Anxiety & Bullying
Bullying is seen as a sad fact of life. We seem to accept that it’s going to happen to us at some point in our lives and this really upsets me.
I’ve been bullied for the majority of my life- non stop for every single thing you can think of: my eyes are too blue, my hair is too flat, I read, I’m a Boff (in case you don’t know what this is it was the insult of choice for people who were smart back when I was a teenager)…well you get the drift: according to other people I’m a fat, ugly waste of space that will never amount to much.
And for a long time I believed that. Too long.
These days I see comments like that as a motivation tool: you think I’ll never achieve anything in life? Watch me! But it’s taken a verrrry long time and a lot of unpleasant shit happening to me to get to this point.
And I’ve made some pretty big mistakes along the way. From being 4 to about 7/8 I was beaten up at school by one particular boy, I won’t give his real name so let’s just call him Guy. I was a tiny kid (what’s changed there) and Guy was a year older than me so you can imagine the size difference. It started off with some nasty words and poking/pulling my hair/pushing me over which I just tried to ignore but very quickly it escalated to actually been punched/kicked/slapped.
Now I’m sure that seeing a tiny little girl that didn’t really fit in with her peers, he assumed he’d have no trouble with me. Wrong! There’s a joke in my family that my dad taught me how to punch before he taught me how to talk and I’m actually inclined to believe it! I’ve always known how to defend myself, for as long as I can remember, and dads always told me to take no shit from anyone- if someone hits you, you hit them back twice as hard.
And that’s what I did.
I can still see the look of shock on his face to this day! I bust his nose and he ended up leaving me alone for the rest of that week. I thought I’d won. Hmm yeah, wrong on that count- he just came back with friends.
He had one guy to pin my arms and one or sometimes two people to cheer him on. Because of course you need your friends to support you and cheer you on when hitting a girl half your size.
For some reason I never did fully find out, Guy moved schools and I was free of him. But by this time the damage was done. I was socially isolated and he’d set a pattern. Not physically I’m glad to say but the rest of my time at school (both primary and secondary) was marred by a constant stream of verbal bullying.
For the most part I’ve managed to move past what happened and the consequences of it but remnants of it will always be with me. I can’t trust people, I don’t let people get close to me and as such have very few friends and I always think that people are being sarcastic when they say things like “you’re pretty” or “you look nice today”. It’s part paranoia and part what I’m used to.
Maybe I’ll work past it like I have with the whole physical contact issue (I didn’t used to let people hug me before and now I’m the first to go in for one usually!) or maybe I won’t.
So what I want to do in this post is give you some advice that I’ve learnt from my own experience. I guess it fits into the “Anxiety &” series because if you’re starting a new school/college/university or even job (because yep, sorry to say but bullying does happen in the workplace) there’s always that underlying worry of it happening to you. So enough of my rambling, here’s what I’ve learnt:
Don’t retaliate. I can’t believe I’m actually typing that. I am a huge believer in standing up for yourself and giving as good as you get. Our family motto might as well be “never start a fight but always make sure to finish it” but in all honest it doesn’t help the situation. If you can don’t show any emotion, just stare them directly in the eyes and smile. It will really freak them out! Or if you’re not into that kind of thing, don’t make eye contact with them and carry on with whatever you’re doing.
Tell someone. When I was getting bullied I kept it quiet from all but one person that I trusted completely. I know what some people will be thinking- didn’t people see the bruises? The truth is I didn’t really bruise much and he wasn’t stupid enough to hit me where it would show like my face. I kept it all bottled up and that did more damage to me that all of the people combined. So please, talk to someone about it! It doesn’t have to be your parents or friends- if you’re under 18 there is the Childline service available to you. If your over that age Samaritans is open 24/7 and available to people of all ages. Always remember, you don’t have to go through this alone.
Keep a happy memory/jar. I won’t go into too much detail on what one of these are, I wrote a separate post on the subject which you can read here, but keeping on of these can really help you when you have a bad day. This isn’t just related to bullying, it’s something I’d encourage everyone to do! Being reminded of everything good that you’ve done and all the happy memories you’ve made is a great way to fight off those negative voices and intrusive thoughts.
Have you been the victim of bullying? Do you have any tips that you would give to your younger self?