I have had a hard day at work today, and because I felt tired I just cooked myself a pizza and was going to shower and maybe relax and do some painting… but then I stumbled upon a video clip of the This Morning show on Facebook, in which they interviewed Lucy Alexander, the mother of a 17 year old boy who committed suicide on 16 April from being bullied (the day also happens to be my birthday). She was trying to spread awareness of the real and brutal effects of bullying by writing an open letter.
Too many times have I sat by and thought, I will do something about ……. tomorrow. But it doesn’t work like that! If you care about something you commit to it right there and then! If not, it passes you by before you realised it has. So painting will have to wait! I want to support Lucy in her efforts by sharing my story of bullying. It may only be read by 20 people, but I hope that it will have some effect. If one of those readers told their story, or retold mine or Felix’s, then maybe we can do something about the dreadful bullying that happens at schools (and at home) across the country and around the world.
This is the inspiration of this blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkDAdNFyRxo
This is the story of a survivor of bullying, mostly accepting of the past, but never able to forget. This is my story.
The easy target
I was bullied for a very long time as a kid. It didn’t help that I was abused as a child and had a gay relationship (although we had no idea what it was at the time) with another boy a year younger than me. When I understood my abuse and gay tendencies, which was at the same time as friends of mine who made me feel very ashamed, my world shrank and I become afraid that my secret would come out. I think this was one of the main reasons that I was bullied so much. I was timid, shy and a very easy target.
The bullying actually started at home, not at school. It was 2 brothers who lived close by. I would say though, that the younger of the two, was by far the worst. It started small, just words… cruel and nasty words. I don’t even remember what, but I never felt in any physical harm. But then I became the target of stones being thrown from across the fence and the threats of physical violence. Then came actual violence. The peak of the bullying was when I was hit round the head (like a baseball swing) with a adult sized skateboard. Needless to say, the 11 year old me was knocked straight out.
Much like Felix, I told my mum of the bullying. And I love my mother dearly, but she gave me very bad advice back then. “Let it go over your head”, “forget about it”. Whilst that may work and you may temporarily feel like ‘the bigger man’, you ultimately continue to get bullied! You are still the easy target. My Dad was not so accepting, that day when I was hit with a skateboard he marched round the bullies house, and he was very brave in doing so as they were a family of rough folk, almost like gypsies. They had trucks and caravans and rubbish everywhere. Everyone in the neighbourhood was afraid of them. But march on up he did, and he threatened them. My Dad is a big man, and although they didn’t retaliate and hurt my father, it didn’t stop the bulling either.
The conclusion, I had to be escorted by an adult from my house to my friends home and then escorted back home again. It worked for a time. Although I was caught by bullies without an adult a few times, I was a pretty fast sprinter and I could usually out run anyone who threatened me with violence.
The constant eroding that is mental bullying
The real damaging bullying was the mental kind and it happened at school, in broad daylight in front of everyone. Needless to say I wasn’t a popular kid at school. I wasn’t good at sport, I wasn’t good with the girls and I had no popular friends. I was also still very quiet and still in conflict with myself over who I was and what had happened to me in the past. I hated high school, I was bullied from Year 11 – Year 16. Basically until I left. Unfortunately, I had no older family members to protect me, I was all alone. The closet relative by age was my cousin Lee, but he left High School the year I arrived. It wasn’t ideal.
Like most mental bullying it was sometimes just small and pathetic. For instance, I was waiting to get into class and we had to wait in a line. Kids would get inpatient and start pushing and all of the sudden I lost my footing, fell backwards hitting the door and the handle dug straight into my back and knocked out my breath. A guy called Adam said, “what is the matter with him?”, my friend who was helping me up said “he winded himself”! Adam said “what, he wee’d himself?” and laughed. They mocked me all day and called me “wee pants” every day until I left school. Stupid really, but at the time it bothered me. Worst of all, before High School I hang out with Adam, we would play and go cycling together. Then all of a sudden he didn’t like me and in fact wanted to bully me so he could look cool.
I recall having apples thrown at me during break time. So hard that they hit a wall behind me and would explode. I wasn’t fearful of physical violence but I was often the butt of many jokes. I never retaliated, I could hear my mothers voice in my head “just let it go over your head”. So I would shrink smaller and smaller, and it got to the point where I prayed I could somehow blend into the background and no one would notice me, just so I could go a day without being called a name.
I think what made it worse, was that I was still being bullied at home too. I felt like wherever I went I could not escape it. After a time I became to believe that it was justified. That I deserved to be called names and be bullied. I began to look at myself and think I was ugly, I was too fat, I was too skinny, I was weird and no one would want me.
Much like Felix, I hid it from the world. I held together a presence which looked like I wasn’t bothered. I never ran off crying until I got home. I would speak to my parents but nothing really changed accept me. It became normal. I had accepted it. It was always the way it was going to be.
The band of misfits
Like most schools, bullying happened to many kids. I was not alone in that respect. There were a group of us, weirdly I know of the 5 who found solace in one another, including myself, 3 are now gay. Perhaps that says that struggling with gay desires as a child makes you even more susceptible to bullying. We became friends and in fact, if I had any friend over as a kid, it was probably one of the 5. I felt more protective of my friends than I did myself. I would let someone bully me, but I would stand up for them, even if it meant taking heavy fire myself and also getting bullied. I know what it felt like and I didn’t want them to feel it. But I had resided that I should feel it.
It wasn’t until I was 15, that I began to distance myself from my friends. It dawned on me that although I would come to their aid, they couldn’t or wouldn’t come to mine. So I slowly began to feel less stable in those friendships. At the same time, I began to have female attention at school and even dated for a few weeks at a time. But it never felt right, especially as I was still having fantasies about boys. It was a very confusing time and I began to feel pressure mounting below. My bullying began to make me feel angry, and although I never considered suicide, I did feel like something was going to give. I think it was the realisation that high school was going to end in a year, and that I wanted to study hard to get good grades, that kept me from spiralling to far.
I lost contact with all the the friends I had. After high school I completely remodelled myself and I did a big clear out. Unfortunately those friends were attached to a life I didn’t want.
The Brighton effect
When I was 16, my mother realised I wasn’t leaving the house much. I wasn’t socialising. I had no real friends. So she rung my older brother (9 years older) and asked if he would look after me for 2 weeks to see if he could ‘get me out of my shell’. He lived in Brighton. This was the best decision she could have made, and I love my brother so much for accepting the challenge. Although, I returned green and with a rebel attitude, and I am sure my mum must have regretted sending me at first. What had actually happened was a journey of self discovery. My bullying was not justified. I was never the same again. I may have chilled out now, but I am far closer to that rebel I returned as, than I was that timid bullied boy.
Apart from a wealth of partying and drugs and nightlife, endless nights of random meetings, DJ booth dancing and Zoe Ball encounters, I found myself in the company of ‘cool people’. People much older, beautiful, they had money, lost of friends, they were crazy and fun… and best of all… THEY LIKED ME! I was literately blown away that these people could like someone like me! And it was there love and friendship which made me realise, I was cool too. I did some nuts things. My brother recounts stories when he would turn his back to check I was OK and someone had given me a joint, or an ecstasy tablet… and he’s thoughts where ‘Oh no! Not again!’, and having to explain to his friends that I was only 16 and had never done anything before. It was a steep and furious journey, but I had friends, girls liked me, I was dancing on speakers and drinking JD and having the time of my life!
Thank you David, without even trying, you gave me a second life. A glimpse of a life with confidence, happiness and no bullying because I was no longer going to put up with that SHIT!
The most satisfying grade collection ceremony EVER
So I was lucky to come out the other side of bullying. It was a radical journey in Brighton but I was lucky that people showed me kindness. When I came back I totally changed. I began dying my hair blue, spiking it up, ripping up jeans and wearing the brightest hawaiian shirts. I got my eyebrow pierced and most importantly I stood up tall.
Although my family had seen this change, everyone at school had not! I was too busy changing my life and having fun with people 10 years older than me to care about confirming attendance to my grade ceremony. In true rock and roll style I did confirm, but too late to change the order so I had to go up last to collect my results and shake the principles hand. I will never forget that day! Most people did not recognise me in my get up (probably exactly how I described above). Those who did begun whispering in ears and looking my way. I was thriving on this attention, using its energy to make me feel even taller. The principle called my name. Now those who didn’t know it was me, soon would. I strolled down the middle between row and rows of students. I could literally hear gasps and whispering and I enjoyed every step! I very casually and confidently shock the principles hand, completely obliviously to his reaction as I was more focused on the students.
I hung around for a bit after, I think it was a rebellious streak that kept me there. I wanted someone to say something. I wanted some to try and belittle me. No one did, I think the most someone dared to say (in a group) was “what happened to you?”. “None of your fucking business” I replied. I also recall telling a girl student crying because she had eleven A*’s and one A, but she wanted twelve A*’s, to “shut up and stop being so stupid”. I was happy and I only got three A*’s. Part of me wonders why I didn’t stay longer to rub it in peoples faces and take on the bullies, but I had actually matured. I realised I didn’t want to waste any time on these dooche bags and I wanted to spend time with the people who really mattered. People I care about.
Lucy is so right! People really need to talk about this stuff. There is no use sweeping it under the carpet or telling yourself its normal for kids to get bullied! That is a load of shit! No one deserves to be bullied. That shit is not OK! As parents you need to raise your kids to know that bullying is damaging. I mean in extreme examples, like Felix, kids take their own life! This is serious shit! I am lucky I surround myself in awesome people, people with kids who would never dream of letting them bully another.
To the parents. You know if your kid is nice to others. There is no being nicely, nicely about it and just sending them to their room with their iPad. Find something they hold dear and then squeeze. The only way a kid will learn, is if they really feel like what they are doing is bad and that there are repercussions.
To the teachers. You know this is happening in your school. I know as teachers you may have little power but if you can see that a kid is quiet and struggling, you must know deep down their is a reason. Kids want to play and laugh. A timid child could be a scared child. You have a overview of all the kids and you can intervene and just show the bullied children someone is seeing this, someone cares, someone knows that its not right and that they will help you. Bullying should not be accepted in school. Stamp it out.
To the bullied kids. Don’t just let it go. It is not justified. It doesn’t matter if your gay, ginger, short, goofy, wear glasses… whatever. YOU ARE FUCKING COOL! When your older you will really see this and feel it, but right now, just know its not OK and fight back. If you stand up in a bullies face and give as good as you get… 9/10 times they will stop. Bullies prey on the weak. So keep strong, or at least look strong and they will stop. There is no reason you should put up with this. If you really can’t stand up for yourself, talk to people, your family or your teachers. Anyone. You are not alone. This happens all the time and it will end, but when you make it end. You can’t always wait for someone to save you, you have to have the strength to save yourself. People can help, but you need to help your self.
To the bullies. You are not cool. Do you know why you bully? It’s because you are not cool and you do this SHIT to feel cool. When you leave school all that power you think you have disappears and if you don’t get your shit together and do something with your life you will be the looser in the end. I am 32 now, I am happily gay and getting married. I am buying a apartment in Cambridge, I have amazing friends, travelling the world, awesome job… I am happy! I see my bullies and they are druggies with crap jobs and no money. They are going bald and fat and are alone. Some are in relationships they hate, some living at home with their parents still, some drinking in the same pub with the same losers every night! Just as people like me can turn their life around from being bullied, you can turn your life around from being the bully. Don’t be a SHIT and give people SHIT, give A SHIT instead!
Written by Craig