Bullying – A Tale of Survival

Note : This blog post is very open and may be upsetting for some readers.
If you do take the time to read it, please leave a comment. Thank you

At some point this year there is going to be my secondary school reunion, I won’t be showing up.

For me, secondary school was a literal hell, and although I’ve touched on the subject before, I’ve never dived head first into it and explained exactly what it was like for me, well now I am.

  • Imagine being humiliated every day for 5 years.
  • Imagine being physically assaulted at least once a week.
  • Imagine people making up things about you that are so ridiculously untrue but still everyone believes everyone else.
  • Imagine spending many of your lunch breaks hiding in places around the school so that you couldn’t be found.
  • Imagine the teachers joining in with the taunts during lessons.
  • Imagine having somebody stub a cigarette out on your neck and then kicking you onto the floor and then riding over you with their bike.
  • Imagine many people watching these things happening and either laughing or keeping quiet when you need them to say what you saw.
  • Imagine drawing pins being put on your chair regularly so that when you sat down the pin would pierce your skin but you knew that if you reacted you would get a kicking later for speaking out about it.
  • Imagine being made to sit at the front of the class because you were the “Problem Child” and then turned into a human target for spit, spit-balls and anything that could be thrown.
  • Imagine that after helping a puppy back to a garden it had escaped from, being suspended from school because people thought it would be funny to say that the dog was kicked and thrown like a rugby ball.
  • Imagine having your things stolen from your bag and broken/set alight via Bunsen burner/thrown in puddles.
  • Imagine the headmistress of the school blaming you for it all.

I started Netherhall Secondary School in 1995, I had left my primary school and was really looking forward to starting at “Big School”, I’d been school shopping with my mum the day before and she bought me a new school bag, pencil-case and the usual gubbins needed for school, I was so proud of my new things – I was going to love big school!

I turned up to the concrete area outside of the lower school (years 7-9) and looked around for people I was at primary school with, their was a few I recognised but not anyone I’d been friends with at the previous school, all my friends had gone to St Bede’s (another secondary school), so I felt a little scared but as long as there was some familiar faces I should be ok, Big School would be great, I’d make new friends, I mean why wouldn’t I?

Once all of the brand new year 7 pupils had filled the grounds the form tutors appeared and started to read out the names of the forms and the pupils in each form, I misheard my name and followed the form, Form 7Q. Form 7Q were really nice people and I was lucky to know one of the boys in the class already as our mothers were best friends! Great! I started to get to know my form and really started to ease in to big school, when suddenly another form tutor, Miss Powell (7Y), knocked on the door and let herself in and started to chat to my form tutor, Mr Munro. I saw them both looking over at me and pointing and then was told that I was in the wrong form and that Miss Powell was my form tutor and I was actually meant to be with Form 7Y.

Although I was annoyed that I wasn’t in 7Q any more, I thought to myself that 7Y would be nice too, right? WRONG!

After walking what seemed like miles, from the art rooms of 7Q to the top floor maths room of 7Y, we arrived and Miss Powell introduced me and told me to sit down, she then disappeared, probably to let the school know I’d been found and properly filed. I tried to see if there was anyone I’d notice in the class – there was, a few boys from my school, I’d never talked to them really but I thought I’d say hi and ask them what they thought of the school. They blanked me, I tried talking to some of the new people, some people looked at me and then didn’t respond, why were they doing this? I decided to keep quiet for a bit and fill out my planner with the timetable of lessons, I was looking forward to my 2 first lessons, Maths and Drama.

I went to put my pen back in my pencil-case and realised it wasn’t in my bag, I heard laughing from the table across the room and then as I turned to look over in the direction of the laughing I felt my pencil-case flying into my face at full pelt, I then realised that my face and pencil-case were covered in fountain pen ink and the pencil-case was ripped. I looked around to see if I could see how had thrown it but I couldn’t tell. I felt myself tearing up, but i forced back the tears, I would wait until the teacher came back into the room and I would tell her.

She walked into the classroom and before I had a chance to tell her what had happened she bellowed “You stupid boy, what have you done? Go and wash your face and hands and then you can wash down the table afterwards!”

All this on a first day…

Day after day the bullying routines grew in size, strength and frequency, on the odd occasion I would have a lighter day but most days seemed to be filling with taunts, being pushed in to the lockers, my blazer spat on, hair set fire to…the list goes on.

Throughout school I kept diaries, something I have done since I was about 8 and in these I would spill my heart and my tears into the pages, pouring out my emotions and anger at how I was being treated, I didn’t tell anybody else, I think after a while I believed that I deserved what was happening to me and that asking for help wouldn’t work, I mean what could they do?

I still to this day cannot revisit those diaries. I’m 10,000 times stronger than I was back then but I think that if I was to read them I would get angry, very angry, angry at the fact that they got away with such a non-stop evil barrage of abuse, I know who they are and what they did and I could never forgive them.

In year 9 I fell off of the swings at my local park and broke my humerus, there were people from my school at the park at the time that knew where I lived and I begged and pleaded with them to fetch my mum, they didn’t, they pointed and gathered and laughed at me for 45 agonising minutes before one of the must have had a soul, however black, and decided to get my mum which soon made everyone disappear, after a time away from school recovering from the broken humerus I returned, and what was the first thing that happened that day? Somebody that had been there when I had broken my arm walked past me and punch my arm so hard that I swore it was broken again, luckily it wasn’t but it was bruised for weeks afterwards.

Again in year 9, I was excluded from school after I reacted against the bullying during a lesson, I had picked up a chair and thrown it across the room, even with the total raw anger and despair flowing through my veins at the time, I knew that I wasn’t going to throw it at anyone, I directed it at the wall, I wanted to get out of there, out of the school, I really couldn’t cope with it any more – I began to have lessons with a man called Mr Sawyer, a gentleman of around 50-60 that would be my teacher for 2 days a week, not enough really but it was teaching nonetheless so I was happy, I wanted to learn, I craved it.

The first week or so the teaching went well, and then Mr Sawyer decided that he would use my time as an opportunity to shop for bathroom appliances for his wife, I didn’t say anything, I was a very different person to the guy most of you know nowadays, I wouldn’t speak up if I was upset, I would just deal with it, that is what I felt was my place, I had no right to speak out.

After the on/off teaching methods of Mr Sawyer I got invited back to school, I returned just after everybody had chosen their options, options were the lessons that you wanted to study in year 10-11 towards GCSE, I knew what I wanted to do so I filled out my form for Food Technology, Child Development and Drama and was promptly told and given History, Economics and German…I was really disappointed that I hadn’t been given the choices earlier, but left until the end, a lost cause.

Years 10-11 were bad, I had gained a few friends but the friendships were often fickle and broken by people’s lies, not all of them but a high percentage for sure.

My hour lunch breaks usually involved walking around the school aimlessly, hoping that I wouldn’t be picked on by anyone or hiding in the library in the corner, away from windows and doors, unseen.

The bullying during school caused me to comfort eat, and I comfort ate a lot, I was very overweight and very unhappy.

In year 10 I walked to the park near my house and stepped through the wire fence towards the train track, in my heart and my head I thought that there was no way out but to let that train take me away from it all, I made my down the hill towards the track, I could hear the train getting closer and closer, this was it, this was how it was all going to end…when suddenly I found myself rugby tackled across the other side of the tracks by a random passer-by, the train was literally seconds away from me and he had acted so fast that he saved my life, but out of anger I ran away from him and never got his name.

Year 11 was the year I found a way out of school, I would stay on the bus, I wouldn’t get off at the school stop, I would stay seated and get the bus into town and spend my day in the library, the library had the internet and I would read things about body language, something I wanted to be able to read and it became my little form of escape. I made sure I got the bus that would join up at the school on the way home so that I was still on the school route home at the right time so that no-one would know, and it worked for a while until the school realised that I wasn’t coming in, I refused to go in, I couldn’t do it.

Eventually after much aggravation I returned to school, I went in on the second before last day of school and was told by the headmaster that I wasn’t to come in on my last ever day.

The day I was set free from the vilest people I’ve ever come into contact with.

I got my GCSE’s and planned to got to college to study child development but the college messed up the application and I was told I would have to wait until next year to apply, I didn’t bother and decided to get myself a job and with that came the weight loss, the return of my self-confidence, the ability to smile and the bursting out of the closet, but that’s all for another blog!

22 thoughts on “Bullying – A Tale of Survival

  • 29th June 2010 at 10:38 pm
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    I don’t really have anything to comment other than to let you know I read it to the end. I recognise so much of what you said. I was at school almost 20 years before you and it shows how little had changed despite the major social changes which had happened in the meantime. I’m glad you managed to find your way through to the other side and have built what seems to be a happy and complete life. I’m not so sure I was as lucky.

    Despite it all, though, unlike yourself I think I WILL be attending the reunion that’s being planned for next year. Heck, I’m even marginally involved in organising it!

    (P.S. take a look at your colour options – comment text colour is almost the same as the background of this box and I can see nothing I’ve typed unless i highlight it!)

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    • 29th June 2010 at 11:04 pm
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      Thank you for reading it all Mr Plum, I have updated the text colours now too 🙂

      I wanted to share my story because I never want anyone to go through what I did

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  • 30th June 2010 at 7:19 am
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    Thank you for sharing this! Bullying, especially of gay kids, is still all too common, and for far too many gay kids, there’s no one there to “rugby tackle” them when the bulling becomes to much. Suicide is he leading cause of death for GLBT youth in the US, Britain and many other countries. Sure, bullying is worse in some places, better in others, but the fact that it exists anywhere is inexcusable.

    I hope that some young kid who is now going through what you went through will see this post and discover they’re not alone, that there IS hope. You may, in other words, have just given someone else a “rugby tackle”.

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  • 30th June 2010 at 9:08 am
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    I was bullied at school as well, though not to the extent you were. What saddens me to this day are those teachers who would both join in and almost encourage the others to bully people. I remember one guy once saying “whoever theought he’d be good at something.”

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  • 30th June 2010 at 8:47 pm
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    I’m survivor of bulling. I was beaten up ,humiliated and daily in school for approximately 5-7 times in school and then at home by my mother who I was her punching bag since I was 4.
    So I know because I been trough it, there is nothing anybody on this planet can do that can ease the pain. No matter how much time you tell people your painful story it’s not helping.

    I know what you feel because I feel same things.This haunt us for every day every hour every minute every second of our life until day we die.
    You have to be strong. There is good and bad days.
    Think about good times never look back, never good back.

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  • 30th June 2010 at 9:57 pm
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    Hey, can I just say that I have massive respect for you for writing a full account of this, I hope that one of your ex-teachers read this and say how sorry they were for treating you that way when you were in fact the one getting bullied and not putting pen on yourself or throwing chairs across classrooms for no reason.

    I was never bullied seriously at secondary school (there was the odd comment about my weight) but I had a miserable time until year 10 when i finally made friends. I even thought about a way out the way you did a couple of times. I know this is nothing compared to what you went through but it definitely is a good thing to get it out of your system and talk about it in a public setting like this. You have an amazing dose of courage and well done for getting it out there.

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  • 30th June 2010 at 10:55 pm
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    WOW. i’m sorry any response just seems stupid, following that, but thank you for enlightening me, revealing my ignorance, i thought my school days were bad. i can’t believe the extent of absuse, you went thru, esp the teachers being part of it! how strong you must be to survive it. i just wanted to say i read it all the way thru, and am very glad yr still here, because you seem absolutely fab. XXX

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  • 1st July 2010 at 1:45 am
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    Wow. I read it all the way through too. You have a lot of resilience and some good luck to have made it through to where you are.

    I started following you several years ago (on some of your vidcasts & flickr) and it’s been great to see you change over time. I’m glad you found the diary can be a great confidante.

    Thank your for sharing. I bet it feels like a weight off just to put it out there in public and get all the supportive feedback – and yes. Your post may be the tackle someone else needs to help them in their despair.

    Now the trick is to figure out how to change the system for future kids….

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  • 2nd July 2010 at 6:12 am
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    I was bullied almost every single day for seven years. There was the occasional physical effort, but I hit two of them back and they stopped. But the verbal thing never stopped – the staff must have known about it and condoned it, and it was far too widespread to mention it to my parents. After all if the staff didn’t care, and it was basically the entire school, why should I try to get it stopped? It was a nasty all boys school whose ethos surely had an element of ‘it’ll make a man out of you’ as part of it – it could never simply fuck boys up for much of their lives, could it? I mean imagine if you were actually gay!

    In the years since I’ve been astonished at the people who’ve tried to make Facebook friends with me, as if nothing had ever happened, and equally shocked at the people who I remain quasi-friends with, some of whom joined in. The damage done by those 7 years destroyed any compassionate view I could have had of myself, set my ability to develop relationships back nearly a decade, and set up a coping mechanism which nearly destroyed my life. I’ll never stop hating that school, or those years.

    You’re a brave man for surviving, but also for admitting this story.

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  • 9th July 2010 at 7:32 am
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    Very moving, and saddening

    The important thing is that this is all in the past and its good to hear that you have moved on and can talk about it.

    well done

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  • 9th July 2010 at 7:09 pm
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    Well, i would just like to say a few things to you. i know that you must have been through hell. A lot more than most people. It must have been really hard for you to write about this, and share it with the world. I myself am in high and i get bullied all the time. Whether it be as simple a me having red hair, or as complex as people thinking I’m gay. When i am really just more sensitive. I have been bullied ever since i started school. in kindergarten. Honestly, I’m okay with it all. i may get made fun of and beat up and picked on, but its just high school. I have always been told that what you are in school will mean nothing once your in the real world. people don’t dwell on the past. My mom told me about how she was bullied in high school, and when she finally got the guts to go to her class reunion…people that bullied her, her entire life actually came up to her and apologized. People that didn’t apologize were actually failures in life. She said the most popular kids from high school ended up being balled at age 30 and had a terrible job, and were probably already divorced at least once.
    So i guess what i am saying is, go to your high school reunion and show everyone how successful you are now. people will respect you for showing up. Those years in your life are over now. Who knows? Some people might surprise you.
    I might being saying nonsense, but i just thought i would say something.
    email me if you would like to talk further. zacharydavidl@hotmail.com
    – Zachary –

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  • 25th July 2010 at 1:02 pm
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    I’ve just read this. It is so close to my story you wouldn’t believe.

    Even 20+ years on I still get shivers when I pass my old school.

    I still get embarrassed about things I had no control over when I was only 7.

    I left school early, no qualifications and no confidence.

    I am now a respected trainer in a large organisation – with letters after my name.

    No-one helped me.. I helped myself.

    I still have bitterness which I have to fight to overcome.

    I love you for being you and surviving, and for sharing, and for making me smile 🙂

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  • 16th August 2010 at 12:32 pm
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    First of all, thank you for sharing such a personal hurt with the world. I was also heavily bullied at school, and anytime I tried to do something about it I would get into trouble because I was the tallest and broadest in my year, “not knowing my own strength”.
    I agree with Zachary that you should go to the reunion and show everybody what a wonderful person you’ve become. Although you cant look back to your diaries, seeing how the bastards have fallen will be very therapeutic for you!

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  • 28th August 2010 at 5:32 pm
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    I’ve only just read your heartfelt memories of what can only be described as abominal bullying. I too was bullied throughout my secondary education and thought my experiences were bad but pale into insignificance compared with yours. It is a brave thing to write about such experiences and even braver to make them so public. Well done for sharing as it can only help others facing similar treatment.

    Much of my bullying was verbal although there was the occasional physical assault. I lost count of the times when all my books were removed from a desk or locker, other personal possessions hidden, being ridiculed in front of the class, and genersally treated as a whimp. Like you, my character at the time was more demure and I would seek refuge anywhere to escape my peers. Nowadays I stand up to be counted! One of the most horrifying occurrences was when the entire class was banished from the classroom during breaks. I sought permission to retrieve something from my desk, at which point a group of bullies barracaded me in the room by blocking the doow that opened outwards. In my frustration and anxiety I banged heavily on a glass pain, resulting in me putting my fist through the window and narrowly avoiding serious injury to my hand. The bullies disappeared so quickly that I was left to take the blame. On another occasion, my new bicycle was severely damaged after I’d saved for months to buy it. Fellow pupils used to hide outside the school and pounce on me as I left.

    Whilst I partially agree with an earlier comment that it might be good to attend a reunion to show the perpetrators what you have achieved and become, I must confess that I have never returned to my old school. All this happened many many years ago at a time when bullying was effectively denied by all in authority. Nowadays it is finally acknowledged but sadly, this appears to have made very little difference. Bullying of any kind either in school or the workplace is evil and in my opinion should be treated as a criminal offence.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  • 15th September 2010 at 6:41 pm
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    Thanks for sharing this story, I clicked like and also tweeted it so that others can read what happened too. I am glad you feel more confident but also not feeling confident enough to go to the reunion. I think you should go and also wear the brightest of colours, to show that you crave the attention and also be as camp as a row of tents.

    The bullies, well they are more than that….anyway, “they” are old enough now to be legally punished and I think you should really look into some legal compensation because I bet you have a case, despite how long ago it happened (I dont know your age).

    If you can be open about your sexuality in public then why can you not manage to get yer arse to the reunion to say FUQ 😉

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  • 5th October 2010 at 11:22 pm
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    I don’t have to imagine. I just have to remember. Was 10 yrs for me really – 8 – 18. Well 8 yrs admittedly – last 2 I’d found isolation & withdrawal the best policy – at least that way they had less to go on. I also de-camped/ escaped to the sanctuary of the town library – managed 1 1/2 wks before they realised & informed my parents. Yuck. Oh and it was a railway bridge instead (school was near railway hotspot. It was all going fine till someone started walking on to the bridge at the other end & I lost balance backwards rather than forwards – quite glad now really 🙂 ), and rather than overeating I discovered not eating was really good – the pain from hunger pangs really made you feel good in a warped way – like you were really punishing yourself (served you right for being useless). Sounds crazy now looking back – but it’s different when you’re in the zone.

    You do come out of it knowing a lot more about yourself & the pyschology of other people though & seems to make you strive to succeed. You also organise your life so you are not in the same position again……

    @Jason re Facebook friends – I just think they have no idea of the impact of what they do – it’s just fun for them at the time.

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  • 19th October 2010 at 8:50 pm
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    Pretty amazing that you’ve written all that down and it’s such a powerful message that this has to stop happening to people. I had a lot of similar (althought less severe) experiences at school myself and it’s really hard facing up to it but you get there I suppose. Chin up 🙂

    Reply
  • 19th October 2010 at 8:37 pm
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    Having taught in a secondary school in England, as I was reading this, I kept thinking back to my own classes, and the abuses and bullying I saw (and probably didn’t see that was going on behind my back). I can say I did my best to not allow it to happen in my classroom, but I know it occurred in the school.

    I join the chorus who say bravo and well done for surviving (even with help from an unknown soul). We love who you are today, and are glad your are still among us.

    Thank you for having the bravery to share this.

    Xx
    Thom (@ukthom on the twitterz)

    Reply
  • 19th October 2010 at 8:37 pm
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    I am aware that you had some problems T but this just makes me so incredibly angry !!

    It is totally beyond my comprehension that you could have been left to suffer so much by people who should have been there protecting you. It make s me feel so utterly ashamed to be a human being that your peers who saw what was going on did not support you during this time.

    This is a total and utter sad indictment upon our society which is becoming more and more feral and uncaring of anyone. I despair of our society and worry that nothing improves and stories such as this are becoming more and more common place.

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing !

    it is about time the good men woke up and started to challenge !!

    I can’t offer you more than total and complete support and I applaud the fact your have Survived ! I hope and pray that your will continue to grow and heal from these terrible experiences .

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  • 31st December 2010 at 10:59 am
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    Wow… I have followed you for a few years now. I like you had a difficult childhood and I feel like I got a more intamate look into your life now. Your very inteligent and attractive… Look how much better & Strong

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  • 11th April 2011 at 12:26 pm
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    to be honest man this brought me to tears because it brought back so many memories i had decided to forget for 5 years of my school life i was kicked and hit with shit literally everyday until it reached the point 4 months before my GCSE’s my parents had to pull me out of school now im in full time work as a supervisor and one of the guys who used to bully me is working under me. stay strong man shit gets better and better 🙂

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  • 29th June 2011 at 8:45 am
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    It wasn’t until last year when I met the guy who I think was the only one known to be gay at school and I found out what total hell his school years (and those immediately after it) were. He missed exams because he was threatened with violence (death sometimes). It was saddening to hear even though it was many years after the event.

    I knew there was bullying going on but never seen it. I thought it was more of the verbal name calling type things rather than physical violence. It wasn’t until my early twenties and after a lot of alcohol I mentioned that I might possibly be gay. I managed to convince myself that I was straight during my time at school even though I never had the urge to get a girlfriend. There must have been a lot of homophobic sentiment going round school for me to feel like that.

    Reply

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