What school bullying really does to you

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This article is only available in English.

It’s “Character building”, “everyone will experience it”, “it’s just part of growing up”… These are the things people will tell you when you explain that you were bullied in school. And it has some truth to it - some people experience bullying and then toughen up as a result. Some learn the hard way not to take shit from anyone, ever again. And yes, the majority of people have experienced bullying at some point in their school life. But does all of that make it okay? I don’t think so.

The research found that more than half (57 per cent) of children said they have been bullied at some point in their school lives, of which almost one in five (17 per cent) said it had made them feel suicidal.
— The independent

In a recent article, The independent explained that 1 in 5 children in school have contemplated suicide as a result of bullying.

With the number of recorded suicides rising - to the point that the stats haven’t been this high in the past 16 years - one can only wonder why we let things get so bad in the first place. The number of young people committing suicide and experiencing isolation etc. as a result is simply unacceptable in societies that the world regards as “developed”. Mental health is just as important.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper “You can’t be my Valentine” article if I didn’t tell you about my personal experiences with the issue. I have debated whether or not this was the appropriate platform to put the word out there - but then I realised that this is exactly the type of cause that made me want to create a blog in the first place. So here it goes.

My experience with bullying was simply traumatising. as a child, you don’t realise how badly things affect you - and I can tell you that still today, some of the things that happened in the past have an effect on my mental health. This is why as a child, you don’t have the perspective or the audacity to deal with the issue by yourself. Sometimes you fear talking about it as well, because it becomes some sort of habit.

I grew up in a widely privileged area. The first school I went to was kindergarden, and it was made up of all the kids that lived in the group of condos that were around mine. I stayed in school with the same children for over 8 years. In my first year of primary school, I stayed friends with 2 girls. They were my best friends in the whole world.
Now I was quite a chubby kid - and trust me, I still am -, but when you are a child, and everyone around you is super thin, you do start feeling out of place. But instead of surrounding myself with people who would help me realise that there was nothing wrong with me, I stayed around those 2 girls. It started with jokes, banter, but it went much further than that.
For 2 years the discussions would all be about making fun of me and degrading me - to the point where no one else in the school would actually dare be my friends. I became isolated, with only these 2 girls around in my life. They were the ones starting all the jokes.
I became some sort of scapegoat. I won’t go into the details of how it all happened - this isn’t a reality TV show - but long story short, the two girls and another one (an older sister) came back one week and told me they had made a “Magic potion”. They had precautiously stored it in a Capri-Sun cover, and offered it to me at recess. I can remember the exact sentence they spat at me that day: “Drink this, you fatty, or we’ll make you drink it”. They made it look like a game. A funny little game that people could come watch.

I was naive, but I wasn’t dumb. And when i refused to drunk their little concoction, they didn’t take no for an answer. They tied me to the fence with a jumping rope, and made me drink what I understood at that point to be a mixture of washing up liquid with an aftertaste of bleach. There was just enough to make me sick for the whole afternoon, but not enough to make me go to the hospital. They made the potion to kill me. Their words, not mine.

I didn’t die that day - but a little part of me did. I still had 2 years to go with these girls. My mother was best friends with their mother. I told her what had happened - but would you believe a child that tells you this crazy a story ?
Not only is it physically impossible for a 9 year old to get over this by themselves, but the sheer mental damage that ensues is a tremendous amount of pain, self-loathing and second guessing that I really wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

I spent years trying to get back what they took from me that day. I spent years hating myself for loving food, for daring to want to have friends in the beginning. Yes, they were children too, and they should have known better - and the teachers and parents did what they could, of course. But it wasn’t enough. this kind of behaviour needs to not be happening anymore.

So whether you’re a parent reading this, a child, a teacher, or someone who knows some one has been through these experiences - the end result is probably going to be similar. Never let the warning signs go unnoticed. If your child comes home crying from school everyday, they aren’t being overly emotional - they are in pain. Believe your children, your friends and others when they tell you these stories. They might be exaggerating, but give them the benefit of the doubt and never take the chance of letting someone down or making them feel like you don’t believe them.

Another thing I have had to deal with was people branding my experience with bullying as a “silly school thing”. Just because I don’t explain how my two best friends tied me up and made me drink soap made me feel at every single mundane dinner with friends doesn’t mean the bullying didn’t have an effect on my mental health. Just because I tell you the stories in a funny way doesn’t mean it hurts less. Yes, I’m allowed to joke about it because that is my coping mechanism - my way of diminishing it. But telling a bullying victim that their experience is a silly school thing - that’s unacceptable. Especially to a child who doesn’t know what serious trouble is.

So with back to school time being around, stay aware of your surroundings. Stay aware of how kids react, the pain that they potentially feel. And take action. Please, please talk about it.


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Valentine BabeyComment