Monday, June 27, 2016

Bullying Causing Brokenness.

Growing up many experience have shaped me but none more so than bullying during my schooling years. I never wanted to write this post yet just like I felt I needed to do just like I did with my anxiety post. I felt that maybe it would be healing to write it down and prove to people that bullying does have lasting effects on people.
To start off I have been bullied by strangers, class mates, so called friends, teachers and everyone in between, there is no stereotypical bully of the big kid taking away kids lunch money in my story.
I have had stuff thrown at me, been called names, comments targeted at me and cyber bullied, each one has damaged me in some way.
I never thought that bullying would have such a negative effect on my adult life and honestly thought that when school ended that I could move on with my life. But the lingering effects still follow me and I don't know when I will be able to shake them completely.

Lets start from the beginning, having Dyspraxia I was a target for bullies I was the odd kid out, the one who couldn't catch a ball or ride a bike, the clumsy one, the one who spoke funny and because of that, the one kid who they saw as an easy target. I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at an early age and because of that I required speech therapy in the hopes that my speech would be corrected, along with OT to help with my co-ordination. Despite all that (and later having surgery to correct my speech) kids saw that there was something wrong me and decided that they should point it out for the rest of the world to see. I already hated sport but combine that with kids who pick you last for teams and tease you when you are already trying your hardest, it wasn't fun. I would use every excuse in the book to get out of sport because for me it was torture.
Halfway through primary school I moved schools and the bullying stopped but of course it was only a matter of time before it started up again. Despite having had this surgery to fix my speech it didn't fix my co-ordination and again I became the target, add in that it was when my anxiety really decided to rear its ugly head and life was no fun.
The most negative experience in my life during primary school was when I was walking to the car after school and a kid chased me on his bike and kicked me just as I was entering the car, cue anxiety attack and my Mum (who witnessed the whole thing) calling the school to complain. Year 7 was not a good year overall not just because of the anxiety, the teacher really had no clue how to handle the class and had never dealt with bullying so severe, the principal was also clueless and it often required my parents to step in multiple times just to them to realise what was going on.

High school started and its at this point of the story it really began to shape me mainly because I recall most of it and the majority of it happened during those years. Year 8 was already off to a hard start due to anxiety and because of that the target was on my back loud and clear for all to see. I would get picked on during every class and it even escalated to getting stuff thrown at me, only a few teachers really noticed and tried to get it to stop but kids will find other ways.
I recall having had enough and deciding to stand up for myself and another boy who were getting targetted in science class and I was the one who got in trouble as apparently standing up for myself and attempting to put the bullies back in place is a no go and should be left to the teacher even when they were clueless as to it happening!
There was one student who was the ring leader of the group and my parents were given the excuse that he was going through a hard time because his sister had cancer, while that is understandable they could've supported him and given him the help he needed rather than making excuses for his behaviour and refusing to do much about it.
I was also bullied by a few teachers in regards to my beliefs; this was done by comments surrounding the church during medieval studies in SOSE because they knew I was a Christian and attended the local church.
That year was hard and when you also have so called friends who you thought you could count on give you the silent treatment, ignore you and target you in their group its tougher. So it was no surprise when my parents and I made the decision that I should leave the school and go to a private school for Year 9 onwards.
New school new teachers, new students, new start right? Well that’s what I thought which wasn't the case! The first few months were ok but soon the bullying began again, this time thankfully the teachers were on top of it and they actually made the bullies apologise for doing it but it seemed to be a never ending cycle!
In year 10 I experienced Cyber Bullying, something that at the time wasn't well known and the school had no idea how to handle it. When you are at home you think you are safe but there's nothing like getting some Facebook messages full of threatening and disturbing language targeted at you. The first time it happened the school said they couldn't do much, as though it was between two students from the school it happened out of school hours and not in an environment they could control, the second time it was screen shotted and sent to the school it was immediately death with and got on top of, they also made the other students parents get more involved (whom were extremely apologetic and upset at their child). The cyber bullying started because of comments some students were making in class at the student and myself and the student just snapped and I was the most convenient target despite it not being my fault.
Thankfully schools now have programs and procedures in place to target cyber bullying, but at the time it was almost unheard of!
In year 11 I experienced bullying targeted at my Dyspraxia, despite me explaining it to my classmates when they made fun of it. I was told my voice was annoying and that I couldn't talk properly and I sounded nasally, before then I had had a few comments surrounding it but it was enough to brush off this time the comments were consistent. I hated going to any class with those students because I was already self conscious of my Dyspraxia and speech and didn't need them to target it. That eventually stopped after the teachers stepped in and got involved multiple times but I lost confidence in my speech and how I sounded.
By this stage I thought that Year 12 would be better and while it was anxiety wise, it wasn't bullying wise, I struggled with friends and always felt like I was lost in that department. I also had rumours spread around about things that I was saying about other students none of which were true and spent one recess crying in the deputy principal’s office, thankfully the next period I had my favourite Maths teacher and she really helped me get through the day (its always hard going to class after you have been noticeably crying so to have her there was great!).
Finishing high school considering everything was a great achievement and I was glad to leave it all behind not realising how much would follow me around.

Having been bullied for so long I didn't realise how much it affects my daily life but my psychologist has really helped me see how it has shaped me, mainly in the following areas:
  • Confidence - this is a major area, my self confidence is low and I always second guess myself! I am always over thinking things and will often go back over the smallest things I have said and obsess over them.
  • Friendships - there are times when I can't help wonder why anyone would want to be friends with me or if they are just my friends out of pity. I also question my behaviour around friends and whether its normal. I've never been in a popular group so when people give me praise in a group I never know whether they mean it or not, as so many times people would say positive things as a joke and cause me embarrassment once I realised!
  • Certain types of personalities - there are some personality types that I am wary of from the get go because in the past those were the ones who would bully me. There are often people that I question their credibility even if I have never had any reason not to trust them.
  • Trust - this is linked in with the above but once you have had people be two faced with you it’s really hard to trust openly! I always find myself wondering deep down if I could fully trust certain types of people I am friends with.
  • Behaviour - people going in for a fist bump or high 5 I always question if they are really for me and there are times when I am on edge for no real reason in group situations.
  • Putting myself down - I may joke about how bad I am sports or how clumsy I am but a part of the reason I do that is because I figure if I do that for myself then it won't hurt as much if people do it to me. I am so used to getting bullied when it comes to sport that its become almost second nature to me to put myself down when it comes to it.
Whether I like it or not bullying has shaped me in so many ways and though I am consistently trying to fix the damage that has been made I know I will never be completely fixed. Its like a vase that was dropped and is now broken, sure you can glue it back together so its whole again but the cracks and evidence of it being broken will still be with it for years to come, some people will overlook them and see the beauty of the vase for it currently is and what it once was but other people will just see the damaged vase. I refuse to see myself as broken as to some degree I feel that we are all broken, yet there are days when I look in the mirror and all I see is the cracks and evidence of being bullied and the heartache it has caused. Bullying has been my past but I sure don't want it to be included in my future.

Below are some resources that are helpful if you or anyone either have gone through bullying or are currently going through bullying:
  • Destroying Avalon by Kate McCaffrey- I read this book just before cyber bullying happened to me and I found it a great resource. It's a great book that I think all high school students should read because it highlights it so well along with general internet safety. It also shows how being a victim of bullying can rule your life at times.
  • ReachOut- I couldn't do this post and not include ReachOut. Once again ReachOut has thoroughly covered this topic in detail and provided some great information and help.
  • Kids Helpline - sometimes when you are going through a tough time with bullying you need someone to talk to and if you are under 25 Kids Helpline is there to listen. Its a great comfort to know that you can ring the number 24/7 and someone will be there to listen.

*I wrote this post to show the long term effects that bullying has had on me as a person. I never in a million years thought that 5 years on from high school that I would be struggling with it and for so long I thought the above was all related in to my anxiety (to some degree it is) but in reality bullying has caused them. I was bullied by a variety of students for a varity of reasons, it was rarely by the same people, there is no 'one type' of person who is a bully. Deep down we are all capable of bullying someone whether its to get a laugh or to make yourself feel better or your are bored and its scary to think that it's so easy. Bullying can be as easy as making a mean comment at someone and its easy to not think of the consequences at the time.

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