Four years of being bullied at high school came to an abrupt end one day in 1986.
My first day there was the most memorable because an older girl (a younger version of Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull) introduced herself by smacking me hard across the face.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“I don’t like your face!”, she replied.
I told a teacher..
The girl was made to apologise to me – publically.
Her eyes narrowed to a couple of slits as she spat out, “I’M SORRY!”.
I knew then that I’d made things worse for myself.
But it wasn’t just her..
I was bullied in the classroom too.
When you try to make yourself invisible – the opposite happens.
Name calling, kicking the back of my chair (and legs) having things thrown at my head happened on a daily basis.
Some teachers were aware of it but when faced with the dilemma of doing their duty as a teacher or having a quiet life – they opted for the latter and turned a blind eye.
Despite the unpleasantness, I had mates and we were close until we fell out over a lad.
Being bullied is one thing but being bullied by your friends cuts deep.
This is where I developed Bulimia.
I had no control over my life.
Every day was a kind of hell.
I woke with a sick feeling in my stomach and I went to bed with the same sense of dread.
English lit was fun (not) because it provided the school knob-heads with entertainment as I blushed and sweated my way through the ordeal of class reading.
At home time, I either had to get out before everyone else or hang back until they’d all gone.
I’d get back home and for a few short hours I was safe.
In those days, we had no internet or mobile phones so at least home was a safe haven.
But the anxiety was always there.
I’d comfort eat, then stick my fingers down my throat or take laxatives to purge the hatred that I felt.
Hatred of myself for being weak.
Hatred of them for being the reason.
I’d cry myself to sleep and dream of them all drowning in a freak accident in the school pool or choking to fucking death on their school dinners.
We all have our limits and that day, I reached mine.
We were coming in from afternoon break and as usual it was a seething mass of acne ridden teenagers all trying to squeeze through the doors at the same time.
Suddenly, I felt myself being shoved forward into the person in front who was not best pleased and shoved me back.
I turned around and there was one of my so called ‘mates’ with a smirk on her face.
My stack – I well and truly blew!
Fight obliterated flight.
All I could think of was battering her face into the floor.
The next few minutes were a blur of scratching, punching and hair pulling – a proper bitch fight the likes of which I deplored.
I could hear the morons egging her on to ‘smash my face in’ but I was too busy trying to get a punch in to care.
We both gave as good as we got.
One of my least dignified moments…
Before long, we were unceremoniously dragged apart.
The crowd dispersed – the show was over.
We ultimately found ourselves in the deputy head mistress’s office looking like something out of St Trinian’s.
My nails were scattered all over the corridor and I’d still got clumps of her hair in my fist.
My mullet was totally wrecked and I looked like I’d been savaged by a cat!
I struggled to look the deputy head in the eyes.
She looked at the girl and said “I’m not surprised to see you here!”
My former friend was a bit of a gobshite and made regular appearances in the deputy head’s office.
Then the deputy head looked at me.
” I am surprised to see you here!”
When asked how we came to be brawling in the corridor, the girl answered, “We don’t get on anymore, Miss”.
I looked at her.
We’d stayed at each others houses.
We’d shared fags watching Brat Pack movies at the cinema.
We’d both stood and shrieked our heads off at Spandau Ballet in Birmingham.
We were supposed to be friends…
But that day we were far from it.
Anger is a part of being human.
It is a natural emotion and anger itself isn’t the problem – it’s how it’s expressed.
I TOTALLY lost the plot and as a consequence, my school record was blemished within a few months of me leaving the shithole.
Worse than that- I had lowered myself to their level.
I should have bit my lip and walked on as I had a hundred times before.
Had I have done so – my dignity (and mullet) would have remained intact.
I will never forget the look of disappointment on the deputy head’s face.
I will never forget the look of bewilderment on my parent’s faces as they read the letter that informed them of their daughter’s unacceptable conduct.
They didn’t know about the bullying and were saddened that I hadn’t confided in them.
But Ma would have gone barreling in there – unleashing a can of whoop-ass the likes of which the school would never recover.
It was my battle.
As it was, the fight marked the end of the bullying.
It seems that violence brings respect but I respect myself more for all the times I walked away.
It took more strength to do that.
Given the circumstances, I would most likely react the same way if I had that time again because it’s about primeval instinct.
Fight or flight.
Thanks for reading.
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
~ Michael J Fox
Photograph by K J W Photography
This post is linked up to Sara over at mumturnedmom