I grew up in the 1970's and although life was different back then, it wasn’t that long ago and many things are still the same.
I was a very happy kid when I was young, but started to have problems as soon as I went to nursery and school.
One lad, whose name I still remember, started to hit and bite me in nursery. He was a nightmare and no one really did anything to stop him. It happened again and again. As I started school I knew that he’d be going to the same school and I had to be dragged in crying on my first day. I was only 4 years old, but I remember that day very vividly.
I was over the moon to find that this boy had been placed into a different class to myself, but he still bullied me every day. He, and another boy, would wait until break and dinner time, hide away from me as I came out to play. They’d jump out on me, hit me regularly, then would take my tuck shop money off me, or anything else I had, like sweets. Eventually, they didn’t have to hit me, because the threat was still there and they would do so now and then, just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten what it was like. I loved school and had some good friends, played football and ran all over the place, but these two boys made things miserable.
Nothing was done about it and by the end of my first year at school the problem was going to be solved, because we were moving house and I was going to start a new school. On my first day, moving into our new house, I went out to play football with a group of older lads, right outside my front door. It seemed great, because there were no roads to cross and the field was big enough to play loads of sports on it and there were plenty of lads to make up good sized teams. I asked if I could play and joined in straight away. I loved football and was pretty good, so I was looking forward to showing these big lads what I could do. I was told the names of everyone on my team, first names and nicknames. One lad on my team was called Coco. I hadn’t yet kicked the ball and he had it, so I shouted “Coco, over here!” for him to pass to me. He kicked the ball to someone else and as I ran to try and get involved he came up to me and without saying a word, kicked me right between the legs. It was horrible. I had only been out for less than 5 minutes and I was on the grass, writhing in pain and crying. It turned out that he didn’t think I was worthy of calling him “Coco”, even though the other boys called him that.
I made my way back home and my mother came out shouting at the lads asking who’d done it and where did he live? They all pointed at a house across the field, so my mother dragged me along, knocked on the door and waited. Eventually, a woman came out and shouted at us, asking what we wanted. My Mam told her what had happened, but the woman swore at us and told us to go. My mother wasn’t going to leave it at that and decided the best thing to do was to show this horrible woman what her son had done, so, in broad daylight, in front of everyone in the street, who were all watching, she pulled my shorts and underpants down to show her and everyone else, my inflamed and very red private parts, that were suddenly not very private at all. The woman swore at us again and slammed the door shut. On top of that, everyone was laughing at me. It was horrible.
I ended up getting bullied almost every day by that lad, along with the other members of his gang, until we moved house when I was ten.
My school days weren’t much better. I did love school and enjoyed all of my lessons, doing very well and either coming top of the class, or second at worst. I also captained the school football team, was the fastest runner and also swam for the county. The teachers all liked me, as well, but a number of the kids didn’t.
One boy used to kick me under the table again and again. He always denied it if I told the teachers, which made things worse. He decided one night that he was going to wait for me after school for a fight. I didn’t want to fight, but had no choice as he jumped on me. I hit him back and he didn’t get the better of me and I think I hurt him with a punch. I was seven years old.
He stopped kicking me under the table. However, another boy took his place. One day we were sat around the tables, with a supply teacher in for the week. I was doing my work, but the boy next to me did something I hadn’t seen and everyone started to laugh. The teacher decided that it was me and dragged me out in front of the class, shouting at me. I was in shock, because I hadn’t done anything and pleaded, saying that it must have been this other boy. The teacher didn’t stop, though and pulled his chair in front of his desk, whilst grabbing me by the ear. He then took a hold of me, pulled my trousers and underpants down to my ankles, in front of a shocked class and put me over his knee. He then took off one of his slip-on shoes and started to whack my bare backside with it. I was really hurt, with a sore ear and a red backside, but the embarrassment was much worse. The trouble was, I’d mentioned this other boy’s name and he would have it in for me from then on. He would hit me at every opportunity and he was a master at teasing. He made things a misery for me.
This continued until the last month of school, 4 years later. The school football team was having trials for the following season. I was one of a few who was due to leave and the coach asked me to go in goal for one of the teams, to give everyone a chance to show what they could do. A couple of us from my year made up the numbers and one was the bully, who was on the opposing team to me. Me being in goal gave him an unexpected opportunity. He was able to kick and punch me every time I came for the ball, or came near to him.
I had by this time moved house and a new bully had started in my new street.
I felt that I must have something marked on my head, saying “easy target”.
Something in my head snapped, though and I’d had enough.
I ended up losing control and screamed and shouted as I jumped on top of him, hitting and kicking and simply not stopping. The coach came over to stop it, but he didn’t do so, straight away. He told me later that he knew that I was being bullied and he allowed me to get some revenge. I didn’t feel very good about it, though. The bullying stopped from this lad and I was happy for that, but I felt sick at what had happened. I also felt sick at the thought that the coach and the teachers, as I’d later find out, had known, but had done nothing about it. They congratulated me on hitting this boy, but I knew that this wasn’t good. I kept away from most people I saw as bullies from then on, but there were a few occasions where I was punched, or kicked for no reason, but on three occasions I completely lost control and kicked the living daylights out of my attackers. I couldn’t stop, probably because of all of the years of bullying and was determined to not let it happen again, but this felt like I’d turned into a bully myself! I felt terrible each time.
I ended up having far more problems with the way some people have treated me in jobs and in life, as some adults are often just bullies who’ve turned it into a craft. I’ve had a lot of problems with anxiety and severe depression and now, aged 51, I’m finally starting to get things together and am happy for the first time that I can remember. I’ve had counselling for my mental health problems, but know that it didn’t always work, because I wasn’t ready for it, or more specifically didn’t do what I needed to help. A lot of my problems stem from things people have done to me, but I now know that most of the real problems have been caused by the way I’ve reacted to them. I fell into a trap. For example, if I was attacked, I’d attack back and it would all just go around in a vicious circle.
I now have exit strategies that work for me and I don’t react like a returning bullet, like I used to. I know that some people would say that fighting back is the best thing to do, but in my case and many of others, it caused more long lasting problems, because it becomes a normal thing to do, to fight and it’s not a good way to live. I fell into that. I wish that there had been some proper help back when I was a kid. There are so many other things that can be done. I’m finally through it all, just, but those times back over 40 years ago caused real problems for me in my life. Hopefully, I can help others, which also helps me.