Today’s blogpost is an interview with one of my good friends Melissa. I met Melissa in 2014 in Albania when we were both on a Mission Trip and we remained friends from there. We’ve travelled to Thailand together and I’ve seen Melissa overcame challenges such as a jungle trek in the pouring rain and climbing a rocky mountain in sandals and I’ve seen her grow in strength and confidence. Melissa was bullied during secondary school and this has had a big impact on her self-confidence and life in general. Hearing Melissa tell me her story saddened me because it’s simply not fair that she had to go through this but I’m glad and proud that she has taken the opportunity to talk about it so that she can inspire others.
Melissa, tell us about yourself.
I’m 28 years old, I live in Birmingham, England and I’m an IT Support Analyst for DHL Tradeteam, trading team. Some people think that IT is pointless because it’s not a job directly helping people like doctors and nurses but nowadays everyone needs IT within their organisation! I find my job quite stressful and mentally draining but I do enjoy it. Outside of work I enjoy going for walks, travelling and spending time with my family.
So, tell me about the time in your life that you were bullied.
There are two main incidents that happened around about the same time during Secondary School when I was about 13 or 14 years old. The first incident was when I told my friend that I had a crush on a particular boy and for some reason she told him. When he found out he made a huge deal out of it saying how he would never ever be with me and he said that I was fat and ugly. His words hurt me so much and it was terrible because other people laughed. Throughout the year he and would constantly say mean things to me in front of others and they would encourage it. Everyone turned on me after that. I would have other people commenting on my reaction to his comments and saying things like, “Well she’s not crying so it’s okay” which made me feel worse and then people would always ask me if I still had a crush on him. It was absolutely horrible.
The second incident was when I told a friend that another friend had nicknamed a group of girls ‘The Sumos’ and she went and told them! This backfired greatly and they made my life hell. They gave me and some of my friends dirty looks, said things behind my back and threatened me. It wasn’t even my fault but I was treated so badly. Then, on one occasion, one of the girls’ cousins from another school came to my school and physically attacked us. I didn’t even have the confidence to stand up for myself, I ran home and told my Mum. The teachers at school would see me being bullied and do nothing about it. I was all alone and felt like nobody cared. It was one of the worst times of my life.
How did it affect you at the time?
I hated school. I felt anxious and would try to avoid attending school. I was scared of what people would do to me so I tried to avoid being around anyone. People would call me names and throw things at me and it honestly made me feel worthless, like a piece of rubbish on the floor.
I was so lonely because nobody wanted to be my friend anymore. I began to bring a packed lunch because I didn’t want to have to go into the canteen. I would take my lunch into the toilet and eat in one of the cubicles and spend the entire time in there alone.
I felt as if I didn’t want to be here anymore. I didn’t attempt to end my life but I did think about it. I didn’t even believe that anyone would care if I was gone, that’s how insignificant I was made to feel.
It also affected me academically as it was around the time of my SATS exams and I even had to get special permission to retake some exams because the bullying had stressed me out so much that I couldn’t perform properly.
How did it affect your confidence?
I started to believe that I wasn’t good enough. I believed the boy when he said I was ugly and I had a really low opinion of myself. I hated dressing up for family parties and I never felt that I looked good despite what my family would tell me. The words he had said to me stayed in my mind and I can still remember them clearly today.
In my later teenage years during college, when my friends would get male attention and I didn’t I would think back to what that boy said about me and I believed that I must be ugly because nobody ever wanted me. Looking back now, I can see that it wasn’t that at all, but was because of the way my friends behaved that got them male attention and that there was nothing wrong with me.
Also, when I was 19 a guy at Church told me that he liked me but because I had such low self-esteem I didn’t believe that he could like me and so I messed up that opportunity to get to know him. My confidence was really knocked by that experience and it took a long time to build it back up.
Would you say that you are still affected by the experience now?
Definitely. Although I tell myself that I should be over it by now, I’m not. I would say I’m about 70% healed from it all. It has taken a very long time for me to heal from those incidents of bullying. I’m more confident now but I still have a way to go. I still don’t like being around large groups of people and I can be really quiet at times.
When I first started my job I was rather subdued and it affected my work because even when I knew I could do a certain task I would doubt myself and let other colleagues do it instead.
However, my confidence is growing because there have been times where I have ben on a shift all by myself and we have had a system breakdown and I worked really hard to fix it alone. That boosted my confidence because I realised that I am capable of doing difficult things and my manager complimented me which felt great. Also, having good friends has helped me too.
Tell me something that you love about yourself.
I’ve been told that I help people to feel calm which I think is a great quality so I love that. I also like my face, particularly my teeth and my smile. I no longer believe I’m ugly thankfully.
What advice would you give to your younger self and to other girls who are being bullied?
To the old Melissa I would say although right now it seems like your situation is the end of the world, things will get better. You will go on to have an amazing life. You will climb mountains in Albania and eat sticky mango rice with your friends in Thailand. You can’t see past the situation now but you have got great friends and a wonderful family. There is life past the school days and past the horrible people.
I would advise someone being bullied to speak to someone and please do not keep it all in. You must tell somebody that you trust so that they can help you. Also, try and keep occupied because I found that it was when I was idle and alone that I would have bad thoughts so staying busy prevents that. I also found reading books and listening to music really helped me to escape what was going on too.
Thank you Melissa. You’re so brave and I’m so glad that despite your traumatic time at school you’ve been able to overcome your challenges and share your story.
Readers, if you would like to get in touch for advice for to share your story you are more than welcome. Please contact me because I would love to help.