For years, I have always wondered how I would describe my own bullying experience in words. I feel like it may be difficult to portray all my emotions when not divulging this information face-to-face but, alas, here it goes…
Growing up in, what is often referred to as, “the rougher part” of my town was never something that played on my mind as a child. I come from a very loving family who never treat me any different to anybody else and the same goes for close friends too. I am extremely lucky on that front as I know some people may struggle with what goes on behind closed doors. In my experience, what I went through was all thrown at me in, what I thought, should have been a safe learning environment.
For the first year and a bit of my primary school life, I attended two different establishments due to house moves, both of which were incredible. I met the sweetest people in these schools and never had any bad experiences. Then, reality kicked in. Unfortunately, my Nan took ill so we moved to be closer to her again. I loved this though, I was extremely close to my grandparents so it was just the best feeling to finally be close to them again.
I don’t remember much about my first day at the new primary school other than feeling very nervous. Something I do remember, was how nice the boys in my new class were to me. We had something in common… Wrestling! Thanks, Grandad… legend!
This is where we get to the sad part…
I don’t really have many good memories. The ones that I do have, I truly treasure but, unfortunately, they are few and far between. I didn’t realise at the time but, I was really being singled out for having a darker skin colour. I just think I was too young to get this and I literally blocked everything out of my mind or turned it into an “oh, they are just trying to make conversation, let’s be friends!” Which now, to look back at, really makes me feel so sad but there’s also something so innocent and sweet in that too which makes me feel very proud.
As I blocked a lot of these things out, I had to have the conversation with my mum to find out what she remembers so I can piece this all together. The main things I remember are the names that used to get shouted at me. So, to give you a bit of background, my mum is British. Hazel green eyes with blonde hair. My biological father, who I have never met, was Indian. My skin colour now is, I would say, olive toned but this has lightened over the years, most likely because I don’t play outside on my rollerblades anymore. So, my well-educated school “friends” would always shout racial slurs at me. This is the first thing that comes to my mind. This then escalated to, “Helena, why don’t you just go back to where you came from?!”
“Why? I come from the same place as you.”
My Mum, on the other hand, obviously remembers a lot more than me. What she had to tell me, really did break my heart… One day, whilst innocently playing with my actual friends, out on the playground, a huge group of children surrounded me. The reason we know this is, thankfully, down to my Mums friend who lived opposite the school. She witnessed all of this and immediately called my Mum. These kids formed a huge circle around me, shouting; “Go back to where you came from!”, “Why are you here in our school?!”, “Go back to where you belong!” and of course, all of those vile racial slurs, I am never going to repeat.
Eventually, my poor mother went to the school to speak to the head who responded with “they were only asking her questions”. I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatic this was for my poor mum. She had to deal with all of this and my refusing to leave, even though this was all happening. I remember her looking so stressed as she even approached parents to try and resolve things as I was so desperate to be everyone’s friend. Despite the bullying, I remember telling her that I loved it there. How? How could somebody love a place like that?
As time went on and my best friend left, I would beg my mum to not send me to school. I would cry every morning, I just hated everything. I felt the teachers were against me as well as most students, yet I still refused to leave. Luckily, this was my last year, I had almost made it! Fast forward to high school, the people who were horrid to me, soon changed their tune. “Helena! I just wish I had your skin colour, then I wouldn’t have to fake tan. You’re so lucky!”
“Instead of feeling sorry for what I went through, I started to feel sorry for the people who bullied me.”
Yes, I am lucky but now, more than anything, I am so proud of that little girl. In the face of it all, she still saw the good in people and that’s a wonderful thing to take away from something like this.
Some people will always try to bring you down, but that’s no estimation of your value. It isn’t your experiences that define you, but your ability to recover and utilise them. If you’re struggling, remind yourself that there will be a brighter day, and you are not alone in this fight. The people who really matter, would do nothing in this world but try to make you feel the worth you truly deserve.
If you’re being bullied or have something else on your mind, visit the Ditch the Label community for free advice on what to do next…