I do not tolerate bullies and have no respect for those who attempt to belittle or walk over others to give themselves an ego boost. I despise all forms of bullying whether physical, verbal or cyber and it can have devastating effects on the victim.
I was a victim of childhood bullying myself when I was at school and as a result I understand how it can psychologically damage you for years afterwards.
Being so petite I was about half the size of my class mates and therefore an easy target. It began with verbal abuse, name calling “You’re ugly” “You’re a swot” “Nobody likes you” and developed into something much darker and more sinister. It become a campaign to isolate me, to threaten those who were friendly towards me and intimidate them into abandoning friendships with me. Once I became more isolated it became more physical, although it was the psychological bullying that effected me for years afterwards.
It started with small things such as tripping me up in the corridor, pulling my hair, destroying my property and pushing me over. Then I was chased home from school by a gang of girls and told “We will get you You’re dead!”
I began to creep around, trying to hide from the bullies who made my life a living nightmare, terrified that they may see me and the abuse would begin again. I lived in constant fear, terrified of even walking to the corner shop and become more withdrawn and reluctant to leave the house.
During PE at school I was told that if I got the ball during a game of hockey (I was surprisingly good at it) they would beat me up and I’d be ‘dead meat’. In class I had my work ripped away from me and screwed up, sharp pencils dug into my back, drawing pins put on my chair and was constantly antagonised. It was not just girls either. Often it was boys that would shove me hard from behind so I ended up falling over. Mentally I was a mess.
I had three good friends in my year that stuck by me which kept me from losing the plotting entirely and I will never forget them – Anne-Marie, Rachel and Shirley. My cat Pebbles and my dog Pepsi were both a real comfort as well and after a tough day at school I’d sob into Pepsi’s coat and she’d look up at me with sad eyes and lick my tears away. Pebbles would seem to sense my pain and would stay close to me and soothe me with her wise old eyes and a few purrs. Without them I would have given up the fight. To this day I believe that animals can sense when their owners are unhappy and they give us unconditional love. They are capable of far more love than many humans.
Of course when my parents found out the full extent of the bullying they wanted to intervene but the school – Hreod Parkway had no interest whatsoever. They said that as so many kids were picking on me and beating me up it must be my fault. From an adult point of view now, I can see that this is the most negligent, irresponsible and downright disgusting thing an adult could say to a child who is being bullied. For a while I actually believed them and thought there was something wrong with me. From a child’s perspective I couldn’t see that as a school they were unfit to deal with a real issue of bullying in their school. Even in my early adult years I believed that I didn’t deserve to be happy and that I was deeply flawed in someway. All because of the bullying and the fact that the school tried to blame me instead of doing their jobs.
When I was around 14 years of age things started to reach a climax. One day when I was walking home from school chatting with my friend Rachel, when suddenly a girl called Michelle Dwyer grabbed me by the hair and started pulling me around by the ponytail. She put her leg under my ankle so I fell to the floor with a thud and then started to kick me in the head repeatedly until I was dizzy. I was unable to get up and the kicks to my ribs, sides, back and head were relentless. A ring of youths had gathered round in a circle chanting “Fight fight fight.” But this wasn’t a fight, this was assault and a completely unprovoked attack. My friend Rachel ran to my Mum’s house a few minutes away and when she and another neighbour ran out the cowards run away. My mother pressed charges and the girl defence was “I was having a bad day.” I was covered in bruises, had patches of hair missing as well as blood blisters around my eyes and hair line. I felt dizzy and sick but worst of all I felt completely humiliated and felt that because no one had stopped it that meant no one liked me. Of course at the time I didn’t realise it was because everyone else was too afraid to try and pull this psycho off of me.
Things were a little quiet afterwards once the bullies heard of the prosecution, until one day one of the ring leaders – Lynsey Herbert walked past me on the bridge. I hadn’t breathed a word or even acknowledged her presence. No doubt I had my head down and looked meek, so I was an easy target. She grabbed my coat collar and pulled it over my head so I couldn’t see anything. Then she started swinging me about. There was no way I could go through another ordeal like I’d gone through with Dwyer and endure more humiliation, so I started to swing my arms about wildly trying to lash out at her. I must have got lucky as I heard something connect then I heard her scream and run off crying. I was surprised. I didn’t expect these so called ‘Hard Girls’ to cry and run off so easily.
The next day I saw Lynsey and she had a black eye but she didn’t say a word. During registration that morning my form tutor Miss O called me up and said “Karen, did you give Lynsey Herbert a black eye?” I nodded sheepishly and said “Yes” waiting for a rebuke. However, it never came. Miss O simply smiled and said “Good, go back to your seat.” There was a hush over the class and a new found respect for me had formed because I had hit back at the bully.
The bullying stopped and never happened again from that moment onwards. The thing is whilst the bullying stopped the damage had already been done. I was painfully shy, found it impossible to trust people and struggled to form friendships. I suffered from mood swings and rages and a deep sense of resentment. Even as a young adult this affected me and rather than sharing my ideas and getting involved when in a group of people, I was extremely introverted and quiet. The effect on me was immense and I was full of conflict. I had all these ideas, creativity and motivation, but I struggled to express them. I suffered flashbacks and moments of paranoia and always felt that anyone being nice to me had a secret agenda.
When you live your childhood and early teens being subjected to severe abuse on a daily basis, it effects your mental wellbeing. I had low self esteem and thought that no one could possibly like me or my ideas. I felt that life was a battle, an ongoing struggle and I had to soldier through it. There was no moments of joy, just a journey of moments varying in degrees of nervousness and uncomfortableness, and often panic.
Another side effect on my childhood traumas meant that for quiet some time I was a people pleasure. I desperately wanted people to like me so I would develop one sided friendships and make excuses for people rather than casting them aside when they treated me badly. I formed many bad relationships with people that were not worth my time or energy as I couldn’t see my own self worth.
It took many years of self help, meditation and understanding to accept myself, forgive my bullies and realise that I was a greater person than any of them could ever be, because I had the gift of empathy and had gotten through something that probably would have destroyed them. Still, it took many years to regain my confidence and feel capable of achieving great things and become the much stronger, no nonsense woman I am today. I am no longer a victim. I am a strong woman who believes in herself completely and you are also a lot stronger than you think. If I can get through it so can you. But don’t try to get through it on your own like I did, speak up, talk to someone you trust and make the bullying stop!
If I could go back in time to speak to my former self all those years ago, I would give my younger self a big cuddle and I would say ‘You are worth more than any of them put together because you are kind and they are bullies. Oh by the way – punch one of them in the eye as soon as you can!”
My point is that all bullies are simply cowards. They push others around because it gives them a sense of power. They are weak people with little self awareness and little empathy for others. The only way they can feel good about themselves is to hurt or try to destroy others. If you are being bullied, whether it is physical, verbal or even online it still applies. Anyone that tries to bully you is weak and pitiful and needs help. But you need to help yourself and make sure it is stopped. Believe me when I tell you this, it is not your fault, you are not to blame and you do NOT deserve to be treated like this. The problem lies within the bully who is inherently damaged.
Here are a couple of links I researched for anyone who is having a problem with bullying right now. It could be happening in your workplace, your child might be having some problems at school to do with bullying or it could be a friend of yours who is suffering. If bullying is effecting you or someone in your life visit the links below and find out more about getting help. Due to new laws Cyber bullying is also now an offence, so if you are being bullied, threatened or blackmailed online always keep records, screenshots and e-mails so you can pass these on to the relevant authorities.
You are special, believe in yourself even when others do not. Allow your inner strength to shine through and your goodness will shine whilst their dark empty hearts ache with the heavy weight of their self hatred.
Love and Hugs – Kaz B x
With thanks to Anne-Marie, Rachel, Shirley and Ev – my confidants.