|The Girl Who Wanted To Be Faceless|
The following story comes from a young woman from London, England.
Sarah Costello was the victim of bullying. She made the local news. Headlines at the time read: “Bullying Made Me Want To Die.” Or “Anti-bullying Website Stops Me From Cutting Myself.” Painful titles. And when I asked Sarah if she had any photos of herself at the time she was being bullied, she wrote to me saying, “I don’t have many photos from those times—I would either draw all over them, scratch my face off, or shrink them to abnormally small sizes so you couldn’t see them very well. The bullying was so bad that I was desperately unhappy.”
Now, for the purpose of reaching others, Sara shares her story:
I was eleven years old when my best friend first hurt me. We were in sitting in class together, and she hit me with a ruler that belonged to someone else. The girl took her ruler back and bought my friend one of her own to hit me with. Another time, my friend “accidentally” burnt me with a soldering iron. I often wondered why the bullying began. Why my best friend had turned against me. Maybe it was because I didn’t cause any trouble, got on with my work and stayed quiet most of the time. Or maybe it was because I was shy. Or because I was tall. Or had unruly, curly hair. I never used to fight back, which probably did me no favours. All I know is that it all started with my best friend, and once all her friends got involved, they didn’t need a reason to be mean.
The worst thing I could ever imagine around that period was catching the bus home from school. I dreaded it when my mum was working late. People I didn’t even know would bully me, shout things in my ear, and throw newspaper at me. One time it got so bad I almost jumped off the bus. I remember that day so clearly. I was looking at strangers on the bus thinking, please, help me, make them stop. Every time they caught my eye they’d look away. It finally got so bad that I just sat there, not even bothering to take the newspaper off me. I just sat in a ball and let them do what they wanted to: they’d be getting off the bus soon anyway.
As the pain became greater, I became less tolerant. I had a fight with this girl once; well, it was more of a punching session. She had been tormenting me for a long time. When I finally lashed out, the teacher had such a go at me–and it wasn’t like I was ever in trouble at school anyway. In fact, I’d never been in the Head of Year’s office before. He asked me why I’d done it and I tried to explain I had a lot on my mind and I’d had enough of her by that point. He said I should’ve gone to tell him if she was annoying me. For what? I wondered. So he could laugh in my face? I was crying so hard I couldn’t even stand up and I’d NEVER cried at school before. The bullying about that started then. People would come up behind me and pretend to cry in my ear. One time when I was walking down the corridor two girls hit me to see what I’d do, whether I’d hit them back, leave it, or cry. They’d knock my bag off my back then pretend to cry.
There was this one boy who used to sing stuff to me (I didn’t even know who he was), nasty things, when he walked through the social area. I’d block out his voice and pretend I couldn’t hear him, or not show that I knew he was talking to me. When I got on the bus he’d shout and tell me to get off and call me names. There were lots of names. Greasy. Green Giant. Swot. Tracy Beaker. Truffle Shuffle. Bean Pole. I could go on forever . . .
Every day was a nightmare. A lot of the really bad stuff that happened I’m not ready to talk about yet. Despite everything being so bad, though, I never missed a day of school. I went every single day, unless I was genuinely ill. I was on my own a lot of the time, and the rare moments when I did spend time with my sister, her friends would make comments about it. I can’t even remember what I did at break time, but I spent lunchtime in the library. When I moaned about this to my mum, she’d say it was my fault for only having one friend and told me to make more friends. My mum would question my sisters about what happened in school and on the bus. But they never told her. I bottled everything up and told NO one what was happening. I was so scared people might think I deserved it as I was so vulnerable and for so long I believed this. It took me a while to realise that NO ONE deserves to be bullied, or asks to be bullied, no matter how they look or act.
The sad thing is, I started self harming as a way of coping. I overdosed on my hayfever medication several times—not with the intention of suicide, but I saw it as another way of hurting myself. Everything I had valued in life had begun to slip away and I was just living. My body was there but my mind wasn’t. I forced myself to get up and go to school when the new year started. It was a struggle many of the days, but I’m glad I went and didn’t give up.
And to cope, I wrote in my diary—everything I could remember about the bullies and what they’d done and how I felt, and it actually helped quite a lot. At the beginning of 2005, my mum read some of my diary and she decided I needed help. I was offered lots of support at school, which I declined as I didn’t think I needed it (I did, I really did, I know that now). I know the school administration would’ve stopped the bullying if they’d known, but because I didn’t tell them, they couldn’t do anything about it. I started counselling at the hospital but only went twice. I did feel a lot better emotionally, but it wasn’t long before things took a turn for the worse again. It got to a point where I was throwing up after meals and taking a lot of paracetamol at least once a week, and was extremely suicidal. But then I found a new counsellor who was fantastic. I finished seeing her in July after 8 months and I am a much happier, stronger person. I’ve felt so much better and have changed a hell of a lot, and learnt lots about myself. I know there are alternatives to hurting myself. I don’t get bullied anymore, and I’m staying strong. Yeah, I still have bad days when I don’t particularly wanna get up and face the world but I’m not gonna let a bunch of losers ruin everything I pieced back together. I’m in college now, and I love it. I have amazing friends who love me for who I am. In a way, I could say I’m glad what happened happened. It’s true: what doesn’t kill you, does make you stronger.
Believe me, if you have faith in yourself you can get through anything. You just need to hold your head up high and get through it. Tell someone, because that’s the mistake I made, and a lot of people, understandably, do make it. If you let your bully get away with it, there’s going to be more victims that feel like YOU. You’re not alone, don’t feel ashamed, tell someone. There have got to be more survivors in this world, and I’m proud to say, I’m a survivor!
Are you a survivor? If so, what did you do to get through the horror of being bullied?
Editor’s Note: Sarah is now studying to become a mental health nurse and plans to specialise in working with young people who are suffering the effects of bullying. She volunteers as an online mentor for kids who are being bullied through her website:www.stompoutbullying.tripod.com. We wish her continued health and healing, and hope that her pain will be used to help and heal others.
|Sarah now–a happy college student|