Sticks and Stones

Last week was anti-bullying week. I have written about my experiences of bullying in previous posts but every time the campaign resurfaces, my old bullying demons decide to rear their very ugly heads.

Having gone through years of being bullied at every single school I attended, I went out into the workplace at the tender age of 16 thinking I had left all that behind, only to discover that not only was workplace bullying a common occurrence but that I was to be granted no reprieve and became a victim once more on several occasions.

I am yet to reconcile my feelings of anger over what happened to me. I still boil with resentment when I think back to how so many different people treated me. In my experience, girls are the worst. They can be vicious, vindictive and downright evil when belittling someone they consider to be beneath them. During my latter school years, they almost drove me to suicide. In one work place, a particular tormentor managed to turn all my colleagues against me.

No one helped.

My friends could only do so much. I was lucky to not be totally alone as some victims of bullying are. My home life wasn’t a happy one so I kept a lot from my parents and retreated into my books and music, squirreling myself away in my room to be alone with thoughts of worthlessness whirling around my head.

Bullying is one of the most psychologically damaging experiences a person can go through. At a young age, those seeds of discord are sown so deep that the roots will remain long after the experiences have been consigned to the past.

I am no longer a victim of bullying, I am a survivor but it still hurts.

My heart breaks every time I read in the news that a child has killed him or herself as a direct result of being bullied. Why aren’t the bullies being arrested and charged with murder? Why aren’t their friends or parents being arrested as accessories to the crime? Because that is what it is. Driving someone to take their own life is murder.

I understand that a lot of bullies become the way they are as a result of their own unhappiness, they lash out and pick someone who they perceive as being too weak to fight back. Then again, there are some who bully simply because they get a kick out of it, in my opinion, this makes them a sociopath.

Whatever the reasons behind their actions (reasons or compulsions?) I will always loathe those who seek to destroy the essence of a person, make them feel worthless, that life isn’t worth living, that no one loves or cares for them. I know this to be untrue. Victims of bullying tend to be those with the greatest potential. We’re the geeks, nerds, the wordy kids, the kids who are bit different. Ultimately, we are better than those who belittle us.

To all the bullies out there who may read this, just remember, karma has a very long memory and she is more vicious than you can ever be.

Ruby Redfort, Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.
Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the word-swords fall, it pierces and sticks inside me.
Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its’ scar, on mind and heart that’s tender.
Cuts and bruises have not healed, it’s words that I remember.

A Mixed Up Kid

I am in a bad place at the moment. In fact, I’ve been in a bad place for most of my life. Sometimes, (like now) it overwhelms me and other times, it’s more manageable.

I was diagnosed with depression in my mid to late teens, I’ve been in therapy, I’ve taken Prozac and Fluoxetine so I can say, “been there, worn the t-shirt” and it doesn’t phase me anymore. I’ve been living with the condition for years.

What has prompted me to write about it, however, is that in the last few months, I’ve been at a stage whereby the darkness is overwhelming me and it’s horrible. I really hate it. Aside from the sheer exhaustion I’m currently experiencing, I’m running on auto-pilot. I’ve got to a point again where I’ve had to stop and say, “I can’t cope anymore, I need help.” I’d be driving to work with a perpetual feeling that I was heading towards a nervous breakdown. My mind is a massive tangled mess of worry and anxiety. It doesn’t matter how trivial the problem is, you can guarantee, I will worry about it.

I was a very unhappy child. I was bullied throughout my entire school years so that amounts to twelve years of near constant abuse. In secondary school, my attendance record was terrible, I would play truant, fake illnesses; anything to get out of going to that hell hole which I shall name and shame as Regents Park School for Girls in Southampton. I was utterly failed by the system and those who ran it. My tormentors got away with giving me hell and that is something I have never been able to forgive.

I would very much like to forget that it ever happened but I have also fallen victim to workplace bullying over the years and there’s only so much one person can take!

I went to work at the age of 16 as a travel agent. There was no way on Earth I was willing to continue with formal education and be faced with the prospect of ending up in the same college as those who had treated me so badly. I was a mixed up kid, suddenly I was in an adult environment with no idea of how to behave around adults. I went to college on day release, found it hard to make friends and ended up being the loner of the group. A girl with quite a nasty character came to work in one of my branches for about a year, instantly singling me out and proceeding to turn my colleagues against me. Again, I was let down by my colleagues, bosses and peers. Imagine my surprise when, years later, she sent me a friend request on Facebook!

Fast forward to now. I’m 43, I’m stronger than I ever was but I’m still fragile. My sense of self-worth, self-esteem and confidence are low. I make up for it by being outwardly gregarious whilst inside I’m shaking like a leaf. I constantly worry about what others think of me, I still find it hard to make friends and I have a terrible tendency to put others first instead of thinking of myself. When I do try and be a bit selfish, I feel guilty. But why should I? Surely, looking after oneself should come above all else? For, if you can’t look after yourself, how can you help others?

I don’t believe I’m a bad person. I’ve always gone out of my way to help others. I love animals, I care about the environment, I support various charities, I’ve helped create friendships, given food to homeless people etc. People have called me a “lovely girl” and apart from the usual teenage rebellion and questionable past relationships I believe I’ve created some good karma.

One thing that does sadden me is that I have no idea the kind of person I could have been were it not for all I’ve been through. Like Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Whilst my past hasn’t beaten me, for I am still here, it has made me choose different paths and make different decisions, my life could’ve gone in a very different direction had I been able to choose differently.

I feel sad for kids being bullied today, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc. bullies have better access to their victims. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if those things existed when I was at school. I’m sure the outcome for me would have been very different.

All I can do now is make up for lost time, learn to put myself first, succeed at my goals and not get dragged down.