This week is anti-bullying week, so I've decided that my blog this week will talk a little bit about my various experiences with bullying - even though talking about it really pushes me way out of my comfort zone, and obviously makes me upset, but it's something that needs to be spoken about - and a couple of ways I tried to cope with it - obviously, the things I did will not work for everyone, but hopefully it will help you if you or someone you know is being bullied, and if it helps even one person, it's more than worth it.
As I've mentioned before in blog posts, I got bullied a lot in my life, both at primary school and secondary school. Sure, I was lucky enough to still have a few people on my side both times, which was a massive lifeline for me, but sadly, when I was at secondary school, most of my friends didn't go to my school, so I only really got to see them at weekends, even though I could obviously text them and chat to them online during the week. I also had a lot of support from my parents and family, especially in secondary school, so I had a good positive support network around me, even though a lot of the time I felt really lost and alone, like I had no one to talk to. I also blamed myself a lot, which looking back, was probably a really stupid thing to do, but at the time I genuinely believed that a lot of it was my fault.
When I was a child, I had one person in my class who did most of the bullying, then a lot of people who just sided with that one person. I also had an amazing best friend who helped me though a lot of it, but sadly she moved away when I was about 7 or 8, leaving me to struggle through another 3 years. I kind of made friends with a few other people during that time, luckily, but I still felt really alone. However, one thing I will say is that, in both instances of being bullied, once I told a teacher about it, things got so much worse - neither school I attended seemed to have any idea whatsoever about how to deal with bullying (especially the secondary school I was at, that was a truly horrific experience) but I would still recommend that you tell someone, as in the long run it will help - I was at school a while ago now, haha, so I'm sure their methods of dealing with bullying will have changed since I was there. The method my primary school teacher came up with was to stand me in front of my whole class - as a shy child, you can imagine I was thrilled with this, haha - and explain to them all that I was being bullied, and how it was making me feel - thankfully, she didn't make me name the culprit, but I'm pretty sure everyone knew who I was talking about anyway. Luckily, after that it seemed to pretty much stop, and I managed to make a few friends, so primary school actually ended on a high for me instead of a low.
Secondary school was initially fun for me, and remained that way up until year nine, when I turned 14. When I first started secondary school, I was still really shy and quiet, but luckily I made a good group of friends in my first year who really helped me come out of my shell, both in and out of school. During this time, I got into a lot of bands who I still love to this day - mainly AFI and Green Day - and started going out most weekends, dying my hair and generally being really happy and confident. However, towards the end of year 9, some of my best friends and I ended up falling out, and after that, school was unbearable for me as, sadly, it was my school friends I fell out with - even more unluckily for me, we all shared a group of friends, so I saw them at weekends too - luckily, though, the friendship group was pretty divided, so we didn't see each other as much as we could have.
A lot of things were said throughout this time - a lot of it online, said anonymously on various websites that have come under fire in the past for promoting anonymous bullying (in my case, formspring) and some also said by me- and a lot of things were done - this time, mainly to me, and not always at school (one thing that sticks out the most is walking past the group on my way to meet my friends, and being slammed up against a building and threatened) - till it got to the point where I was having really bad panic attacks every morning, and refused to go into school - in fact, at one stage I was getting dressed in my uniform and pretending to go to school, then just getting a bus into town and hanging round the shops and internet cafes until it was time to go home again (I probably would have got away with this for a lot longer if my head of year hadn't called home asking why I was never in school...oops)
My parents got called in for meetings, and so did I. In one meeting, they put me in a room with the people who were bullying me and they thought that would help sort it...in fact, it made it worse (which I always knew it would.) In another instance, they said they were referring me for counselling, which baffled me, and then when I arrived the counsellor proceeded to list off what was supposedly wrong with me, instead of asking me why I thought I was there, and then they wondered why I sat there angrily ignoring what they had to say for the rest of the session - maybe because I didn't appreciate being told it was my fault I was being bullied because I was "a loner who didn't try to fit in and make friends, and who has a history of self harm". (Just to clarify, none of the above was true. I had some other people at school who I hung out with instead, and I didn't self harm, so I have no idea where any of that "information" about me came from)
So, in the end, after a lot of meetings that went nowhere, panic attacks and a LOT of stress that could have been avoided, I ended up dropping out of school, only going back in to sit my GCSE exams.
So, some of the main points I want to make are -
1. Tell someone if you're being bullied. Not every school will be as useless as mine were, and when I told my parents, I thought they'd be annoyed at me, but luckily they were really understanding and supportive, and were there with me every step of the way. There are also a lot of organisations you can call if you'd prefer, such as Childline.
2. If you're being bullied online or via text, make sure you keep a record of what's happening - take a lot of screenshots, etc - and never respond. If you ignore it, hopefully they'll get bored if there's no retaliation, and will stop. If it gets really bad, however, go to someone you trust, or even the police, and take all your evidence with you. Also, try and avoid sites where you can ask things anonymously , or if you do join up to one, disable the option for people to ask things anonymously.
3. It didn't help me, personally, but counselling or speaking to someone may help you. For me, what worked best was writing down how I was feeling, and speaking to my parents about it. Bottling everything up inside is dangerous.
So, there you have it. If you, or anyone you know, are getting bullied, speak out now, before it gets worse. I know it's scary, and I know you may feel like a tattletale, but it's better to get it out in the open than to keep it bottled up inside, and feeling like it's all your fault.
I really hope this helps! Also, please feel free to message me if you feel like you'd like to talk to someone who's been through it all - I know what it's like to feel alone and like you have no one to turn to. (firstname.lastname@example.org)