Bullying can destroy a life
The faces of bullying in NZ
My story has much in common with others: I was ostracised by my peers for no reason that I could figure at the time - children seem to attack anyone who is different in some way.
I remember other kids at school who became the butt of jokes because they were in some way either handicapped or behaved oddly.
The ability to survive this kind of treatment seems to depend on a child's ability to absorb or deflect the taunts and stick up for themselves in both physical and emotional ways.
By the time I reached high school I'd had years of torment from other children. For some reason I was overly sensitive to the opinions of other kids with whom I used to associate. Being bad at sports did not help the situation.
My parents, who did everything they could to help, took me to the doctors and I was put on medication for depression. The drugs were quite strong back then and whilst it made the constant battle that I had trying to find my place somewhat bearable, it also dulled my brain, so my academic performance suffered.
By the time fifth form came around, things were bad. I had withdrawn into myself and though I had people I related to, I was always worried about rejection. I was shipped off to boarding school.
Dealing with this pressure during school hours was hard enough. Living with it 24/7 was hell. I was not the only one who was tormented in this place. Once again if someone was different in some way or unable or unwilling to defend themselves, the others were going to take advantage of it.
I failed academically and scared my house-master by trying to kill myself. Finally, I simply refused to go back.
The memories of those who bullied me are there to this day and the feeling of rejection by my peers has stayed with me as an adult. It has affected every area of my life, and I have given up.
As I look back on it I feel sure that if I had given as good as I got, stood up for myself, absorbed a few beatings, I may have earned grudging respect. Telling the teachers and staff made the situation worse. It seems to me that children have no sense of community, it's a dog eat dog world in school.
As a child in school I was keenly aware of a hierarchy that existed amongst my peers, just as it exists in any community, but in a far more brutal and perhaps honest fashion. This, at a time when children are being shaped into the kind of adults they will eventually become.
My experience at the bottom of this heap was one of rejection and ridicule for reasons I could not understand. Like all the others I was in the learning phase of my development, it's a delicate and dangerous time for many.
Despite all the hand-wringing and attempts to stop, it persists and I think this is because if we remove the thin veneer that is our civilisation, it is still survival of the fittest.
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