Even though over thirty years have passed, but I still remember my first day at secondary school (high school) there we were eleven years old the newbies all waiting in the hall looking at old friends wondering if we’d all be in the same class, but excited as well.
We all came from junior schools from across the borough and I can see her now as she walked across to our group just a regular girl, she gave us all the once over, and walked up to me and said “you really think your something special and I don’t like you” I can feel the sting of her words my uniform was slightly different and she spotted it and now so did the others, she walked away.
That really put a damper on my day but it was also the first time I felt really afraid of another person, I don’t know why but I knew with a certainty that this would just continue.
Anyway as that first week progressed this girl sought me out at every opportunity, and always had something nasty to say, what made it worse we were all knew and I was now in a class with different people therefore no support and everyday I was fearful of what she might say.
Schools at that time didn’t have anti bullying policies like they do now so you really had to grin and bear or fight back, but it’s hard to fight against another’s unreasonable dislike which as it turned out went beyond the playground.
Looking in the mirror everyday trying to find what was so different about me, or trying to change the way I walked, talked, music I listened to, but it made no difference at all and when your that age it’s just so important to fit in and be like everybody else.
The physical attacks started about two years later, at first just nudges here and there or threats to hit me so I’d flinch and look and feel weak and helpless which of course I did, she isolated all but two friends, and those who she brought over to her side also now began to bully me for a myriad of reasons, but I knew it was because they were afraid it would happen to them.
The worse thing about it was I just couldn’t tell anybody, I was alone with this fear, a terrible all-consuming fear that was always at the forefront of my mind, my nerves shot as I never knew when the next verbal or physical attack would come from, I did try to fight back and a once or twice I even got the better of her, but after school with her gang they’d be waiting and I never stood a chance.
They even followed me home, well chased me home, again I could taste my fear, almost hysterical with relief as I shut the front door, most of all my school moments were marred by this person, and her control over me, every happy moment was short-lived as I looked around to see if she was lurking ready to spoil the moment, even better when she was off sick and I could relax.
I asked her once “why” and you know she laughed and said “because she could and what could I do about it, wow big statement from a fourteen year old, I replied that wasn’t a reason, again she shrugged off and said “do something about if you don’t like it” what was I supposed to do with that.
Even as I write this my fingers are trembling and I’m making lots of typos, but simply because it’s hard to talk about and seeing my feelings in writing doesn’t bring relief, but further evidence that were all vunerable, and I loathe that feeling even though it’s natural, but to me it’s a sign of weakness for another to exploit.
Well this bullying carried on until I got my mother involved and the teachers, sitting there in the headmasters office shaking from head to toe telling him about fours years of torment, the looks on their faces, is what surprised me the most, and you could tell that they had noticed and ignored it, not that they were waiting for me to tell them not even they could make that work.
My mother threatened with them with the school governors, well not a threat she knew the head honcho, and the headmaster took action that day and things stopped for a while and for the first time I didn’t feel uneasy about being at school and even the others began to quietly apologise which I accepted because I just wanted to fit in and be left alone.
It did start-up again but this time she had less power, and fewer people wanted to join in and I also began to stand my ground more often and enjoyed it too, finding that inner strength as something inside just said enough! and if really honest I love her look of uncertainty when saw I wasn’t going to back down, but it’s not in me to take advantage like that it was enough to know that I could fight my battles.
That’s the other aspect once I decided I was never going to be bullied again it became my mantra and I stood up to everyone after that, even when not necessary I didn’t want to be powerless and it took many years to learn that I didn’t need to be super aggressive to fight my corner, I was no longer that eleven year old girl on her first day of school,
I think that’s why I became such an advocate for anyone being bullied, the pain was too much to watch, and watching even grown up bullies in action made it so much worse.
But I will say you can find the strength to stop it, and I wish I’d told someone much sooner, that being done I was no longer isolated, it’s along road to travel but I made it I felt like David thwarting Goliath, until it happened again as an adult but that’s another story for another time.