So this week is anti bullying week, and I wanted write something about bullying, because more than anything it is a cause very close to my heart. I believe that there is still so much more we can do to tackle bullying to make school and work environments, safer and happier places to be.
I have a long history of being bullied throughout school, some of it was dealt with well and some not so well. I was bullied for being different, for not fitting into the ‘norm’ and because people didn’t understand me. In primary school I endured the physical kinds of bullying- people used to easily push me over, as I struggled with my balance and coordination due to my Dyspraxia. Many times I’d attempt to join in with the playground games, to try and be included and part something. I remember one craze that swept my primary school, I’m not sure if other schools followed our lead- I hope not because looking back it wasn’t a very exciting game- but at the time we loved it. Or at least I tried to love it because it seemed like the kind of thing that eight year olds had to enjoy. I hated it really. We called this game ‘yucks.’ To play all you needed was a tennis ball, the ability to throw a ball far and catch it when it was thrown towards you. If you are familiar with Dyspraxia you will understand how for me this would have been like trying to navigate yourself up an unfamiliar mountain, without a map and with your legs tied together. The game also required a bit of competitiveness- another thing I struggled to find due to my upbringing in Woodcraft Folk and belief in all things cooperative. Nethertheless I gave it a go. To start playing ‘yucks’ you had to be in two teams, now considering people used to avoid sitting next to the ‘weird’ girl on the carpet, asking people to actively want me to be in their team was probably a step too far. So I used to just join a group without really being accepted into any of the teams, or even the game. I used to hear ‘ergh’ as if I was some disgusting snail from another planet. And ‘she can’t play, she can’t catch a ball’ or ‘Alice can’t see, I can see better than you’ whilst mimicking my uncoordinated movements. How do you feasibly deal with this as an eight year old? I still don’t know the answer to that question- but at the time I just got on with it, tried to ignore them and continued to be me. Looking back that was quite a good policy to adopt at such a young age.
When a game of ‘yucks’ took place, the tennis ball was thrown from one side of the yard to the other. The two teams occupied different sides of the yard. As the ball headed towards your side, there was a mad rush to get the ball as quickly as you could. I don’t recall many other rules than that. I remember running for the ball, with the rest of my team who I forced to have me, being pushed out of the way and trampled on when I was on the ground, as there was a kind of rugby scrum to get to the ball. On more than one occasion I badly injured my knees as I fell to the ground, unable to keep my balance or get away from the mob of children running towards me. I was often bewildered by this behaviour, I didn’t understand why they hated me so much and I didn’t understand why I was different. I blamed myself at first- I believed that I was the problem, as is sadly a common belief of young people who go through bullying. I was even more bewildered when the teachers dismissed my complaints of being bullied, as for some reason they had the warped view that because of my special educational needs I was incapable of voicing an opinion- although in this case it wasn’t even opinion, it was fact. However I was also so determined to see school through, to prove people wrong and overcome the many barriers. I used my resilient nature and drive to succeed in achieving this.
As well as being bullied physically, I was also bullied emotionally- this for me was the worst kind of bullying I encountered because it really attacks at your self esteem. I challenge anyone who stands by this sticks and stones nonsense, because words can really hurt you and I find it unlikely that anyone who believes in that saying has ever been bullied themselves. As I grew up I began to challenge people, question things and look for answers. I didn’t really find many answers at the time, but I still kept looking. I wanted the teachers to listen to me, and find out what I wanted. I had a couple of failed mediation attempts in secondary school to solve the bullying, because the teachers lacked the understanding to know what was important to me. The best kind of anti bullying policy- is to talk to the young people, those that are bullied at school and those that aren’t- to get their opinions and advice about what would make them happier at school, to create an anti bullying policy that is essentially written by the young people themselves. Growing up all I wanted was to be listened to, and I’m sure that many young people today feel the same.
I feel so strongly about the issue of anti bullying because I know if it isn’t tackled right and early on, the affects of bullying can really have an impact on adult life. According to young minds 55% of children who experienced bullying will go on to develop mental health problems as adults. This is an incredibly worrying and sad statistic. There is also evidence to suggest that young people or adults with a disability are more likely to go on to develop a psychiatric condition than those without a disability. Part of the issue, is dispelling the myth that being different makes you odd and naturally makes you a target- because it shouldn’t. As a child I was ashamed of who I was- I’m not so much now, because I’ve began to meet people who have dealt with similar challenges and overcome them- just like I have done. Bullying also takes many new forms now, with the rise of cyber bullying, that thankfully wasn’t around when I was growing up- but is a real concern for our young people today. As Cyber bullying is such a new addition to society- more research needs to be done so that we can understand it, and deal with it in an effective and sensitive way- again listening to young people would be an appropriate starting point here.
The best way to deal with bullying is to talk about it- bottling it up will often make it worse. Then if things get really bad, to get a good councillor or therapist. I decided to write about my experiences of bullying in this blog, that I don’t think I’ve ever covered as honestly as I have done here because bullying can really change or destroy lives- and supporting people to overcome these feelings of isolation is so important to me. It can make life unbearable, if it isn’t challenged in time. Personally over the last year writing this blog has kept me sane, it has been my antidepressant, as I have recently discovered that even as an adult you’re still not safe from bullying. Finding a good CBT lady helped too, but the best therapy for me has been to write. When I found it difficult to get motivated, I turned to my keyboard. Anxiety is always going to be there, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time, I’m starting to meet really exciting people who understand, are supportive and certainly don’t judge you like the bullies do at school- it’s a learning curve but it can be a positive one and it does get better. Just remember to talk about it and to take up a hobby.