I still, to this day vividly remember when I was bullied. Bullying in any form is wrong. Its that simple. Physical, Verbal, sexual or Cyber bullying has severe repercussions to the victim , the bully and their families. When I was at school I had been at both ends of the spectrum.
This week, (16-20th November 2020) is Anti bullying week. Organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance.
I felt it would be a perfect opportunity to tell my story about when I was bullied. In the hope that just an element of my story gives courage. Courage to talk to people and get the help they deserve.
Bullying is a serious issue
Bullying is a serious issue for young people in today’s world. It’s so serious that it nearly ended my life 20 years ago. I was in secondary school when it all started and didn’t take long for me to be an easy target.
Some people will agree that I’ve always been a bit odd. Its ok for me to say that about myself without offending or upsetting myself now.
I have a strange sense of humour, a very dry sense of humour. I’ve always have had a thirst for knowledge and need to know the ins and out of everything. A little too much probably. I like doing a lot of things and can turn my hand to pretty much anything that I am challenged with. Building things, fixing things, cooking, cleaning, learning constantly. I guess I’m not the typical “bloke”.
However, when I was a child, I was a stereotypical geek. I liked computers and anything techy. I wasn’t bothered about whether my clothes matched or what style I was going for. To me they were just clothes. I wasn’t the greatest academically either, especially mathematically. I was a word person, I knew how to write the written word, so to speak. Although my hand writing is still atrocious. I used to help out around the school, school productions, help the caretaker etc just to compensate for my useless ability academically.
Where it all went wrong
Quite quickly after starting secondary school, I started piling on the weight. I was a teenager, it was likely a mix of my hormones, puberty and I guess contentment, because I actually was enjoying secondary school.
One day i got the bus to school with my older brothers. I was the typical first year pupil, rucksack bulging with school stuff I didn’t need, wrapped over both shoulders and running to the bus stop. I was actually excited to go to school. As you can imagine, my older brothers obviously wanted nothing to do with me. They were a few years above me. They were too cool for school so definitely didn’t want a little year 7 with them.
So we all pile on the bus and pay the driver our 20p fare. My brothers go the the back of the bus with their mates and I tag along. I wanted to be part of their little group, even though I was 3 years younger.
All of a sudden, from behind, I had a half eaten apple whacked onto my head, squashed and then rubbed into my hair, followed by “eat healthy you little fat c***”. I’d been on the bus, 5 minutes! I had no idea what was going on, but the whole bus erupted with laughter at my expense. I was humiliated and cried. The person who did it was one of my brothers friends, who, by the way was rather big boned himself. Much, Much bigger boned than I was! My brothers said nothing and did nothing. I don’t defend them, but I guess they had their image to keep so they kept quiet. To this day, I don’t know if they thought it was wrong or funny.
I was an easy target when I was bullied
From that point on, I became a target for any and every type of bullying you could think of. As I said earlier, I started gaining weight and at the time my Dad was out of work. He’d applied for thousands of jobs and ended up in the newspaper because of it. I knew my parents couldn’t afford to buy me another uniform, and I don’t blame them, they are still ridiculously priced now. So I opted to just wear plain, none school branded polo shirts. That made me ‘poor’ apparently.
By the time I got to year 9, I was a “Fat, Poor, Geek”. (I wasn’t even that fat at the time, I had put weight on, but only on my torso.) I remember many times, my mum would make a packed lunch with my favourite sandwich (still is!). Ham, Lettuce, Cucumber and salad cream. I’d put it in the bin. To save the humiliation of having my school lunch took of me and chucked over a fence.
“Take it like a man”
Some days I’d go and sit in the toilets at lunch. Some days I’d pretend I’d forgot my lunch so I could get a school cooked meal. Just to blend in. I’d get mud chucked at me, I’d be swung to the ground by my backpack, spat on, kicked, you name it. I was always taught to take a beating like a man and never retaliate. So that’s what I did. I took it. Over and over again.
I did try to talk to teachers and tell them I was being bullied, but in the mid 90’s teachers, well at least my teachers, weren’t really that bothered about the kids. They’d walk off mid lesson and go for a smoke. If you tried to get to the staff room on a lunch or break time to tell someone it was a complete waste of time. The ‘Dinner nannies’ weren’t much use either they’d all stand in a group chatting.
During lunch breaks pretty much all of the pupils used to just walk in a loop around school chatting with their friends etc. The few friends I did have always wanted to be in the computer suite. Looking back, I know why. One day I made the decision to brave the ‘loop’ and just walk on my own. This decision changed my life dramatically.
Enough is enough
During my lonely walk around the ‘loop’ I spotted another year 7 being swung around by his shirt and it ripping. Something inside me just flipped. I felt this fire of anger build up. I’d had enough of being bullied, Id had enough of being Fat, my self esteem was rock bottom. I saw myself as that year 7 boy, when I was bullied at that age. He was shouting “stop” while people walked past and no one helped him. I ran over to the established bully of the school and I physically assaulted him, repeatedly. It was like 3 years of bullying and not talking to people had built up so much tension I just let loose on this lad.
I was surprised. Nothing was said. No one came over, no teachers got involved and the lad I had hit repeatedly, just got up and walked off. I thought I had got away with it. I felt some sort of empowerment. By this point I’d lost all of my friends. I had acquaintances.
So I decided to start giving back what I got for 3 years. The way I saw it, I had nothing to lose, but what I could gain was a following, out of fear. I became what I had feared for 3 years. A Bully.
Very quickly I became a living nightmare for my parents. Numerous brown envelopes sent home. Detentions, suspensions and ultimately being expelled from school. This must have been a nightmare for my parents to deal with. My Dad by now had been working in West Africa, coming home every 6 weeks. My Mum at home, working and then having to deal with me.
Nothing to be proud of
Yup. I was expelled from school. I’m not proud of it. I saw the complete look of disappointment in my Mums face. I was riddled with guilt. We appealed the decision and made it very clear how sorry I was. But I also made it very clear as to how quick the school was to reprimand me and not others, yet they ignored the fact they never noticed when I was bullied. My form tutor at the time was one of them teachers you just didn’t like, he was a total waste of space in my eyes. Until we received a phone call from him.
We were invited back into school and to my surprise my tutor fought my corner. He fought my corner so much he actually put his job on the line. We won the appeal. The condition? I had no more chances. I could deal with that.
What I couldn’t deal with was that my tutor, who I’ve just slated for being a total waste of space. Had basically said “If Damion is excluded again or fails in any way, I will resign, it will be on my shoulders, I believe he can be a better person”. I don’t know how true this is. I saw a letter he handed the Head teacher that said this. It could have been a ploy to keep my mind focused. I guess the only people who will really know is my parents and my tutor. For 20 years I’ve never asked and don’t want to know.
My Return to school
I returned to school the following week. I had changed. It was a big eye opener. I realised how my actions hadn’t just affected me, but that of my parents and teachers. I went back to School, I knuckled down and worked hard. I’d gained a few friends, mostly acquaintances, but I still had no one really.
Nearly the End
By the time I was in year 11, the pressure was on. GCSE’s were looming. I’d made a right mess of the previous 2 years and needed help. I needed a buddy. I didn’t have one. I’d alienated everyone and become so very lonely. Many nights I’d sit there on my computer waiting for one of my MSN Messenger friends status’ to show as ‘Active’. It never happened. I knew they were online, they just didn’t want to talk to me.
I’d come full circle. Except this time it wasn’t the ‘big boned’ lad who attacked me with an apple. It was me, I’d put myself in this situation, I’d caused myself to be lonely. Maybe if I’d told my parents, my brothers, my tutor what was really happening I wouldn’t have been in this situation.
Just in time
I’d really had enough of life and just wanted it all to go away. I went to my dads tools box and took one of his pack knives from it. I sat on the end of my bed and I held the knife to my wrist. Nothing was going through my head other than “no one would give a sh** anyway”. Just as I place the knife to my wrist, suddenly my Mum walks into the room and quickly took the knife away from me. She screamed, and burst into hysterical fits of tears. She was inconsolable. My Dad came running upstairs. Now my Dad was never very paternal, so instantly shouted at me and told me to get down stairs. I sit there on the Sofa thinking to myself “what have I done to my Mum”.
Its time to talk
Once my Mum had composed her self and the emotion had calmed, I had a long discussion with my parents, I had told them pretty much everything that had gone on and why I wanted to end my life. I say pretty much much everything, I never told my mum about the sandwiches, she knew they were my favourite and didn’t want to make her feel bad. I appreciated the little things she did for me, I couldn’t make her feel any worse.
As you can imagine there was a lot of crying, including crying from my Dad, which never happened. They didn’t pass comment, they just listened intently. Both my Mum and Dad put their arms around me affectionately but firmly and said “Whenever you need us, whether we are here or not, remember this.”
A Fresh start
From that point on, I never looked back. It was a fresh start. I knew all I had to do was talk and there would be people out there willing to listen.
20 years later I still remember the hug, I can still feel it. I still get emotional when I think about it. When times are tough, and trust me I’ve had some pretty tough times over the years. I remember my parents arms being around me and the words they told me.
There are elements of my past that I have used in a positive light over the years. My determination to be the best one. The best that I can be. Not by kicking the living hell out of someone, but by being mentally focused on my goal, working with others and talking through problems. I’ve never changed and never will. I am Who I am.
My Message to you
I recently wrote a letter to my younger self , giving myself some advice for the future. Part of the advice in that letter, I’d like to offer to you. Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself. Being genuine to who you are is an invaluable gift. Believe in yourself, nobody can be you.
If you are a victim of bullying, a friend or family of a victim. Talk to people. Remember there are people and organisations out there that will listen, give advice, and help you with numerous resources at their disposal. The National Bullying Helpline has some great advice for bullying within schools and the workplace. Within schools these days there are specialist teachers trained to deal with issues such as bullying. The Anti Bullying Alliance have put together a great pack for parents and carers, its got some great tips and advice to help identify issues and talk to your children. It can be downloaded via this link, Anti Bullying Alliance Pack for Parents.
Do not keep it to yourself and let it manifest into a situation you can no longer control. Find the courage, stand up and talk.
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown ’em out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.Keala Settle – The greatest Showman