The author of this post is a reader of this blog, who has asked to remain anonymous.
Taking the bullying survey came as something of a shock to me. I know I was bullied at school, but I hadn’t realised the extent to which bullying has been part of my whole life.
As a child I was bullied both physically and psychologically by my parents. I am a child of the 70s so smacking was just part of life for pretty much every child I knew. I do clearly remember one occasion though in which the level of violence seemed extreme: I would have been 8 or 9, and my mother administered a slap to the top of my leg. As I was stood in the bath having my hair washed at the time, the combination of wet skin and hard slap left a clear hand shaped welt mark for quite some time. I think the level of violence shocked me more than anything because of my nakedness – I was utterly defenceless.
When I was very young, maybe 3, I was having the mother of all meltdowns, so my dad thought putting me in my nightdress, under a cold shower would snap me out of it. I presume the shock must have worked. Funnily enough I have a strong aversion to baths and showers, and have to force myself to have them, even now as an adult.
My uncle told me that he had to rescue me from the understairs cupboard which my mother had locked me in, on at least one occasion. I was very small then, and have no memory of it. I do though suffer from claustrophobia, but bizarrely, find comfort in times of distress from squeezing myself into small, dark corners.
I have been bullied by other family members over the years too. My maternal grandmother was a particularly unpleasant woman, she felt it perfectly acceptable to never get my name right and to make very nasty comments about my physical appearance and my character on a regular basis.
Two of my uncles thought it was hilarious to make me the butt of their jokes at family gatherings.
One of my cousins delighted in taking the mickey out of me in front of her friends and enjoyed excluding me from their clubs and games, even though this clearly distressed me.
School wasn’t ever a great place to be, I was teased because of my unusual name, as well as the physical features on my face that made me a prime target as soon as I was looked at.
We moved a lot, and each new school experience brought more of the same. I always made one or two good friends, usually other outsiders or the class underdog who I often felt it was my duty to befriend, support and protect.
At secondary school things became much worse. My parents had decided to send me to boarding school, and when this became common knowledge I was a snob, stuck up etc etc. Of course I deserved to be chased home from school with the threat of a good beating; to have my tormentors shout abuse from outside my home after school; to have to watch my back and close my ears to the abuse that was hurled at me day after day at school. My good friend at the time, who my mother thought was a bad influence as she lived on a council estate and had a father in prison, went out of her way every day to take me to school and back, affording me a degree of protection. The school never once tried to stop any of this.
I didn’t want to go to boarding school, and tried everything I could to get out of going. On the morning of my entrance exam I refused to get out of bed, so my father physically pulled me out of bed, ripping my thumb in the process. I still have the scar. Trying to deliberately fail the entrance exam didn’t work, and so I was packed off to be a termly boarder, despite only living 20 miles away, and having the offer of a lift home every weekend from another parent. No, my mother had been trying to pack me off since I was 7, so there was no way she was going to lose the opportunity to be rid of me for the longest period of time possible.
School was horrible. My accent was wrong, my looks, my personality, the same old same old, only this time with added class war. I was left alone in the dormitory at weekends as my room ‘mates’ were invited home with their weekly
boarder friends for fun and adventure, all of which they filled me in on in glorious, crowing, technicolour detail on their return.
Eventually, as so often happens, the bullied became the bully, although I wasn’t very good at it, and after being given my one and only telling off by the headmistress, I stopped, and didn’t become a repeat offender. Instead I grew a thick shell, and became known as a cold bitch instead.
My first boyfriend was a bully – sexually, physically and psychologically – I didn’t think I deserved any better. I had already been sexually abused at a party, which again I felt I deserved – I was so socially inept that I drank myself stupid, was too scared to ask where the toilet was and vomited where I sat. I was taken to the bathroom and cleaned up by the host, who then took me to her parents room to sleep it off. I remember coming round to find someone’s fingers inside me, then promptly passed out. At 13 a family friend had tried to have sex with me whilst his sister was in the room and our parents were downstairs, thankfully he was pretty easy to push off, physically, but that same person has, over the years, played mind games with me on a huge scale, and yet I still find myself desperate for his approval and affection.
Once school was over the world of work beckoned. I didn’t fair so well there either, my poor executive functioning got me into trouble on several occasions and a personality clash with a senior member of staff left me sidelined, belittled, mocked and berated on an all too regular basis.
I left home and moved in with my boyfriend at 17. His mum was lovely to me, and I couldn’t believe how different a family could be. Unfortunately the relationship developed problems, and we both started to veer dangerously close to violence out of frustration with our inability to communicate effectively. We managed to stay friends though, and he has been a positive influence in my life in many ways.
Work continued to be difficult for me – I cannot abide injustice, and have walked out of two jobs in protest at how poorly others were treated. Sadly I have never experienced that same kind of support in return. Eventually I grew up a little and realised that shit happens and sometimes you just have to put up with it. That attitude saw me stay in a job in which I was sexually abused on an almost daily basis, by my boss and some customers, for nearly 7 years. Yay me!
My mother continued to deal out psychological bullying, even once I became a mother and a wife. Eventually I had enough, and just short of my 30th birthday I stopped communication with her. As a result my father attempted to get my aunty and uncle, who were the only relatives who supported me, to stop talking to me so that I would be all alone and have to see sense! During that period I had several letters from relatives telling me what an awful person I was, how my parents had only ever done their best for me, and that I was an ungrateful brat who was clearly in the midst of some kind of mental breakdown. I don’t believe that to be true, but only because of the support of several people who have known me well for a long time, and have witnessed my mother’s behaviour towards me first hand, were it not for them I think I would believe it was all my fault.
I met someone who I thought was a good friend during this period, but unfortunately things didn’t work out so well. She thought it perfectly acceptable to ostracise me from the ‘community’ I belonged to – telling people I was a liar, a fraud and countless other stories, all of which were false. A few people stuck by me, but many told me privately that it was easier for them to side with her. One person who kept up a friendship with me on the quiet, was, when found out, also ostracised as a lesson, which affected her daughter’s friendships. She was very apologetic, but had to think of what was best for her child, so that friendship was, to all intent and purpose, ended because of a vindictive, insecure bully.
It hasn’t stopped there. But to be honest, it’s too depressing to go on. I have been intellectually bullied and derided for having strong morals and opinions. I have been sexually bullied just because I was an easy target. I have been psychologically and physically bullied by those who were supposed to love and protect me. Is it any wonder I prefer not to allow myself to get close to people? That I shut myself off the instant I find myself feeling that a pattern I have lived with for as long as I can remember is starting to be repeated?
My husband says that people probably don’t mean what I take them to mean, that it is more likely that I feel harsh intent because I have become so used to experiencing it and so can’t see anything else. I’m torn between thinking he has a point and wanting to scream that it is not just me being ‘overly sensitive’ again.
The biggest problem though is my internal bully. There is no escape from her, and as she loves to echo the insults, torments and failings that have plagued me my whole life, ultimately there is no escape from any of the people who found (and still find) me to be such a nuisance, so unworthy of kindness or thoughtful consideration.
I have considered explaining to my estranged family that I have Aspergers, in the hope of some understanding, but I can only see it being used as another stick to beat me with, so I remain silent, as always, and let people think the worst of me.