The Anonymous Author of Page 74
Gearóidín shares her experiences of being bullied.
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I didn’t see myself as a candidate for being bullied, I didn’t fit the stereotype I assumed to be accurate"
The following is an edited version of Gearóidín McEvoy's blog on bullying, you can read the full-length version here.
I have very few regrets in my life. I would like to say I have none, but alas, we all make mistakes. It is a consolation, however, that almost all of those regrets I have led to circumstances that positively impacted my life and therefore, cannot be truly regrettable.
Out of context, it seems trivial and perhaps not even worthy of such a negative title: I failed to take credit for an article 17 year old me wrote. Let me explain.
In my final year of secondary school I was editor of my school yearbook. I have always had a passion for writing and thus in this role, as well as editing, I wrote many articles for the yearbook. I also wrote what was, at the time, the best thing I had ever written. I wrote an article that was extremely personal to me. It came from the deepest crevasses of my soul and pouring my words on the page was a both astoundingly difficult and remarkably liberating experience. I wrote about my experience of being bullied that year, and throughout previous years.
I was proud of the finished product. However, as time went by and the date of publication approached, something began to fester within me. The niggling rot of fear gripped me. I was afraid. Afraid of the consequences that writing about what some of my classmates had put me through would bring. There, below the title, in bold print stood my name. What would they say if they saw it? They were bound to see it. And so before the finished mock up was sent to the printers, I made the decision to change “Gearóidín McEvoy” to “Anonymous”. This is my regret. And this is the blog post I have been trying to write ever since.
I have always been a confident person. I may come across as quiet and shy when I first get to know people, but I am never anything but driven and ambitious. Thus when I first began to feel scared and unsafe in school it came as quite a shock. I didn’t see myself as a candidate for being bullied, I didn’t fit the stereotype I assumed to be accurate. I had a group of amazing friends, I had a boyfriend, I played sport and I was good at school. I could see that my friend was being bullied. I could see how these people tormented her, tore her down, destroyed her confidence and made her feel insignificant. I just couldn’t see that it was happening to me too.
In that anonymous article I wrote about the term “bullying”. I hated the term then. I hate it now.
How I dealt with the bullies
It is difficult to explain the experience of being bullied to someone who has never had to go through it. Describing the actions alone, the “what happened then” is altogether unsatisfactory.
What affected me most was the fear. Fear of changing for PE; I avoided almost every PE class of my 6th year. I would gladly accept the note home to my parents for “forgetting” my sports clothes again this week. I became an expert in making well-rounded excuses that got me out of group projects and any situation that would put me in a confined area with my tormentors.
I hid in bathrooms when I heard them outside. Often, they knew I was in there and spoke about me, saying the most awful things, knowing that I would hear. I tried my hardest not to walk alone to class, not to wander the hallways without a posse of people.
I had always had an excellent rapport with most of my teachers. So when it got too much to pass off as “school yard banter” the people in authority were alerted that my best friend and I were being bullied. I trusted the teachers. I knew that the offenders would be punished, and all would be right with the world.
I was very, very wrong.
I must issue a cautionary note. Many of my teachers were wonderful people and still play a role in my life today. I count a certain few as close friends and cannot fault them in anyway. But be it incompetence on the part of those with influence or a bureaucratic impracticality, once we told our teachers what was happening, like a snowball rolling from a mountain top, gravity and velocity dragged misery on top of us at an alarming and unexpected speed.
On one occasion, after a threatening confrontation before my Biology class, I sought help from a teacher in charge, telling her what had happened. The response I received was to sit in an office and relay the entire event while the person who threatened me sat in a chair next to me. I had never shook with fear before. I could feel my tormentor’s eyes burning into my skull, a look of sheer contempt on her face. I have never felt weaker, smaller or more insignificant in all my life. Later, what seemed like years later, I left the office and less than an hour later, during lunch, they hunted me down. Needless to say, I did not report their actions again.
My school advised me to go and see a counsellor every Monday, to help me “cope”. After my first session, I felt great. I had spoken about a lot of things and I looked forward to the next week. That was of course until I arrived at 10am, only to find this counsellor introduce herself to me and ask, “What is it that I can do for you?”
She had completely forgotten me and I had to go through the same story again, to refresh her memory. I went a few more times, but after perhaps my 5th week, I feigned that I was “cured”. I was tired of spilling my soul to a woman who didn’t care enough to even listen.
My schoolbag was hidden, it was put in a sink with the taps left running.
My books were stolen and defaced, I was pushed, kicked and yelled at. I was excluded, isolated and mocked. They talked about me, horrific things I will never, ever verbalise. I cried in toilets, I cried on the bus, I cried at the back of class, hiding my face behind my hair, pretending to write. I cried at night, in my bed, alone and afraid.
I have no sympathy for these people. They voided their right to such niceties when they made my life a misery in school. I do not hate them. They are far too insignificant in my life for me to waste my time on hate. However they are equally too insignificant to be afforded pity or forgiveness. I am completely indifferent to their existence nowadays.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and everything happens for a reason. I firmly believe that now. Had you asked me this a few years ago, however, I would not have been so sure. But when the time came to chose third level degrees I found myself at a crossroads. I had always been 100% certain of the course I wanted to study, and the university I wanted to go to. I knew that many of my tormentors had applied for my college of choice. What if they got there too? What if they continued to bully me in university?
So I made the rashest decision I have ever made. I gambled my future and chose UCC, the furthest university from my home. I ran away. I gave my friends and family the excuse that I chose thus because I wanted to study Irish. This was only half true. In the true spirit of the above maxim I was offered my place at UCC and I have never looked back. It was the best decision I have ever made.
Make no mistake in my intentions, I do not owe the people who hurt me, teased me, threatened me and scared me anything. I do not owe my success and my happiness to being bullied. I have merely taken a positive from an astounding pile of negative and chosen to discard the rest. I am a strong person today. I am not afraid like I used to be. I am not bitter, I am not hurt. I am sad that there are students who are about to return to school, holding the same fear I used to hold.
I cannot offer any support to the unfortunate masses other than the unquestionable knowledge that it will get better. Life moves on and you move with it, becoming a better and stronger version of you. Keeping a strong group of friends around is key and reporting the abuse is essential. Despite my negative experiences, authority figures need to be notified at every turn. Parents, teachers and even police, should it become that serious, must be informed. It is the only way to remain with some veil of protection.