High School Trauma
When I started high school, the first thing that struck me was how tiny I was compared to everyone else. Over two thousand students in a building that itself was enormous in comparison to my previous junior school. I remember being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. I also remember feeling lost and alone, as I wandered round aimlessly with a little map in my hand, not daring to ask anyone for directions and not having a clue what I was supposed to do.
Don’t I look a smart boy!
The only hope I had was to try and make some friends and to do this quickly. I would be much less vulnerable in a group, safety in numbers and all that! I really tried hard to fit in but I was far too nervous and it seemed like everybody had already grouped off together.
My best plan was to try and blend in and attempt to make myself invisible to the world. Would it be possible to accomplish this feat for five years? Sadly the answer to that was a resounding no.
Right from the beginning I was easy prey for the bullies. Being weak, fragile and highly sensitive is not a good combination. I was much smaller than the other kids and being on my own, I stood out like a sore thumb. My tactic of staying quiet and keeping a low profile was quick to backfire on me. I soon got the nickname Steve Davis which I hated! But it was to stick with me for the rest of school. Steve Davis was a snooker player who was well known for being extremely dull and boring.
I was given several other derogatory names such as Mr Puny verse and my personal favourite FA cup ears! And so began an excruciating time for me, where everyday was like a living hell!
Its hard to believe just how cruel and vindictive kids can be, unless you’ve experienced it first hand like me. The name-calling and intimidation was relentless and I had to endure periods of physical abuse including being thrown down an embankment into some tennis court netting, which resulted in a broken nose. Not to mention being used as a human punch bag. I had my dinner money stolen and once I had stopped having the school meals, I regularly had my pack lunch tipped on the floor in front of me.
Another incident, which stuck with me, was being cellotaped to my chair and stabbed repeatedly with a compass. This resulted in my mother making an appearance, which achieved very little, making me look even weaker. If anything it caused the treatment to get worse.
I’ve chosen to block out a lot of my time at high school as the majority of it is still very painful, but one more day stuck in my memory, as it involved the worst kind of bullying, humiliation. I had adopted my usual position, sat alone in the corner of the playground, counting down the minutes until the end of break time, whilst desperately trying to keep out of sight of the bullies. Unfortunately today was not to be my lucky day, I was forced into the middle of the playground by a lad who although the same age as me had a much bigger physique than most kids in our year. He had already been showing off tensing his muscles in front of a large group of female admirers, having them feel his biceps before he rolled my sleeve up and made me tense my arm in front of them. Then he proceeded to completely ridicule me, he had all the girls giggling and I was left feeling extremely small! Not content with this, later that day in the classroom he challenged me to an arm wrestle. I refused of course, but a few of his mates told me if I didn’t they’d be waiting for me outside the school gates. In other words I’d get my head kicked in. Everyone gathered around to witness my humiliation, he let me use both my hands to give me a sporting chance. Of course he still managed to beat me! Next came the inevitable laughter and name calling. This time I couldn’t stop my eyes filling with tears, until I was finally saved by the arrival of the teacher.
After that day I became extremely self-conscious about my body. I started believing that the only solution and the only way I’d get any respect from anyone, was to get bigger. I soon became obsessed with this and from then on, every birthday or Christmas present I asked for was related to building my body up. All my spending money went towards exercise equipment, from Dumbbells to Bull workers, leg weights, ab- pumps to pull up bars. I even got my self a toning belt, which resulted in me burning my belly! I bought myself books on bodybuilding and was constantly looking up new exercise regimes.
This obsession continued throughout high school and even into my working life, things didn’t get much better. If I was starting work at 8 o’clock, I would get up at 5.30 so that I could do an hour and a half workout with my Dumbbells before setting off. On arrival I would go straight to the staff room and examine myself in the full-length mirror. Still not satisfied with how my arms were looking, I’d quickly get down on my hands and knees and do some push-ups before everyone else arrived.
Even to this day, I prefer winter to summer so I can remain covered up and even to this day if I see a group of women laughing in a corner I presume they’re laughing at me.
So what’s the answer? I wish there was a simple way of beating the bullies. I hate the thought of kids suffering the same kind of daily harassment that I did, its arguably even worse now with the introduction of social media, the horrible treatment can be even more relentless. If you’re a little different school can be tough but after your school time is up, being unique is celebrated and will get you much further in life. I’m also well aware that bullying doesn’t always stop at school but can continue into adulthood.
You need to find someone (an adult) to talk to. maybe you have a school counselor or even a favorite teacher that you can open up to. Its very hard I know, but the treatment you’re getting is not fair, so please don’t just put up with it. Remember bullies are very insecure people, if there calling you names its probably just to draw attention away from themselves. Another great idea is to have a good outlet. At the start of my second year I came up with the idea of a lunch time table tennis club. With the help of my head teacher and some extra fundraising, we were able to buy all the equipment we required and my idea became a reality. Table tennis was my savior. Suddenly I had a safe place to go every day, where a teacher was always present to overlook proceedings. All of a sudden lack of friends was not an issue, I was making more than I knew what to do with!
I’m not saying you need to come up with anything as drastic as that but sometimes when you’ve tried everything else, thinking outside of the box is the only way to go. maybe there are existing lunchtime groups you can get involved with, finding people with similar interests to you. Anything to stop you becoming isolated and an easier target. One thing I haven’t suggested is standing up to the bully. In my case there were too many for this to be an option but if there’s one main culprit then standing up to him or her might work.
Its important not to be a victim for the rest of your life. I’ve already shared how body image remained a problem for me. As well as this I do have a nasty habit of planning conversations with friends in a desperate attempt not to seem boring. when you’ve been called dull every single day throughout school, sadly you start to believe it! Its true, certain events from your childhood are bound to have a profound effect on you but they can also make you stronger.