So part of the reason I’m writing this is because I’m in an industry where it’s commonplace to belittle others to feel more superior, but that’s not the premise of this blog, merely the trigger that’s made me think about this for a while.
Bullying. Predominantly childhood and teenage bullying.
Two things have occurred to me recently – one that I’m blessed I’m no longer at school, and the other that bullying probably played a large part in contributing to my CPSTD and Borderline Personality Disorder.
You often hear people saying that school was the best days of their lives.
For me it was a living hell, and even though I’m confident to speak out about my mental health, I’ve always been incredibly vulnerable when even thinking about how school was.
So I thought I’d do a little bit of a mind dump via blogging in order to be able to finally move on from something that has plagued me my whole life.
It began when I was 7, from what I remember. Overall I went to 8 schools and I always make a joke out of it, but in reality there was only once maybe twice that I moved out of my own free will and not just because of breaking down or being unable to afford the fees.
The first time I remember it happening I was getting it from the teachers. My sister was a particular character in the senior school and I was know as “her sister” for quite some time. I was at a private school where my parents struggled to pay my fees so I was often removed because they wouldn’t allow me to come in until some money changed hands. In the time I was allowed in – I had to have FIVE pairs of shoes at the age of seven, specifically for school. Indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, wellies, trainers and pumps.
This may seem excessive, and I still think it is.
The reason for this sticking in my brain is because I was so afraid of going into the school that almost every morning I would be sick on the pavement whilst being dragged towards the school in my black outdoor shoes, be forced to change into my brown indoor shoes and then frogmarched into the school kitchens.
This probably sounds odd. Why the kitchens you say? Because the school had decided that I wasn’t unhappy, I was just being sick because I hadn’t had breakfast. So they used to force feed me marmite on toast every morning to make me stand out from the rest of the pupils that little bit more! How kind!
There’s a lot more I could say about that school, that was my third one. I was eventually allowed to leave because my parents were unable to pay any fees anymore and the school wouldn’t let me back in. I’ve never been so happy in my life.
The next couple of years were okay, bobbing between two more state primary schools and being that kid who’s house was so close to school that it used to be my dogs escaping and playing in the playground with us!
Eventually I went on to high school. I was sent to another private school, a different one from before, but just as bad if not worse.
None of my friends from my primary school went as they all went off to Hereford and I went to Worcester as my parents worked over that way.
I felt fairly isolated but being the confident little person I was I tried my best, the uniform felt horrid, everything about it made me feel stupid. The heavy blazer, the calf length skirt and ridiculous tie. Being forced to refer to our form as Lower Fourth Instead of year 7. I instantly felt alienated from my old friends and drifted quite quickly. Seeing as I was 12, and well, it’s hard to stay in touch if it’s not enabled by your parents.
This was probably one of the most traumatic schools. I settled in OK to start with, and then it descended into hell. I was incessantly bullied for having a “moustache” – often nicknamed “Elstash” which even to this day makes me cringe and my skin crawl. What these people don’t realise is that I spent years after this trying to experiment with makeup to cover up my face – thinking I had horrific facial hair when I didn’t. I was just a normal person, we all have face fuzz. But because of that I have spent years experimenting with facial waxing, home wax kits and dermaplaning. The thought of being back in those moments at school being targeted for something that is nothing more than normal makes me feel sick.
I was called “Tree Trunk Legs” because I hated wearing tights and being short, my legs weren’t the greatest. I’ve always had an issue since then about how my legs look, some days it’s hard to handle having such big thighs and being so short but I’ve learnt to love myself regardless.
It then got worse. My parents couldn’t afford the fees again.
I was surrounded by people whose parents were surgeons and they had swimming pools in their houses. We jumped between rental properties and once had to sleep on the floor of my dad’s office for 2 weeks because we didn’t have enough money to live but we needed his business. We had to live with my gran for a bit, and even my dads business partner.
So as kids do, they picked on this as a weakness. I was being bullied for being poor, and not being able to afford the designer clothing they had.
I remember one Red Nose Day I was SO excited to go in. I’d bought this amazing Chinese style wrap top, and some huuuuuge flared red corduroys. Looking back, utterly horrendous, but I was 14 and we didn’t have YouTube tutorials or beauty and fashion bloggers to look up to.
All that happened is that I was laughed at. Relentlessly made a fool of in front of so many people, yet these people are nowhere to be seen in my life now. And this is a point I will come to at the end.
So I was removed from the school for not being able to afford the fees. But luckily I had made new friends nearer to where I lived and moved over to a school closer to me. Another state school, and I’d had much better luck with them in the past.
But this was brutal. Again it started out okay, I made some friends, some were even from my old primary schools and it was amazing to link up with them again.
But it got progressively worse, I had rumours spread about me for no reason. Things like how I’d had sex with so and so, when I hadn’t even lost my virginity. I was still 14 for fucks sake.
I ended up getting caught up in various feuds which caused me absolute hell. Through years 10 and 11 I am pretty sure I had some form of undiagnosed anxiety and depression which caused me so much pain I have actual black spots in my memory. Points that must have been so distressing my own mind won’t let me relive them. In that time things were also very difficult at home, but that’s another story for another day.
Throughout these last two years of my schooling life I was made to feel very small. I was belittled and bullied for having friends in Worcester and had the word “Worcester” shouted at me often. The place where the school is, was very insular, very small town, and it wasn’t heard of to even expand your friendships 7 miles down the road.
I was having to try and fight back, but I didn’t have that fight in me when everything was coming at me from all angles. Home life, school life and to top that off my “first love” (I put that in quotations because hell no was that love) was a narcissistic evil person, a lowlife who tortured my emotions and I knew no better because I was 15 and needed someone to save me. I’ve never been more proud of myself for escaping that, but again, that’s another story for another time.
The bullying about everything and anything escalated, the snide looks, nasty comments and generally vile demeanour began to grind me down. I spent a LOT of time hiding in the Resistant Materials, Graphics and Art rooms, desperately trying to keep my head down and avoid trouble but it would always find me.
I’m blessed that at this time, the Internet and social media wasn’t a huge thing. We could only really go on at 6pm for an hour and even then I had to battle my brother for it, smart phones weren’t a thing but people still managed to attack me on MSN and prank call me. The pain I felt back then was overwhelming.
I found solace in an online forum – and to this day I’m ever grateful for those people for being there and just understanding me. Even though I was merely 15/16 and most people didn’t want to give me the time of day, “adults” forgot how hard being a teenager was, and they didn’t want to take on my pain, but these people did. I suddenly found people LIKE ME. Not people who bullied others for being too poor, or for having friends in another city. This is why the Internet is actually a godsend when it comes to needing support. If it wasn’t for those people I would have been dead a long time ago. Some of them still play a pretty key part in my life now.
So things got too hard to handle, my parents didn’t do anything, the school couldn’t do anything and the only advice I was given was from my head of year who told me the only way forward was to “punch one of the girls causing all the trouble” as we’ve tried everything else. I naturally refused, I wasn’t a strong person back then, and the kind of backlash that would come from that would destroy me. This resulted in me coming in a mere 1 day a week for most of year 11 whilst I spent nights at home crying my eyes out and being sick with fear that things would never change.
I somehow managed to carry on and secured a fairly good set of GCSE’s which I was even photographed for and put in the newspaper. But this was bittersweet, it was coming up to prom season and although some see it as an Americanism, it’s becoming quite a big thing. I couldn’t go through fear of being ridiculed and having no one, I was left very isolated and not knowing where to go with my life. The heartache seeing everyone else getting dressed up and having fun was unbelievable.
That summer was crippling, and eventually I escaped all of that and went off to Worcester Sixth Form. I FINALLY met people who were like me. People who actually liked me! And they didn’t belittle me or bully me! It was so confusing as for a long time that’s all I had known. And most of all I discovered photography.
I took Photography AS/A level as an extra option because I needed to fill up space in my timetable. Turns out it was the best unintentional decision I could ever have made. It’s been the thing that has saved my life.
However the bullies from my last private school surfaced again when social media began to build. They trolled my Facebook photography page obsessively “liking” things passive aggressively, and messaged me off each other’s accounts pretending to be nice and then being vicious and spiteful. By this time we were all around 16/17. I had never done anything to these girls to deserve this. I know that now, but for a long time I thought I must have been a bad person or done something because it didn’t make sense.
But as I’ve got older I’ve learnt how powerful jealousy and bitterness is. I’ve never been afraid to be myself, and people are scared of that. People fear the unknown and follow the crowd in order to stay under the radar and not be picked on themselves, so they do the bullying, because it’s either that or they get targeted.
The reason why I’m writing this is to dismiss the fact that “the school days are the best days” – this isn’t the case for everyone. And some of us wave goodbye to those years by throwing a grenade at the memories and running very fast.
I’ve never fully dealt with what happened because there was never really one pinnacle moment, just an amalgamation of situations which I believe contributed to my CPTSD and BPD. Being let down by authority figures left right and centre when we are taught that parents and teachers are the ones who will help and we should respect them.
However what I have dealt with is that I LOVE BEING ME.
And it doesn’t matter what happened in the past because they did me a favour and taught me that I never ever want to be like them.
To anyone going through anything similar, one day you will have nothing to do with those people, and you probably won’t even remember their names. And when you see them in public they will pretend not to know you, not because they don’t like you but because they are too afraid to acknowledge what their teenage selves did.
People will say “let it go, leave it in the past, we were all young” – but they don’t know what they’ve actually done by bullying and targeting someone in their prime growing and developing age. The part of life when we need support, care and nurture the most.
But the best thing, it’ll drive you to success. It’ll feed your motivation and when you feel yourself falling you will become determined not to let them win.
I want people, especially young school goers and teens, going through bullying right now to realise that even though it feels like this is it, one day you will be at the top looking down on them. Their lives will be so insignificant to you, and some may even try and leech off your success. And you know what? It’s SO SATISFYING.
So to every single person that belittled and bullied me along the way, thank you. Thank you for making me realise what I don’t want to be, thank you for giving me the fuel to drive myself to success and most of all thank you, thank you for not liking me so I don’t have to pretend I like you.
This is what real friends looks like, and these girls unknowingly saved me and my opinion on what truth, honesty, love and friendship is. From Worcester Sixth Form in 2008, to 2016 and still going strong ❤