Hello there! I have been working with OTR’s anti-bullying group STRIVE for the past eight months as a Peer Mentor and all the young people are amazingly strong, honest and even more mature than I was at their age. As it is Anti-Bullying month, I thought I’d share my own experience of bullying and pass on some of the things I’ve learned along the way…
Imagine it’s September 2004 and it’s your first day at secondary school. Your mum takes an embarrassing obligatory school photo; a small girl with thick curly blonde hair, green blazer and braces. Yep, that’s 11 year old me. In many ways, I don’t know exactly why I was singled out for being bullied. Maybe it was the way I spoke; the way I looked, the way I acted. Who knows? Why me?
I’m sure you guys have often asked those questions about yourselves as well. I never asked to be bullied. The truth is that it only took one look for my bullies to decide that I was worth attacking; because I was really sensitive as a young person, they could get a reaction out of me and they could see the vulnerability.
After coping and putting up with it for so long I ended up recording every single incident by keeping a log book of everything; gathering evidence to show the teachers and my school itself and ultimately fighting back. The worst thing that can happen is for teachers or the school to victim-blame. Therefore detailed notes, photos, screenshots and video evidence can all help. I would encourage any young person to do this. Don’t be afraid to confide in your family, friends and any teachers that you know you can trust.
It’s also important that you not only do this but to make time for yourself. Self-care can be really valuable and this can be anything from cooking, playing games, watching a box set or walking the dog, anything basically (bingeing out on junk TV and drinking loads of tea was my thing). I also recommend plenty of sleep as it’s important to recharge your batteries as bullying can drain a load of emotional energy. Plus, who doesn’t love a comfy bed or sofa?!
Plus, don’t be afraid to switch off from social media every once in a while. We seem to spend endless hours scrolling through news feeds, stories and timelines and then get bombarded with all sorts of harassment and abuse from our bullies. Don’t forget to report it to the social media sites but please don’t be afraid to confide in someone. It can feel as though we can’t escape the bullying; so not only is it important to take action but talking to someone you trust can be the most effective tool in getting through it. Sometimes we need to mentally recharge our brains, take some time out away from the online world and that’s okay too. 🙂
At lunchtime, I used to spend time in the music department and in the library to help get away from the bullying. These places helped with my sanity and gave me a safe space to stay when I felt there was nowhere else I could turn to for help. I had music lessons that used to take me out of class for half an hour to an hour each Monday, which also gave me much needed respite away from the bullying. Don’t let the bullies control what you love to do; focus on your passions and any other hobbies that you might have. Use all of that energy as a positive outlet for any negative thoughts and feelings, and throw yourselves into it! For me, it was music and performing arts and not only did it make me feel positive, it made the bullies jealous because I didn’t care what they thought and I was not going to let them win. There were always teachers or other staff members around for back up and I didn’t feel like I was in any immediate danger, which was really important. It’s good to find a place where you feel comfortable enough to hang out and chill without having to worry or be in fear.
I gained a lot more confidence over time and it made me realise that I am a lot more emotionally resilient than I thought. Eventually, my school took the necessary action including providing me with a school counsellor and I moved tutor groups where I was no longer involved or in contact with my bullies. I made new friends, my mental health improved and I was able to move on from the experience. Bullying has had a lasting impact on me and it’s not something you can easily forget, but I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t have gone through those things. For those of you who are currently experiencing or affected by bullying, you guys continue to amaze me. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. It’s important to recognise that we are all human and you are never alone.
If you feel that you need support or someone to talk to, come along to OTR’s Hubs at Old Market every Monday (4-7pm) and Saturday (10-1pm) and to find out more about STRIVE and other services OTR offers. 🙂