To my bullies,
You are just a child, only 8 years old. You don’t realise that leaving me out will start the eternal circle of feeling worthless. I forgive you, and I hope you never suffer like I have.
It has taken me a long time to realise this, but from that moment I was in a cycle of hating myself, blaming myself for not fitting in, scared to talk about it because it would be my fault anyway and it would only make things worse. You were just a child, you didn’t realise the impact of your behaviour. You didn’t see me screaming that I wouldn’t go to school, crying from Sunday night because I didn’t want to go, holding onto lamp-posts and hiding behind fences terrified that I would be left out again or made to feel like an ugly horrible child. I was told I was fat, smelly, stupid, ugly; made to feel so scared that I once wet myself in the classroom. By now, still just 10 years old.
I was a child, I didn’t know that you would forget you had said these things as soon as you left school. You didn’t realise that, because of you, I would cause my parents even more stress and heartbreak when they themselves were so close to breaking. When we went to high school, I hoped it would change and had gotten excited but I will never ever forget my first day. At the time, I did not know what was happening to me but half way there, suddenly I was struck by an overwhelming sense of fear: I couldn’t breathe, I felt sick, my body started to shake, the world was spinning around me and I was crying uncontrollably. I stood on the hill having what I now know was my first ever panic attack, something that I have never spoken about before.
I was only a child, I did not know what was happening or that the years of being teased had now left a scar. A scar that would now regularly be reopened in a way that would leave me unable to move, stood frozen to the spot. I don’t remember her name, but an older girl calmed me down and we walked to school together that day – I wonder if she knew how much she helped me? Those next few years were like hell on earth in my little world. I suppose my face just didn’t fit. I was repeatedly told I was fat. I remember one day someone shouting “wobble wobble look at those thighs”. I tried everything I could: I swapped classes, wore makeup but that made me a ‘slag’. By now, I was already hiding my meals in bags and sneaking them into the bin, making myself sick whenever I could but it wasn’t enough. You carried on pushing and pushing until finally I was physically attacked. To you it was a scuff with the fat slag, to me it was a whole lot more.
I was broken, scared and felt very alone. I had already had missed so much at school by now so there was no way I would catch up. Lessons were a no-go. I was in a center at the back of the school, escorted to the canteen early to avoid the crowds and, with the help of teaching assistants and an educational psychiatrist, I managed to scrape a few low grade GCSE exams.
After that, I was never the same. I had spent so long being told how fat, ugly and worthless I was that I now knew it had to be true. I mean – it had to be – so many people were saying it well, that’s what I thought then. So, I bet you can guess what happened next? Yep, I got myself into something that I would live to regret for a long time. I was 16, I had no qualifications, no self-esteem and a habit of making myself sick when I had eaten even a small meal. I hated myself but then I met a man who told me he loved me. He loved me so much that I made myself love him – what chance did someone like me have of finding someone who loved me? I held on with both hands!! We moved in together, got engaged and by 19 I was married. I was never truly in love, I just wanted to be loved. Another great big reminder of the years of bulling.
A year into our marriage I started a new job and this was when things got interesting. Suddenly, I was taught how to defend myself; I was standing my ground, becoming stronger, growing up and opening my eyes! Finally, I was starting to get a piece of myself back, but this spelt the end of my relationship. I don’t know how it happened but I finally realised the truth. I knew I had to end things for my own sanity. I think now, looking back, it was always on the cards.
Then, it started again. You would always find me wouldn’t you. I could never truly be free. You may have a different mask on but you are all the same, you make yourself feel better by making others feel worse. So, three years in to my perfect job which I loved I was once again hiding away from the bullies. I tried to go back, but every time I tried the scar was reopened: I panicked and I quit – you won again.
Luckily for me, I had my ace card. You see in-between leaving my ex and leaving my job, I had actually found myself. I had felt good and been exercising. I was happy and that led to meeting my wonderful soulmate. This man has picked me up so many times I have lost count, he had supported me through leaving my job and has made me see exactly what real love is, what it felt like to be happy. He wasn’t going to give up on me so I wouldn’t either!
Since then, I have built myself a career and a successful business, I married the man of my dreams, I am a mum to two gorgeous boys and I have so very, very much to be thankful for. BUT you were still in my mind weren’t you, telling me how worthless I was, how fat and disgusting I was, reminding me that I am a bad mum, wife, sister or daughter. You see, your scars they will always be there.
I sought help this time – the professional kind. I had CBT, counselling and medication and things settled down. For a time, things plodded along and I forgot about those scars; they were visible but only if you looked hard enough, I thought they always would be until now. Now I get it. I get the root of my depression was those early days. I get that you had no idea that your words to a child in her third year of primary school would go on to form a cycle that lasted into her twenties. I am now at peace with my body and that I will always struggle with my weight. I have finally reached a stage in my life where I don’t care what you think of me in. I am stronger than I have ever been and now, like a lion, I no longer lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. I have made peace with life.
At last I can finally be free to be whoever or whatever I want to be. I am a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter, a friend and a success. You can no longer bring me down because I no longer fear you or your words. My true love for my children has taken over and they are all that matters in my world. I will do anything I can to protect them from the things that broke me.
Infact, that is why I am writing this. Soon our children will be going to school where they will be forming the foundations for the rest of their lives. Where they will learn things good and bad from each other. But it is down to us to teach them first, if my words have even the slightest effect on you, then please talk to your children. Tell them that they may not have lots of friends but that they can, and will, still be a success. Teach them that they don’t have to like everybody but that we must think before we say mean things. Explain that mean words can make people feel sad for a long time even when we forget we said them. Show them that just like an apple that is thrown to the floor over and over again, things may appear fine on the outside but if you look hard enough the bruises are easy to see.
You were just a child – so I beg you to please teach yours.
This post was written by Janette Hughes.
If you’ve been affected by bullying, you can find more information here: http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk