Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A little advice before obtaining a mental health diagnosis

I have been talking to a loved one today about obtaining a mental health diagnosis. It's a necessary step towards living a better life. However, being given a mental health diagnosis has many drawbacks.

Having a mental illness means that I have to lie on a daily basis. My employers know nothing about my mental illnesses. Even though they know how good I am at my job, I'm pretty certain that if I revealed this information they would view me differently. (After more than a year they still don't like my septum ring being on display...) I may now not be able to get OFSTED registered because of my mental health status. This will affect all of my future jobs with children. It has become second nature to me now to lie about my mental health. I don't know what it is like to not have a mental health problem but I know how to lie about it. I have done it all my life.

People WILL treat you differently. This is a fact. No matter how long you have known someone, as soon as they learn you have a mental health issue, their attitude towards you will change. The only rationale I can apply here is they are scared. The media conjurs up deeply disturbing images of people with mental health issues. The general population don't realise that mental health issues cover a huge range of things. Some mental health issues are milder than others. Yes, killers have psychological issues but people don't seem to understand that those with mental health issues are actually more of a danger to themselves than to others.

I have lost a great many friends owing to my mental health issues. Some of these losses have been owing to my behaviour, others have been when they learn of my diagnoses. They slowly distance themselves from me. You might argue that they are not true friends and you would be right. However, it doesn't lessen the hurt.

If you are in a bad mood, it will no longer be that you are just in a bad mood. It will be put down to you having an "episode" or a "funny turn". As a woman, I can't just be in a bad mood anyway because if I'm pissed off then I'm obviously on my period...!

People will tiptoe around you. They will be afraid of "setting you off". They might not confide in you any more feeling that you are "unable to cope" - despite you having done this for many years prior to a diagnosis. They may not wish to "add to your struggles". Relationships can break down because of this - it has happened to me.

People will give you unwanted sympathy or worse - pity! Sometimes we need fussing over, sometimes we want people to tell us things will be ok. However, we don't need to be given extra - or false - sympathy. I had a friend at university who used to do this a lot. She would ask how I was and if I said I was having a bad day or I didn't sleep very well she would say "oh I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that you have to go through this". I'm not sorry. Granted I don't love having my issues but I wouldn't be without them.

I'm not saying this to put anyone off obtaining a diagnosis. I wish I had someone tell me these things before I saw my GP all those years ago. That way I would have been better prepared.

Whatever you decide, you have to do this for you and you only. You have to be the driving force behind taking this huge step.

One thing you should know, you will never be alone. Whatever you are going through, someone else has had a similar experience and will be able to talk to you about it.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Gabe Howard

My friend, Gabe Howard is working on a book about living with bipolar disorder. He is an honest and straight forward writer who works hard to capture the essence of living with a chronic mental illness.

He doesn't shy away from the tough stuff, he isn't looking to make excuses for his behavior, and he shows through his own lived experience that recovery is possible.

Please, pre-order his book and get involved with the project on the ground floor. Weekly updates are part of the deal and your input is encouraged. Be part of something that could change someone's world. I've donated!! Thank you.


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Vive la France

I don't want to say much on the subject of the tragedy in Paris, I know how I can get and many of you have already articulated my thoughts better than i can right now. Those "I told you so/what did you expect" Ukippers and Biffers will be removed without hesitation. 

However, I have noticed that a whole load of people who DO have compassion and humanity have been hard on themselves in the wake of what has happened. I have seen people refer to themselves as "vacuous" or "selfish" and admonishing themselves for complaining about something that, in the grand scheme of things, is wholly insignificant. 

Please don't do this. There is suffering the world over. Sometimes in the form of what has happened in Paris, sometimes much less horrific. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be up in arms about what has happened but don't punish yourself for complaining about your own hardships that pale in comparison to the plight of the Parisians right now. 

One person's split ends is another person's global meltdown.

Who are the real terrorists?

Want to know who the real terrorists are? Look no further than the TV you are glued to, the newspapers you read and the hyperbolic posts that people share via social media. 

I will NOT sign your petition to close the borders. 

I will NOT support the "ban the burka" movement. 

I will NOT agree that all Muslims should go "home". 

I do NOT agree that the death penalty should be brought back. 

Violence begets violence. 

You can't fight fire with fire!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

World Mental Health Day 2015

On this day, World Mental Health Day, people who struggle with mental health issues only want small things. Not your sympathy or pity. Not derision or exclusion. Not fingers pointed at them. All they want is to live their lives without fear of judgement and without being stigmatised. People with mental health issues are just the same as everyone else. Only difference being their brains process things a little differently. People with mental health issues are often the kindest, most caring, loving people you could ever wish to meet. Is it too much to ask? People with mental health issues are far more likely to harm themselves than others, take it from someone who has survived a lifetime of self abusive behaviour. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ignorance is NOT bliss

This morning I almost got into a fist fight with a parent at the library. It has been bubbling away under the surface since then and I now realise I should have just punched her square in her ignorant face and had it not been for the presence of tiny innocent minds, I would have done just that! Here’s what happened;
I was at Song and Rhyme Time with The little one I look after as I am most Thursday’s. Given the regularity with which I attend this gathering, I have made some friends. One of these friends has a lovely little boy called “D”. Little D is an adorable cherubic little thing with masses of dark curly hair. D came up to me and very proudly showed me his fingernails. They were painted pink. I looked over at his mother who then informed me that she was painting her own nails and D insisted she did his too. I laughed. Kids! 
Another mother saw D’s nails and said to me “I can’t believe someone would do that to a boy. It’s bad enough that he has long hair, now she is only adding to his confusion”. I was puzzled. I asked her “How exactly is he confused?” She replied with “Well look at him, he has long hair and pink fingernails, he clearly believes he is a girl” erm really?! I told her not to be so obtuse! Children often imitate the adults they feel closest to. That’s a natural part of human behaviour and actually extends beyond childhood. She then said to me “well next week she will be bringing him in a skirt and telling everyone he is a transvestite!” This is the part that really pissed me off! I said to her; “what is wrong with anyone being a transvestite?” To which she replied “everything is wrong with it. Clearly some parents don’t give a shit how psychologically messed up their children become by allowing them to believe they have a vagina instead of the penis they can see!” Well, as you can imagine, by this point I was clenching my fists and grinding my teeth! I had to educate the idiot! 
I told her that she was very misinformed about the term transvestite. I explained how I, myself, am a transvestite and it has absolutely nothing to do with the parts in my pants. She looked at me with renewed horror and said “does your employer know you’re a pervert?!” Ok, now we’re getting way too confused about things! Yes, I’m a pervert. So what? That has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to look after children. The two are entirely separated. Furthermore, being a transvestite does NOT, I repeat NOT make me a pervert. I am both and they are not synonymous! 
I went on to explain how being a transvestite has absolutely nothing to do with my sexual proclivities and is literally about the clothing I wear. To “transvest” quite literally means to wear the clothing of the opposite gender. That is to say, most of the clothing I own is from the men’s section of whichever clothing store I bought it from as opposed to wearing women’s trousers. There is a distinct difference. 
She was quite clearly dumbstruck by my revelations as she just looked at me gaping like a fish. I then told her “If D wants to be a girl when he grows up, that’s entirely up to him. If that is how he was made then who are we to judge but just know that wearing nail polish or indeed anything has absolutely no bearing on a child’s sexuality. I just hope that if your precious daughter reveals to you that she is actually a boy that you have the decency to accept this and help accommodate this” she responded with “my daughter plays with dolls and wears dresses. She is a girl and she knows it”. Yeah, that worked out well for me didn’t it?! 
It took so much strength for me not to punch her really REALLY hard! What is it with people?!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Trigger Warning - Self Harm - Not Ashamed

This post may well be triggering for some so please read with caution. 

Today I was yelled at in the street. I was told I was disgusting and should go and live under a rock. What was my crime? Wearing shorts. 

It's not easy to understand why someone would yell at me for wearing shorts. Unless you saw my legs. Here they are. My legs, in all their scarred glory.

I am a self harmer. I have been for many years. I have been a self harmer for more years than not. 

Why do I self harm? That is a very interesting question with no straightforward answer. All I can tell you is it is an addiction and an illness.

Allow me to dispel some myths around self harm;

Self harmers are a danger to society. No we're not. We are only truly a danger to ourselves. 

If they can cut themselves like that then there is nothing stopping them from doing it to others. What kind of stupid logic is that? This is such an erroneous statement that I don't even know how to begin to address it. 

Self harmers want to kill themselves. That's not true at all. If I wanted to kill myself do you think I would cut my leg? Of course not! I'd cut my throat! Am I suicidal? No. Not today. That's not to say I have never been and will never be suicidal but the two are not synonymous. 

People cut for attention. This is not true. If I did cut for attention then you would already know about it. My self harm is not a cry for help it's just something I do. 

There are many studies available for you to read about self harm. About how it helps a person to cope - yes, it's a coping mechanism. If you want to read any of these studies, ask me and I will gladly send you some. 

I am not posting this for attention. I am posting this to perhaps encourage just one person to stop and think before they verbally abuse someone for something they know nothing about. 

I am already aware of how disgusting my scars are. You don't need to tell me how bad they look. I see them every day.

I have been through a lot in my 30 years on this planet and yes, my head is a little messed up. I know that and my scars are a reminder that I have survived these things. I know that I am strong and brave because despite the abuse I have been subjected to I am still alive and I am still wearing my shorts! 

So before you judge someone, take a second to try and understand why they do what they do. It's fine if you want to be disgusted. It's not fine for you to abuse me.

Share your own story and scars. Share my story if you like. Let people know its not acceptable to judge people for any reason and it's certainly not acceptable to verbally or even physically abuse someone based on their appearance. 

I'm not ashamed any more.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015




My blog is something that has kept me going over the years. Sharing my experiences with other people to let them know that they aren't alone. The times that I've visited a therapist/psychiatrist, they often ask the same questions; about my family, about my childhood, about my experiences. Rarely have I ever told my therapist/psychiatrist everything. It's a bit difficult to weave everything into twelve one hour sessions. Especially when you have a therapist who tells you it's "all a bit negative" ( yes, that happened and that was the last time I saw a therapist!)
One of the subjects I've never actually covered with a therapist/psychiatrist is the domestic abuse I've suffered. Talking about this subject is incredibly painful for me. It can be very triggering. I suffer flashbacks still. I sometimes wake up in the night in a cold sweat thinking he's in the room. It's something I doubt will ever leave me.

It is imperative for me to talk about this now. Why now you might wonder? On Thursday 08 April I attended a cabaret show. This show is a monthly delight. It's one night where I get to feel safe. I'm surrounded by glorious friends and entertained by some of London's most revered performers. The show is Cabaret Roulette. The premise of the show is pretty simple: it's a cabaret and it features an element of danger! I imagine you're wondering how a cabaret show can be dangerous right? There are many potential dangers when it comes to cabaret. Performers play with fire, they jump on broken glass, they staple things to themselves, they douse themselves in the deadliest, most noxious substance known to the cabaret world - GLITTER!

Cabaret Roulette has incorporated all of these elements and many more, just like many other cabaret shows. So why is Cabaret Roulette even more dangerous I hear you ask? Well my friends, the biggest danger comes from the roulette wheel. Have you heard of Russian Roulette? Of course you have. Cabaret Roulette works much the same. The gun is loaded with 5 themes, the audience then vote on the theme they wish to see for the next-but-one show. In short, there are 8 performers tucked away somewhere awaiting that bullet. They are signed up, locked in and awaiting the fate that the audience will deal them. They then have 2 months to come up with a brand new act centred around said theme.

There have been many glorious interpretations of themes throughout the lifetime of the show. Each artist puts their own unique spin on the theme within the boundaries of their performance medium. Some have pushed those boundaries to create something new and innovative. Something we could never have imagined within the theme given.

The show on 08 April was themed Nightmare. There are many interpretations available for nightmare. The one act that stuck with me the most was the performance by Rubyyy Jones. That act was centred around Domestic Violence.

Rubyyy Jones is the Queen of Queerlesque, an international performer and producer who stomps and struts stages across the UK and Europe. A performance artist who flits between theatre, queer, burlesque and fetish stages; Rubyyy is also a choreographer, teacher and director in these fields. Ranked in the top 10 UK Burlesque Performers ( 21st Century Burlesque 2015 ) Rubyyy brings glitter, politics and power to any stage she swirls on! Her reputation precedes her!


I spoke with, Rubyyy about her piece;
The theme given was nightmare. Could you tell me briefly how this led you to create a piece about domestic violence?
Well darling, initially I thought I would do something a bit tongue and cheek, me waking up over and over in a 9-5 day in day out desk job. I started to think how that’s a nightmare for me and then I checked my privilege and thought a little deeper to the true waking nightmares that some people live in. I had discussed an act like this with a colleague, Noah Henne, and then there it was again. This nightmare that some people wish they could wake up from.

What is your experience with domestic violence? Is it something you or someone close to you has suffered or is it just something you wanted to create a piece for?
I have experienced domestic abuse, but not to the level at which I address in the piece. For a long period of time in my relationships, I was involved with individuals who were, in one way or another, abusive to me. Most of the violence I experienced was sexual, psychological and emotional. I had one partner who was physically violent and I remember thinking, very vividly, I want to wake up out of this, this is not my life. It took me a long time to recover and I still bare the scars and stressed of that time, something I’m working on.

How did you feel before presenting the piece? Did you have any particular concerns?
I was very clear with the awesome and understanding producer Vivacity Bliss that I felt this piece needed very specific trigger warnings. And not to happen only immediately before the piece, I wanted people to feel they had space to leave if they needed to without feeling eyes on them so we gave a warning at the beginning of the act I was in and then also before the piece itself. I was concerned for anyone who has been touched by this kind of violence because it is so hidden - one of my motivations for doing the piece - and though I want my work to challenge people, I never want anyone to feel unsafe or further traumatised.

How did you feel afterwards?
I actually felt okay afterwards. I felt slightly unsettled by the people who laughed at the very violent climax but I know that in cabaret there will always be drunk fools in the audience and that in some cases, maybe some people laughed because they could not bare to cry. I felt very emotional before the show. When my partner Prince Lydia was painting on the bruises I could feel my bruises just below the surface. It was hard but the cast was really supportive and understanding. I ran through the act several times before going on stage, not full out, but just enough so some the emotion could be released. I did not want to lose control of my emotions on stage. I wanted them to flow, I wanted them to be real but I wanted the piece to be about being a mirror, not about my own feelings.

What do you hope to achieve with this piece?
I want to present this piece to different types of audiences to be a mirror. You do not have to have someone beat you for you to feel beaten down. You do not have to be covered in bruises to feel hurt and pained. Abuse is a cycle and it only deepens, it never gets better and the piece went to a very extreme level to make that clear. Here is a woman, pledging her everything, anything she has left to someone who has taken out everything on her and we all hope that she’s won and she dies. The statistics for domestic abuse are STAGGERING. This is happening to people every day, men and women, all over the world, your neighbour, your co worker, that lady who you help at Morrisons. This is real life. I want to bring and show that.

Is there anything you would like to add about this piece?
I’m really grateful to Vivacity Bliss and The RVT for giving me the space to bring this piece to life. I couldn’t have done it without direction and conception collaboration with Noah Henne and if anyone can think of spaces or stages where this piece can happen, please get in touch, I want it to be shared and seen.

You can contact Rubyyy Jones via Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright Jon Ellis www.lensintheface.com 

I have to say, after watching Rubyyy's piece, I was in a state of shock. It was almost like seeing a part of my own life up there on the stage. I knew that I was openly weeping but there was nothing I could do. I had already registered that a friend sat on the other side of the stage had checked in with me, I don't think I acknowledged him though, I couldn't. 

Below is the video of Rubyyy's piece; Tellinnng. Please be warned that viewers may be triggered by this piece. It is, however, an incredible performance that, in my opinion, needs to be widely circulated!

I have been raped, beaten and psychologically abused by more than one ex partner.
I had written in more detail about my own experience but I have decided not to directly add it to the blog. However, if you would like to read the snapshot of my experiences, please click here.

I often get asked the same questions in relation to this situation; "Why didn't you just leave?" There is no "just leave". Not in any relationship. I had too much pride for starters. I didn't want to admit that things were going down the pan. I wanted so desperately to make things work. When things were good between us, I was so happy. Fred was so loving and gentle. We had the perfect relationship. Furthermore, throughout the relationship, I had become isolated. I had no friends to speak of. If I left him I would be alone. I also wanted to prove my mum wrong! There, I said it.

The other age old - and tiresome - question is "Well, why didn't you report him to the police?" Again, not that simple. I had no hard evidence. It was my word against his and he came from a family with money. 

There was actually one incident I did report to the police. It was after the breakup. I had gone to the house to collect some important mail. We got into a fight and he threw me against the stairs. I got carpet burns to my face. When I made it out of the house he came after me. I ran down the street screaming. Someone saw or heard the commotion and offered me refuge in their house. The people who took me in then called the police. They told me to go home and they would come round. The kind stranger then drove me home. It was 2 days before the police finally came around. They took a statement and took pictures of my injuries which by this point were healing. They told me they couldn't prove Fred had caused my injuries. The kind stranger had told the police they saw Fred chasing me down the street. I wanted to press charges, I wanted a restraining order. The police spoke to Fred who admitted that he had caused my injuries. They let him go with a "slapped wrist". For reasons that were not made clear to me they didn't press charges and I was the one warned to stay away from him. I was the victim but I was made to feel like the criminal.

It is imperative that people know more about domestic abuse. It is important that people know that domestic abuse isn't just a man hitting his partner. Women can be the instigators too. There doesn't have to be violence either. It could just as easily be psychological abuse.
Youngsters ought to be made aware of domestic abuse. They need to be taught that domestic abuse comes in many forms and is NEVER ok. The more we can educate people about this kind of behaviour the less prevalent it will become.

If you feel affected by this blog or the video, please do feel free to email me. I am also on Facebook. If you need help in relation to matters contained in this blog please take a look at the links below.

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Monday, 6 April 2015

You are always on my mind

Part of "growing up" is about making peace with your past. For some this is easier said than done.   It took me an incredibly long time to make peace with mine and I'm still not at 100% nor do I ever think I will be. 

I guess you could say I have a very... "Colourful" past. I've been through a lot to say the least. Not as much as some, mind, but it's all relative. 

One thing that has been the most difficult to reconcile is the years of bullying I have endured and continue to endure. There is a bit of a black hole around my pre 20s but I do know I was bullied. A lot. 

It started at a very young age. I have very vivid memories of specific events. For example, the earliest memory I have of being bullied was at primary school. I couldn't have been much older than 4. There was a girl in my class called Elizabeth. Everyone loved Elizabeth because she had fiery red hair and impossibly pale skin. She looked just like a porcelain doll. 

Elizabeth didn't like me. I have no idea why. There would always be little digs at me that I could simply ignore but one particular day she had been truly horrid to me all day. Then at story time (my favourite time) she sat right behind me. I liked to sit right at the teacher's feet so I could see the words and read along. I could feel Elizabeth nudging me with her foot. Every time she nudged me, I scooted forward a little until I was practically sitting on the teacher's feet! She obviously found this hilarious. The teacher told me to move back and as I did, Elizabeth jabbed me hard in the ribs! This caused me to shriek out loud. Obviously his annoyed the teacher and she made me sit by her side facing the rest of the class. For the remainder of the story, Elizabeth made faces at me. 

After class the teacher told me off for being disruptive and told me that if I continued I would sit facing the class for all future stories! I do believe Elizabeth knew precisely what she was doing. Yes she may have been a young child but she was well aware of her actions and she knew she had gotten me into trouble! 

School pretty much continued like this until my last day of secondary school! 

One particular incident I recall from high school was pretty bad. I was in class and the teacher had left the room for some reason or another. Everyone was getting on with their work except "Kathy". Kathy was looking over at me. I was sat by myself as was the case in most of my classes. Kathy really had it in for me and I've no idea why! She came over to my table and called me a tramp. I ignored her. Then she yelled "I said you're a fucking tramp, did you hear me, Tramp?" I ignored her again, knowing full well what would happen if I responded. 

Quick as a flash, Kathy picked the tippex up from my table and emptied the bottle over me. Then she spat at me. I was angry. Not because of what she had done, because I was wearing a brand new jumper and I knew what would happen when I went home covered in tippex! I stood up and went to walk over to the sink to try and wash my jumper when suddenly I felt Kathy's hand connect with my face. Man could she slap! My face was stinging and my ear was ringing. 

In that moment, I lost my cool. I flipped my desk in Kathy's direction, just as I did the teacher returned to the classroom. She saw what I did and sent me to the Head Teacher. I tried to show her the jumper and the raised hand mark on my face but she was having none of it! "I saw you throw that table, if you don't go down to the office now I will have him put you on report." 

I took off my ruined jumper and with my hand on my face I went downstairs. There was no point in fighting. I knocked on the office door and was told to wait outside. When the door opened, the Head told me to come in and take a seat. I stood. I could feel the anger welling up inside me. He asked me what had happened. I gave him my version of events. 

He sighed and said "It's always someone else's fault isn't it?" I couldn't believe my ears. The anger was threatening to bubble over. "Are you fucking stupid?" I asked him. He looked at me, surprised that I dared to speak to him in such a way. He told me to calm down and this just made things worse. "Don't fucking tell me to calm down!" I yelled. I threw my jumper on his desk. "Look at the fucking state of that. Look at my fucking face. Do you think I did this shit to myself for a laugh?!" By this point I was shaking with rage. He told me that if I swore again I would be in detention. I told him to go fuck himself and went to walk out. He told me that if I walked out then I would be put on red report - the worst report there is - for behaviour. I walked out. 

I went up to the library, sat in the furthest corner and cried. I was so angry. It was typical of my school. The victim always got the blame!

Another incident I remember also involved Kathy. No surprise there! I was in the canteen getting my lunch. My favourite hot meal was cheese and potato bake and I knew the dinner lady always reserved one for me. 

When I walked into the hot side I saw Kathy and her friends. They hadn't seen me so I quickly walked round to the cold side. I asked for the potato bake that was being kept. The dinner lady told me I had to get it from the hot side. I told her it was for me and that I couldn't sit in the hot side. She refused to serve me still. 

Kathy and her friends had got up to leave. In order to exit the canteen they would have to go via the cold side. I decided to leave before she saw me. A cheese and potato bake wasn't worth a beating or verbal abuse. Not today. I walked towards the door, looking behind me for Kathy. 

Next thing I know I'm lying half way across the canteen with the worst head pain ever. People were surrounding me. Someone had called my mum. From what I was told, I had walked into the door. Yeah right! I hit the door that hard I'd sent myself flying backwards! 

Next thing I remember, I was in a teacher's car with my mum going to the hospital. Luckily my mum worked at the school across the street as a dinner lady. Her shift had finished and she was about to leave when she got the call. She was holding my hand and telling me to stay awake. My whole face was throbbing.  

I won't bore you with the hospital visit, I didn't need stitches or anything. The next day I was back to school as normal with a huge egg protruding from my forehead! I knew people were laughing at me but I didn't care. 

At break time I was in one of the toilets trying to avoid the ridicule when I heard Kathy bragging to her friends. "You should have seen how far back she flew. It was fucking hilarious!" She was talking about me. "I saw her leaving the the cold side so we went out of the hot door. I could see her through the window and when the cold door opened and she went to step out I booted it shut!" Her and her friends were laughing hysterically. 

I sat in the cubicle until the bell went for next class. It was obvious I hadn't just walked into the door. If I had, why did I land in the middle of the canteen?! What kind of idiots were running this school?! There was no point in me saying anything. No one would believe me. It was my word against hers and there were more people with her who would defend her. 

To me, this kind of thing was normal by now. I just accepted it as being part of my life. Every time I tried to push back or even ask for help I was rebuffed with some seemingly arbitrary rational as to why these things were happening to me. Of course, I started to question myself. Was it really my fault? Should I actually care more about the little things that other people care about? Should I try harder to fit in? To be like all the others? Should I accept the labels give to me by society. For a while I started to feel a little lost. I was stuck between their world and my own. 

After school I decided to go to college. It was the right thing for me to do. It wasn't expected of me as such. It's not that my parents didn't care about education. My dad really did and desperately wanted me to do my a-levels. It was more a case of "well, you need to make your own choices in life and then live with the consequences". 

As a child, I picked my career aspirations based on a word I not only knew but understood and could spell at age 5 - archaeologist! Of course, living in a Roman city, watching Jason and the Argonaughts and enjoying digging in my yard also helped. By 10 or so I was a fully fledged garden archaeologist. 

My mother despaired of my brother and I. We were convinced that our garden must be a hotbed for undiscovered Roman treasures and we dug great big holes looking for this treasure. We found broken pieces of pottery that I was convinced were ancient artefacts of great historical importance. The coins we found became treasure buried by our ancestors who lived here before us and hid them from thieves - I also had quite the imagination! 

The Romans fascinated me well enough but my interests were rooted in the ancient Greeks to some extent - I built a to scale junk model of the Parthenon - and the ancient Egyptians. They were my favourite. I fancied myself a bit of an Egyptologist in my younger years. There was nothing about The Egyptians that I wouldn't read. 

However, that dream was smashed to pieces by my guidance counsellor at school. She asked me what I wanted to do and when I explained she all but laughed at me. She then informed me "everything that needs to be discovered already has." My dream died a death right there. The worst part about that was the year after I started college, they started to dig the amphitheatre in my home city and the man himself, Tony Robinson was there!  

My counsellor asked if I had any other aspirations. I'd always been good around children. I was somewhat a Pied Piper in that respect. She told me that was a more feasible dream and so it was written. 

I recall my dad's disappointment. If there was ever a person I couldn't bare to disappoint, it was my dad. His exact words were "you will very soon have children of your own. Why would you want to spend your life looking after someone else's?" Somehow I managed to accept my dad's disappointment and proceed as I wished. I'm now 30, I'm amazing at my job (not bragging) and I'm the only one of my female siblings without children of my own. In fact, the only other one of all 9 of us who doesn't have children is my older brother and I will keep my opinions on that matter to myself. SO THERE DADDY!

Anyway, I digress. When I began college, I was put into a lower level class than the one I applied for as my grades weren't "good enough" for the higher level. However, after a week or two on the lower level course, my tutor realised it was too easy for me and bumped me up. In the original class, I had a friend in a girl I went to school with. When I moved up, I had to start over. Bizarrely, I was incredibly popular in my class.  I didn't know how to deal with this new found popularity. It was incredibly overwhelming. I became suspicious of everyone. Why did they want to be friends with me? What did they want from me? 

I ruined several friendships this way. I was so obsessed with the idea of them playing me that I pushed them away. In hindsight it may well be that these friendships would have been somewhat tenuous at best and I may have dodged a proverbial bullet. I never exactly got used to the idea of being popular. It unnerved me greatly, however, I did use it to my advantage. I learned to manipulate people. Of course, this is not a great quality in general but they would believe anything I told them and so I could become a whole new me. 

Unfortunately, this went to my head somewhat. I tried to reinvent myself in a way that was almost implausible. It worked for a while which then gave me an ego boost and made me feel confident and like I could be anything but as so often happens with these things, people begin to see through it. One thing is for sure though, I never got bullied at college!

I became fast friends with one girl in particular. She was shy and quiet like me but she had something inside her that wanted to come out and play. Also like me. We started skipping classes together to hang out in the library. I was still doing the work as it was so easy it hardly took up any time. I guess you could say I started to become a bit of a rebel. I'd been good my entire life and had nothing but shit from it so I figured why not go the other way?!  I started seeing a sweet, lovely guy but he was too eager to please me. I wanted someone who had a bit of an edge. I found him eventually. What I didn't realise was just how much trouble this guy could cause! The friend I made, let's call her Jane, also found herself a bit of a rebellious boyfriend. Neither of our parents were particularly pleased but we didn't care much. We sort of evened things out by being good Christians. My rebel boyfriend was so foot loose and fancy free that I eventually called time on things. 

We were coming to the end of the first year of college and I needed a Summer job. I found a new boyfriend and a position at McDonalds. Hardly glamorous but I love to work. The best thing is my boyfriend AND my best friend also worked there eventually! I got to the end of the academic year and my tutor wanted to have a word with me. My class attendance was appalling but my work was in the top 10%. I had two choices; attend 80% of my next years classes or quietly leave now. I went for the latter option and started to work full time. 

The boy and I were quite happy working together and very much in love. After some time and a few different jobs I decided to go back to college and make the most of my free education. I was 19. I started this course with another of my close friends, we were once again the popular kids! The course was an absolute cop out. It was no effort at all to pass the course which I did without even attending. We had to do a work placement which I did with the local council and they offered me a job on the spot. My tutor agreed that I could work and finish the course. I passed top of the class. 

I continued to work for the local council whilst searching for my next challenge. This one had to be big. The boy was working at my old secondary school and was still at college. My friend and I decided we would apply to join the Army. Why not? If my dad could do it so could I!  I applied in the February, got all my papers sorted, passed my selection and was enlisted in the July. The boy wasn't happy about my decision. He had made this clear from the beginning. I told him that I needed to do this for me. He reluctantly accepted my decision. I would be gone for 6 weeks then I would have a weekend off then another 6 weeks of training. I was nervous and excited in equal measure. 

My mum saw me onto the train with tears in her eyes. She didn't want me to go. Not because she didn't want me to leave home but because she thought I would be killed! I got to the barracks and tried to familiarise myself with the people, the area and the rules. I didn't care much for the people if I'm honest. There were one or two who I liked to hang around with but co-ed socialising was frowned upon greatly. Of course, owing to this rule I was hell bent on breaking it!  See? I'd become a right ol' rebel now that no one was making my life hell...! 

All too soon I realised that there were some girls who managed to make me feel like I was back in high school! They were, let's face it, nasty little bitches! One in particular went on to become "famous"! She was the worst! 

We were fast approaching the half way mark and I was excited to be going home to see my boy. It just so happened that my weekend leave fell on the date of his sister's wedding, for which I was bridesmaid! 

Just before our halfway exercise, I got a phone call from a very close friend. He had some utterly tragic news. My whole world was rocked by it. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to comfort him but I was miles away. I remember wandering down the rugby field in a daze. I couldn't process what my friend had told me. 

I sat in the middle of the field for quite some time. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. I was too numb. After an indeterminate amount of time, someone came and sat next to me. I barely registered him. He was from the troop opposite us. The Army Air Corps boys or as our sergeant so lovingly called them "The Blutack Heads" on account of their light blue berets! He put his arm around me without saying a word, I rested my head on his shoulder and burst into tears. I cried uncontrollably for almost an hour and Mr Army Air Corps just sat with his arm around me. 

It was getting a little cold so I said I would go back to the block, get a cup of tea and go to bed. Mr Army Air Corps gave me his number and said if I needed him it was to text him immediately. When we got back to the top of the field he gave me a firm hug and we went our separate ways. 

The following morning I was called into the sergeant's office. I'd been seen "fraternising" and this was incredibly frowned upon. What did I have to say for myself? I denied it of course. I'd done no such thing. He explained how I had been seen on the rugby field en flagrante with a member of the all male troop opposite. 

I told them it wasn't true and that there was a perfectly legitimate reason for what was seen. When I was asked to present the reason I clammed up. It wasn't my thing to tell. I couldn't betray my friend like that even though he would be unaware. I told my sergeant that it was very personal and I couldn't divulge such sensitive information. I was dismissed from the office pending a hearing. 

I got back to my room and I could hear all the whispers. The occasional "slag", "slut" and "whore" was uttered loud enough for me to hear. I didn't care. I held my friend in very high regard and I wouldn't tell anyone what he told me no matter the consequences to myself. I'm loyal to a fault sometimes. (This friend and I no longer speak yet I will still not disclose what he told me that day.) 

I found out who had reported me. It was, of course, Miss Thing herself. She had apparently been interested in Mr Army Air Corps and was in the process of chatting him up when he came down to the rugby field. In a jealous fit she had taken pictures of us and shown them to the sergeant! 

I sent  Mr Army Air Corps a message that evening. He had been pulled up too. Thankfully for him his sergeant believed that there was nothing untoward however to set an example to the others he was sentenced to a week of ROPs, that meant he couldn't go to the city at the weekend. He was annoyed of course but not at me. 

I was hauled before the troop commander. She asked me to explain my actions and the photograph. I explained to her how it was a simple case of misunderstanding but as I wouldn't divulge the I formation my friend had given me I was punished severely. I was sentenced to a week of ROPs, backsquadded to week one and denied my right to go home. 

The next particular instance of bullying that sticks in my mind is from when I first moved to London. 

For a while I didn't have a job. I wasn't particularly motivated to work either. I enjoyed taking time to adjust to London life. 

After a few months I started looking for work. My boyfriend's father told me that his company required a temporary receptionist. I decided to do that for a while and look elsewhere in the meantime. 

One particular day I was doing some photocopying for the director. He had a circular that needed to be sent out urgently and it had to go to 150 people. The copier was in use. I asked around to see if anyone knew who the copying belonged to. No one knew. I paused the job and sent mine through. Their job would resume immediately after. 

I went to sit back down at the reception desk when one of the older secretaries came down. She started screaming at me. "Who the fuck do you think you are? Just because you're fucking the director's son doesn't mean you can do what the hell you like in this office."  I was pretty stunned by this. I had no idea why she was yelling at me. Then she threw a heap of papers at me. The circular. Someone had told her that I'd interrupted her job to out mine through. I tried to explain how the director had an urgent circular that needed sending out in that day's post. It was already pushing 3pm and everything had to be collared and stuffed into envelopes as well. She just looked straight at me and spat "You're nothing in this office. You don't belong here. Once the receptionist is back you can fuck off." With that, she stormed off back to her office. I was mortified. As I am writing this I can actually smell the coffee and cigarettes on her breath. I can see the stained teeth and feel the flecks of saliva hitting my face. 

After my stint as a receptionist, I was offered a position as a secretary. I'd not had much luck with other jobs as my Army paperwork was still being processed and apparently no one will make a phone call to verify this! 

I accepted the job. I was known as the "floater". Not the friendliest of terms! I would take on other work from secretaries who had too much to manage. I would help people with technical issues. I also covered the reception desk during the lunch period. In time, the switchboard system was upgraded to a computer system. It made everything so much easier - for me!  Everyone else had trouble working it despite them having a training session. 

The receptionist had to take time off and I was once again appointed temporary receptionist. Every afternoon, when someone was covering my lunch break, they would call me and ask how to do XYZ. I got fed up of it. The receptionist was going to be off for about two months! 

When I returned after my lunch break I decided to make a "dummy guide" with pictures so anyone who was at the switchboard would know how to do everything. I printed out copies for all the secretaries with a memo attached and had a copy taped to the reception desk. Everyone was delighted. Except the receptionist. 

When she returned from her time off she came up to my desk and started yelling at me. "Who the fuck do you think you are? Undermining my job as receptionist! You think you are going to steal my job from me? You've got another thing coming!" She then threw a ball of paper at me and left. I was totally shocked and quite upset. I was simply attempting to make my own life easier and in turn helping others. I ended up speaking to one of the company directors about the situation. It wasn't the first time that the receptionist had had a go at me for no reason. Of course, she flatly denied it! 

People often think that bullying only relates to school aged children. That once you leave school you leave bullies. That's not true even slightly. 

When you're bullied as an adult I'd dare say it's actually worse. It certainly was for me anyway. It was incredibly humiliating. Especially having to report it. I felt like I was back in school. I experience bullying on an almost daily basis. Perhaps not as direct as it has been in the past but it is still bullying nonetheless. 

When someone makes a sly comment about how I look, what I say or what I do it hurts. It upsets me. It makes me feel like a kid again and I'm powerless to stop it. They will make the comment just loud enough for me to hear it. That's bullying! I don't like confrontation so I won't fight back. The reason I actively avoid confrontation is because I know that I have an incredibly violent temper and I don't know what might set it off. 

When I am in a confrontational situation I can feel my body shaking. I will notice that my fists are clenching and un clenching. I can feel the tension in my entire body. I find that the best way to deal with these issues is to simply walk away.  

Bullying is becoming far worse these days with the involvement of the Internet. It's all too often I read a news story about someone killing themselves owing to cyber bullying. I think though what bothers me the most in those situations is the response from the general public. "Why don't they just block the bully?" It's actually not that easy. I could go on to explain why it's not that easy but frankly, I don't think you would understand.

I wrote a poem some time ago based on my own experiences of being bullied. It was used in an anti bullying campaign in a school in America. I have received mostly positive reviews of this piece. 

Driven to kill. 

This story I'll tell you
Will make you feel sad
It'll make you feel angry
It'll make you feel mad

For this is a story
About trouble and pain
That ends with a loss
There was nothing to gain!

It started that day
When they followed me home
They pushed and they kicked
Wouldn't leave me alon

Then each day that followed
It became worse and worse
I don't know why they did it
Perhaps I was cursed?

So one night all alone
I took to my room
And I thought to myself
“It'll be over soon”

With no fear in my heart
And nought but a knife
I slashed my own wrists
I took my own life

As the blood dripped away
And my heart stood still
Those kids were to blame
They drove me to kill

They're lucky, you see
'Cos now they got away
And my family lives
With this pain every day

'Cos I am not there
They all weep and they cry
For no one could save me
They all watched me die

So when you see a kid
Who's not pretty or smart
Don't taunt them or beat them
Please, have a heart

'Cos one day that kid
That you kicked in the head
May be found by her parents too
In her room, 

This is a semi autobiographical piece. The only difference between the poem and my own life is that I didn't make the cut deep enough to kill myself. Someone told me recently that I couldn't write a poem in this manner.  The narrator was the victim and apparently that doesn't work. You can't have a dead narrator... I'm a writer, I will write in whatever style I like thanks! 

One of my proudest achievements in life was having this poem used as part of an anti bullying campaign in a school in America. If this poem prevents just one bully from causing bullycide, if it makes just one bully stop and reconsider their actions then that is a glorious achievement. 

I don't understand adults bullying. They know the ramifications of their actions yet they do it anyway. Bullying in general leaves very deep scars. Psychological scars that can often take a lifetime to heal. Psychological bullying is the worst form of bullying in my opinion. It is often carried out over an extended period of time. The victim will usually have no idea it is happening until it is too late. I've been the victim of many psychological bullies. I've had someone say to me "shouldn't you be able to read the signs by now?". This is an idiotic comment to say the least! Yes, I guess I ought to be better at reading people. I tend to do a very good job of it which is why I'm so guarded and have very few friends. However, these individuals are experts at manipulation and what can I say? I'm desperate for people to like me. I'm desperate to be loved...! Because of this, I've been in domestically abusive relationships. Some of them physically abusive, most of them psychologically so. Thankfully I've managed to escape them with my life but I'm a shadow of my former self now.

One of my problems with bullies is I can't help but pity them. They obviously have something so wrong in their own lives that they have to pick on other people - there's a down side to studying psychology! That being said, it doesn't lessen the impact of their actions. One of the most difficult things for me in this respect is often bullies are themselves bullied. Apparently that's why they do the things they do. This logic doesn't sit right for me. Having endured years of bullying, I'd go to the ends of the earth to make sure I don't subject others to the same. I know the pain suffered by victims of bullying and I couldn't possibly imagine inflicting such pain on anyone else. 

The thing is, we're all guilty of it. We've all bullied someone to some extent. Perhaps not intentionally but we've all said something to make someone feel bad.

All this being said, I have made peace with the earlier parts of my life. I guess I'm blessed in that I don't recall all of it. However, there are still nights I wake in a cold sweat thinking I'm back in high school.

 I have very deep scars from my years of being bullied. Both physical and psychological. It has shaped the way I act around people. I'm always guarded, weary, suspicious. I would love to be able to let go of that part of my life but even after all these years, it's still raw. 

Just writing this blog has actually caused me physical pain. Whenever I read in the news that another victim has been killed by "bullycide" I cry. I wish they had had the strength to overcome it. Schools have a "zero tolerance" policy on bullying but what I find that means is that they sweep these issues under the carpet. More needs to be done about bullying in schools. Not just for the victims but for the bullies too. 

So as the poem I wrote states;

... when you see a kid
Who's not pretty or smart
Don't taunt them or beat them
Please, have a heart

'Cos one day that kid
That you kicked in the head
May be found by her parents too
In her room,