Why do we accept and tolerate bullying? Why do we not make it socially unacceptable? What are we afraid of? It goes on day in and day out. It goes on in the workplace and at schools. It happens in the home but we don't challenge it in any shape or form. We accept it and sweep it under the carpet or we simply ignore it. We don't step in to stop it in case we then become the target of the bully. I shall share my experience of bullying. Ive not shared all of this with anyone before. They know some of it, but for the first time I'm telling it all.
I was bullied at school. I was bullied for over 8 years by different people. I was an easy target, tall for my age and a sensitive kid I was a bully's dream. I never fought back, I never went to the teacher, I just used to accept it and cry. It made be self-conscious and held me back for many, many years and made me turn into a person I didn't want to be and stopped me doing what I wanted to do. It changed me forever. Sound dramatic? Tough it isn't and is a part of my life I cant change. Do the people who did this even think of me now like I do them? Doubt it. I bet they don't even give me a second thought. They probably pass it off as childhood jinks. To them maybe to me no it wasn't.
I tried to ignore it but couldn't it was every single day. Name calling, punches, people tearing my school books, nicking my money, waiting for me outside of school to rain more punches on me when the mood took them. I bottled up the aggression that was eating away inside of me, I held it in for so many years. I couldn't let it go. I hated school. I utterly despised it. I was good at it don't get me wrong but I couldn't wait for it to be over every single day. If I said the wrong thing or looked at someone the wrong way I got a punch, or a slap whatever the chosen option for that day was.
I will be forever grateful for the group of girls in my year that protected me. They allowed me to go with them at lunchtimes so as I was away from the trouble. They understood me and I became far more confident around girls than other boys my age because of it. Something I would use to great effect in my later teenage years.
We are told that your school years are the best years of your life. Rubbish. If you are in the in crowd I bet they are. I wasn't so they were hell for me. Life isn't like you see on the telly. It isn't like High School Musical or for the older generation Grease. School if you are not in the in crowd is a battle to survive everyday. You may go under the radar and good luck to you if you were lucky enough to do that but most of us cant. For those of us that couldn't do that we carry these scars for the rest of our lives.
I left school with one friend. After 11 years of school that's all I had to show for it. I started a job as an electrical apprentice and it started all over again. The name calling and punching at college and the abuse and treatment at the sites I worked on. I was stuck in a vicious cycle and couldn't get out. So I invented a new me. A new Anthony. I told stories of fights Id been in. I was a big bloke and I got away with it. I grew more confident and the bullying stopped. I had created another person, someone I could hide behind without having to show the real me.
I started being this person when I met new people and they believed it. The edges became blurred from the person I wanted to be to the person people expected me to be. I carried on like this for years. Being aggressive and violent when I couldn't get someone to agree with me. I went through hundreds of friends and lost some good mates down the years because of it. Did I care?. No. I had created a persona of someone to fear and I loved it. It gave me power over other people. I carried this into the workplace as well. I was never violent at work, but the persona of someone you didn't mess with was following me around. I tried to change it I really did but it was too addictive. The person I had created became me.
It frightened me if I'm honest. I had become the person I so hated. I was a bully. I met someone about 10 years ago who I worked with. I went up to them to say Hi. It had been a few years since I had last seen them. This person came up to me and spat at me. Shocked I looked at them and watched as their face changed to pure hatred as they yelled at me
"That's for being a right bastard and for making my life a misery".
I stood there embarrassed. All these people looking at me in the high street. I walked away to the nearest pub ordered a short, downed it in one, then went to the toilet and cried my eyes out. What had I become?. Was that really how people saw me? Is that what I had become? Someone who had made this persons life such a misery that they felt the need to spit at me in the street. What had I done to them?
I decided then and there to change. Its not been easy if I'm honest. Sometimes I do slip back into the old me, normally when I'm very tired or stressed, but I recognise those signs now so much better and deal with it better. I hope that people that meet me now see the real me not the old me. The people that I want them to see. The bully is still there, but its locked down deep inside me. He tries to appear every now and then but I deal with it a lot better. I am far more aware of peoples feelings than I ever was. I still struggle with confident people around me. I feel intimidated by them. That's part of my past and I cant deal with that. I also communicate with people better over the phone or email than face to face. I struggle to accept praise or to be told Ive done something well, because of what I went through in my early life. I also lack confidence in trying new things always worried about what people think of me, looking for their acceptance for fear of rejection. Its something I'm trying to change but it isn't easy.
Can I right all the wrongs Ive ever done? No I cant. Can I live every day trying to be a better person? Yes.
It took me many, many years to deal with my demons. They made me the man I am today. Would I swap the experience? No if I'm honest wouldn't. Does that sound strange after all Ive said?. The reason I wouldn't is because now I cherish friendship and family as well as being a parent more than I ever thought I would or could. To that I owe a huge debt to my wife. We met when we were 17, I'm 38 this year and she was the making of me. She allowed me to be who I was for a few years then told me enough was enough and I had to change. She saved me from myself if you like. She changed me into someone I now like being. Quite a woman I think you ll agree.
For that I am grateful. So if you meet me now get to know me a little, I may be shy and not speak much when we first meet, that's just me, but the bully defiantly wont show his face. Ive taken on my demon and won and this blog is the final nail in that coffin.