I was bullied on and off for most of my high school years. I also received an apology from one of my bullies.
In some ways, the apology changed my life. It gave me a freedom from feelings that I lived with for most of my adult life. It wasn’t as simple as ‘I’m sorry’ and just like magic my life was transformed. If only it was that easy.
Tanya Hennessy talks about her high school bully on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Post continues below.
We like to think that when school ends, so too does the bullying. In many ways it did. What didn’t end for me were the long-lasting impacts of bullying and the changes I made to myself to protect my heart from ever feeling that way again.
In early 2018, I was added to a Facebook group for a school reunion. In an instant, I was transported straight back to a time that I had buried deep inside but never forgot.
The bullying was at times physical. There was a class I had where the majority of other students made it their mission to get me to cry every lesson and there were others who would ‘let’ me be their friend if I met their conditions. I did everything I could to fit in but nothing seemed to last for any length of time. Every time I would just start to feel comfortable or just a little bit accepted, the goalposts would move.
From the moment I entered the Facebook group, it was as if I was back in the science classroom with the wobbly stools and the green peeling paint on the walls. I could hear the boys muttering “Ralph or Jabba” behind their hands but loud enough that others in the class would hear and laugh as I walked through the classroom.
I could see the benches that we sat at, and remembered how I stopped walking to the back of the room so I didn’t have to walk past them. This only changed up their MO. They would instead use me as target practice.
Then there are the physical feelings that come with PTSD and rise up when I think about being pushed in the back as I walked to the station from school.
Step, push, step, push, step, push… with each push, I would stumble just a little.
Walk, push, stumble, push, stumble, walk, push… I was determined to not fall, to not cry in front of her.
I kept my balance just and kept the tears away until it was one push too many and instead of stumbling I closed my fist, swung and connected. That dealt with one bully but there was another 20 or 30 still at school waiting to call me names, exclude me, set me up for failure. Just like Medusa, if you cut the head off one snake more would grow back.
With each new name that popped up, the more the feelings of loss and despair grew, and the more I was transported back to being 15 and 16 years old, into the classroom. I decided that it would be highly unlikely I would attend the school reunion as I had absolutely no desire to return to the patterns of behaviour that made me feel worthless, unlovable, lonely and more. This meant that I had nothing at all to lose by posting: