I’d originally intended to write about my high school years (2005-2011) in one post, but I’ve written far too much about it for that, so I’ll do it in sections. I’m still feeling rather anxious about posting everything on here.
So I started secondary school when I was eleven years old. Suddenly I had gone from being in the oldest year group of 300 or so children to being in the youngest group out of 1500 or so. I was put into a different ‘house’ group to my best friend and we gradually drifted apart. I spent most of the first year alone. Again, from the very start I was anxious and hated it with a passion.
I was bullied relentlessly from day one, often several times a day by different groups of people. This was almost every day for the entire six years I was there, though it did lessen slightly in the last year. The bullying was mostly carried out by males and took the form of being shoved against the wall/ground, being tripped up, being touched inappropriately, being kicked/hit, having things stolen from my bag, and being insulted (about my shyness, appearance, weight, complexion, eczema, for having no friends, etc). Looking back, I think the bullying had a much bigger effect on me than I had originally thought. I often used to go home and cry or be very upset about whatever people had done to me that day. It sounds pathetic, but occasionally I even have flashbacks of the bullying now, during which I become very upset, angry and get very strong urges to self-destruct. Even during the school holidays, I still wouldn’t really be free from the effects of bullying. I’d have nightmares about it and about school, and I’d always be overcome with anxiety and crying the night before the first day of the new school year. It makes me upset and anxious even thinking about the bullying now. It sounds pathetic and I feel completely ashamed and pathetic for writing all of this, but it is and was my life.
There are a lot of bullying-related events that I recurrently seem to ruminate over whenever I’m feeling especially bad, one of the main memories being the time a group of about 10 boys in the year below me crowded round me when I was alone in the canteen at break and started giving me the usual fusillade of insults. I remember feeling upset and trying to walk away, then being repeatedly shoved against the wall/floor in front of everyone. Every time I tried to get back up and walk away they shoved me down again. I was terrified. I didn’t know what they might do. I think I was most ashamed of the fact that I was crying in front of everyone. I’d let them know how afraid I was and how awful they were making me feel. They were just laughing at me; laughing at my pain; taking pleasure in it. But what struck me the most was that everyone just stood around and watched it happen. All the older people who could have stopped it. There was a teacher standing about 15 feet away…he did nothing until the bullies had moved off. It just upset me the most that no one seemed to care or want to help me. I was worthless. I deserved it.
Events similar to this one (although this was the most frightening and one of the most physical) happened on a regular basis. No one really ever seemed to care. I won’t go into detail in case anyone figures out which school I attended, but it has a reputation as a really terrible school with regards to bullying/ student welfare. They claimed to have an ‘anti-bullying policy’ but that was certainly not the case from my experience. Even after my parents had been into the school to complain on two different occasions, nothing really happened apart from me getting referred to someone from an anti-bullying organisation, which didn’t help. I was treated like I was the one who had a problem because I was being bullied, therefore I had to change. No one ever worked with the bullies to change the way they behaved. There were never any negative consequences for them other than them being told not to do it again.
I could probably write an entire essay about my experiences with bullying and my anger at not just the bullies, but both the staff and the other students who just seemed to accept it. I might write other posts about it later, but I’ll leave the subject for now because the memories are upsetting me quite a bit. I know it’s pathetic and it shouldn’t bother me because “it’s all in the past” or whatever, but it does.
Anyway…I finally made casual friends with someone (or at least I thought she was my friend) at the end of first year. I never could be myself around her. I have never been able to be myself around anyone, really. I was too afraid of her (and others) rejecting me for who I was so I pretended to like things I didn’t. I obviously never told her about my anxiety or depression but hopelessly tried my best to hide any signs of either. She used to mock me quite a bit about my appearance, the fact I didn’t have any other “friends”, about me being uncool and not wanting to talk about celebrities or ‘X Factor’ or whatever. She could be a bit controlling at times…she once told me that she wouldn’t sit next to me on the coach on the way to a field trip unless I wore skinny jeans. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. A couple of people I’ve talked to online have pointed out that the things I’ve mentioned above indicate that she wasn’t a real friend… I’d like to think so too but from my experience, most people you try to make friends with are like that. They take advantage of your anxious/ passive nature. They see you as weak. I’ve had a couple of online friends who have been even worse. The trouble is that I’m so lonely and desperate for friends that I’ll put up with being treated like shit, because that person is all I have…or at least that seems to be my view. Nowadays I almost prefer to be alone, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people will hurt you, betray you, mock you, make a fool of you, or simply just leave you. I might write a post on “friends” later because I’m getting off topic again.
So I was friends – in the loosest possible sense of the word – with the girl I mentioned up until about the start of fifth year. She pretty much ignored my existence after that. I’ve had no one irl since that. Looking back, I sometimes feel like I never had a real friend, just fake ones.
I first remember coming across the term ‘social phobia’ when I was in my fourth year of high school. When I did, I remember relating to it completely. This was why I was too afraid to ask my teachers for help when I got stuck with the work; this was why I’d walk into school every day sweating profusely and with my heart racing; this was why I found talking to others so difficult…the list of things went on and on. I always knew I was different. I suppose previously I thought I was just weak or some kind of freak or something, but this explained it. But at the same time, I began to feel a great sense of sadness and shame. I couldn’t tell anyone about this because they wouldn’t believe me or they’d think I was pathetic. This belief was later backed up when I talked about it on an online forum for teenagers which I used to go on, and most people called me pathetic/ a nut case. One person even told me that I was so pathetic I didn’t deserve to live and I should just kill myself (by which time I was suicidal anyway). This (as well as a handful of other experiences which taught me that non mentally ill people simply do not understand) is one of the main reasons why I NEVER tell anyone about my anxiety or depression irl, apart from mental health professionals, obviously.
So now that I realised I had this problem, I began taking small steps to overcome it. I tried my best to ask teachers I felt nervous around for help. I tried to talk to others more, and became more confident doing so. I’d improved somewhat after a couple of months. I was quite optimistic about one day overcoming my anxiety altogether and being able to function normally. Then, out of nowhere, I had my first full-blown panic attack.