A Message To My Bullies

Congratulations. Today was another day where I woke up in a horrible sweat, mind racing ten-to-the-dozen and too scared to go back to sleep.

I had to write this as soon as I woke up, before I take the tablets that help me get through the day and not end my life. I want to be a nice person and say you’re not responsible for the way I’m feeling but I can’t say that. The state I’m in currently I can’t even pretend that’s a truth. The way I am, regardless of how big the factor, is down to your input.

This message doesn’t go out to everybody who has bullied me. It goes out to a specific two people who ruined my school life and have left me reeling from the effects still twelve years down the line. I’m still undecided as to whether to name names or leave it anonymous.

I woke up today because I was alone. I had that feeling once again of having lost my so-called friends and not having anything or anyone else to turn to. I woke up because in my dream I turned to the school for help and they did nothing, just like in real life. I woke up because it was too uncomfortable for me to continue sleeping through.

You ruined my life. You took a boy that actually enjoyed learning, actually enjoyed life, and twisted so many knives into him that he has to take a handful of pills just to make it through a day. You made a boy second guess everybody that might ever try and be his friend because he finds it almost impossible to trust anybody anymore. You poisoned my relationship with my family because I spent all of my time trying to hide my loneliness and hatred in the world of video games and they became suspicious. But I couldn’t tell them what was going on, how do you tell anybody that two people have made you want to end your life?

You made me scared to get up in the mornings. I was scared whenever the bell rang because I wasn’t sure whether I was getting my friends or my bullies. You made me loathe break-times because it meant I had to socialise and socialising meant being bullied. Since that day I still don’t know how to treat people because you fucked up my mind long ago.

I keep my distance from people, even those I really care about, because you taught me how quickly people can go from being your friend to being your enemy. And you taught me the extent of people and how quickly they resort to violence when they don’t get their own way, or when they’re just bored of the current situation.

You have me sublimating my rage through television shows, through crime and police shows, where the bad-guy always gets what he deserves. It becomes worrying though when the bad-guy does what he does because he’s been bullied and I see nothing wrong with what he’s doing. It becomes scary when the bad-guy isn’t the bad-guy but it’s just me in a world with no medication and less gun-control.

The worst thing about all of this? I have no closure. I can’t close the book on that chapter of my life because, for me, it’s still going on. It didn’t end, we just stopped talking. But Facebook brings all of these things back up again. I have one of you on my Facebook “friends” list because I wanted to forget the way you made me feel. I couldn’t and I couldn’t attend your wedding because of how much you ruined my life. The other one I know still holds some personal feelings because you won’t even add me onto your Facebook, probably too scared of the feelings you have when you know you ruined a life.

I can’t bring myself to end this because I never feel like I’ve said enough about how badly you treated me and the after-effects of the bullying. I feel like I can continue on for several thousand more words, maybe write an entire academic paper on the treatment, but I feel I have to end it here. Like my school-days this won’t be a fulfilling ending because there’s no closure, nothing changes from it, and I just have to live day-by-day trying to get through without being consumed by anger or fear.

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Waterstones; How They Went From My Dream to My Nightmare

When I finished University I spent the following three years unemployed. I won’t for one second put all of the blame on other people. I was not in the right headspace to move to London to pursue a journalism or editorial job (given that my degree was in Creative Writing) and so my options were limited. They became even more limited when I moved out of East London and further into the countryside (my parents moved and as I was unemployed I went with them).

My list of jobs that I could do became considerably smaller given the rural area I was now living in. I was overqualified for the factory and cleaning jobs that were the mainstay of the area, in fact with a degree I was considered overqualified for most of the jobs in the local area.

But I want to tell you a story of a time when my ideal job opened up for me. It was working in a bookshop. More specifically it would have been working at Waterstones. For those that don’t know Waterstones, it’s possibly the largest book retailer in the UK (I’m unsure of it’s status outside of the UK). At face value you would see this as just another basic retail position, and in essence it is, unless you actually love books like I do. To be surrounded by books, to have people come in and want to talk about books with you, it’s a dream for me. There’s just something about books and literature that I can’t quite explain to people who don’t get it.

So, back to this job opportunity. The briefing said “must be knowledgeable about books, confident to give recommendations and talk about books” and “have experience in a retail environment”. Tick and tick. I had both of those given my three years studying literature to degree standard and my six months retail work before University. I was a shoe-in for this job and I actually spent an entire day tailoring and crafting my opening letter and CV because I was that excited about working in the store.

I submitted my application and waited. It wasn’t long before I got a reply.

“We’re sorry, your application has not been successful.”

Not my first rejection letter but definitely the first one I couldn’t understand. Did you mean to tell me I hadn’t even made it to an interview? On paper I was the perfect candidate for this job yet I’d been turned down. Thus I pursued the company and followed up with them, phoning them to find out just why I had been turned down without even an interview.

After waiting on the phone I got through to the department that would have deemed me unsuitable for the job. I enquired as to why I was rejected at such an early stage in the process, given my experience, and they couldn’t offer me an explanation. We spoke on the phone for a while and then they told me they would try and find my application to see what exactly happened.

I waited while they searched.

“Oh yes, here it is. You don’t have any retail experience in a book sales environment. That’s why you would have been turned down.”

Hold up. Hold up. So I couldn’t work in a bookstore because I had never worked in a bookstore before? It was a horrible circle that wasn’t all that strange to me, I’d encountered a lot of these “must have specific experience AND specific degree” adverts before (journalism being one of the worst culprits for it). But I had a Literature degree AND retail experience. Surely a three year degree could fill in for the “spent time around books” section. And who is more comfortable and confident talking about books than a Literature student/graduate? Nobody.

Now, I’ve been in Waterstones a lot both before and after this application. The people I have encountered (not naming names or stores) aren’t exactly passionate about books, they aren’t literary enthusiasts and they probably couldn’t tell you the difference between The Divine Comedy and The Odyssey without looking it up on the computer.

So this is what I took away from this experience; two weeks work experience in a second-hand bookstore is more valuable and appreciated than a three year literature degree.

It still makes me sick to my stomach that Waterstones rejected me based on that stupid and juvenile criteria. I want there to be an investigation into every single Waterstones employee and anybody who didn’t have book sales experience before they joined should be let go because they don’t fulfil the criteria for which I was apparently being judged.

It’s a sickening state of the world when companies can give honest and genuine people the runaround when all we are trying to do is find a job we are comfortable in. Literature has always been one of the most important things in my life as far back as I can remember, but because I’ve never worked in a bookshop apparently I can’t work in a bookshop. But add on top of that I’m not experienced enough to go into journalism or editorial positions (because like hell are they giving people a chance these days) and it sort of makes me feel like my entire degree was worthless.

No wonder I find myself disillusioned in this world when companies are more willing to take a sixteen year-old school-leaver with no love of literature who has done two weeks work experience in a bookshop over somebody who has lived and breathed literature for most of their life and studied it to a degree standard.

The Things We Don’t Say

Today was my grandmother’s funeral.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and then it was only a week or two before she could barely lift her head and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. My dad would tell me that when he went down to visit her all she would have would be three half tablespoons of tomato soup and a sip or two of water to keep her going for the entire day. Despite having spent a couple of years on an oxygen tank I didn’t expect her to go so quickly after her diagnosis.

I had never doubted that my grandmother loved me. I never for a moment believed that she thought anything but positive thoughts about me and the rest of my family. She was a woman who would fight staunchly for her family and loved us with all of her heart. This was no secret and we all knew how proud she was of us. She never played favourites and made sure that everybody was always treated equally and fairly. She is actually one of the few people I can say that I felt never judged me. I knew she would accept me regardless of who I turned out to be. If I succeeded she would always be there with a congratulations and if I failed she would always be there with helpful words to try and pick me up out of the funk. To me she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

But over the majority of my life I have been struggling with unemployment, depression, anxiety, trust and acceptance issues and my motivation to leave the house had slowly been dwindling to almost non-existent quantities. When my parents and I moved away in 2012 it became increasingly difficult for me to spend time with those people I cared for because now they lived so far away. For these reasons I didn’t get back to my old hometown as much as I would have liked. I didn’t get to visit my grandmother as much as I wanted because my brain wouldn’t allow me to make the two and a half hour drive (including motorway driving) down to my old hometown.

Now I bring this to light because of something somebody said to me at the wake. I hadn’t visited my grandmother for a few years and simply remarked that a picture on the front of the Order of Service book didn’t look like the grandmother I knew. She had gained weight from inactivity and I simply remarked that I never saw her like that. This prompted somebody else to comment “You didn’t visit her? That’s awkward. You probably don’t want to be saying that too loud around here.” This simple comment hit me harder than a full-speed truck.

I suddenly felt like I had let her down. This was woman who had shown nothing but unconditional love for me and now I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called her grandson. I felt like a fraud, a failure and a horrible human being. I still do. But that’s why I write this, because I missed my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.

This was the third funeral in my lifetime and I have never felt emotion like this before. The other two funerals I had been to – my grandfather and my other grandmother’s – didn’t leave me devastated like this one because I had no doubt that they both knew how much I loved them. Even if we didn’t always agree on things, even if we argued, there was no doubt that they knew I loved them and I knew they loved me too. This one doesn’t feel the same. This funeral felt like I didn’t belong because I felt like she didn’t know I loved her. I feel like she left this world thinking me ungrateful and disrespectful and she won’t ever know how far from the truth that is.

I am currently a mess of tears and tissues because I’m trying to find the words to explain why I didn’t visit her. Some people don’t understand the crippling pain of anxiety or the inability to do anything when faced with depression. It’s paralysing. I didn’t want to visit her because in my mind I thought she didn’t want to see me. On clearer days I could see how stupid this was but in the midst of depression you don’t see or think clearly. I also thought I had more time with her. She wasn’t seriously ill until she was and then she very quickly deteriorated until we got the phone call telling us she had died.

But there’s nothing I can do anymore. I understand the ultimate-ness that is death. I know that however much I cry or pray she isn’t going to come back just so I can tell her all the things I wish I had told her. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. It doesn’t stop me from finally understanding all those songs where people wish for just another day or just another hour, or even just a minute. I finally get it. Because now I feel like she won’t ever know.

I don’t often find myself looking for solace in religion. I have never considered myself a man who would turn to religion for anything. But during the service the Reverend would talk about a day when my grandmother would be reunited with everybody once again. I don’t know if I believe it but I know I want to believe it. I want to have another chance to apologise to her. I want to have a chance to tell her all the things I wish I could have told her and how much I respected her both as a person, a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

I also want her to be reunited with my grandfather in whatever afterlife there may be because I know how badly she hurt when he died.

One of the last things I remember my mum telling me my grandmother had said was how she wished she could see the sky and the trees again before she died because from her hospital bed she couldn’t see anything. The bed she died in had a clear view of both the sky and the trees.

Bye Bye Bye

Given that I only experience my own life and that I experience a lot of that through hazy goggles of mental health issues, I don’t know what is common for people to feel and what is down to my own personal issues.

I have recently been feeling a fair amount of separation anxiety/abandonment issues due to my personal trainer leaving his job at the gym and thus ending our trainer/trainee relationship. Now for most people I assume this wouldn’t be a big deal, you just go and get another personal trainer. For me it’s a big deal because I don’t click with a lot of people, especially not masculine, jock-type gym-goers who actually enjoy sports, so to be given another personal trainer makes me nervous and apprehensive. This I’ve been told is fairly normal but I can’t help but panic about whether I’m going to feel as comfortable with this new guy as I did with my original trainer.

Since the NHS only allowed me to have 12 counselling sessions before they considered me “better” (which caused all sorts of anxiety when I had to leave a therapist I really liked seeing) I had been using my personal training time as a sort of therapy session. My trainer was really easy to talk to and I felt like he could relate to some of the things I had/was going through at the time. I used to enjoy going to the gym not for the exercise but because it felt like I was spending time with a friend or with somebody who actually wanted to listen. It’s irrelevant to me as to whether he wanted to or not, the fact that it felt like he wanted to is what matters to me.

But now he’s gone, or at least he will be tomorrow, and I don’t really know how to feel about it. It’s a classic example of what happens – I get overly attached to people and then get depressed when they leave. They probably think of me no more than a client or something formal like that, maybe even an acquaintance at a push, but for somebody who doesn’t make friends easily it’s very difficult to let go.

Stopping for a moment to get all psychologist on myself. I have never been abandoned physically by any member of my family. I’ve never had any sort of major trauma in that kind of sense. But maybe it’s my fear of being alone. I was always an outsider in my family and so I felt alone a lot of the time and so when somebody actively takes an interest in me or my life then it really means something to me.

So now I’m torn because something comfortable has been taken away from me and it’s not fair. I wasn’t ready to let it go and I don’t want to get to know a new trainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope my old trainer is happy with whatever he’s decided to pursue (I didn’t push the subject, it was fairly difficult to take the news anyway), but, and in a purely selfish vein, I don’t want him to go. Oh and also don’t mistake me. I don’t hate my new trainer. I’ve met him, he’s a nice guy, but whether we’ll click or not is a totally different thing and it worries me beyond belief because I felt like I had such a good relationship with my old trainer.

This is actually quite a big deal for me and the idea that I’ll never see him again is quite frustrating. I don’t really know how to feel either because a lot of people without mental health issues will probably tell me I’m being stupid (God knows that’s what my parents wanted to say when I told them), but I can’t explain how big of a deal it is to find somebody you actually want to spend time with when you spend most of your time hating the world or hating yourself. In fact, it’s an even bigger deal when you find somebody who acts like they enjoy spending time with you because you don’t consider yourself somebody anybody actually wants to be around.

I know some people won’t understand because the trainer/trainee relationship one is one that you pay for. Essentially I was paying for his time. But it didn’t matter to me, it felt comfortable and that’s all I cared about. Now I have to go from feeling comfortable to looking into the unknown.

As a footnote; taking care of your physical health is a great way to care for your mental health. People don’t enjoy the act of working out, they enjoy the way it makes them feel afterwards. That ache in your muscles makes it feel like you’ve achieved something.

If Merle Would Sing My Song

 

This is probably one of my favourite songs. It’s a bitter-sweet song about how somebody is looking for success, trying their hardest but isn’t getting the breaks or the opportunities that they feel they might deserve. It’s also a nice commentary on the world today when it says “But I still could be an overnight sensation / It would only take one sympathetic ear.” Because as we all know, with viral videos and trends these days, one person’s life can literally change overnight.

I perhaps relate a bit too much to this song. Perhaps not in the realm of music and playing a guitar on the streets of Nashville, but I have been writing content since I was eighteen and I have been applying for literary/journalism jobs since I graduated University. I’ve yet to find that sympathetic ear and it’s not for lack of trying.

I find this song to be quite alarming in the idea that it can literally take just one person to change your entire life. I’m also not sure how much other people realise that a simple act can change somebody’s life. It may not be a secret, I’m not sure how many people realise it, but I have written off and written open letters to people in positions of celebrity and high profiles asking for that “one sympathetic ear”. A chance to prove myself and to prove that I am good enough to put myself forward as a viable person with something to contribute to society (something which I don’t often feel currently in life). However, I have received no replies. Even those who I viewed as borderline infallible and practically perfect in every way didn’t even send me a courteous “acknowledgement but sorry” reply. It’s times like these that I feel invisible in the world.

The way I see it is that I’m in a huge hole. Probably about ten, maybe twenty feet deep. And I’m stuck there shouting for help. My friends are there and they know I need help but don’t have the resources to help me get out of the hole. Occasionally people walk by with a rope or a ladder and I try to ask them for help. Just to throw down a rope or ladder and then they can be on their way. They don’t have to jump down into the hole with me and stay with me, all I ask for is a rope.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not an obligation to stop and help somebody out of a hole. There is no law that says they have to help me out just because somebody is in a hole and they have resources to help the person out.

Some may call me selfish, some may call me ungrateful for what I do have in life, but I’ve reached my end. I’ve been stuck for so long that I no longer know what to do without other people’s help. I no longer feel capable of getting out of this hole on my own. I’ve even been told that “that’s life” and that “dreams aren’t made to come true” but the only recurring positive I’ve had in my life is my dreams and I’m not sure what happens to my life if I decide to throw them away and give up on them. There’s an old adage that says “it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help” so I don’t believe asking for help is selfish, I believe it’s just admitting that perhaps you can’t do everything alone.

I’m probably not the only person in this position, in fact I can almost guarantee I’m not. But I’m asking for help. From anybody who has the resources/connections to help. I learned, from my time unemployed, that many people refuse to give “handouts” to those that need them. It’s no secret that a lot of people believe that a person should be able to “get themselves out of their situation” be this unemployment or purely mental health, however I have to say that sometimes it’s beyond your own capability to progress from your current situation to a better one, that’s when we need to ask for help.

Sometimes people don’t need a handout, sometimes people just need a hand.

Chasing The Likes

When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.

I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.

It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.

By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.

The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.

It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.

The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.

But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.

I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.

Mental Health and Unemployment

My mental health was already skewed from the moment I began secondary school, but long term unemployment definitely did not help this. Not only does everybody look down at you as useless and lazy, but very very few people are actually willing to help you unless they get some direct benefit out of it.

I was unemployed for three years (from 2011 till 2014). I aspired to be a journalist and as such was looking as ways to boost my experience because I already had the University Education, it was just the experience holding me back. I decided that I wanted to start a YouTube channel focusing on interviewing people. I wrote off to a number of well known (and at the time lesser known) YouTube personalities asking for an interview (I figured they would be the most down-to-earth and contactable people rather than Hollywood Celebs). I explained that I would be willing to travel to them (if they were in the UK) or we could do it over Skype if they preferred that. I didn’t hear a single thing from any of the people I contacted. No acknowledgement at all that I even existed. This, for an unemployed person with mental illness, did nothing to help my self-esteem and I believe was a factor in my prolonged unemployment. I’m not saying everybody needed to agree to the interview but people need to realise their actions (or inaction) have consequences. Had they agreed to an interview it may have only taken 10 minutes out of their day and changed my life completely. Had they even acknowledged my existence it might have had a different outcome. By totally ignoring a perfectly innocent and professional request it made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything, like I wasn’t important enough for their time.

This may not seem like a big deal to most people because most people don’t wish to be journalists or work in the entertainment industry, I do. This was my first step onto a ladder. It was an inventive way for me to get myself out there and gain the experience I had been told I needed to get. Nope. Nothing. And on top of that I was turned down for internships at Newspapers and Radio Stations for no real reason other than “we don’t take people” and no explanation as to why. I was devastated after these interactions that sometimes I didn’t leave my house for weeks on end.

On top of this the Job Centre did absolutely nothing to help my predicament. In the three years I was unemployed I received absolutely no help in getting a job (which is what their job is). They decided that finding a job would be easier if everything was mandatory. I went on three different CV courses that they told me I had to attend. Every time I went to a new course they told me my CV was wrong, which was odd because it had been professionally written by another person working for a CV course. Eventually I ran my course in the Job Centre (12 months I think it was) and then they threw me over to a company that wasn’t even part of the Job Centre. There was no communication between the Job Centre and this new company and as such I spent a lot of my time there repeating stuff I had already done at the Job Centre and whenever I tried to explain that I had done it they simply replied with “But it’s mandatory”. This is the Job Centre’s way of helping. They don’t actively help you, they just make everything mandatory. It really became too much when, having told them I suffer with mental illness, depression and anxiety, they told me that I would have to work full time at a recycling plant (a dump) for free or lose my benefits. This is a horrific notion – how was working full time at a recycling plant supposed to improve my prospects of getting a job in journalism? The answer? It wasn’t. At this point the Job Centre had stopped caring about finding me a job that was relevant to me (or even paid) and just wanted to force me off of their books and into an unpaid role.

Fortunately for me a vacancy opened up at a supermarket near where I lived. I applied for and got a job working there (although this didn’t come without its problems). I feel sorry for anybody unemployed now because the world has taken a dramatically sharp turn towards “It’s not what you know but who you know” and unless you know people in the right places you could be looking at years of unemployment and mental health problems.

Please, as always, if you know anybody in a similar predicament please feel free to share this link with them. This blog is set up to make sure that people don’t feel alone and know that other people have gone through similar things and come out on the other side.

Sticks and Stones

As I was growing up the only advice I got about bullying was to “not let it affect you” which is the single most unhelpful piece of advice you can give a person. I would rather you showed me how to not let it affect me because now, at twenty seven years old, I still don’t know how to “forgive and forget” or how to “move on” from a situation. I still get bouts of anger and hatred stemming from something that happened to me when I was at school. I still find my mind flashing back to the school playground every time I see an overly loud and/or obnoxious child.

I was bullied throughout high-school and I don’t remember having one single good day at the school. I was terrified to go into school, I didn’t want to leave the house and I felt alone in the world because I had no friends. Even the “friends” I did have were the most appalling bunch of two-faced dicks you could ever hope to meet. The sad thing? They’re living their lives now without any sort of repercussions regarding their actions and I’m the one that is crippled with self-doubt, anxiety, depression and hatred.

The bullying I endured at school was not physical. I had one or two altercations but I never wanted to resort to violence because I know I have a temper and I was always afraid of pushing my temper that little bit too far and causing some actual, proper harm to somebody. That’s why I don’t like getting angry, to this day I’m still very reserved when it comes to actual violence because I don’t know whether my mind would stop me if I was ever going to go too far.

The bullying I endured at school was mental and I don’t care what anybody says about “sticks and stones may break my bones etc.” because that shit isn’t true. More damage has been done to me with words than it ever was with violence.

My “friends” at school were on and off but I was stupid enough to believe that when we weren’t fighting that we were actually friends. No. This was never the case. I don’t believe during the five years we spent together at school that we were ever actually friends but I feel I was the only one that suffered this misconception. They had no qualms about playing me and my naivety, asking to borrow my stuff and then destroying it and claiming it wasn’t them. I would later find out that if I ever lent them anything they would wait until a class I wasn’t in and then just crush it under a chair and claim that they lost it or that somebody else in the class did it.

But I was a fool. I had nobody else and this was a time in my life where I needed people. I needed people to feel like I had a purpose or I may have done something I would later regret. So I clung to these people and when they wanted to be my friend I would take them back. They would use and abuse my friendship every time and I would just accept it because I had nobody else to turn to.

The bullying policy at my school was horrific. It was practically non-existent and the teachers wouldn’t physically do anything to stop it happening. If you told a teacher you would simply have both kid’s parents called, everybody would sit down together, you’d talk through what happened, shake hands at the end and that would be the end of it. The next day you would walk into school and the bullying would just continue, or even get worse in some circumstances.

Nobody teaches you how to deal with it properly. I wish I could tell you how to deal with it but I still don’t know. I still can’t forgive and forget. I still hate those people that made my life at school a nightmare. I still wish horrific things on them as some sort of redemption for bullying me and crippling my social abilities. It’s not fair that they get to go on and live their life while I’m struggling to wake up in the morning because it’s become almost routine that I feel downtrodden and unworthy of living.

Even to this day I can’t make friends. I’m scared people I make friends with are secretly talking about me behind my back. I’m scared that I’m just a placeholder in their lives. I’m scared that they don’t really take our friendship as seriously as I do. And I’m scared that I really don’t mean anything to them.

Bullying is a poison. Go to a doctor and they may not be able to see a few traces of it in your system but over time it’ll build up inside of you and then, when they can see it, it’s too late because it’s already infected your body and broken down anything good you once had inside of you. Your body and mind are now just a toxic wasteland of hatred and foulness.

How can we prevent this? I can’t give you a definite answer but I can tell you that bullying needs to be taken seriously. I’m not just talking “tell a teacher”, I’m talking about people actually doing something about it. Nobody ever got suspended or expelled for bullying me (even on those times they were physically violent towards me). These need to stop being used as threats and be used a lot more seriously. More people would think twice about bullying if their were honest-to-god consequences for their actions. In some instances I even believe police intervention should be used because some children can be quite psychopathic and need a firm hand to be dealt with.

We also need to educate the victims of bullying. We need to help them understand how to get on with their lives without letting the toxic hate build up inside of them and corrupt their minds. We need to stop assuming bullying builds character and actually pay attention to the needs and wants of those being bullied.

And I don’t care for excuses. There are no excuses to why your child is a bully. Address the problem. Too many times people just say things like “he’s going through some things” or “he’s got a bad home life” or “he’s just a teenager, they do these things.” No. Address the underlying issue and don’t just pretend that a half-an-hour conversation in the headteacher’s office is going to solve it for good. Make your school a safe place to go. Don’t let those that value education be too afraid to go into school and get it.

I say this as somebody dealing with mental health issues as a result of school bullying. I say this as somebody who still harbours hatred and anger towards people he hasn’t seen in over ten years. I say this as somebody who can’t form proper friendships out of fear and self-hatred. I say this as somebody who never wants a child’s mind and mental health to be twisted and warped by bullying ever again.

Please share this if you know or anybody who is or has been bullied. And make sure you offer help to those that might be going through hard times as a result of bullying. Even if it’s just pointing them in the direction of somebody who might be able to help, it’s better than pretending they’ll outgrow it.

To Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo?

When I was younger I never wanted a tattoo. It never crossed my mind and I didn’t particularly idolise anybody with tattoos. For a long time I couldn’t understand why people would want to get a tattoo.

I didn’t expect to get the reaction that I did when I posted this question to Facebook. I half expected nobody to reply or nobody to even care. As it turns out it was one of my most popular Facebook posts to date with a lot of people commenting. The majority of people said tattoo which wasn’t entirely surprising as I know a lot of people with tattoos and a lot of people who like tattoos.

What did surprise me though was the people that said otherwise. Nobody outright told me not to get a tattoo, it was more of a concern of whether I have thought it through. It was a surprising reaction given that nobody I know is explicitly against tattoos (that I know of). One of the more thought provoking comments was “What do you wanna get done is probably the better question… if you know what and where you want it and think you can live with it… get it..” This raises some interesting points but troubles me considerably because I’ve never considered my mind very trustworthy a lot of the time.

So here’s some backstory to this idea;

The idea of a tattoo isn’t new to me. It has always crossed my mind as a way to symbolise my devotion to something. At one point, I will admit, I considered having a musical note with “Backstreet Boys” tattooed somewhere around it. I was young and naive and I will admit I am glad that I didn’t have it done. Not saying that the Backstreet Boys haven’t played a huge part in my life, just that my devotion to them has cooled down over the years (not gone completely, I’m not that crazy). So I’ll admit I’m also glad I didn’t get an O-Town or Nsync tattoo for very much the same reasons.

My fear is that I have to justify everything to everybody, I can never do something just because I want to do it. I always end up hating myself if I do that. So I needed to think of a reason to justify getting a tattoo. For me I never had a reason. My brother has three tattoos; one that represents a once-in-a-lifetime trip, one that he believes represents his personality and another that he got for his children. I don’t have any milestones like that in my life, my life has been controlled by depression, anger and hate for the most part.

But this was something I had to take into account when considering a tattoo. I didn’t want an angry/angsty tattoo that I would regret later in life. I needed something that spoke to who I was. I actually didn’t have to search too hard before I found the design I wanted.

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This is the design that if I were to get a tattoo that I would get. This is a Rune from the book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. This is important to me because those were the first books where I actually read about a place I wanted to be, about people I wanted to be with and worlds I wanted to live in. It was my perfect escape from the crazy going on inside my head. This Rune in particular stands for Angelic Power and I didn’t give it much thought till I had a depressive few days a couple of months ago and needed a reminder that I was special, that I had something special inside of me that made my life worth living. This, to me, is what that symbol represents. It represents the power inside of me to continue on living, to carry on regardless of what other people think of me and know that I do have something to offer the world and that I do have something special.

So there it is. That would be the design (although I’m unsure if I’d get it in colour or just all black) and I would get it tattooed on my wrist or forearm as a place I could look at when times got tough and I needed that reminder. Do I think I can live with it? I don’t know. I don’t know what that feeling is supposed to feel like. Does anybody know what that feeling is when they get a tattoo? I wouldn’t know if I felt it because I’ve never had to make a decision that permanently affects the rest of my life. If worse comes to worse I could find solace in the idea that at least mine means something, people get tattoos for considerably worse reasons than mine.

So I’m still up in the air. I’m still undecided about a tattoo which will come as a disappointment to some but a relief to others. But rest assured this is not a decision I am making because of peer pressure or because of fear, it is a decision I make based on who I am as a person and whether I can justify getting a tattoo or not.

If I’m Not ____ Then Who Am I?

Have you ever found yourself on the outside of a conversation? Where you want to say something but there’s never an opening and there never feels like a right time to say what you want to say? And the more you think about it the more your input sounds redundant or stupid and then by the time you’ve convinced yourself that what you have to say is funny or important then the subject has already changed? And now you’re just left with the lingering feeling that you were left out.

Okay so this is a constant battle I have with myself every time I go out of the house. I can’t interject myself into conversations because I don’t feel what I have to say is worth anybody else’s time. Because of this I end up just sitting quietly in a corner somewhere whenever social gatherings occur. I bring this up because I tried something scary today – I went to a social event.

Work was having a Christmas meal for everybody who worked on my department and there was a Quiz Night too. I am a sucker for quizzes – I will never say no to a quiz – and so agreed to go. The actual quiz itself was great and I actually had fun and felt like a normal human being. This was because people were looking to me for the answers.

I have always prided myself on intelligence. I won’t say I’m intelligent but I do like to learn things and my Dad has always instilled an importance of education in me. The only problem that I find is that now I don’t have a personality outside of being “The Intelligent One”. When I’m around smarter people I find myself empty and adrift, not knowing where I belong. When I can’t be The Smart One I find myself unable to be anything else because it’s what I’ve come to know myself as for so long, and the only personality trait I actually value about myself.

To this point my evening was crippled in two ways. Firstly I didn’t win the quiz. My team came second. I spent the rest of the evening running through reasons we didn’t come first – The other team probably cheated, the questions were tailored for older people and not people of my age, the quiz didn’t involve any of my specialist subjects, my team was basically me and one other girl holding the team up. I refused to admit that I lost because another team was better than us because where would that leave me? Empty and without a place to belong. If any of the above were true then I could still cling to my intelligence because the reason wouldn’t just have been that I wasn’t good enough. But I still can’t bring myself to admit it. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad loser or mentally unwell.

The other reason things went downhill is because I can’t interject myself into conversations. This means that before and after the quiz I was basically sat silent eating my food, drinking my lemonade or just waiting to be included in something. During the quiz people relied on me to give answers, they needed to interact with me because I had something to offer. Outside of the quiz nobody seemed to care and I struggled to interject anything because I knew as soon as I opened my mouth all eyes would be on me and I would have been expected to say something momentous or life changing when I simply didn’t have it in me.

Nevertheless I am giving myself credit for actually leaving the house for a social event. The last time I did that was probably a good eight or nine months ago. But I can’t help but feel all of the inadequacies I have been fighting for so long – being alone, being not good enough, feeling stupid, being unpopular – all of these things just rush back to my mind the moment I say goodbye to the people and I suddenly remember how miserable me and my life are.

I didn’t want to end this on a sour note but this is how my evenings out end. Whenever I say goodbye to the people I am with my mind switches to negatives and I find myself just wanting to lock myself away and cry for days on days. This isn’t practical though so I end up just pushing the emotions down and not talking about them and then another social situation will roll around and I’ll feel horrifically miserable again at the end of the night.