Story Time: High School Bullying


I still struggle on daily basis attempting to make sense of my past experiences and one of those experiences being High School bullying.

The bullying which I experienced in High School I believe initiated my problems with self-esteem, body image and identity which lead to me encountering certain individuals later in life who preyed upon these insecurities and took advantage of them.

The majority of the bullying I experienced was psychological, rather than physical and I think to some people that automatically makes it seem less serious and impactful, however for me this bullying changed the fundamental aspects of my being – it changed how I saw and thought of myself, which still affects me to this day.

My memories of school go back to primary school. I went to a pretty non-ethnically diverse primary school, the majority of people being white. You could spot which child was me straight away from looking at the class school pictures. I remember up to a period of time I did not realise there was a difference between myself and my other classmates, but that homogeneous ideal soon evaporated. I remember both in school, as well as in out-of-school sport classes and holiday clubs; other children were quick to notice I was different and had no problem questioning me about the reasons behind my differences. I remember other children constantly wanting to touch my hair and asking me questions about why my hair was the texture it was. I also remember other children asking me why the insides of my hands were white but I was black. I remember being questioned about the size of my lips and being called “poo”. I also vividly remember when another black child joined our school in Year 6, the other children were quick to ask me if my brother had joined the school. This was the type of primary school I went to, therefore I learned to be shy in an attempt not to have a magnifying glass put on me, I didn’t want to stand out anymore than I already did. In primary school I was very shy and often did not talk to other pupils or teachers, I mainly had one close friend who I would talk to and when that friend wasn’t in I would spend the whole day in silence. During the final years of primary school the other children would have “girlfriends” and “boyfriends”, however none of the boys would like me and I soon began to think this was because I was different from everyone else and this difference meant that I was ugly and undesirable. Despite being this young, I would watch shows about plastic surgery and imagine how I would look if I had plastic surgery to change some of my features. I would also imagine how I would look and possibly if I would have more friends and perhaps a “boyfriend”, if I was lighter or white myself.

I went into High School with these same insecurities. This time my High School had a pinch more of diversity in it, still not many black people however there were some mixed race and Asian students. However this did not save me from the ignorance and racist bullying, in fact not only did these comments come from the white students they also came from the mixed race and Asian students. When I thought back to my time in primary school I thought maybe those experiences were not racism, maybe instead they were ignorance because we were young children and that’s how young children are. However my time at High School could not be played off as ignorance, despite the majority of teachers refusing to recognise the blatant racism and bullying I was experiencing. This time not only did I have to deal with the questions and the unwanted touching, I also dealt with being called names like the N-word. I distinctly remember two of my mixed race classmates , who happened to be related themselves, calling me a monkey and making monkey noises to me whenever I saw them, not recognising that they were half-black themselves. Not only this, but as in primary school, teachers struggled to pronounce my name. Teachers would mispronounce my name as “A-liar” and then the whole class would laugh and outside of classes my bullies would get a rise from also calling me this. I wanted to disappear, not only did I hate myself and the way I looked, I also hated my name. I would dread registration and also dread when the main teacher, who after numerous attempts had finally worked out how to say my name, wasn’t in so we would have a substitute teacher and they also wouldn’t know how to pronounce my name.

In primary school and the start of High School, some of these encounters would make me cry however my mum told me not to cry in front of these people because then they would know that they won in making me upset. Instead of crying I should ignore them. My mum also told me that I should never lay my hands on someone unless they did it to me first, because I was black and I would automatically be looked at as the aggressor and the troublemaker. So as the bullying continued on a daily basis for years, I learned to hold everything in and not react. I would hate coming into school and learned to always walk with my head down and quickly, on my way to school and in the corridors. Although I detested school, I actually liked learning I loved history, classics and Italian and my mum would never let me miss a day of school.

After some time had passed some of my bullies began to get more confident and in class one day one decided to mock me in front of the teacher. The teacher did not do anything at first and neither did I. However after class she held me back, I assumed I was getting in trouble for something but she actually asked me why the students were laughing at me and pointing and I told her it was because I was black. The teacher reported this to the head of year who said they would launch an investigation. I believed nothing would happen, as usual. However this time something did, the students involved were given detentions. This incident was not the end and actually made things get worse me. I was now not only bullied for my race, I was also bullied for “having a chip” on my shoulder and also being a “grass”. After this occasion, I would often get bullied both in front of and in the absence of teachers, who if there would pretend they did not notice anything. I also used to have a circle of friends who would be present during occasions I would be experiencing bullying and humiliation, but these friends would do the same, in pretending they did not notice anything. Some of my friends would also copy some of the actions of others, such as calling me the N-word, but believe they were doing this as a joke rather than it being the same as the actions of my bullies.

I soon began to accept that I should expect this behaviour and treatment from others. I felt stuck in an endless cycle of experiencing abuse from others. I would also get pushed in the corridors and have things thrown in my hair during class. But I was shy and it wasn’t in my nature to respond in a hateful way back using my words. It is incredibly difficult explaining how I felt and even today as I replay back situations in my head, I chastise myself over not saying anything back. Why did I not stick up for myself. Why did I just accept my role as a victim. Why did I let this experience penetrate my thoughts and self-worth enough to see myself as what they were calling me and how they treated me.

Some people experience PTSD from combat, I think when PTSD is mentioned the first image in a lot of people’s heads are war zones. However my PTSD began following High School bullying.

I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness and I often find myself feeling trapped in an endless cycle, but this time I’m trapped in my head.

My life has been a series of events that have happened to me

For a while now I have felt that my life has been a series of events that have happened to me.

I have felt as though I am a bystander to the events and experiences that are going on around me. I feel I have little control over my destiny and for some reason my life has been destined for things to go wrong in it.

I see my life as a series of fundamental moments in which at every stage something went drastically wrong, which has now lead to to this current moment in my life.

This moment I find myself in now, I am trying to repair the damage of all the previous disasters. However I don’t quite feel it’s possible. I feel the ship has sailed and it’s like I’m trying to repair a broken glass with cellotape. The problems that have arisen have now become an ingrained part of me which I cannot separate and remove. So now the problems seep out into every interaction and continue to ruin things for me.

For some reason I can’t escape experiencing problems. At every cross road a new one arises. Then I question myself, is this a new problem or is this a pattern. If this is a pattern then I have to accept that the problem is not those around me, the problem is in fact myself.

And then the question is, what should I do with myself..

Story Time: My First University

After a horrible experience of non-stop bullying at High School and not a particularly great time at sixth form, I thought to myself university is going to be my time to shine. I deserve to have an amazing time, make life-long friends, join a whole host of societies, excel in my studies and just be genuinely content for a period of time. I don’t know how common that thought process is, whether TV shows and movies created the false narrative that university is the pivotal peak of happiness in the majority of people’s lives or whether I just created that image in my own head. But there I was ready to start university and begin to finally feel happy.

I did not get to go to my first university of choice because instead of getting A, A, B my grades consisted of all B’s. That was the first disappointment. However, I went through clearing to get into another university that was close to my university of choice and had a good reputation. I packed up my life and was ready to begin a new chapter. This university had 2 weeks of Freshers – amazing, I thought. The perfect opportunity to meet new people and show people that I can be fun. I did enjoy Freshers, I hung around with a big group of people, both males and females. I thought I’d never had a big group of friends before and I had never really had that many male friends, so I was excited about the new prospects that had more or less fallen in my lap. After Freshers had ended, my big group of “friends” became a group of 3. I was slightly disappointed that the initial group of people that I called my friends had only seemed to last 2 weeks. But I thought don’t start with the negativity, at least you have made 2 friends. One the two girls, I found myself getting really close to. I started to feel like this was going to be my best friend, she had experienced similar things to myself and we even were told we sounded the same on the phone. We seemed to have a lot of similarities, neither of the girls were on my course but we hung out almost every day. They both liked to go clubbing, they introduced me to new food, they wanted to join societies and they were open to expanding our group.

I started to let go of some of the high expectations I had of university, it seemed like I wasn’t going to have my big group of friends but the 2 close friends I had were enough. Then one day after a night out, I found myself in an argument with my closest friend. I sort of felt like the argument came from nowhere and then as quickly as we had become such close friends, the friendship completely ended. I was distraught. I felt like the world was crashing down around me, I had no friends and I had only been in university for 3 months. I didn’t want to be there anymore. My mum and sister consoled me and told me it would be alright, I shouldn’t give up just yet.

I started to try and make friends on my course this time. Some of the people I had thought were my friends during Fresher’s were on my course. I built up the courage to try and talk to them and soon I was in a new group. I was close with 2 people and those two people had their own separate friendship groups, so I was in the middle of a merged friendship group, although I didn’t really feel that close to the other people. We went clubbing together and hung out the majority of the time so I started to feel happy with the space I was in again.

One night we went clubbing together and that was when everything changed for me. I met someone who I really liked and he liked me too. I was so surprised because I lacked so much self-esteem I was shocked that someone like him would even notice me. Our relationship moved pretty quickly and early on it felt like we had been together for years. I was so in awe of him that I didn’t notice his tendencies to try and control me. Things quickly escalated into a domestic abusive relationship, but whilst I was in it I did not even know. First he controlled what I wore, not only my clothes but how much makeup I could wear. Then he started to tell me off for things out of my control, like if we were out in town and another boy looked at me. He had a very explosive temper and I would be scared to anger him and speak back to him, when I didn’t agree with what he was saying. He would accuse me of cheating and looking at other boys. He’d create fake Facebook accounts and add me on them to try and catch me out to prove I was entertaining other people. Then when that wasn’t enough, he would try to make me jealous by flirting with other girls and then tell me I deserved it because of how I had been. Those were the first steps before his anger turned into physical violence and threats to kill me. But my friends would see him, how he spoke to me, how he treated me and how much I would cry. They never would really say anything to me about it, so I began to think this was normal, this was a loving relationship, this person really cared about me. Sooner or later, my friends became more distant. They got fed up with me constantly trying to please my boyfriend and running after him after every fight then coming back to them crying. Soon I felt that I had no one but my boyfriend.

I lost myself and my life became miserable and my whole world began to revolve around one person.

I finished my first year at university and well it was crazy to say the least. I didn’t know which way was up and which was down. The semester was over and the holiday period began so I came back to London. My boyfriend felt uneasy that I was no longer in his presence every day and he would end our relationship over the smallest of things then come begging to be back with me again shortly after. I planned to go back to university for the second semester and even put down a deposit on a house with the 2 friends on my course, although our friendship was fractured and unstable because of my relationship with my boyfriend. My friends started to give me ultimatums and told me my boyfriend would not be allowed round the house. My boyfriend continued to give me his list full of ultimatums which I could never really live up to. I began to live on my phone, if I didn’t respond to a text fast enough or call him at a certain time, that would be good enough reason for him to break up with me. I began to learn that he liked hearing me cry because then he knew how much he meant to me.

And then one day I had enough. I had enough of my so called friends not being there for me, the ones who I had made in sixth form had seemed to forget about my existence during their first fun packed year of university. And the ones from my university seemed to constantly be disappointed in me. Then my boyfriend had broken up with me for the one hundredth time. I decided that my life was no longer worth living and planned to end it. I concluded that no one would miss me. The behaviours that I had been displaying lead to my mum calling 999 and me going into hospital. I was sectioned for 2 weeks and my time in hospital deserves its own blog so I won’t go into that here. During my time in hospital I thought about whether I should go back to university or not. I decided I needed a break and would not return. My university friends tried to contact me whilst I was in hospital but for the first week I did not have my phone. I found out later that when one of them called my mum answered and told them I would not be coming back to university. When I eventually got my phone back I responded to them and both of them were angry with me that I had made this decision and I did not tell them myself, my mum did – this is what they told me. They did not take into account the fact I was in hospital, nor the fact that my relationship with my boyfriend ended in a court case, none of this seemed to matter. This was the nail in the coffin for our friendship and also the end of my time at that university. I felt like my university experience was a roller coaster of emotions.

In university you find yourself and your true friends, they tell you. At the end of my first university experience I had found that the new Aliyah was full of unresolved problems dating back to childhood and and I had no real friends, I was completely abandoned.

Art Therapy

Quick Update:

I started art therapy around the end of last year in an attempt to put myself “out there” and “try new things” and meet people, basically I stayed at home every day apart from attending university one day a week and attending a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy programme. So I joined this app, called Meetup, and put in all my interests and signed up for a few things, thinking I’d probably not end up going to any due to anxiety about attending new things by myself. However one of the groups I joined reached out to me and contacted me directly about coming, so I built up my courage over 2 weeks and finally decided to join. Since then I’ve been going most weeks! It’s definitely good for mindfulness and self-expression. Here is some of the work I’ve done:

Welcome

Hello everyone!

I am new to blogging and thought to make my first ever post an introductory one instead of diving straight in.

So I’m a 23 year old female living in London. I’ve pretty much just completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, which took me way longer than the “normal” amount of time to complete based on life experiences getting in the way. Whilst at uni I got thrown into the world of mental health, affecting me on a personal level. So not only was I learning about mental health during my course, I was also experiencing it first hand. My list of diagnoses include: Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and Anxiety. Each diagnosis probably deserves a blog of its own!

As I am Black British, my experiences have been pretty uniquely tailored based on growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood and attending predominantly white schools. These things probably set me up nicely for the problems I would later face in life. Hence why I intend to include the race and gender perspective in my blogs; incorporating the Black feminist stance.

Oh and lastly, my relationships (that includes romantic as well as friendships) is a complete and utter mess so my blogs will include a lot of ranting and raving about my ridiculous interactions with others!

I hope that gives you a bit of a background about myself, as well as my blog.

Be in touch soon,

Aliyah x