There was a report in the news last week stating that children who were bullied suffer worse in the long term than those who have been maltreated by adults. I know from personal experience how much bullying can affect mental health. I was bullied and whilst my bullies did not solely cause my mental illness, they did contribute to it. I’m sure that they didn’t know how damaging their bullying was but I wonder if they were told about the consequences of bullying on another human being’s life and how it isn’t just ‘a laugh’ maybe it would’ve had some kind of impact on them. If I were the reason someone was lying in a hospital bed with scars on their arms then I would feel pretty damn horrible, I don’t think I could live with that guilt.
I was bullied by an handful of lads that would sing “What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a moustache?” to me. I would try to ignore it and I would focus so hard on not letting my facial expression react but when I was at home it would smack in the face. I would sit there in tears hating myself, staring at the reflection in the mirror and detesting what I saw. I would scrutinise everything about myself. I missed days of school because I felt I couldn’t face the world feeling so ugly. I didn’t tell anyone about it at the time, I let the weight of it crush my shoulders because I was embarrassed about what the bullies were saying and I felt deserving of it. I already had mental health problems, I already had horrible thoughts and voices in my head and the bullies just agreed with them. I thought they were right.
I remember my 13th Birthday, I woke up full of excitement because I loved my Birthday, I would plan it for months on end. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and saw the ‘moustache’ that the bullies taunted me about. It felt like my world crashed, I didn’t want to be in my body anymore, I didn’t want my face but no matter what you can’t get out of your skin, your face is your face. I opened my bedroom window and jumped out, I barely even got a bruise. I spent my entire birthday not wanting to be me, I wanted to die.
I can see how bullying can have such a negative affect on people’s mental health, self-esteem and confidence not just whilst it is happening but even decades after. School is the building block for life and if people are bullied during that time, how does that set them up for a positive, healthy future? If young people are coping with bullying through self-harming or self-destructive behaviours and they are shutting themselves away and suffering in silence then it’s going to have a lasting affect on that person’s health.
I think it is much worse to be bullied nowadays because of how much technology has advanced, I was lucky because when I was bullied I could go home and get away from it but now with mobile phones and social media the bullying doesn’t stop for most people. It must be absolutely exhausting and incredibly isolating to never be able to get away from the abuse. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to not have an escape.
The bullying still affects me, I still fear that people will notice this moustache, although it’s hardly there. I still feel ugly and manly because years of internalising what the bullies said did cause damage. I am starting to feel better about myself as I achieve things that the bullies probably never will and I am learning that life isn’t about looks at all. At the end of the day, when we are 90 years old we won’t be caring about our looks, we will be caring about our achievements and the mark we are leaving on the planet.
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