Although it all got off to a good start, two things ruined the whole experience of secondary school for me.
One was a poster campaign for bullying awareness, and the other was the bullies themselves.
I understand why they did the poster campaign, but I cannot understand why they ever thought that having a poster which was a silhouette of a child that had hung themselves because of bullying, would make school a better place to be. I literally could not stand to look at that picture. I saw it once and only once, and for the rest of the time I had to walk with my head facing downwards, in case I saw it again. People with autism react much more strongly to images than typical people, but really I can’t imagine that anyone would see that poster and feel happy. Ok, so its supposed to make you think, and its supposed to be shocking, but it upset me so completely that I would cry every time I thought of it. The poster seemed to say to me, if you are bullied, then this is your destiny, and I even thought about taking my life because of it (it was only a thought, never a plan, as I explained to my therapist afterwards).
And then, because I would cry often in school, and because I developed a habit of walking around and looking at my shoes to avoid looking at the posters, and because I felt like I couldn’t join in anything anymore in case I came across one of the posters by accident, a number of boys began to bully me. I didn’t tell anyone about it for a long time, people told me that if you ignored them, they would stop. I ignored them, but they thought it was funny that I ignored them, and they thought that that meant they could get away with it. In the end I tolerated it for four years, they would make fun of me, sometimes say things about my brother and sister, and sometimes threaten to hurt me. My best friend’s Dad caught them at it one day, on the way home from school. He is big and he chased them and told them to ‘eff off’. That was so funny, because its not often that adults say stuff like that and they were quite shocked and scared I think. It just goes to show, at the heart of it, bullies are just cowards after all.
With the posters, Mum went into school and tried to explain how much they were affecting me. The staff in charge of the anti bullying campaign said that it was a shame that I was so affected by the posters, but that they would have to stay up because it was essential to get the right message across to kids. What is that message? It shows a powerful message to the bullies, like, this could be the result of your horrible actions, but to the people who are being bullied, what does it say? Prepare to die…?
But anyway, my tactic then went on to be ‘never cry in public’. At CAMHS they have told me now that this is not right either, bottling things up. People cry all the time, adults, kids, everyone. Its ok to have a little cry, but when I was 11 made a connection between crying in school and being bullied and I was determined never to cry again. I have learned the hard way that sometimes you have to let a bit of your feelings out, or they go bad inside you like something rotting. You learn lots of things, as you go on.
College is much better, though. Bullying isn’t accepted, or swept under the carpet. Individuals are everywhere, not even bothering to try to fit in, being themselves, and that is very good. Things are looking up!