Friday, June 05, 2009

@BullyingUK

I have been thinking about doing this for several days now, ever since I was alerted to this issue by my twitter friend @efan78, but it has been surprisingly difficult to get round to it. However, time is now running out and as something which has affected my life profoundly I have to support this.

Bullying at school really blights lives - every year in the UK, at least 16 teenagers commit suicide as a result of bullying (and this figure is probably massively underreported). And the survivors suffer the effects for years afterwards - a kind of post-traumatic syndrome.

It is amazing that Britain has a charity which combats school bullying and the damage it cause - BullyingUK - and this is such a worthwhile cause to support.

I grew up in a time and place where such institutions did not exist. I was bullied at school every day for about two-and-a-half-years. No escape, knowing each day I had to return to face my tormentors and whatever cruel humiliations they had cooked up for me that day. Name-calling was the least of it: groups devised ways of getting me into trouble with the teachers; I was completely ostracized and isolated.

As a defensive strategy I emotionally walled myself in: ruthlessly guarding any access to any information about myself or my emotions. These habits I have never managed to grow out of.

Physically as well, apart from the absolute requirement of attending school I shut myself up at home in my room; not going out anywhere or socializing in case of meeting anyone from school. Very occasionally I may have accompanied my parents to the shops or the municipal library.

It is so difficult for someone in that position to seek help; you are so immersed in the horror (as well as the normal upheavals of adolescence) you don’t have the objectivity to assess what your best options are. Hence the suicides. Completely at my wit’s end, I did appeal to my father for help, but he was emotionally incapable of dealing with situation at all was was pretty useless - he didn’t even raise it with the school. And as for the school, I knew that some teachers were aware of what was going on and for whatever reason they did nothing too.

My father was quite authoritarian and made me have a very naff haircut that completely marked me out at school. Isolation as well kept me quarantined from teenage fashions - my mum bought most of my clothes anyway - so I was pretty much dressed as a freak, negatively reinforcing the situation.

Looking back now, it amazes me that I survived and went on to a very successful university career, graduating with a first in English Literature and History of Art. I then came to live and work in London, which I love.

The turning point for me was when a new boy arrived at my school who I made friends with - despite the best efforts of my tormentors this brave person chose my friendship over the popularity of the crowd. I really think that when they saw I had a strong relationship they backed off and the bullying seemed to cease as mysteriously as it began.

But one always wonders if it could happen again: trusting people and being self-confident are issues for me still.

I was lucky. Some kids don’t get that break and end up taking their lives. But survival must be possible.

So, with @efan78 - Ethan Kristopher-Hartley of 140 Characters blog - I say:


“This is why I support @BullyingUK - and why you should too.  Take a couple of seconds to vote to win them some advertising on the sides of buses from Up Everyone’s Street.  Visit their website at Bullying.co.uk and donate to them as well.  And if you’re a blogger you have 1 day left to help them in the Blogging for a Cause campaign.”


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1 comment:

efan78 said...

Thanks so much for sharing that Edward. The way I look at it is that, without the bad bits, we wouldn't know how good the good bits are. And we wouldn't be the warm and fuzzy tweeps we are now either!

I'm really grateful to twitter for introducing me to you. You're a great guy who deserves to know it! Yay you!