have experienced bullying, so talk with them too, they understand.
Every evening I would shut myself away in my bedroom and cry. There were days I would wake up and try and shove my fingers down my throat so I could stay at home. I tried a couple of times, and it worked. My mum would take my temperature and she would say that it was fine but I always said to her that I was feeling really ill.
The bullying never stopped until I left school but would it have stopped had I approached it differently?
"If I approached someone at the start of being bullied, things may well have been different. But the later I left it; there was no hope of things changing. It was too far gone. At the time I didn’t think about contacting bullying charities like Kidscape because we never really had any bullying talks in school which for me could have been a turning point. I carried bullying on my own two shoulders and it felt like me against the world but now I realise that’s it’s not just me, there are so many people affected by bullying."
If I approached someone at the start of being bullied, things may well have been different. But the later I left it; there was no hope of things changing. It was too far gone. At the time I didn’t think about contacting bullying charities like Kidscape because we never really had any bullying talks in school which for me could have been a turning point. I carried bullying on my own two shoulders and it felt like me against the world but now I realise that’s it’s not just me, there are so many people affected by bullying. I fought bullying alone but if I could turn back time, I would love to have had people by my side to fight it with me.
Since leaving school I have found various ways to channel the anger I still hold and at the same time build my confidence. I wanted to change the image people had of me and the image I had of myself, so I started to take up fitness to build a stronger body and a healthier mindset. I’ve also become a boxing journalist, to follow my passion but to also give me a voice that I went years without.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the bullying; their hate in a way has inspired my success. Mocking me for the way I ran has encouraged me to take up running and achieve something out of it. I’m proud to share that I have ran five half-marathons and a marathon. Those two kids who punched me in the stomach day-after-day have encouraged me to take up boxing. The kids who relentlessly knocked my lunch out my hand have inspired me to give back to others in need.
"The scars of being bullied will always be there. As much as it hurts me to look back, it also reminds me just how far I have come."
The scars of being bullied will always be there. As much as it hurts me to look back, it also reminds me just how far I have come. When times get tough, I know I can get through it because I overcame bullying. And, in my opinion if you can overcome bullying, you can overcome anything.
Bullying may have hindered my education but I’ve made a promise to myself that bullying is not going stop me achieving what I want to achieve. Everything I achieve is the result of my bullying experiences.
You may have gone through bullying in the past, you may be going through bullying now, you may yet go through bullying, but just know that you are not alone.
If you are a parent/guardian of a child who has shown a change of character, weigh up the changes you have seen in them. How do they react before they go to school? How do they react after school?
Speak to the school to see what changes they have seen. Ask if they can monitor your child. Speak to Kidscape, who can give plenty of advice. But more importantly, speak to your child.
Bullying is a fight people don’t see and that’s because we don’t speak out about it. Don’t fear speaking out, don’t fear what might happen if you do.
Your power is your voice, use it and you’ll take their power away.
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