Speak out against bullying in NZ
We want to open up discussion on bullying in New Zealand. It's happening in our schools, our workplaces, and online. If you've been bullied, share your experience with us - like this story from Jesse Greenslade - and help shine the light on this issue.
I am Jesse. I am 23. I would like to share with you my story, as a teenager who was chronically bullied.
Before I go further, I should tell you I have a condition called Neurofibromatosis (NF). It encompasses a set of distinct genetic disorders that cause tumours to grow along various types of nerves. NF causes tumours to grow anywhere on or in the body.
The school years were the hardest part for me, I felt isolated, lonely, I had no friends, nobody to talk to.
I felt different to the other children in my class. I felt socially isolated. They called me a "retard" and "gay". All through school, I constantly felt judged for being me. I had no friends; I very rarely would hang out with anyone my own age.
Although I liked attending school, chronic bullying occurred during lunch times and in the classroom.
I was bullied about my weight and stutter, about being sick, about having no interest in sport, about having no physical ability.
During intermediate I was in a boys' class. I felt this was detrimental to my well-being. I didn't feel cared for, I felt pressured, I was forced to do activities that I was not capable of doing. I was constantly compared to other boys my own age, my physical ability was judged and constantly came into question. Even though I had NF, which limits my physical ability, the school likened me to others in my class, and was pushing me to be like them and they punished me for being me.
I went on to high school, but the bullying continued for three more years until I turned sixteen. At this stage, the children had matured and were old enough to accept difference. They began to honour me as a person, and were able to know who I was, and not who they wanted me to be.
Despite this, I felt socially isolated outside of school. I was different to other teenagers; I have never tried alcohol, or smoking. I never went to parties. This for me was the hardest part of my teen years, I always felt I was mature beyond my years. It took time for people to accept me for me and that changing me into someone they wanted to spend with was not going to happen.
On a positive note, I was able to utilise my difference for good as a peer sexuality support leader. This was an opportunity to assist other teenagers, who perhaps were struggling.
I found school work academically challenging due to my medical condition, but I believe the struggle I went through has been a huge influence on me and has made me who I am today.
Suffering through depression over the past few years has been due to a mixture of situations. Looking back to childhood, having no friends, feeling socially isolated and bullied has made a continuous impact on my life to this day. I felt that children and teenagers when I was at school had no understanding of difference. They thought I was unusual, and weird. I knew I was different and I know I always will be, but being laughed at and humiliated made my self-esteem drop and the situation that I was in much worse.
In year nine I was sexually assaulted and it left a black mark on my heart. It has left me questioning my sexuality and has made me unsure of who I am as a person. Having no friends and no one close to talk to has made it difficult, there has been nobody to turn to other than my parents.
I always ask myself: How would my life be if I weren't who I was? Why don't I have any friends? I question why can children be so mean? Why don't they have any understanding of sympathy and judge people who are in difficult situations who are experiencing pain and suffering?
I feel my life is like a book, each year is a different chapter and each page in each chapter is a month. Every year is a new chance for a new beginning and fresh start.
I have tried to bottle up my grief and anger from the past years but this has not helped my recovery. I feel you need to talk to people about how you feel. Without my mum, who has been a huge support and motivator in my life, I would not be where I am today. She has guided me on my journey and gives me the motivation to continue.
Neurofibromatosis has its challenges, but I believe it has made me who I am today. I am a person with understanding that is willing to help and support people. People often think having a medical condition is a disadvantage or a punishment. I see it as a reward, that you have an understanding of diversity.
Asking for help or talking about your feelings is the most anyone can do for themselves. I hope that other teenagers reading this feel inspired that no matter what life throws at you, you can move on and become who you really want to be.
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