This article is published with the students name and the school withheld for reasons of privacy but it is with huge admiration for the student involved we publish this. We praise their bravery by speaking-up, in order to let other kids know they are not alone.
Bullying is real, and happens every single day, those you least expect, whatever anyone tells you.
Bullying is a word we know the meaning of from the minute we walk into Kindergarten and now as I sit at my university desk, I realise finally, the impact this had on me and how I nearly let this define who I was and how it almost destroyed my life. It’s easier to say “walkaway, don’t let it bother you and you can send someone a thousand inspirational quotes how they should rise above the bullies, but…trust me when you are living in that daily hell, it does define you, it absolutely crushes you.
I was a shy boy, unsure of myself and my parents didn’t help as their expectations were huge, I just wasn’t the soccer super star my brother was in the same academic league as my sister, and in a large international school environment I found it hard following in their footsteps and always felt the pressure to fit-in so that I didn’t let anyone down.
When I reflect on when and how this started I think it was in Year 1, when in order to make friends ‘for me’ my parents pushed me to join the mini soccer club, I was useless, afraid of the larger boys and a slow runner (or not.. I’m on the track and field team now) but back then I was smaller for my age. As soccer wasn’t something I was interested in I couldn’t engage, the coach yelled at me in front of the other kids, why don’t parents and teachers understand that humiliation never makes you try harder. as a consequence of this the other boys laughed at me, isolated me and then this spilled over into my daily school classes.
By Year 2 I was branded a wimp, not many kids wanted to play with me and I found my solace in my books, I know it’s a stereotype but trust me when you walk past the playing field and the kids kick footballs at your head or when you go into the canteen and no-one makes space for you at a table, it’s easier to sit and eat a snack bar in the toilet, with your feet-up so no-one knows you’re in there. You then go and sit in the library until that magic bells rings again. At least in class I thought I was safe …..wrong. I tried to focus on the lessons, sit at the back and make myself even smaller than I was in order for the kids to leave me alone and the teacher not to notice me. My year 2 teacher was really sympathetic and tried to include me in the reading corner with other kids, or painting with new groups and that worked for a while. As in all schools there were the ‘popular’ kids and this one boy just singled me out, he was the ring leader and many painful years went on with me being the butt of all his jokes and abuse, he was my tormentor, a bully and to this day, I have no idea why.
In years 4&5 I went from having fake stomach aches to headaches, faking a fever or cough and at one at point I pulled out my own hair so my parents had to take me to endless Dr’s appointments, I would do out anything to get out of school. It was especially worse on the days we had swimming or PE, I would shake inside from the moment I entered the school gates.
By year 6 I begged my parents to let me change schools for middle school but it ‘suited them’ for me to stay at this particular school where my siblings had graduated from and in an area close to school, so that’s when my middle school journey of hell began. I thought moving around to different classes might help as I wasn’t stuck in the same room all day with my bullies, again I was wrong as this just spread them out and gave them the ability to become their own little leaders and find their own ‘group’ to further isolate me. We moved into an age of the pastoral councillors at school, who, I was supposed to open-up to to (I couldn’t do that to my own parents so why they thought I would open up to a relative stranger is beyond me) “identify the boys,” “we can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.” How did they think by me giving the names of my bullies it would help me!
By year 8 in sheer desperation I did just that, only to find one of them was a straight A academic student who surely wasn’t the ring leader, two of the boys were the kids of teachers at my school and the other 2 from prominent families, the school didn’t need that kind of bad press. After me giving their names, needless to say, they proceeded to follow me home ‘as a warning’ from school, one day throwing garbage at me from behind, running past me where one would trip me up, one would knock me to the ground and then the ringleader would ‘carefully’ kick me not to leave any visible bruises that could be seen. Did the other kids walking by, stop them? Not a chance, they didn’t want the attention turned on them so they walked away, or worse became bystanders doing nothing to help me. Did the teacher who saw me on the ground support my claims with these kids? Not a chance. So there I was alone in my nightmare. I had my eyebrows shaved off by force one time and another time in the changing rooms I was forced to wear girls underwear, and this all happened in school. Outside of school the abuse was more physical due to the fact I would cry-out for help which they knew I wouldn’t do in school. When I was 8 I was told by the ring leader if I shouted for help he would pay someone to shoot my mother, and when I was 15 he told me he would hire someone to slit my throat when I was walking home if I dared give names to either the school or my parents. I grew up terrified of these bullies and your own demons manipulate what you know you ‘should’ do. The fear associated with speaking-up was so real I would only travel to school with my parents or later by a taxi who dropped me and picked me up, at the very front gate.
Why didn’t I tell me parents? I was afraid, embarrassed and ashamed. When I tried to allude to what was happening for was told “I had to try harder to fit in, to make friends, to be more social, just participate” they had no idea my bruises were not from finally trying touch rugby but from kicks in the ribs, just because they could.
Why I am volunteering to write this, just because I’m sure there are many kids out there, going through this RIGHT NOW and I want them to know it happens to others more than they know, to those they least expect, and that they are not alone, there will one day be an end to it. Even more importantly not to try to make any long term solution……. to a problem that will go away.
By Year 10 the age of technology just made things for me x10 worse, my bullies would click photos of my face down in the dirt and post them on ASK or Snap Chat for others to comment on (that conveniently disappeared.) They would try to sneak pictures of me changing for PE and I would never have a shower, I would rather face the wrath of the teachers than pictures of me circulating all over the school. My story isn’t the worst by the way, I have since heard much worse from both boys and girls, bullies seem to behave the same way regardless of their gender. It’s either physical, emotional or psychological and in most cases all three.
By year 11 I feigned no interest in the IB diploma in the hope my parents would HAVE to now surely change my school but yet again I was faced with “it’s only 2 more years and you will be in your self selected classes.” Little did they know I actually selected my IB choices and levels according to where I would not be tormented. It’s not that my parents were negligent (I don’t want this to be the overriding message here,) it’s more that I was so afraid of disappointing them, causing any trouble and not fitting-in to my suspected ‘perfect’ family that I found self sabotage was just easier than admitting the hell was facing. Did you know it’s more common for boys to self-harm than girls? It was easier for me to feel physical pain than emotional so thus begun a cycle of behaviour, also being a teenager your parents don’t just walk into your room or see you in the shower so it was easy to be unnoticed.
By year 12 I was taller than the others and now ‘not a bad looking boy’ and discovered that on the streets of Bangkok I could be made to feel like a king, surely any attention, even negative was better than none. I started to abuse alcohol secretly at first, and then any substance really just to escape the taunts and constant exclusion. I found a group of kids that fitted into the same mould as me and together we did our best to forget. The damaging effects of bullying are not always the most obvious.
This is not easy for me now to look back on as at one very low point, I remember sitting by the canal thinking that this bullying would never stop, that is would just follow me wherever I went, and I just wanted it to stop, I teetered on the edge for a very long time. That was a very dark 6 months of my life and ultimately the negative attention got me noticed.
By year 13 my parents labelled me ‘officially depressed’ and found me a therapist who basically shared my inner thoughts with both them and apparently other teachers at school, all of who were over-heard by their own kids and I just ended up with another label attached to me. Seeking help isn’t always that easy.
Fast forward to just 6 months left at school and (maybe the dark rumors were not so bad after all) as I had a kid reach out to me who admitted they had suffered the same abuse at their school, finally I had a kindred spirit and someone to confide in and pull me back into some kind of shape. I could now see light at the end of the tunnel.
The last few years of school I was able to leave school at my leisure to ‘study,’ I didn’t have to do PE and as I write, I realised that thankfully due to faculty constantly changing, I never once participated in a school camp trip, no-one seemed to notice or maybe they do, it’s just no teacher really wants to deal with bullying or admit it’s a problem at their school.
When I graduated, took time away from Bangkok, you certainly “can’t heal in the place that hurt you” and slowly through my friends help, a good overseas psychologist, I am finally in a great university programme. Without doubt the bullying I endured massively affected my ability to learn but with the right help in those last 6 months I managed to graduate and of course I was once told, “it can’t have been that bad if I managed to stay in school for that long.” Little do you know.
My lecturers now tell me now how attentive I am in class, how thoughtful my comments are and how they enjoy our debates & discussions, I even enjoy sports. My whole school journey and ability to reach my full potential was destroyed by BULLYING. The irony of my story is that I had to sit and watch as did all the other bystanders, when my bullies were awarded “most outstanding student” “best all round sportsmen.” When I left school I heard many more stories about these kids; all of whom were heartily congratulated by the senior faculty as they walked out of the school gates!
Editors Note: If you are reading this and any of this applies to you, someone you know or you feel someone close to you is being bullied, please reach out to a trusted adult at home, school, a favourite teacher, relative, older sibling or anyone who think can help. We also have a list of recommended mental health providers in Bangkok you can contact them directly if you have no-one you can personally turn to.