The other week I saw a few inspiring videos doing the rounds on Facebook about the Diana Awards and their Anti-Bullying #StandUpToBullying campaign. I then tuned in to Loose Women (don’t judge me, there isn’t much choice on my occasional lunch break/pump break and perfect background noise to do my emails) and they were also discussing bullying. I felt like it was a of a sign to write a personal post and so when I turned on the TV the next morning to see my most recent bully chatting away to Lorraine…well, that prompted a Facebook post that led to others sharing words of sadness as well as support. It’s amazing how many people live their life being subjected to bullying. And it’s not only at school for some of us, it extends in to adult life as it did with me. So here goes…
Way back I made the move from Nottingham to Liverpool to start my 3 year course in Media and Communication studies at John Moores University. I fell in love with the city when I came for an Open Day with my Mum and was excited to be moving away from home and starting a new, independent chapter! I didn’t even make it to the end of year one before wanting to quit. Sadly not because I found it wasn’t the right course for me but because towards the end of the year I found myself hiding in my room crying most days and avoiding the friends I’d made. I remember some of those overwhelming feelings like they were only weeks ago yet it was over 14/15 years ago!
The year started well in all fairness. I lived in a house with 4 other girls. I do remember those awkward first few days when we tried to remember names (poor Eimear, I had no clue how to pronounce that when she sent me a text!) and get to know each other but we were soon partying hard and enjoying the social side of things. Our neighbours were pretty cool too and I found some common ground over a love of Kylie and Newcastle United with a couple of them. Writing this is actually reminding me I did enjoy so many parts, fond memories that had become a little clouded due to the overwhelming sadness about the bullying.
I can’t recall the moment we met, my bully and I. My earliest memory was helping her escape her bullying flat mates. I don’t think I ever met them but I did help her sneak in to get some belongings so she could stay in my room until she found somewhere else to live. I remember being sat on my bed, her sat on my windowsill and her calling her Mum to tell me how similar her new friend was to her. How excited she was to find out we loved the same things like Gone With The Wind and cheesy music. I’m sure there were other nice moments but that one always sticks in my mind as it went from that to remembering the moment it turned. Walking down from the Anglican Cathedral to town and walking towards me was the bully and the girl in the room next to me, a friend I thought. They spotted me and seemed to suddenly quicken in pace like they were going to run right past me. When I went to stop them I was accused of calling the bully and making threatening phone calls and even calling and hanging up to ‘scare her’. Ironically claiming I was trying to stop her being friends with my friends and bullying her…I headed in to town shocked and confused. I honestly don’t remember much else but her going out with my new friends and me being left behind and alone. Awkward glances. Nasty comments. Feeling like no-one talking to me or that I could even talk to them. I even remember sitting in my room for hours because I didn’t want to bump in to the girl next door and would wait to hear her leave and not come back. In a weird way I think I felt it must have been my fault I’d ended up alone. I must have done something to make her despise me that much. Being so shy at times it must’ve been my fault that I wasn’t able to talk to people, to get them to see it was her and not me. My confidence was at an all time low.
Around that time I’d also picked up leaflet in the Student Union from Camp Leaders in America. I had actually picked it up to pretend I was reading something while I ate my lunch to avoid eye contact with the bully. When I got back to my room I decided to contact them and find out more. I went for an interview and was soon signing up to go to be a camp leader in the U.S.A! I know I was trying to get away from it all. I felt too ashamed to tell anyone and played it that it was an exciting thing I’d been wanting to do for ages. I’d not even been able to attend my University classes because I felt so ashamed and so my grades were slipping and I was basically failing uni. I didn’t have time to care, I couldn’t face being there any longer.
We had a few group meetings before flying out and I soon found out I was heading to Camp Tannadoona in Minnesota. I hadn’t even heard of the place but again, didn’t care! With my confidence and self esteem at an all time low I arrived putting on a bit of an act, starting a fresh and trying to be the confident and fun girl I wanted to be. What a place to find yourself though. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard at times but also amazing. I became an archery instructor, made some amazing memories with some great people too.
As you can see from the photo my camp nickname was ‘Posh’. Mainly because of my wannabe Spice Girl tenancies but maybe I was a little posh too…
And, I fell in love. We may have only been there a few months but anyone who’s experienced camp life will tell you it’s so intense a week feels like a month, a month like a year. It was there I met my best friend and soon to be husband. I did worry when we got back that he’d ‘forget’ my number (I’d saved his in my new Baby G watch he helped me pick out at the Mall of America). Maybe I’d gotten a little swept away with camp life. Maybe in the real world he wouldn’t like me. But he didn’t forget and he did still love me…for me. In only a few weeks I’d met his family and his friends, he’d helped me quit uni and find another course I loved, even a new job and a new room in a house to rent. It’s like I was living a whole new life. I did meet up with a couple of the uni friends and looking back I wish I’d made more effort but I was still scarred and scared. I didn’t even open up to my new house mates and kept myself to myself as much as I could. Lee was my security blanket in many ways while I attempted to find my feet.
I never saw her again, not in person anyway. With my confidence slowly building I worked hard at college and made the right contacts to get myself some amazing work opportunities in the TV and Film industry. Sometimes trying to avoid making friends and burying your head in your books does pay off. We bought a house, got married and the rest really is history (and one I’ve not really wanted to relive).
Lee and I at Mr Beans Holiday film premiere in London.
I do wonder if life would have been different if I hadn’t been bullied. Maybe I’d have more friends now and a better memory of my young adult years but then if all the above hadn’t of happened than Lee and I may never have met. Every cloud and all that…
After writing this I do of course worry that Paisley could end up dealing with bullies but what can we really do? Hopefully give her the confidence to keep her head high, something that’s taken me far too long to do myself!
So make a stand. Bullying isn’t right. If you haven’t been bullied I imagine it’s hard to understand how devastating and life changing it can be to some people. I’ve lived with this shadow for far too long and it’s time to forgive and forget. Time is a great healer but so is love xx