Note : This blog post is very open and may be upsetting for some readers.
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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!