FutureSelf Stories: Post 4

So it’s back to school with a heavy heart for most, I’m sure. Back to the books, the teachers, the uniforms and the god-awful food. Back to being told where to be and when to be there, back to being treated like a kid. Back to the shoe scuffing, duffel dragging monotony of bells, books and boredom.

For some however, this will be a time of utter dread. This will be a time of fear, insecurity and desperation. The recent respite and security of family festivities will disappear and reveal once again the stark reality of bullying at school. Forget the cyber stuff for a moment; I’m talking about the relentless and utterly soul destroying in-your-face attacks that will, for some kids be shaping the rest of their lives as I write this.

I don’t want these kids to feel afraid of being who they are, now or in the future. I don’t want them to see every day as a challenge that they fear will be too much for them. I don’t want them to get anywhere near the place of helplessness that led to the most tragic of outcomes for Izzy Dix and many others last year alone.

What I do want is for them to know – to really know – that there are empathetic hearts out there. Hearts and minds and souls and spirits that have been tested and crushed and challenged and have come through the other side scarred, damaged, changed for life but not beaten. I want these kids who are facing bullies every day, be it at school, in their homes or on their PD-fucking-A’s that they are not being singled out because of who they are – they are being targeted by those who don’t yet know themselves. They are being targeted by the most insecure of all. They are being targeted by the truly weak ones – the confirmation-seeking, approval-needing weaklings that haven’t yet formed a single cell of confidence to face the world as they should.

I want these kids who are being bullied to really seek out the wisdom and experience of those just like them; those who have come through it and as a result have the ammunition of hindsight. There is nothing more enlightening than experience – you can’t argue with something you’ve survived. You can’t doubt it, question it or second guess it. Many people have survived situations similar to what these kids are facing right now and a lot of those people want to share their stories and subsequent wisdom. Hopefully in some small way it might bridge the gap between helplessness and hope.

I don’t know what will happen with this blog. I know that for some it has been helpful, and that’s my only wish. I’m including a few more recent stories sent to me at futureself@mail.com  – all I can say is that if you keep writing and sharing then I’ll keep posting.

Some recent thoughts –

From J, who wants people to know what’s really going on:

I had been reflecting on your blog posts and thinking back to my own youth and bullying. I was actually quite lucky in not being subjected to bullying or at least standing up to any attempt at it, but I have witnessed the pain and suffering it caused my brother who had severe dyslexia at school. It affected his confidence in a major way for so long as well as enabling him to hold onto a lot of anger for many years, he had been such a lovely laughing kid before he went to high school. He never really told us and I never saw any of it happening in the playground, but we found out years later when he finally opened up. Opening up allowed him to let go of the burning hot coal he had carried around with him and that kept burning him so much. He quit the job he hated and went back to school to do what he really wanted, which was to work in childcare. He is now an inspiration to little kids, teaching them about respect, eating healthy (he was a chef) and how to be social. 

The problem with bullying is never the immediate effect, it is what deep roots. My brother tells this great story to his kids that he in turn picked up from a New York teacher:

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty it was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bully’s another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

So with this in mind, I was recently quite horrified when I stumbled across my cousin’s daughter on social media who is 14 and at a private school (I mention this only because people think somehow private schools have a better reputation, they don’t). What jumped out at me was the level of taunting and vitriol that was aimed at her through this app called Ask.fm. The app is not what is important, it is the way people are behaving; constant onslaughts, and I noticed numerous depressive musings from her about hating school etc. She was very adept at batting a lot of this away, I guess that may be the new skill for her generation. But it has me fearful for what is happening in our youth culture, the answer is not to ban or cover up the tools, but to really engage and explore what bullying is and how it has an effect. 

Please shout loud and spread the word, because I don’t think people really understand what is going on in kids everyday lives.

From A, who found ways to cope with her own personal dilemma:

I started puberty early, about 8 years old. I started getting acne and my hair started getting wavy and curly instead of staying straight and it was always really frizzy. Kids would randomly say to me, “what’s wrong with your face?” and that’s when it hit me that I wasn’t like the other kids. I started to not look people in the face when I spoke to them and became very reclusive. As the years went on, I made some friends, but they were more like cliques that I got involved in. They pushed me out when they decided I wasn’t cool enough and made fun of me in class and on the playground. I sat alone at the lunch tables and the popular kids would call out from the other table “are you a loner?” “look at how alone she is!” And I would try to hide my tears as I ate my food. 

Around age 11, I had basically no friends at school. All boys treated me horribly because I was taller than them and all girls hated me because I had acne and for other reasons that I don’t know. My dad gave me a set of VHS tapes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus for my 12th birthday and it changed my life. I would go home from school, and watch the show over and over until I collected all the episodes. I started collecting the movies, then I started reading about them in books. I read that John Cleese suffered from bullying as a teenager too, and he used comedy as a way to deal with it and so I decided to run with it. I became OBSESSED with Monty Python and made friends with the other ostracized children and taught them all the songs and invited them to my house just to watch the show. Terry Gilliam influenced me to draw and make silly images, so I decided to become an artist. 

One day, I was on the playground with my friends and a group of girls that had been bullying me for years decided to make fun of us because they were bored. The meanest one came right up to my face and I clocked her right across the nose. All my friends gasped as she screamed and fell to the ground. Now, I’m not advocating any kind of violence towards people, but I really had the last straw. Do NOT ever let anyone push you around. I was sent to the principals office and they asked me why I did it and I told them the exact reason. “I’ve been getting bullied by them for years.” He sent me back to class. I told my mom if she remembered and she had no idea that I did that, they never told her! 

Now, I’m 23, I graduated from art college, I’m planning on moving to London (I’m from America), and I learned that things get SO MUCH better after high school. The people that bully you are bored and judgmental people, why would you want to be associated with them? Your mind and your own interests are what should be important to you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your appearance, wear your interests proudly, be a good person, don’t let bad people drag you down. If bullying continues online, DISCONNECT. There are great keys like “blocking” and “reporting” people. Thankfully, I didn’t have the internet at age 12, but at a young age like that, you should be pursuing your interests and setting yourself up for your life, not worrying about what people think of you.

Fill your life up with things that make you feel good and remember that it’s okay to throw the bad people out of your life.

From S, who offers some personal advice: 

I was a victim of my peers from the age of five until the age of eighteen. I was a bit different than the other girls I went to school with in my upper middle class town in New Jersey, but I couldn’t understand why – we’d moved from a working class community before I started kindergarten because my parents had worked incredibly hard to give my kid brother and I an opportunity to succeed, but we weren’t any different from the other people in our town.

As I got older, I realized why they were making fun of me – I was weird. I didn’t care about the things they did. I didn’t always know what was appropriate to do or say. I liked things that they considered “lame” or “nerdy.” (Being one of the smartest kids in the class didn’t help with that. It made it worse.) The attacks just kept coming, and I started talking to teachers about it, but things didn’t really stop.

In middle school, the tone changed. I was told I was “ugly” and “looked like a dog.” I was made to feel undesirable, hideous, and annoying. I was made to feel unworthy of the love of others. Most of the people bullying me were boys, not other girls, and to this day – I’m now a 24-year-old graduate student – I’m afraid to try dating because the fear of rejection is still in the back of my mind. What they said is still in the back of my mind. It hasn’t gone away.

But I haven’t gone away, either. I graduated from my high school in 2007 and went to Gettysburg College to get my degree in history (with a minor in Civil War Era Studies). I came home after graduating in 2011, took some time off to get my affairs in order, and began commuting into Manhattan for graduate school in 2013. By December 2014, I should have a Master’s degree in library science with a focus in archival studies (and hopefully a job!). 

During my time at Gettysburg, a series of events led to a very belated diagnosis. In 2009, between my sophomore and junior years of college, I finally received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. It explained my feelings of being somehow different from my peers, why I didn’t socially know what to do or fit in, and why I was bullied. A year or two later, I started blogging about it, and it helped me heal. 

I’m always available to talk to anyone who’s going through a hard time, bullying included. You can shoot me an email at sdiorioart@gmail.com (my public email address) if you want to vent or get some private advice. You’re stronger than you think, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it. We love you. ❤

 


FutureSelf Stories: Post 3

The third FutureSelf post, as promised.

Some of you have found creative ways to express yourselves while others choose to shoot straight from the hip in terms of prose. Either way, your stories continue to be powerful and heartfelt.

Thank you.

Spread the word, share this idea and let’s keep them coming.

From I, who writes these supportive words:

People bully and target YOU because of the way you make THEM feel.

All they can think to do is try and make you hate yourself as much as they hate themselves.

I have never met a bully – at school or at work – who was happy in themselves.

It is not about you, it is about them.

Always remember that…and always remember your worth. Remember what it is that you love in your life – be it a mother, father, sister, brother, God, friend, pet, teacher, subject, book, sport or song and always take joy from it.

Bullies exist, but they are the smallest part of life and the smallest part of the world. You can do anything and be anyone with that perspective.

Sadly, bullying doesn’t stop at any age. We need to be aware and be proactive and get talking about it. Every time I see an article on another life destroyed by bullying I think the same thing – “why didn’t I get to listen to them and help them get away from their situation?”

I send my love out in the world to anyone who has been affected and especially to all of the parents missing their children tonight 

“four-eyes” 

21, London, England

From S, who’s found a powerful new perspective: 

When I was younger, at school mostly, I was bullied mercilessly. For being fat, for being clever, for having a big nose and teeth like bugs bunny. I was 13 years old and out with my first boyfriend going shopping. I was so nervous. He went to hold my hand I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want him to feel how sweaty my hands were. We were waiting in the queue at a shop to buy a drink and two girls from school walked behind me and one of them smacked me round the back of the head. She hit me really hard and caught me with her ring. I was so ashamed and embarrassed I walked away from my first boyfriend and went home alone. They had ruined everything just by one little gesture.

 They pushed me down a flight of stairs. They locked me in a toilet cubicle. They made up stories about me and told everyone. They called me name after name after name. It wasn’t just me but that didn’t make it any easier. My friend had an unfortunate skin condition that made her face grow thick dry patches of skin, so she naturally got the name “Spunk Face.” Another one was accosted by a group of girls who knocked her front teeth out. Another friend was unfortunately quite severely burnt in a house fire as a child, and her moniker was “Cheese on Toast.” We’d smile and say it didn’t bother us, but it did.

 Like “Mean Girls” taught us, teasing someone else for their appearance doesn’t make you any prettier, but it still gets done. You feel victimised and hopeless and all you really want is for the person or persons who cause you anguish to go away.  I was made to feel small, and hopeless and worthless.

 But I needed to tell you this- when I see those girls from school now, and it’s been over ten years, I feel nothing. Nothing. They dominated my whole life at one point, they made me hate myself and they made me believe this was happening to me because I deserved it. But I grew up. I met wonderful friends, I fell in love, and I made my life my own. I don’t hate them, I don’t wish them well. I don’t feel anything. At the time, the words or actions of these people will cut you deeply. But in time, you come to realise, I have enough people around me who love me exactly as I am, and I don’t need you.

 Don’t let bullies take away your power. Don’t let them make you feel like you’re worthless. You’re not. You are more special and necessary than you will ever know, and you don’t deserve this. No-one ever deserves this. You cannot help if the words they say or the things they do make you cry, but you should always know that you are loved, and for every cruel word someone says, someone else will say something kind.

 I promise you that no matter how bad it feels, it always gets better in time. You just need to stick with us and keep going. We need you in this world, and you’re so much stronger than you think.

 Just keep thinking about the day when you’re walking down the street and you see the girl who shoved you over, called you fat or kicked you in the shins, and she’ll be nothing but a tiny speck of dust to you.

 Thank you for reading.

From Unknown, who echoes the need to speak out:

For as long as I can remember, bullying has always had a huge impact on my life. 

Ever since I was a kid, all my memories from school are about being bullied. Even through to secondary school, which are supposedly meant to be some of the greatest times of you life, which is rubbish. Maybe if you’re the bully, but not for the person on the recieving end. 

Even at the older age of 21, when those days of anguish and hurt are nothing but merely painful memories, they sometimes can flood back. It aches, it aches so much. That is the problem, painful memories really do leave an open mental scar which sometimes never truly heal. 

I was bullied quite badly, which still to this day continue to haunt the hollow corridors of my mind. I even get it these days. Could be mindlessly walking down the street and someone will shout something at me. It’s easy enough to brush off, just plug my earphones in and blur out the mindless idiots that things its ok. Whilst to them it seems like I’m ignoring them, but in the deep recesses of my brain, the word echoes, continously echoes and repeats, like a broken bloody record on an endless cycle of discomfort. 

It cycled through primary school, got bullied by several teachers, many a student and the constant cycle of name calling. And to this day, it does still hurt sometimes. Got into acouple of fights. Someone bullied me for about four years and I just snapped, ended up breaking his nose because of it. (I don’t condon violence in any kind, but the little git bloody deserved it. Imagine, four years of coming into school every day and being at the bane of his torment). Secondary School I believed was doing to be a breath of fresh air, a whole new meaning and start. But Christ was I going to be let in for a disappointment. The name calling tripled, got pushed around a few times. But still continued to stand my ground, not thinking much of it. Until I believed I had made ‘true friends’. 

Had a nice friendship group, some I’d known from Primary School. But there was one person whom I didn’t entirely see eye to eye with. (I mean who could see eye to eye with someone who thought it was ok to bully people who are mentally disabled. Who constantly put people down for not agreeing with them, bullying people into become their friend. Who was just an absolutely horrendous person and thought doing all this was ok, that people deserved it. Yeah, I wasn’t about to be siding with a degenerate person such as this). To put a long story short, because I didn’t agree with them. They bullied me constantly until I was nothing, I was isolated by them and they all turnt away from me. 

Some of the people I’d helped through everything, I was always there for, I was willing to help them out no matter what. And they isolated me, hurt me behind my back and liked to watch me make a complete fool of myself, because I’d been ignorant the entire time. Their voices continue to echo in my brain, like their haunting me with their insults and torments. 

Five years later I still get word from other people that they’re constantly lingering on what happened. They still like to pick at me, that is where the stupidness of social networking comes in. They continue to do it on Twitter, Facebook and other Social Networking sites.

They may not know it, but they left a deep wound in my brain. I now have trust issues and anxiety due to this and it’ll most likely continue into my older adult life. 

Funny isn’t it. It’s all fun at the time for them, but it leaves damage. Long lasting damage even when they’ve most likely forgotten they were the catalyst for it in the first place. 

I got off lucky though, whilst the bullying left a jagged wound. The name calling and constantly getting asked what gender I am. Just because I happen to dress differently, what even gives people the right to question such a thing. Got pushed around quite alot, but I came out the other side. I came out stronger than what I was going in. Whilst the mental scars are there, they made me stronger in realising not to take it anymore. 

I got off lucky in the prospect that I didn’t need to self harm or anything such as that. But there are others out there who do, who bottle up all their sorrow and fear and feel the only way is by doing hurting themselves to relieve it. 

Anyone who does end up resorting to this, they’re at their lowest. They need someone, anyone who can offer them a hand and help them up. 

In my opinion, someone who has fallen so slow into the darkest depths of despair that they resort to cutting is a harrowing prospect. But it takes an even stronger person to climb out of the deepest despair and overcome it. 

So I say to anyone who is being bullied, stand up, scream it from the rooftops or something, tell the world you’re being bullied. Someone will notice and someone will always be there to help, regardless of your position. It’s a disgusting habit which people believe is ok and it shouldn’t be seen as ok. Bullying hurts, it may not be physical, but the mental scars are there. Just because they’re unseen, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

Even now I sometimes feel worthless, constantly questioning myself. Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I just have friends and carry on? I really did deserve it, didn’t I? No one ever deserves to be bullied. Even at the age of 21 and when I was in college. I made two friends, two friends who mean a huge deal to me. They accepted me for who I am, even with the strange little quirks I have. They’ve done such a great deal for me, more than they’d possibly ever realise. And I’m eternally grateful for them and what they’ve done for me. 

I did find friends, real friends. But that doesn’t really let the walls down, they’re still up and they’re not going anywhere. But there are a few who do slowly pass by. 

Even in the darkness, there is always that small glimmer of light waiting at the end. 

That is my long story put short. If even one person reads it and it helps them, then that is more than enough. 

Anyone who has had experiences should really consider writing it. It’ll help others who are in the same position or worst, and could just save someone’s life. 

A poem from J:

Can I tell you something,

If you promised not to tell another soul?

I’m circling in a constant ring

Despising myself, despite what I’ve been told. 

I’m alone, alone protects me. 

I hardly even speak. 

So full of despair I can’t see

The tension around me has formed a peak. 

I glance at the door,

Hoping that someone will walk through. 

I want them to see I can’t take it anymore,

I can’t continue being strong for them, too. 

Every breath hurts,

I force a smile anyways. 

Even though I feel like dirt,

I always say that I’m okay. 

I mean, it’s not fair

That I should depend on those 

Who have their own worries and cares,

In a world where anything goes. 

I’m the embodiment of things people hate. 

A being burdened by untrue stereotypes.

I can’t change what my parents create,

Even though I try with all my might. 

These emotions are killing me,

Slowly, but steady as can be. 

The wounds aren’t ones that others can physically see,

But my life will be the fee. 

I have come so close,

Yet find myself further than before. 

Freedom was under my nose. 

But the urge became no more. 

I’m still here today, as you can see.

Alive and yet still dead. 

My world has crumbled around me,

Each day brings me more dread. 

He’ll never hand me off,

To the man I may never love. 

He’ll never walk again, they scoff.

Oh, don’t they see the pain they caused, in eyes more tender than a dove?

Mama’s made the same promise,

She’s never kept before. 

At least the cancerous mist

Is on the other side of the door. 

The rate of employment is low,

While the prices are lifted higher.

My sisters ask for work, everyday they go. 

Yet it doesn’t stop our pockets from becoming even drier. 

I wish that there was something,

I could do to help.

But a girl of bittersweet sixteen,

Is more hindrance than help. 

I yearn for things I’ll probably never see.

A healthy mom and dad, 

Sisters working merrily.

Maybe if things went right for once, I wouldn’t be so sad.

I’ve tossed aside the chance

Of a stolen bliss,

Because of the slightest glance

From the people I would miss. 

I’ve got a family,

It’s a bit broken, but it’s true. 

They’re what’s protected me

From the things I sometimes do. 

I’m still here today,

No better than before. 

“It’s a start.”, I say.

As tears silently make their way to the floor.

 

From J, who urges those affected to ‘not go through it alone’: 

I was 11 or 12 in the mid 1980’s and grew up in a wonderful rural North Yorkshire village,  as far as I was concerned I had every thing. 

I knew the transition from the small cosy village primary school to the huge High School with 1500 pupils 10 miles away would be a tough one but I never really thought it would be like it turned out.

There were 3 bus stops in the village, I got on at the second stop and 2 sisters got on at the stop by the church. I found my seat next to my friend Joanne. We always sat in the same place. These two girls would get on each morning and PUSH past me with their bags, physically pushing my torso in to Joanne. They then headed to the back seats, you know the types, they dominated the seats and no one else would dare to sit there. Pathetic really.To be honest I never really thought that much of it, that all came later.

I was a chubby little thing, wore a duffle coat and probably looked quite cute to some but for a reason only known to them I was dirt. I had never done anything to them, never. They were older than me I think one was in the lower sixth form and the other in the 4th year.

As the weeks went by the pushing carried on and then the words started, general name calling and emphasising my name so I was aware they were talking about me. Quite a task on a loud noisy school bus, but hey they achieved it.

Then they got others to join in, people who I thought wouldn’t do this, my ‘friends’ sister would join in, taunting and being, well just horrid. They used to get off the bus at different bus stops so they could squeeze a bit more tease at me. I remember I never used to look at the bus window as I walked past as I knew there would be some gesture pointing in my general direction.

There was another girl who lived across from our house, she was less offensive but I still kept my distance. I remember my Dad had been taken very ill and was in hospital, the 3 bitches were busy doing their stuff and the more decent of them said “stop it now, don’t be too awful, her Dad’s in hospital”, why do I think of those words so often? I don’t know. But I do.

This went on twice a day 5 days a week, I had some respite when the elder sister wasn’t there as the younger one wasn’t so tough without her

Let me tell you a bit about them, they lived in the ‘big’ house, their father worked for ICI their mother was a teacher I think. I guess they were middle class. There were 3 sisters, one of them had a good singing voice and was always in the local am dram productions. I loved amateur dramatics and loved the pantomimes thankfully I still went along as I new they’d be in the older groups and our paths wouldnt cross too much, and if they did there would be adults around so she wouldn’t dare be unkind to me

I had been in the Brownies and Mum was keen for me to continue on to Girl Guides, at the age of 11 I remember saying NO NO NO, I don’t want to join. I would never explain why. I knew their mother ran the guides and at least one of them would be there. I missed out. My friends went, my Mum wanted me to go and I wanted to go but no way on earth was I going to go. I only told my Mum why I wouldn’t join a couple of years ago. She had no idea!

Thankfully this particular situation dissipated as one left sixth form then one left 5th year and one of the recruits family  moved out of the area. It came to a natural close.

To some this won’t seem much, but it was, let me tell you it really was. I have struggled with confidence and general acceptance of my self. I blame a lot on these sisters and I believe they have a lot to answer to.

Unfortunately they do come back in to my thoughts from time to time. You know what, a few years ago I learnt that the youngest was was getting married……she got stood up on her wedding day, jilted at the alter. I was absolutely elated, and I laughed. 

They moved to London many years ago. not sure if I will ever see them again, but believe me if I do, I will say something to them. I want to see the look in their eyes. They were and probably still are very unattractive both physically and in personality, I would like to know they they picked on me?

One of their recruits (my ‘friends’ sister) is on Facebook, the times I have been tempted to mention those bus journeys ….would she remember. Of course she would.

My friend went through a similar experience, she grew up in Scotland, we met through work and it was many years later that I learnt she was bullied, so we spoke about our experiences. She had been visiting family back in Scotland and was out shopping when a woman approached, with her mother and family in tow – all giggly and smiling saying something along the lines of “hiya, great to see you again, how have you been, you are looking fantastic” my friend responded a little cooler ” Don’t you hiya me, you made my life a misery at school. You were a bully” and with that my friend walked off, leaving everyone else with their mouths hanging open. And why not…….

So that’s me, I am 40 now. I still have a lot of self doubt but am generally ok. I understand life is all about experiences but bullying is one that NO one should go through. 

If you haven’t been tormented it can be difficult to understand. 

If you are being bullied, say some thing – to your Mum or Dad, a teacher or a friend. People will help.

Looking back I wish I had told Mum and Dad as I know my Dad would have sorted it.

Please…don’t go through it alone

x

 


Warning: Graphic Content

I was recently sent this example of the type of online bullying that we’re talking about in these posts. I’m not going to say too much about it, because I think it speaks for itself.

This is part of an actual message recently sent to a 14 year old girl:

BTwD1LfCQAA-5Yr

I don’t know how I’d deal with this type of thing on a daily basis – and I’m 42. God knows how young teenagers are coping. Clearly, in tragic cases such as Izzy Dix – they aren’t.

This type of aggression is poison. It is quite literally killing our children.

There might not be a way to stamp out this type of behavior – some would argue that it’s simply a part of the human condition; to single out and attack those that are perceived as ‘different’. Maybe that’s true. I hope it isn’t. Maybe the continued efforts to drive home the notion that ‘love, tolerance and kindness are the answer’ as a force for good really is the way forward.

A lot of bullies however don’t know love, tolerance and kindness because they’ve never been shown it. These are abstract words to them. Life is a circle, and patterns repeat. Not to say that long term change isn’t necessary and indeed achievable but in the meantime – right now – today in fact – SO many children are facing the type of toxic vitriol shown above. Those kids can’t wait for the bullies to come around to the idea that love is the answer. Those kids are falling by the wayside as we speak. Those kids need strength and support now – they need to be remind again and again that they are not alone, that we are here for them and that they not the bullies are the majority and are by far the strongest force of all.

I want to keep reminding them. I want you to keep writing in and sharing your stories. I want us to offer some small token of a more immediate antidote to this poison; a place to see first-hand that alongside love there is unity. By coming together, reading each other’s stories, recognizing patterns and feeling less singled-out, these kids just might find it within themselves to weather the storm and not succumb to the most tragic of self-sacrificial ‘solutions’.

Keep writing. Keep sharing.

futureself@mail.com

 


FutureSelf Stories: Post 2

Here’s the second ‘FutureSelf’ post. I hope these stories continue to empower and inspire. I hope you read them and where necessary draw strength from those who have faced similar problems as the ones you may be dealing with right now. Let them be a strong first hand reminder that it is so, so important for you to hang in there, speak out, see it for what it is and push on through. There is a breakthrough coming. Find it. Seek it out. You will be amazed at how empowering your new sense of perspective is when you do.

I was reminded of two very important things when reading these following stories; firstly, bullying is always about some form of envy – the very fact that you are being targeted, believe it or not, is because you have something the bully or bullies don’t have. It might not be clear what that thing is, but know this – the ONLY reason you’re a target right now is because on some level he, she or they are wishing they had it. For some, it is easier to attack the thing that makes them jealous than to go out and find it for themselves. Be proud and grateful for who you are and for what you’ve got. No one has the right to suggest you don’t deserve it. No one.

The second thing that starts to form a pattern here is that things do get better in time. Sounds like a cliche I know – but it’s here, in black and white. Several examples of people who had a terrible time at school finding out that things really did improve at college and/or university.

“This too shall pass”

The most important thing to remember is that it’s not just a cliche. It’s real, tangible and absolute fact, and it’s as relevant to you – someone who hasn’t reached that point yet – as it is for those who have and are looking back. Things WILL get better. Be there when they do.

Here are some more examples of how:

 

From S, who writes a letter to her future self:

Hello me.

Hello me in one of the worst schools in the country (that turns out to 

be true, they look at statistics and things and it really is the worst 

place you could ever have been).

I’m just writing to tell you something important.

You’re right about nearly everything.

You’re right about just surviving until the end of school. It does 

stop, it does improve, those people do go away and new people don’t 

take their place. You’ll only ever have to deal with those people at 

this time. That’s really not fair. If people tried to treat you like 

that in your 30s you would take them down with a look…but they know 

you when you’re 14, 15, 16, and they know you won’t defend yourself.

Here’s a secret, they don’t really think that badly of you. The thing 

is they know they can say painfully awful things about you and you’ll 

take it because YOU think it. They know you won’t disagree. They know 

you have no counter argument. They know you don’t think better of 

yourself.

You think they have a point.

You don’t think they’re horrible people because of what they say to 

you, you think they’re really mean to point it out.

If a fat, ugly, stupid, probably dirty masturbating lesbian like you 

walked by you wouldn’t say it to their face. You’d think it to yourself 

and leave them alone. Why can’t they just think badly of you and leave 

you be?

Because they don’t think it.

They are saying and doing worse and worse things just to see how much 

you’ll take. How far they can go with it until you get a backbone.

And once you did, once you tried, remember?

Joanne R was slagging you off in front of everyone during rounders 

(you’re right, that’s a stupid game, nobody plays or likes) and all her 

flunkies laughed at you and the teachers heard and didn’t care so you 

had it. You turned to her and  said “Oh fuck off!”

Then those same teachers left you to carry the equipment back in with 

her. You were left to walk off the school field with her. You were left 

with her, with your arms full, while she held a single hockey stick and 

told you to appolgise.

You did.

You were wrong about that.

She knew then what I know now. She was never going to touch you with 

that thing. She didn’t dare hit you. If we could swap I’d let that 

stuff fall, step up to her and tell her to go ahead. Fucking hit me, 

bitch.

You won’t believe it but she would have gone pure white and shat a 

brick.

She’d have either backed down in front of her spineless little friends 

or she’d have been forced to take a swing and then she’d have been 

gone. You know that she’d be gone. She knows that she’d be gone. 

Everybody knows she’d be gone. You had the power and you didn’t believe 

it.

You thought she could beat you with a hockey stick and the teachers 

would ignore that too. All her friends would stay her friends. Nobody 

would have seen a thing and she’d get away with it.

Everybody, teachers included, knew you would always give in. They left 

you alone in a classroom to ‘decide between you’ who was going to stay 

in the Design and Communication class and who would have to change to 

Design and Realisation class. There was only room for 1 and D&C means 

you designed a thing and got a GCSE for it. D&R meant you designed a 

thing and then had to go into the other room and make it from wood and 

metal and acrylic, soldering irons, drills and saws.

Jo told you it was you who was going to change classes and you said ok.

You get a E in that GCSE.

As soon as you get out of there, follow your plan, your plan is right. 

Go to the college farther away, not the one everybody from your school 

goes to. None of them will be at your college, your friends all go to 

the same one.

THEY FOLLOW YOU!

You’re not the hanger on they all put up with, you’re the one they hang 

on the words of. You’re the one who makes them laugh. You’re the one 

who makes them stronger and tells them “Don’t put up with that shit”.

You don’t have somebody to be that person for you but you don’t need it.

Soon that thing you do, come home and go to your room and cry the day 

out and then carry on as if you’re fine, you won’t need to do that 

anymore.

I wish you didn’t have to feel about yourself the way you do, but if I 

wasn’t you then I couldn’t be me now.

I’m difficult, I tell people no and stick to it, I stand up for myself 

and spend a frustrating amount of time telling other people to do the 

same.

You’ll have a friend who is way cooler than you, pretty and fun and 

everybody loves her (even your family love her!) and she will tell you 

about something going on with her that she’s afraid to take a stand on 

and say to you “…that’s not right, is it?” and you will say “NO! 

Bloody well no! Don’t stand for that.”

You’re backing, your voice, makes other people lift their head higher, 

push back their shoulders, push out their chest and stand up for 

themselves. They think that their instinct was right because they have 

your backing. You are the strongest person they know.

I’m not blowing my own trumpet, somebody has told me that, actually a 

few people.

You still think shit about yourself, unfortunately that’s part of who 

you are, but soon you won’t take anyone else voicing those thoughts.

Nobody talks shit about you…other than you.

You’re even getting better about that.

You see some of them after school, as an adult, when you’re all real 

people.

Some of them don’t remember you at all.

Some of them recognise you and forget who THEY were, they think you’ll 

be as happy to see them as they were to see you.

Some of them you will never see again for the rest of your life (this 

makes me smile).

Here’s another thing you were right about, that time is the worst time 

of your whole life.

It will never be as bad as that.

Those people who keep telling you how you feel is the best you’ll ever 

feel, those people who seem to want you to die? They really do think 

school is the best time of their life. They have had such disappointing 

lives that they genuinely do believe that.

For all those girls, Joanne, Samantha, Sarah-Jane…they really do look 

back on it fondly. Right now they aren’t happy. The moment they left 

school they stopped being happy because they stopped being important, 

powerful, intimidating.

You?

Last week you met up with Leigh in Stratford and you both laughed all 

evening. You talked about everything in your lives and something 

amazing happened…you tried your hardest, both of you, and you 

couldn’t remember the full names of anybody who wasn’t important to you.

You’re both going to get hold of Kelly and Claire before Christmas and 

those 3 people at that school who weren’t  trying to kill you (or make 

you feel like it at least) will get together for the first time in ages 

and laugh at how stupid we were.

Because you were all stupid.

You should have been laughing about it, that’s all.

From S, age 37 (You live to thirty fucking seven! Can you believe 

that?)

PS – Yes, you give in and go by the name S…as soon as you do 

you’re mum stops calling you that in front of people. Typical.

PPS – Dad’s still alive, N’s married, you’re going to New York for 

the 3rd time next year. Everything gets so much better!

 

 

From A, who found solace at university:

It’s difficult looking back now, attempting to remember how it felt in those moments. Mainly because I think I’ve tried to hide them so forcefully at the back of my mind, whilst trying to build my life back up. 

The thing that strikes me the most was that I couldn’t define it as bullying. You don’t feel like you can tell a parent or a teacher, or anybody for that matter, if somebody is just refusing to be friends with you. It felt pathetic and attention-seeking if I complained because they looked down at me, because they didn’t care about me, because I was just filler to them. 

I remember spending 5 years at my secondary school feeling inadequate. Dreading walking through the gates every morning. Developing a nervous twitch in my hand just to stop myself from turning around and running as fast as I can back home. Becoming paranoid every single second of every day, and not hearing a laugh or a whisper without immediately hating myself just that tiny bit more. Feeling like my heart was going to break every day because nobody cared or even noticed my existence. And just having to carry on.

Because it wasn’t my fault. I should have put myself ‘out there’ more. But, there’s only so many times you can try without losing the will to live completely with every failure. So I just decided hiding would be the best solution, wishing I was invisible became a favourite pastime of mine throughout my teenage years. 

I think the best way I could describe it would be as a vicious cycle; I would continually try to make myself appealing in various ways (hiding my intelligence, allowing them to put make-up on me, giving them money) they would take advantage of my need to have friends and then get bored of whatever novelty I had come up with that time, and repeat. 

After 7 years of feeling out of place and isolated, choosing to go to university could have gone two ways for me: 

1) I would be in the exact situation only 130 miles away from my parents: the only people I could trust and rely on.

2) I would finally be allowed to be myself and have real friends for once in my life.

Luckily for me, the latter came true. Unbelievably, I now send this email in my house with my best friends currently in my 2nd year of university. I have people I can trust, rely on and actually have a good time with. 

It was difficult to adjust at first. A complete lack of trust on my part made it hard to open myself up to new people. But it happened. It actually happened. 

I cannot stress enough my disbelief at my situation! I completely believed I would be alone forever, struggling to make friends because I believed it was my fault. But it wasn’t, I just didn’t fit in with the people that I happened to be surrounded by. It was just bad luck. Fortunately, I’ve fallen on my feet and although my life isn’t perfect (who’s is?!) I now feel like I’ve met people I’ll know for the rest of my life. 

Although it will sound cliched and completely insincere, I want people to know that their situation isn’t unique. After reading Izzy Dix’s poem ‘I Give Up’ I felt, as inconsequential and pointless as this may be, that maybe somebody might read it and completely relate. Exactly like I did with ‘I Give Up’ and maybe if Future Self had been around when Izzy needed it, her story would have been entirely different. I remember needing somebody who could completely understand what I was going through, or to at least know I wasn’t alone in my loneliness. So this is just to say, no matter how much they ignore you, no matter how much you feel the need to blame yourself, no matter how dark it gets: there is always somebody there for you. You might have to look around a little, you might have to struggle on through no matter how hard it gets, but they are there. And you are not alone.

 

 

From C, who champions the power in speaking out:

If you are being bullied right now I want to say to you, don’t give up.

I saw this comment from the author Sylvain Reynard on Twitter the other day:

“Hey, you. Yes, you. You’re good enough. You’re smart enough. And doggone it, people like you. Enjoy your day, Sylvain Reynard”

I favourited it and when I need a boost I go back and read it. I was bullied by my circle of friends throughout the whole of my last year at school. It started on a Monday morning with them all turning their backs on me.They fabricated an increasing number of lies to turn themselves and others against me. They surrounded me and daily stripped my confidence with their cruel lies and taunts. One even got someone to punch her in the face and told her parents I did it so I would get in trouble! Getting up every morning to go to school took every ounce of effort I had. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise the person staring back at me.

17 years later and I still have no idea why or what I did wrong. The truth is I’ve stopped needing to know. I did nothing wrong. I’ve always been me. Sometimes people love me, sometimes I’m annoying (I even annoy myself), sometimes people need a break from me but I’ve never pretended to be someone I’m not. I’ve never pretended to like something so someone will like me. I know what I like and I’ll never apologise for that. For 17 years I have dealt with the aftermath of that year of my life.  I’m nearly 34 now and I’m finally ready to move on and claim my life back. I have some people I trust who are helping me to move on and put the past behind me. I had dark days where I wanted to give in and make it stop. But I always managed to control those thoughts with a hope of what was still to come in my life.

Don’t wait 17 years like I did to claim your life back, start today!

You did nothing wrong.

Tell someone today that you need their help. Start with a parent, sibling, relative if you can’t make them listen scream until they do. If they can’t help write a letter to your doctor and ask for their help. I did this and saw a councellor who gave me some coping mechanisms that I still use today. Find a new circle of friends, get a new hobby, go to a different college, school, university, job anything. Completely remove their poison from your life. Delete your social network accounts, remove that avenue of bullying from them.Block their phone numbers and change your number; only give it to people you know you can truly trust. Don’t make excuses for the bullies or justify their behaviour, there is no justification, EVER for making someone feel bad to make yourself feel better. I did this, I turned it round on myself, hated myself because there was 7 of them and 1 of me. I had to be in the wrong. I even started to believe their lies.

Don’t be mistrusting of new people. Don’t walk with your eyes on the ground. Don’t hide away in the corner at parties or make excuses to not attend at all. Don’t hide away from your life. Find the kid at school who feels the same way as you do and help each other. They’re there, trust me. You just never needed to see them before.

LIVE YOUR LIFE, YOUR WAY, ON YOUR TERMS, IT’S THE ONLY ONE YOU HAVE!

We can’t let the people who want to tear us down win. We have to fight them every day. We have to be strong enough to ask for help when we need it. If you scream loud enough, someone will always listen. Never give up hope of what your life might be one day. I never did and never will. Never ever forget that someone loves you right now and in the future you will meet more people who love you, don’t ever stop looking for them! When you find them your life will change forever and the pain you feel now will be a distant memory.

You are worth so much more. You deserve so much more. Please believe that.

 

 

From S, who made life changes and found peace:

At school, I was the smart one. Others hated me, isolated me, called

me names, spread rumours, the usual playground bullying tactics, all

because I was more intelligent than them. This meant that I was

intensely shy and couldn’t stand up for myself even though I knew deep

down that there was nothing wrong with doing well at school and that

they were just jealous. At times I found myself deliberately not doing

as well in tests and assignments, or lying about how well I had done,

just to get a few moments peace. Things eased when I did my A-levels

because all of those girls had failed their GCSEs and left, and I felt

happier and safer because now it was ok to be me, and I went to

university which I was very proud about.

But at university, I experienced a different kind of bullying. I

joined a university society and (I thought) became friends with a lot

of them. They were all geeks and nerds, so I felt a bit at home there,

as I’d been an outcast in my life. But one of them took a liking to me

which became obsessional, I started getting harrassed and emotionally

abused, and when I spoke out about it, I was ostracised from a lot of

the people I thought were my friends. They all told me to shut up and

not to ruin the group by causing divisions even though the man had

harrassed me, even spiking my drink one night so that he could rape

me. I experienced a catalogue of cyberbullying from one man who I had

been childhood friends with, but because he was friends with my

attacker/stalker, he decided to send email threats and horrible

statements from his workplace at London School of Economics. Even

though my boyfriend and I contacted that university, nothing was done

to punish him for sending abuse via their email system and he is still

a lecturer there to this day, whilst I was made to feel like a freak

just for reporting horrible and illegal behaviour from his friend.

Some years later, I experienced more abuse from a man in a different

social group, and because I spoke up about it, I was bullied online

and in person, made to look like a liar, and continually made to feel

scared because this man was a Tai Jitsu fanatic and continually

threatened to use the techniques he had learned on me. The people I

was friends with didn’t want to hear that one of the people in that

group could be violent against women or could lie to/about women,

despite his history of cheating on every woman he was ever involved

with, they just wanted to keep the peace, so I was ostracised and

forced away. I still occasionally encounter these people and none of

them think they did anything wrong. They have also spread all sorts of

lies about me to people I know and it’s horrible. I wish they knew

what they had done, and hope they read this although they probably

wouldn’t even think it was about them.

But it got better. I refused to put up with any of this so I moved to

a new city and made a lot of friends who have never hurt me, and who I

absolutely love. I have a fantastic job that makes a difference to

people, and lots of hobbies that I enjoy. My life is so much better

and I know now that none of what happened to me was my fault – it was

all due to the jealousy or warped minds of these bullies. I am only

saddened that I had to move to another city to escape it and that I

sometimes encounter some of these bullying cowards, but my life is

wonderful now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I would like

people to know that whilst bullying can and does happen to people who

do not deserve it, and it is truly terrible and isolating and

terrifying when it does happen, that things will get better. 

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I promise that they will get better and

you will find the security and happiness you deserve.

 

 

From J, who also found solace at university:

School is a place where everyone longs to fit in. But it’s also a place where people don’t hold back on recognising and outing your insecurities. At school my confidence got knocked down time and time again from people who just thought it was fun. 

Words hurt. They hurt because eventually you start to believe that’s there’s no point. Things got better for me, I spoke out and people stopped. But my confidence and self esteem had been knocked so far down, sadly not just by them, but by myself to.

I became my own worse enemy. I doubted everything I did. I felt like giving up. I developed anxiety and became depressed. 

I’m now 22 and I still have bad days, I still have days when I freak out and want to run away from everything. But I’m better than I was, and I believe that I will keep on getting better. 

I’m in the third year of my writing degree at uni and I never believed I would get that far. I surrounded myself with people who I could trust, people who cared, people who would help me. And I try to do the same for them. 

We’re always told to let the past be just that but the truth is, when your confidence is hit so many times, it takes a lot to get it back. It takes time.

I’ve learnt that those who attack our insecurities are the ones who can’t face their own. They gain power from making you feel weak because that’s the only power they have. You have the power to be great, to achieve, to change the world. If people want to tell you otherwise then let them, because you’ll show them they’re wrong. There’s help out there, you’re not alone. Don’t give up, because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, you don’t know what you’re future will be. 

 

 

From C, who realised that bullying is always born from envy:

I was bullied at school, pretty much constantly between the age of eleven and sixteen.  The saying goes that our school days are ‘the greatest days of our lives’. For someone who is bullied that saying cuts deeply as I remember feeling that the rest of life must be extremely miserable if there is truth to that particular old chestnut. I feel my secondary school years were taken away from me…sometimes. Then I remember that I am a fit, healthy and happy man who has recently turned thirty. Those days passed and I’m so glad I persevered and didn’t give in to those that made my life a misery.

There are still occasions where I wish I could go back and tell myself some words of wisdom to make getting through and improving my school life easier, but I’ve accepted that I can’t change the past. What i can do is look toward the future and if any way I can help those currently struggling in their school days then I’ve laid some ghosts to rest.

I went to an all boys grammar school – note, not a boarding school as some people assume, just a place where I had to do an exam to get in. I wasn’t that smart, and I certainly got away with doing the bare minimum so I was never going to be an A* student. The school was in Gloucester and had a nationwide reputation for rugby. I wasn’t a sporty child either. I was pretty good at football but not good enough to represent my school. With that and the lack of academic endeavor I felt very much in a small pool of boys who would never really feel loved by the establishment. A bit of an outcast.

One thing that I could at least be, I thought, was popular. I befriended a boy, who I will refer to as ‘my tormentor’ from now on, as he was the only boy in my class in year seven that had come from my primary school. I didn’t like him from the start truth be told but when you are forced into a group of people you immediately seek those you can identify with the most. Plus he was good at rugby so was in with the popular crowd. Sadly for me he turned out to be a simply horrible boy. He would hit me, call me names and make up songs whilst encouraging others to do the same. Yet when I suddenly stopped hanging out with him because of this or would stand up to him, as I did on the odd occasion, he would suddenly become friendly again. It was a manipulative way to behave and it ensured I was always on my toes yet grateful for a friend. It was emotional turmoil and I hated him for it. 

It was only at the age of twenty-two that I admitted to myself I had been bullied. I’d always just thought that being unhappy was school was my fault. That I wasn’t a good person and that’s why my tormentor treated me very nicely. However in hindsight realise that it was the opposite. What I would say is when people tell you to ‘be yourself’ it is the very best advice. If someone doesn’t like you for who you are it is most likely that there is something about themselves that they hate and perhaps are jealous of in you. This could be money, confidence, happiness, talent, a stable family…anything. I remember my tormentor telling me how awful I was at acting and writing. Incidentally this is now how I ply my trade as I always loved it and always knew I would want a career in it.

The irony is that these bullies are the way they are because they are not happy with themselves and so they try to make others miserable too. Remember that. Remember that whoever is bullying you has a serious issue that they are not dealing with. That is up to them to work out in time. Their words and actions are a reaction to how they’ve been raised and that is not your fault. Each person on this planet has the potential to be wonderful. The best thing to do is to focus on you, spend time only with people that make u feel good and talk to someone if you’re being bullied. Don’t let the bastards grind you down!


FutureSelf Stories: Post 1

 

So here we are; the first of the ‘FutureSelf’ posts – short testimonials written by YOU – you who are brave enough to open up and share your personal stories regarding bullying in all forms. Thank you. So much. It takes guts, and I think you’re bloody amazing to do it – to want to help others in this way. I hope that for some if not all it will prove to be a cathartic experience also.

“Stand up for someone who is in need

so that it will build confidence in you

to stand up for yourself at times when required…”

A A Memon

We’re doing it. We’re talking. We’re reaching out and standing up for each other. Simple really, but then the best and most important things often are.

The fact that so many people have eagerly and willingly jumped on board with this simple idea demonstrates first hand the overwhelming, utterly selfless desire to reach out. Your messages and stories of survival, support, empathy and hope will connect with those who need them most. All we have to do is keep spreading the word and letting people know it’s here.

Your emails are coming in thick and fast. Do keep them coming. I’m going to post 5-6 at a time so that we can read and appreciate them in bite-sized chunks.

To those who have always held on to the belief that there is a way through and that the bullies don’t and won’t always win – you’re proving it with these stories.

Since my original post about Izzy Dix last weekend, I am simply overwhelmed with the response and the generosity of all. In our own small way, let’s hope we are creating a little light from the darkness.

Let’s always remember Izzy, and those like her who didn’t find a way out. Let’s remember them and honour them with stories of hope, so that others might.

Here are just some:

 

From S, who found the strength to talk to a parent:

Although I spent many years of my school and college being teased or picked on constantly for my love of knowledge, I found it easy to push through the hatred by accepting that I’m not the same as everyone else however no matter how hard you try there will always be someone who gets under your skin.

I found this person in the later years at secondary school when a rumour they had started began flying around, no matter how much I tried to defend myself the rumour never ceased and sometimes I would walk through my front door and collapse in tears.

Sadly, it only got worse with songs and chants being made and sometimes even violent encounters occurred, with a student purposefully nudging me while we were using acid for an experiment. (Thankfully, it was a very mild acid so simply washed off).

Eventually, I had suffered enough and couldn’t take it any more and decided to tell my dad what had been happening and how powerless I felt. This warranted an urgent call the the school and a meeting was quickly arranged to solve the issue.

When I walked into the meeting with my dad, I found that finally being able to help myself was a lift and helped ease the pain.

Although the problem wasn’t entirely solved and I still spent the last years being tormented, the problem had eased and I felt better in myself – not because of any changes to the school policy, not because I had “beaten the system”, but purely because of one thing the support worker said to me.

“Keep looking up, because one day you will see the sun again”.

If I could give anybody a piece of advice for the future, it would be that. 

-S

 

From H, who writes this letter to her future self: 

Dear H

I wish I could tell you that you’ll ever stop being scared of groups of children in school uniform. I wish I could tell you that fear that you feel creeping up the back of your neck as they approach you, laughing, will ever leave. The bite of your back teeth as they mash together ready for whatever is coming your way will ever loosen. It won’t. You’ll still avoid certain shops at certain times. You’ll tell yourself it’s to avoid the queues. It won’t be.

I also wish I could tell you that all of this didn’t affect your education and your career, but it does. The confidence you weren’t allowed to have in yourself when you were 17 meant that you didn’t even think that it would be worth trying to work in television, journalism or the music industry like you so absolutely wanted to do. It was best to know your place so you stayed there.

Another wish I have for you is that I could tell you that your lack of confidence wouldn’t send you into the arms of someone who saw it as an opportunity to control you rather than love you. You would give your heart fully and totally to the first man that had ever called you beautiful because you needed to hear it so much. He would take it and squeeze every last drop out of it until there was nothing left. 

But there’s one thing I can promise you. One day you’ll join a website where all the other broken down, outcast and frightened people feel that they can talk about what happened. You’ll be good at it. You’ll make good friends that make you realise that what you think means something. Old heroes will become friends, people will encourage you to do new things and encourage you to write. You know you’re good at it but other people will think the same. 

So hang in there, you may never feel like a whole person. You may never be able to quite shake the feeling that people are laughing at you but you will know that there are several laughing with you.

Love yourself, please

H

 

From A, who’s surviving through sharing and laughter:

I’m not really sure how to properly start this but here goes. I started self-harming due to depression, there was no bullying involved at this point, and I also had suicidal thoughts. I had people round me but no one really realised what was going on, in fact the majority still know nothing. 

People who I never really talked to began noticing that something wasn’t right with me and they took advantage of this. They would call me every name under the sun and would follow me home when we finished school, my God some of the stuff they said I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, bear in mind we were about 11 or 12 at the time. It made my depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts a whole lot worse. I have tried to kill myself more than once, but every time I thought to myself ‘how will this benefit the people I know?’ ‘Surely there’s something better than this.’ This was about six years ago and I am telling you that it does get better. 

I watched brand new TV shows and it sounds stupid but they helped me a lot, they made me smile when I watched them and to this day they still do. Through these shows I made so many friends online, and well they know a hell of a lot about my story. They make me happy every day and there’s one person who I just adore. We talk so much and to be honest I would say I’m closer to my online friends than my real friends because more than a few of us have self-harmed, been depressed or suicidal. We’ve all helped each other immensely. 

I do still have some down days but that’s to be expected, we’re only human after all. 

I just want people to know that there are so many ways in which you can and will get better. Talk to people, whether it be in reality or online. I know that this can be difficult for many of you, but I think not telling people, especially my family, was my biggest mistake, but if you know them as well as you think you know them, they will try and help. Watch something you’ve never watched before that looks interesting, or watch something you know will make you feel happy for the time that it is on. If you can feel happy for half an hour or an hour a day you will feel happier more often, it will take time but it’s what I did, and hey, I’m still here 🙂

 

From P, who hit bottom but ultimately recognised the power of getting help: 

Hello, my name is Paul (not really), I’m 31, gay, employed, single & one of 5 children. I love music, reading, movies, old tv shows and the finer things in life. And on August 6 2011 I tried to kill myself.

I did so because of a long enduring loathing of myself, and my situation in life which I hid from the outside world. It wasn’t the first time I tried to harm myself, but it would be the last. I hope if you’re reading this and thoughts of self harm have gone through your head, think of me as someone who has gone through what your thinking and come out much better on the other side. I know the art of smiling to hide pain, the tricks to use to change the subject whenever a friend tries to ask about your wellbeing, the endless nights of insomnia and even paranoia. I’ve had those days when terror goes through me at the thought of getting out of bed, and wishing I could sleep forever. And sadly I know how depression feels and how it takes over you, and will continue to take over you. But happily, I know now how to overcome it, and I wish I had something like this whenever I was going through one of my dark days.

I’ll try to keep my story brief, but if you have any other questions, please write back. 

I’ll start by saying that as a child, I don’t think I had a lot of confidence. I think people saw wonderful things about me and would compliment me, however modesty would embarrass me. My lack of confidence in myself made me a target for bullying, and when I didn’t or only half-heartedly fight back, it made me even more of a target. I thought as I was playing by the rules, I was the better person. And the truth was, I was right. However the seeds of doubt and low self worth were already planted.

By the time I started my high school years, I had figured out I was not like the other boys, in fact I was probably the last to hear the penny dropping. I was a walking stereotype. Complete with the swish wisp, and high voice. To make matters worse, I was going through the abomination that is puberty. Suffice to say the baby fat never went away, the nose got wider, the skin erupted, and there was so much oil on my face, the Saudi’s were drilling on it. Even an exorcism couldn’t cure me. It goes without saying this made me a target of bullying. 

And when it happened I blamed myself for it. I look back now and I think – Why the fuck did I think that!? Why did I let it get into my head, that I was somehow responsible? That it was inevitable? That if only I got out of their way, I’d be safe? That’s the sort of bullshit I’m sure everyone thinks, but I took it hard. But this wasn’t the worst of it. No, the worst came from my close friends, who I believed I could tell anything and they could be trusted. And one day, I admitted (the first people on Earth to hear it from me) that I was not like other boys. I was A Shirtlifter, A Sausage Stoker, A One-Eyed Pirate, A Bum Inspector, A Poofter, Dorothy’s even Camper friend, A Sinner, A Faggot, The Worst Punishment A Boy Could Ever Have – Lifelong, fully paid up member of Homosexual Anonymous. And when I told them it was all true, they abandoned me. They didn’t want to be seen with me (y’know just in case they caught what I got) they didn’t even want to acknowledge my presence. And of course, you know who was to blame for this don’t you? – Me. I had brought it on myself. 

What followed were years of a kind of coping mechanism that tried to save me from getting hurt. Which included; not talking to anyone, keeping my feelings hidden, never mentioning my interests to anyone, and if anyone got close, trust no them. And the bad news was, it didn’t always work. I can still remember being pushed, spat on, having rocks thrown at me, having my stuff stolen, graffiti written about me and the endless name calling. How I got through High School, I’ll never know. But they were not the best years in my life. Suffice to say, the last day of school, I left that building, never looked back and never said goodbye to anyone. But I got through it, because I created a coping mechanism that made me miserable. And for the next decade I followed some, but not all of the rules I imposed on myself. That isn’t to say I couldn’t be happy, I could. In fact, the relief I felt was amazing. 

But years of bullying had taken its toll. I chose not to confront my own depression, I self-medicated and got on with what you could say, life. Then one day it all came crashing down. 

A series of events, which I hope you don’t mind, but I won’t go into, led me to think, “Why the fuck should I keep going? I just want the pain to stop” I described it later to being on a roller coaster which kept getting faster and faster and I couldn’t hold on any longer. I had pushed all my friends & family away (who accepted and loved me for who I was) and now I didn’t even like my own company. When I eventually woke up in the hospital after downing a lot of pills and alcohol, I finally let myself cry. And through those tears came a baptism of acceptance and acknowledgment that I needed help. My sister came to the hospital and she told me that I needed mental health help, and there was no shame in that. A diabetic wouldn’t feel shame if they had to have insulin injections, so why should I feel shame about talking to someone, or even taking anti-depressants?

So here I am 2 years later and I’m much better and happier. 

Holden Caulfield said he wanted to be the Catcher in the Rye who would catch people before they ran of the unseen cliff. I don’t see myself as that kind of person, but you can stop yourself from falling by going to someone you trust (I’m sure you have someone) and saying “I Need Help” (say it with me)

There are ways to stop the bullying and the self-loathing and there is always a way out. And if I was talking to my 13 year old self that’s what I say to him. That, and don’t spend all your money on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crap, it’ll go out of fashion.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. Thanks to the wonders of social media, I know what has happened to those people who bullied and abandoned me. Let’s just say, the years and the lack of contraception have not been kind to them. That the other thing about staying strong; success is the best revenge.

From J, who went on to be a model and TV presenter:

At about 7 or 8 years old I must have been already known for my weakness for creatures because a boy who lived round the corner (who regularly put mud in my hair and called me skinny malink and ginger nut) threatened to dissolve slugs with salt  if I did not steal a packet of biscuits out my house. In my abject terror of anything happening to these poor limbless little souls I duly fetched the only packet of custard creams we had in the house (there was not the vast array of choice we have now in 1985) I told my parents I had eaten them all and sat in my bedroom staring at my poster of my hero B.A Barracus hoping he would have approved of what I did, but then I felt useless for not beating the boy up and calling him a fool.

At 12 my parents split, home was sadly very unhappy. An older girl who lived nearby actually befriended me to get access to my house, she left a door open when helping us close up the house for a break before Christmas. When we returned all the Christmas presents my mother had been building up for us (for a stark xmas as it was) were stolen. My mother, already upset was absolutely devastated. Distinct shoe prints left on carpet led to the culprit being caught. There were a few of them, including boys much older than me (18/19) who cornered me at school for telling Police I knew who that shoe print belonged to, I can’t remember what they said but I responded by going into the school with some broken glass and trying to cut open my wrists, a friend had seen it and came to stop me, taking me to the teachers who were very supportive and helpful, they knew I was a pretty quiet and studious kid and were firmly on my side from the start.

On another occasion after school I was made to go on my knees to bow to some  boy who actually had a machete. I did not want to add to my mothers upset.. and walked home in a state of shock berating myself viciously for not standing up to him, for allowing myself to be made powerless and vulnerable again.

I changed schools not long after. It stopped. My Dad told me years later he had gone to see the people involved and had a word with them, but I never knew.

At 14 in youth theatre, already very lanky and still a ‘ginger nut’ I was locked in a cupboard by a boy who I refused to snog who then shouted  -‘gingerfringercringerminger’ at me every chance he got, much to the amusement of many people.

Then 16 and River Phoenix died, I  was fairly open in my admiration of him and came into school to a magazine of him in his coffin open on my desk and some sniggering boys as I started sobbing in horror and grief.

This sounds comedic but it actually installed a fairly complex insecurity about my height, hair and boys. I modeled and presented TV but always felt it was because they felt sorry for me in some way or I just happened to fit the clothes, I never allowed myself to enjoy any of it or give myself the credit for being an actually very competent presenter. I did not date at University like most people and pretty much ran away from every offer until aged 23 when some poor fellow took a great deal of time convincing me he was serious. I did not attend most of the auditions I was offered by a very keen and lovely agent who spotted me in a play because I felt too awkward and ugly. I really wanted in my heart to act and be able to take on persona’s of other people, which I enjoyed so much because when on stage I had this glorious freedom, people were very complimentary but the nerves and utter lack of self belief and confidence were making me unwell.

Interestingly very recently I bumped into someone who i went to school with, I didn’t recognise him but he did me, and introduced himself. After befriending on Facebook he confided to me I once had stood next to him, looked down at him and said ‘you really are very small’ in a bit of a cold manner and that it had scared him quite badly, he never really spoke to me after that. I was startled to think I had made someone feel bad when I was walking about feeling pretty bad most of the time myself.

I have still not shaken the fundamental self image of me being gawky to be honest (even now at 35) BUT I did learn to be compassionate to myself over time, to watch how I speak and behave myself. In working life I learned to take on a thicker skin persona best I could and I found a place behind the camera (allowing the actor in me to mutter unhappily to herself ever more) but inherently I also had to accept by nature I am just a sensitive person, and this is ok.

Perhaps if Facebook and social media had been about I would have, like now used them as a veil to hide my inherent shyness and say what I am really thinking.. who knows what would have happened.

To anyone going though bullying, it’s easy for me to say it will pass and in a few years you will not think about it. It is true BUT please tell someone, please do not ever think no one cares or understands because under the surface of most people you meet or know, they will have some understanding of this. Find a person, find a website but find some one, If you are struggling with your sexuality or for something embarrassing you may have done that way please do not feel you are alone, there are others, if you struggle, like I did to speak up for yourself, I promise you there are others and the courage it takes to do that will be the first step to getting this seemingly massive mountain out of your way.

 

From G, who’s now a proud mum:

I’ve been bullied. The chronology of it starts from the day my mum brought me home from hospital and my older sister decided there and then she didn’t like having a younger sibling. The verbal put downs started early.

I started school at 4 and was moved into a new school at 6 as my parents felt I wasn’t being stretched academically. From day one I knew my place, I was called all sorts of names like ‘Somalian refugee’ and ‘anorexic’ on account of being stick thin and having skinny legs. I’d go home from a day of verbal bullying to my sister who would continue with the sniping, quiet snipes, out of our parents earshot. Like the kids at school. Picking at me quietly. Looking to trigger me off and then one day I snapped and decided I wouldn’t stand for this any more so I would lash out, hit these kids. But my young mind couldn’t work out why I would be the one sent to my room, removed from lunch time play, they started it after all. Why am I in the wrong? I’m just standing up for myself aren’t I? Last term of primary school and one of the boys hits me, so I kick him back. A dinner lady sees this so hits me round the head with an umbrella. I kick her shins and walk home in a strop. I get sent to my room when my parents find me on the doorstep and the headmaster turns up. No one wants to know my side. Everyone laughs at me the next day when I return to school. Luckily I have an escape, I passed my 11+, I won’t be going to the same secondary school as these people, or my sister, I’ve escaped, a new start!!

Term 1 of secondary school. I’m the only person from my school to go there. Everyone else knows people, I’m terrified and they know this. A girl comes up to me and asks me my name and what football team I support, I tell her I don’t like football I prefer rugby. She slaps me in the face and punches me in the stomach because ‘you’re a liar! You must like football! Cantona is the best!’ Welcome to secondary school!

Within the first two weeks I’ve been hurt again. This time by a girl who dropped her purse, I stop to pick it up for her she stamps on my hand tearing the skin off it and pushes me over shouting that I’m stealing it.  Try to assure her I’m not and that I was just helping but my card was marked. As always the teachers didn’t believe me despite the injuries. I’m given detention for lying and my parents tell me to let it go. My sister finds my inability to use my hand for a while hilarious.

Over the course of my time at school I was never invited to parties, I was always the kid no one sat next to, I was ‘signed up’ for cross country by people who thought it funny to do so I was entered into the school swimming gala despite not being able to swim, I was told I was thick, told I was worthless, I was bullied verbally, bullied physically and bullied by exclusion. 

I remember one winter, when it snowed and we had to stay in, a girl sat on her desk and started taunting me, goading me into slapping her, calling me every name under the sun. I refused to hit her so she had her friend do it. The whole class told the teacher I hit her unprovoked.

It was then I started to seriously look into killing myself. 

I lost interest in everything. In the sports I enjoyed in the music I was good at. My grades slipped. I stopped eating. No one noticed. Not once did anyone ask me how I was.

I eventually got expelled from school. The dubious honour of being the first in the schools long and illustrious history.

The continual bullying stayed with me. I’ve lurched from abusive relationship to abusive relationship because I’ve felt that’s all I’ve been worth. The knocks to my self esteem have not left me. I still feel worthless. Still feel like people will let me down. I have no trust in anyone. I feel ugly even when I have my gorgeous husband telling me I’m not. I feel stupid, even when I’m able to answer all the questions on TV quizzes. I feel like people won’t turn up when they invite me out, that people invite me out as a joke so they can stand at a distance and laugh at the fact I turned up and am standing on my own.

I lost faith in people. 

The legacy of bullying doesn’t end when you leave school. It ingrains itself in your personality. Those comments become you. They can’t be erased no matter how much you try. If you’re told you’re not worth it for 14 years, you try and disbelieve it.

But do you know what? You can turn things around. I have an amazing, positive, caring husband and I refuse to let my beautiful daughter, who is being bullied, believe she is anything other than a strong, wonderful little girl. I’m giving her the tools to win, the tools to be strong the tools to be herself.

Maybe my positive story ends in her. In her beating the bullies and being this amazing self confident, self assured young woman that she’s turning out to be at the grand old age of 8. Maybe me being bullied was for that purpose. To create this amazing human being that those bullies stopped me becoming.

Don’t let the bastards win. Bullying takes a lot from people. But not everything.


Future Self

Friends, there’s something that’s become very important to me that I’d like to share and continue moving forward.

I’ve had an overwhelming and unmitigated response to a couple of recent tweets regarding bullying. The first was a link to a story about Izzy Dix , a girl of fourteen who took her own life in September after being snubbed by friends and becoming a target of bullying, both on and offline. Her last message to the world was an eloquent, personal and deeply moving poem entitled ‘I give up’. I tweeted a link to the story and later that night, unable to get it off my mind wrote down some thoughts and tweeted them also. It was partly personal catharsis, but mostly it was a gesture to the many people who had retweeted the original story, as I’d noticed that the vast majority of them were young people – people similar in age to Izzy in fact. I realised fully just how important this subject is to those affected (and I believe that number to be higher than we’d like to imagine) and judging by the speed and volume of the retweets and messages I’ve received, people of all ages clearly have experiences, opinions and messages to offer. My piece wasn’t about apportioning blame, getting even or staying angry. It was meant as a humble, sincere reminder to all who’ve been a victim of, or affected by bullying in any way that there is power and strength to be found in order to get through it, and a plea to those same people to not for one moment entertain the idea that this moment is all there is. It will pass. It will get better, and in time it will be something that you, as your future self will look back on with an empowering sense of perspective. As a result of the response and the deeply personal messages I’ve received since posting the piece, I’ve had an idea I’d like to share. I believe fully in the fact that there is strength in numbers. I believe in community. I believe that given the chance, people will share and open up and gain strength from the simple notion that none of us are truly alone. Sometimes we aren’t aware of who might be sharing our pain, who might be feeling exactly the same way as we do at this moment in time, who might have come through and triumphed over an experience like the one we find ourselves going through, but the fact is there is always someone. Always. So let’s find them. Let’s find them and identify with them and maybe even connect with them. Let’s draw strength from each other, and let’s start doing it today. Now, I’m not a web whizz or a tech head or anything like that so I’m going to keep it really simple. I’ve created an email account  – futureself@mail.com  – I want us to write down and share our experiences,  our positive outcomes, our stories of survival – stories where we’ve overcome fear or intimidation or lack of confidence. I want us all, young and old to write in with personal experiences that we feel will help those who might be enduring the same kind of treatment. I will collate these stories and examples and put them on my blog site. If we get enough we’ll create a web page and build it from there. I have to stress of course that this isn’t a helpline or a professional advice service (There are some fantastic organisations in place like the dove self esteem project and the National Bullying Helpline: 0845 22 55 787 as well as many others) I have no experience in counselling or advising anyone on a professional level – this is simply an idea to create a small thread; a community of people who can share examples and come together first-hand through unified experiences in order to see that WHATEVER the circumstances, there WILL be people who have gone through or are going through the same stuff, and if they can get through it – so can you. There are petitions to take down the website(s) that some cyber bullying is taking place on – there are people angry with schools, parents, teachers, the system – you name it. And that’s fine. Be angry. My feeling however is that even if you do succeed in punishing, banishing or demolishing certain elements of this problem, it won’t be long before another pops up. Taking down a website isn’t going to solve the deeper issue. Right now I don’t know what will. But while that stuff is being figured out, young people are living it. Today. So let’s do something today. And let’s dare to try to make that thing a positive thing. A thing of support, of encouragement – of hope. I know from the messages I’ve received that even those young people who aren’t directly affected by bullying right now know someone who is, or have been. So to every one of you – spread the word. Spread this tweet. Spread the email address – futureself@mail.com – and let’s begin it. Izzy’s final words really affected me. I know they affected you too. Let’s honour that fact and make a start. *Your email address won’t be passed on to, shared with or disclosed to anyone unless you specifically ask for it to be. If you want to keep your email address anonymous you can do so by using a remailer, or a few other options are here: http://www.wikihow.com/Send-An-Anonymous-Email – If there are any legalities or privacy issues I’m overlooking let me know and I’ll sort before we get going.  


For Izzy

My 14 month old daughter was having a rough day (unforgiving teeth, mostly) which meant that the morning had been spent finding zen within the perma-cry and trying to encourage her to chew on appropriate teething toys rather than random shoes, tv remotes or her own fist.

I’m learning that the way forward is as much about following her lead as it is trying to control any given situation. Even though she can’t tell me exactly what’s wrong it’s my job – my calling – to read the signs and make things as painless and straightforward for her as I possibly can. I do this willingly, unflinchingly and often with a big dumb grin on my face, because the truth is right now, to me she’s nothing short of a living, breathing Disney character. She’s Puss in Boots from Shrek, looking up adoringly with those planet-sized eyes. She’s Gizmo the Mogwai appearing from his cage for the first time; all heartbreaking innocence and doe-eyed trust. She’s – well, you get the idea.

Right now my wife and I are her world, we’re everything she knows and trusts. She has nothing but our familiar dependable faces reminding her daily that she is loved and protected and that all is well. In turn she offers us assurance, albeit unspoken, that ‘so-far-so-good’. She’s happy, she’s safe, she’s grateful.

Of course, she won’t always be like that. She won’t always be my vulnerable, defenceless little tot. I’m fully aware that my current feelings are fervent but finite. Maybe too aware. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure a lot of parents would identify when I say that I already have flashes of how utterly cruel and unfair life will seem as she incrementally smashes my heart into a zillion pieces by simply growing up and venturing out into the world without me. She will at some point unknowingly and unwittingly, through no fault of her own leave me in the proverbial dust; a simpering, whimpering one-time superhero reduced to a crumbly old man with out-of-date wisdom and a bit less wind in his sails.

I remind myself of course that all that stuff is a long way off, and that the most important thing is to be in the now, to enjoy every single moment while it lasts, even days like today when it’s all about teething and tantrums. The screaming and the inconsolable outbursts are wonderfully tolerable because they are after all a huge part of the deal – they have just as much relevance as any of the ‘fun’ stuff and they are, in their own way further confirmation that things are going according to plan. Everything is as it should be.

Just thirteen years ago someone was thinking about Izzy Dix in exactly the same way. Feeling some if not all of the same wonder, fear, joy and hope as I’m feeling right now I would imagine.

Izzy was fourteen when she died in September of this year. She wasn’t ill or struck by some terrible accident. She took her own life as a result of being snubbed by schoolmates and becoming a target of cyber-bullying. She wrote a poem just before she died, the title of which was ‘I give up’.

It’s a pretty poem, one that clearly shows a girl in touch with and able to communicate her feelings. It is honest, heartfelt and concise. It is also her very last comment on the world, her last experience of what it was to be alive. Her legacy.

I didn’t know Izzy Dix but I miss her. I miss the idea of her. She was as real and as important as you and I, with just as much right to all the highs and lows life would have presented along her journey. She should have gotten through it. She should have had a chance. She should have had a future; the opportunity to look back on this time as a crazy misunderstood moment that she triumphed over and ultimately grew from.

But for whatever reason, she didn’t. And she’s gone.

I can’t begin to imagine what her mother is going through, and I’m not qualified to make guesswork out of such delicate subject matter. The fact that she has bravely allowed the poem to be published however clearly suggests that she is adamant Izzy’s passing won’t be in vain. It’s a beautiful gesture; a moment of hope amongst the blinding primary sadness that surely threatens to consume. It is a call to arms, asking  “young people everywhere to think about the potential impact of their behaviour before they act”.

It also declares “We all need to be motivated by love and kindness, not nastiness and hate.”

Such grace.

When I reposted this story on Twitter I did it because I was so moved, so completely floored by it I felt compelled to share. Not because I take any pleasure in spreading sadness or negativity but because it seemed to me irresponsible not to. I needed others to see it, to experience it, because unlike illnesses, accidents, floods and hurricanes this is something we have created, and this is something we can and must begin a process to heal and to stop.

I personally don’t feel that blame is a solution. Whether it’s the fault of the website in question, or the school or society in general none of that will bring Izzy back. None of that will bring back Daniel perry, Hannah Smith or any of the increasing number of young people committing or attempting suicide due to bullying on and offline.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 young people have experienced or are experiencing cyber bullying, and for every successful suicide there are between 50 and 200 attempts.

Our young people are in trouble. They are drowning in a sea of miscalculated disrespect and misjudged derision.

When I checked back on Twitter sometime later I noticed two things. One was that my tweet had received more retweets than any I can remember and secondly – most of the retweets had been made by young people – people around the same age as Izzy.

To those people – I see first hand how important this subject is to you, how deeply this affects you and how little persuasion you need to push the message further; to reach out and share this unjust and heartbreakingly serious illness that is bullying in an effort to seek understanding and find resolve.

I want nothing more for all of you than the sanctuary of knowing deep in your heart that no matter what you might be going through with your peers or your friends or your schoolmates at this time or any time in the future, this is not the sum total of who you are or what you are about or what you have yet to do in this world. You have only just begun. There is so much waiting for you. SO MUCH.

The people who lash out at you and others like you are terrified that you have stuff figured out and they don’t. They are crying out for help and the only language they know is ridicule. This is not their fault. Waste no time trying to figure out their personal motives for they have none. It is all about them. You are a name pulled out of a hat to them. They see in you only an image of the person they wish they were. They are not looking at the person you know yourself to be; the person your parents, your family and your true friends recognise and celebrate every day. Dare to celebrate with them – it’s not cheesy and it will empower you, I promise.

Know this also – you have a future self; a future you that you are unable to see or trust in yet. I know this because I am old and have caught up a bit with future me, so trust me.

Now is not everything, not at your age. Don’t surrender to this moment like it’s the only one on offer. Be in it, yes. Seek out the good stuff and allow yourself to bask in it, yes. Remember though that your life is in forward motion – the wheels are turning – everything is passing. Your future self isn’t a fantasy or a figment of imagination – it exists, and you have to know that you’re the only one with the power to get to it and when you do – when you connect with that older you, you will understand that you’ve always been there willing yourself to come through this and any other obstacles thrown in your path so that you can gather strength and keep pushing, because that’s what life is; a game of knocking obstacles down and gathering strength before the next one takes shape. In time it gets easier I promise.

The damage bullying does is real. It’s real and it hurts and it consumes every thought and makes us doubt our very place and purpose on this planet. No one should ever suggest otherwise.

The real truth however is that you are needed. You are absolutely needed in this world. From this very moment. Even if it’s a shitty moment. You have to stick around, because we can’t do it without you. None of us can. We don’t always admit it but we can’t keep things moving without you and your future self, because the reality is we haven’t figured enough of it all out yet, and without you bringing your experiences, opinions, attitudes and wisdom to the table we’re all just stumbling around in the dark. You are the future, we are waiting for you. Your future self  is waiting for you.

Please don’t believe all the bad stuff. It simply isn’t true.

Please don’t for one second think that you are not needed in this life.

And most of all please, please don’t ever give up.