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.

13 Reasons Why

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything affects everything.” – 13 Reasons Why.

 

The last day and a half have been a roller-coaster of emotions for me because I felt it necessary to binge-watch the entire first season of 13 Reasons Why. This show has hit me more emotionally than a lot of other shows because of the subject matter regarding suicide, bullying, friendship and helplessness.

I had avoided watching this show for fear that reports of it glamorising suicide may have been true. But that’s not what I got from this show. Unfortunately the show does seem to perceive suicide as a justice-bringer and enforce the idea that everybody will miss you and rethink what they did when you die (as long as you leave them tapes explaining what they did and threaten them with police action) and it also seems to treat suicide in a similar way to playing a game (especially with the thirteen tapes and the map around town). But it doesn’t glamorise the actual mindset or frame of mind that a person has to be in to commit suicide.

There’s a heavy bullying tone going on throughout 13 Reasons Why, what with the bullying being the main speculation of why Hannah Baker has killed herself. Her parents have started a lawsuit claiming neglect on the part of the school and it’s actually quite interesting to see what the school does and doesn’t do in regards to emotional traumas.

One of the first things I really want to talk about is rumours. Hannah Baker’s life goes downhill very quickly because of one picture and a rumour. Now with rumours we tend to only place blame on those that started it, believing that if they hadn’t started it then it wouldn’t have happened. It’s true, it wouldn’t, but the blame is on everybody who shares the rumour, believes it to be true or lets it influence their opinion of a person without once consulting the person who is the subject of the rumour. I may be slightly biased with this but the first few episodes were very tough viewing for me because it took me back to a similar place where my own mental health was completely messed around by a group of people and some malicious rumours/gossip. Some viewers may just say that it’s not enough to want to kill yourself but as somebody who has been in that position, it’s a lot worse than you can possibly imagine. It’s not something that can just be forgotten about easily and you can’t just “move on” when a rumour has completely changed people’s perceptions of you.

We also have to talk about objectification. There’s a huge, huge amount of objectification in this series and it’s very well tackled actually. Hannah Baker feels objectified when she finds herself on a list of “best and worst” physical assets of girls in the school. Despite the fact that she’s on the “best” section of the list, it’s not something we can just dismiss as acceptable. Many people in the show pretend that it’s a compliment but it’s objectification and it’s horrific to think that people are treated like that. We’re all guilty of objectification, I’m not going to pretend we don’t all look at somebody and think “they’re hot”, but it’s when they stop being a person and just become an object that things get into a risky area. To treat somebody like they should be grateful to have men leering at them is a ridiculous idea and a horrible reflection of a sexist bygone era. People are people, regardless of what you think of them, and their feelings should always be taken into consideration. My advice is that if you are going to objectify people (because I believe it’s fantasy to pretend it won’t ever happen) is to do it in your head. Don’t single people down to being anything less than human, don’t ever pretend a person is just made up of one single asset or should be grateful for your attention. That’s not how people work.

One of the more complex issues is the way the school handles everything. Children, in particular teenagers, often pass off like they are fine and dandy with everything going on in the world. When somebody is killed via a drink driving incident then the school puts up posters to encourage people not to drink and drive. Suicide is seen to be prevented via more posters going up and urging people they are important. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, as such, there is definitely more that needs to be done. One good thing I saw in this series and I know they don’t have it at many schools in the UK is the idea of a communications class. Getting people to deal with how they communicate and interact is an integral part of life as a teenager and schools don’t seem to put a focus on that. They’ll hand out punishments but they won’t actually try and educate the children in the ways of acceptable behaviour. Knowing people commit suicide, teaching people about bullying and suicide statistics would be a hundred percent more beneficial than just throwing down a detention whenever you see a fight.

I did notice, from my own experience of counselling, that the show promotes a very disjointed view of counselling. School counselling currently is awful in most schools. We had one and she did nothing. Like, honestly, absolutely nothing. 13 Reasons Why seems to suggest a need for counselling but then doesn’t acknowledge that the one attending needs to want help. I personally didn’t know whether I blamed the counsellor for Hannah Baker’s death or not. Towards the end of the series she seems beyond help, like she has already made up her mind, and she wants other people to sort her problems rather than work with her to sort them. I know the feelings and I don’t blame her, but to blame the counsellor for not following her after a counselling session is a grey area in my books. Granted some of the things he said in the session were questionably unhelpful but it’s his job to offer help and whether she takes it or not isn’t his fault. It made me realise the necessity for mandatory counselling or counselling-like classes at school. People sometimes need help and are too afraid to seek it out, thinking they are beyond help, but mandatory counselling sessions would help to ensure people don’t get to this point and that they receive the help they do need. It would make sure that kids like Hannah Baker don’t get pushed and pushed right to the edge before they finally make that decision.

The show gave me something that I wished would work in the real world. An anonymous compliment bag. Each student had one and you could write a compliment to a person, pop it into their bag and you wouldn’t have to face the awkwardness of saying it to their face. It was a refreshing idea to help those who might be too afraid to show their emotions. Granted this system gets abused and it has it’s flaws but it’s just an improvement on the way people currently interact. I, like Hannah Baker, need compliments to make me feel better – no matter how anonymous. Even if you think the compliments are stupid or just rubbish little things, they are important to some people and they make some people feel better. It’s a good idea that I wish could be in place in a lot more schools around the world. It promotes a healthy positivity that is lacking in the world.

It is worth emphasising that suicide does not bring justice. If you are feeling suicidal and want people to listen then you need to find somebody to talk to. Somebody will listen, I promise. Maybe not the ones you want to listen, but somebody will. Professionals will. Suicide is not a way to get revenge on those that hurt you. Unfortunately that’s the message that some people have taken away from 13 Reasons Why, which is definitely not the message it was trying to convey.

The show 13 Reasons Why can be very triggering to somebody with a preexisting mental health issue and so I recommend it only if you feel strong and comfortable enough in your mental state. If you do suffer from suicidal thoughts then it’s very important that you talk to somebody open and honestly about your thoughts.

“It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.” – 13 Reasons Why.

 

Man Up!

“I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough- man up.”

Piers Morgan wrote this on Twitter on May 5th. The ensuing argument amongst his fans and foes was actually rather entertaining to watch, particularly seeing him trying to justify his particular choice of words.

To begin with, yes, the idea of saying “man up” is sexist. It’s a reference to “toughen up” but with connotations suggesting that being a man is essentially being tougher than a woman. Oh and if you question “should we change everything with the word man in it then? Like Mankind?” Then yes, we probably should. The idea stems from a patriarchal and misogynistic bygone era that some people understand we need to move away from are trying to take us out of. Mankind should be Personkind. Just because the phrase Mankind has been around for a long time and has become ingrained into our vocabulary does not mean it doesn’t need to change with the times.

Also I have to mention that he doesn’t seem to have a problem with women baring their souls in public, just the men. This is probably because he still holds onto the age old belief that men can only be men if they don’t show emotion. Men are apparently supposed to be stone-faced, stoic and emotionless when in public but women can apparently break down and cry regardless of what happens. This is the idea that women can be considered weak, after all it doesn’t impact our perception of them because we must already think of them as weaker. But men are strong and strong people don’t bare their souls. If a man breaks down, cries and bares his soul then he’s weak and that impacts our perception of him in a negative way. This, in case you haven’t already guessed, is also a sexist way to view the world. Don’t segregate men and women. Biologically and physically there are differences between men and women (talking about sex and not gender here) but anything a man and a woman are capable of doing should be treated entirely equally. If a man were physically unable to bare his soul in public then I would get your concern, as it is both sexes are capable of baring their souls to whomever they like and as such we should encourage the open and honest communication of anybody and everybody.

Mr Morgan also goes on to defend himself by claiming that he really only speaks about celebrities who are trying to endorse a product or some sort of new venture they may have coming out soon. True, some celebrities are encouraged to play up to the cameras but this doesn’t mean we have to discourage everybody from doing it. I believe the phrase One Bad Apple perfectly explains that “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch” and so just because one person does it for attention doesn’t mean we should dissuade everybody from doing it.

And, whilst I don’t actually believe the claims that Mr Morgan wasn’t speaking directly about mental health, to separate mental health and soul-baring is a dangerous thing to do. Bottling things up inside can cause mental health problems. Having to wait until you get home to talk to somebody about something can warp your mind over time. Assigning times and places to when men can talk about their feelings does nothing but promote an unhealthy attitude towards mental health. Mental health problems begin somewhere and they usually begin with the attitude that people shouldn’t speak about their problems. Your statement, whilst maybe not entirely directed at people suffering from mental health issues, does not help anybody who is currently suffering from mental health problems.