I was bullied for a very long time. By that I mean the from around the age of 11 until I was 16, which happens to coincide with the time I was at secondary school. I was relatively lucky at my primary school, I don't actually recall a single case of bullying. I'm sure it went on, but I think the teachers nipped it in the bud so quickly it was as though it had never happened.
I've always been rather.... young, I guess, for my age. I don't want to say immature, because in many ways I'm not, but I've always been rather childlike in lots of ways, and I remember going up to secondary school without an awful lot of fear. I'd asked for my best friend from primary school to be in my form, so I thought I'd at least have one person I knew with me. She was very similar to me, and although I'm not too sure whether she kept them for very long after we started secondary school, I knew she had Barbies and teddies that she still loved and played with, like me. I thought everything about my new school would going to be just like primary school, just bigger, and that included my vision of the pupils. I was wrong. The girls here weren't just bigger, they also smoked and swore and talked about boys. I quickly realised I was out of my depth and learned not to make any reference to my large collection of Beanie Babies or the new "Rain Fun" Barbie, with whom I had gotten a free umbrella.
My first year at secondary school was rather disjointed, in that I started in the September of 1999 and my Dad died, suddenly at work, on the 10th of January 2000. I was (somewhat expectedly) away from school for a couple of weeks, but I remember the day I went back more clearly than I remember anything else about those two weeks. Walking up the ramp to my demountable (portakabin, whatever you want to call it), a guy who was in my form, a guy who'd never spoken to me before, said hello to me. I remember stopping and staring at him, wondering what I'd done to deserve a greeting. I later found out from one of my friends from primary school that my teacher had told the class what had happened and that I needed everyone to be nice to me.
This is when it starts to get a little more complicated.
See, I don't know if it was BECAUSE of this that the bullying started. I don't know if it was because I'd been pointed out as different by a teacher, or whether it would have happened anyway. I don't know if it's because I was plump. (I say was. I still am, but that's another blog.) I don't even know exactly when it started. All I know is that at some point during the first month or so after my Dad's death, I became prime target for anyone with some shit to spout or a punch to throw. I quickly lost the few friends that I'd taken with me from primary school (all bar one girl, who stuck by me and was also bullied), and was abandoned by the one friend I'd made in the months before my Dad had died. (This girl later became the first girl in my year to have a baby, she was pregnant at 15. I kind of dodged a bullet really.)
Whatever the reason people had decided to pick on me, once they'd started, it was relentless. I don't remember a day I wasn't called a name and/or punched or kicked. I only remember answering back on one occasion: A girl (who shall remain nameless in this blog but whose name I will remember until the day I die) walked into the classroom and made a fairly usual passing comment about my weight. To this I responded with "Well, I can lose weight, you'll always be ugly." It was the stupidest thing I ever did. She came up behind me and bounced my head off of the desk. I never answered back again.
I decided instead to take the totally opposite route and almost disappear into my work. I started skipping P.E. to do extra work in textiles, I stayed behind after my last classes of the day to ask questions, and I spent my breaks in the library. Lunch times and the walk between classes were the only times I couldn't really hide. It was one lunchtime that the worst thing I experienced happened: I was kneeling down by my locker, getting my lunch, when someone (to this day I don't know who) decided to aim a swift kick at my head. My head hit the lockers so hard my glasses bent in half. I remember going to the reception and calmly asking to ring my Mum to come and collect my glasses to get them fixed for me. I can't remember whether I told her what had actually happened. I didn't tell her much of what went on, there didn't seem to be an awful lot of point, and the teachers, when I bothered to tell them, were useless. The only solution they could come up with was to sit me in a room with the bullies and remove all parental/adult control. Unsurprisingly, I refused this. They would've killed me.
But do you know what? I never missed a day of school. I never let them see me cry. I came out of that place with 12 GCSEs. I went on to college. I went on to uni. I came into my own, and became the person I am now.
They didn't break me. They never could have. For all they called me, all they kicked me, punched me, pushed me down the stairs. They COULDN'T break me. If anything, they did me a favour. They helped to make me even more determined to stay true myself. If I'd been friends with them, who knows where I'd be now. Cutting hair? Going home to six kids by different dads? On the dole? No thanks.
I'll take my plump body and my crappy cardigan shop and my degree and sit here looking fucking smug, thank you.
If anyone who's reading this is being bullied, the most important thing I can say to you is please remain true to yourself. If you've told the teachers and your parents and no-one seems to do anything (hopefully that won't happen, but just in case), just put your head down and carry on. If people don't like you for who you are, the chances are they're jealous. Or small minded. Or both. But you will come out the other side, and when you do you'll be a stronger and better person for it. Don't let them win. They don't deserve to win.
I would genuinely rather have had five years of feeling like crap and come out the person I am today than have had five years of feeling like the big man and be unhappy with my life.