This next post is written by Grace who blogs over at Life In Bloom. Here she shares her experiences of bullying and the impact it had on her mental health, as well as some words of encouragement for overcoming these kinds of negative experiences.
Bullying & Mental Health
Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or a group of people,where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. When people say what ‘COUNTS’ as bullying or says ‘Are you SURE that’s bullying?’ – phrases like that really get to me because personally I think, if someone is made to feel so low by a comment or an action made by another peer, then this is bullying – is it not? Bullying doesn’t just have to be physical, it canbe through destruction of property, verbal abuse, taunting and even criticism. We need to stopthinking that just because someone hasn’t got a graze on their knee or a bruise on their arm, they’re not being bullied. There will be bruises and scars mentally, in their mind, just not visibly for everyone to see.
Bullying can happen at school, on the way to school, between friends/family and even in the workplace. For me, it happened in school from Year 7 to Year 11 and I think the sad thing is that everyone says to love & cherish your time at school because it’ll be the best time of yourlife – personally, that could not have been further from the truth. I could not wait to get awayfrom it all and just be ME!! It wasn’t until I left school that I realised how full my head felt,from emotions, to the comments that were made about me, the general day to day bullying that I dealt with – and I think it was at that point I realised it had effected me mentally… I don’t like to think of it like that nowadays as it was like 5 years ago since I left the school –HOWEVER it has stuck with me massively and I do sometimes sit there and think about what I would say/do now that I have grown up and gained strength mentally.
We always speak about the importance of our physical heath and it’s something that is drilled into us from a young age, such as doing regular exercise and how smoking is bad for us. However, when it comes to Mental Health, it’s not acknowledged or recognised in the same way. As a nation, we see the phrase ‘mental health’ as a negative, however this needs to change as it can also be a positive state. Mental health comes in so many forms and can effectpeople’s emotional well-being in different ways. Our physical health fluctuates and varies depending on certain factors, therefore we should accept the fact that our mental health will fluctuate depending on personal or environmental factors. Mental health difficulties that people experience include, depression, anxiety, self-harming and eating disorders (there are many more.) Not everyone will experience every single one of these, but to think that ONE bully can make someone go through any of these, is disgusting.
I would love to tell you all why I got bullied, but that is a question I still don’t have anyanswers for. I can only assume it was because I had blonde hair (seen as being ditsy), I have agap in my two front teeth, I wasn’t as slim as some of the other girls so I had weight comments thrown at me. I would just love to know – however, part of me thinks, there probably wasn’t a particular reason, they just saw me as an easy target and I wasn’t part of that ‘popular’ group that every secondary school has!
I get that it will be hard for teachers to monitor it as it can be really subtle but one problem I found I was up against was when teachers would turn round to me, whilst I was crying because of the bullies, to tell me that it was probably just ‘banter.’ Okay – maybe it wasbanter for the bullies, but if I didn’t find it funny and the banter wasn’t a two way thing, howcan they blame it on that. The other problem was the fact occasionally I was too scared to tell my teachers about how I was being bullied and how upset it was making it purely because I knew it would make things worse. It would cause more problems, I would get called a‘snitch’ or a ‘cry baby’, so I figured it was best to just keep it to myself. It can be such a dark and lonely place and you do have some really deep thoughts where you just ask yourself WHY ME? WHY NOW? WHO AM I? WILL IT EVER STOP?
So a question on everyone’s mind is, why do people bully others? I believe that they do it tomake themselves feel better, I don’t know why, but I really believe this. It just seems asthough the people who bullied me had absolutely nothing better to do and it made them feel powerful. If they were upsetting, belittling and bullying me; it made them feel better. I think also, peer pressure can play a big part in it because they want to look ‘cool’ in front of all their friends and protect themselves from it happening to them. Sometimes, I don’t think they understand the impact of their behaviour, perhaps they’re experiencing mental health oremotional issues and this is their way of coping with it.
From my personal experience, trying to revise and sit exams was almost impossible. My mind was so full, I was crying, I didn’t even want to go to school some days – yet I had to sit exams and get good grades!!!! The common response I used to get if I spoke to someoneabout it would be ‘Oh just ignore them, you’re better than that…’ Okay, so thank-you for that comment BUT someone who felt as low as what I did at the time would never appreciate acomment like that, purely because it’s easy for people to say that to you to get you to shut up.There was very little support in the school and this is something we need to change.
The trouble we face with bullying and mental health is that the relationship between them both is so complicated because some people are bullied as a result of their mental health problems and some young people develop mental health issues as a consequence of being bullied. Bullying has a significant effect on children and young people’ mental health,emotional well-being and their identity. I have to admit that bullying really can mess with your head and your mental state because you start to doubt yourself, you feel as though you’re not good enough and that what they’re saying about you is true (when really it isn’ttrue.) I spent many years at secondary school wishing I was like the ‘cool kids’, wishing I had perfect skin, wishing my hair was a different colour, wishing I was thinner. I was cleverly telling myself that I was not worthy. I always replayed the difficult moments in my head and blurred out the beautiful memories I had of my childhood, my family, my friends. If you can relate to any of this, that’s okay, we are all human trying to figure out our life.
If bullying is not responded to effectively, it can cause the individual to develop other coping strategies such as self-isolation or self-harm – this then has a huge effect on their ability to engage with peers and school in general. I felt incredibly lucky to have a huge support system outside of school, I had my family – not every child that gets bullied has that tight family bond at home where they feel they can express emotions, this makes it much harder for them to cope with it all.
I think the thing that really proved to help me is when I began to see the school counsellor. I would advise anyone to see a counsellor – the fact they don’t know you, they don’t know who you are talking about – they give you an outsiders opinion and they give you advice and coping strategies. They will hear so many stories day in day out that you should never feel embarrassed or scared to speak to them, no matter what it is you’re going through. I didn’t know about the counsellor until a learning support teacher told me to book an appointment with her. It was the best thing I did. It meant I could go in her office, have a good cry, let out all my emotions, get advice and I could walk out feeling like I had relieved so much stress, anxiety and worry. I could then go back to my class and sit and learn, I could revise, I could go home and enjoy my life. Never feel ashamed in going to see a counsellor, they are there to help you and no problem is too small.
I know it’s been a while since all this happened but I have to agree with everyone out there that says that the scars of being bullied are long-lasting and take time to heal. The weird thing for me is the fact that there was once a time when I was ashamed to admit that I’d beenbullied, but thankfully, as I’ve grown up, I have realised that it was purely just a bunch of mean people who had nothing better to do.
There is absolutely no shame in admitting that I was once bullied, there is nothing to hide from anymore – it’s something I went through in the past and in-fact, I have come away from it all a better and much stronger person. I was such a smiley happy girl, then the bullies got to me and my smile was barely ever seen, now 5 years on and I have my smile back, my happiness back and I have moved on.
If anyone reading this now is being bullied, perhaps experienced bullying and feel like you can’t go on…please know that it does get better.
You become stronger. You become braver. You get your life back. YOU CAN BE YOU AGAIN!
A little bit about me….
My name is Grace, I’m 20 years old and I live in Lincolnshire. I began blogging with two goals in mind – to help others and to follow my dreams. My blogs are based on experiences I’ve been through, my general thoughts and feelings from an outsiders perspective and anything else inbetween! One key thing you MUST know about me is that I love to have fun…(I’m sure I spend most of my day smiling and laughing instead of actually working!!) I would love for you to join my Life In Bloom family and get involved with us all!
You can see more of Grace and her work on her blog and Twitter:
Blog – lifeinbloom2.wordpress.com
Twitter – @GraceWalkerBlog
To find out more about #TimetoTalk, check out this link and get involved.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.
The Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org
Young Minds: http://www.youngminds.org.uk
Papyrus (prevention of young suicide): https://www.papyrus-uk.org
Self Harm UK: https://www.selfharm.co.uk
Time to Change: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Rethink Mental Illness: http://www.rethink.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://www.afsp.org
Please do not struggle alone.