This is a blog I have wanted to write for a long time. Many people have made Youtube videos on the subject of bullying in recent years with the simple title ‘It get’s better’, with words of wisdom, hope, support and positivity for anyone, not just in the LGBT community, not just young people, but anyone struggling against discrimination, prejudice and bullying. Those short simple films had a profound effect on me for, as you will know if you’ve been following my blogs, I too was bullied.
I don’t want to re say what has already been said so eloquently and passionately by others, but instead I want to talk about my own experiences in more detail, the effect they had on me, and how I dealt with and continue to deal with prejudice and negativity.
My first experience of bullying was at a very young age. I was in primary school, maybe no more than 7 years old. I remember the anxiety I felt, the sheer fear walking to school each day in that little village, passing through the school gates, my stomach churning. Even at that young and tender age I had already learnt the word ‘Queer’ and that this was something bad, negative, unacceptable and wrong. I wasn’t very sporty, instead I favoured reading books, drawing, painting, playing musical instruments. I went to an all boys catholic school across the road from the girl’s convent school and the church, a grey imposing and pretty scary looking building with a tall thin spire topped with a cross that sat at the top of the hill, like the all seeing eye of Sauron from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, looking down on the village, ready to bring it’s parishoners into line, the fear of immortal damnation ever present. It scared the shit out of me.
The teasing and taunting was continuous, day by day the bullies got worse and worse. As I write these words, far away now from that time, from that place, in that little village in Ireland, I still can’t bring myself to remember or write the things they would say, those are too painful to recall. At the age of 11 I went to a secondary school in the next town along the coast, hoping things would be better, they got worse. I worked hard, got good grades, joined a local young orchestra and read as many books as I could get my hands on, losing myself in those words, those stories of faraway places, adventures, and the brave characters who fought their way fearlessly through life.
I watched films before school, getting up at 6am each morning so I could lose myself in another world for an hour or two before I had to yet again face the constant barrage of abuse. By the age of 13 I was taking anti-depressants and seeing a councillor, I couldn’t sleep at night and was exhausted. By 14 I started to self harm, cutting into my skin each night with a razor blade to try to release the pain. Now, 23 years later, my tattoo now covers most of the scars on my right arm, but on the left tiny lines are still visible running up from my wrist to my elbow. I keep those scars to remind myself never again to allow what other people say to influence me, they are in some ways now, just as beautiful to me as my tattoos because they remind me that I survived, that I am still here.
I spent many hours in the Art Department, often finding an excuse to go there and work on a mural for a school play in order to avoid the Physical Activity class. My art teacher was a kind and eccentric man. He made me feel good about myself, everyday praising me and inspiring to be expressive, to be myself. So, one day, after a particularly bad week at school, feeling broken and completely empty, I asked if I could talk to him. We sat together after class and I broke down into floods of tears, I told him all about the constant harassment I was facing and then I told him that I thought I was gay. One of the first things he said to me was ‘It’s ok to be gay’. Those simple words were what I had longed to hear. We talked several more times, each time, knowing that I had that support, I began to feel better. The bullying continued throughout most of my education, ultimately resulting in my changing schools again, and then a complete gap of about 4 months, which meant that my grades fell and I wasn’t able to study music at University as I had planned.
I left Ireland in 1997 and moved to Wales. I found people who were just like me, who accepted me just as I was, who had suffered just the same kind of bullying and abuse as I had, and it was then that I realised that those bullies were acting out of fear, had probably been bullied themselves, and that it was their problem and not mine. By the time I moved to London in 2000 I realised that I could be in a place were differences were celebrated, were unique, and that the very things I was bullied for as a child, I was now respected for. I learnt how to focus on the good, instead of the bad. How positivity, attracts positivity, and that we have a choice.. We can either believe what people tell us and focus on the bad allowing more and more bad energy to pour into our lives and consume us, or, we can choose to focus on good things and to realise that often it is their insecurities and unhappiness and really it has nothing to do with us. When we choose to feel good, to be grateful for the good things in our lives, to think happy thoughts instead of focusing on the negative, we start to see more good things in our life and the world around us.
I still, at times, struggle with prejudice and negativity. But I now know that, even though I cannot control how other people think, I can control how I react and how I feel. Do I take it on board and feel miserable, or do I choose to ignore it and feel good. The only thing in life that we can ever have total control over is how we choose to think and feel. I try to send out good energy and positivity each and every day. I choose to not judge others, to be kind, compassionate, loving, respectful, to treat others as I would like to be treated. And you know what, I find that more often than not I attract good people into my life. People who inspire me, support me, encourage me and love me for who I am.
For me, the best way to deal with things that are tough, is to write about them, share my thoughts and feelings with others, to release that energy rather than allow it to build up inside of me, eating away at me. Writing has an amazing and calming effect as it focuses the mind and allows you to see a situation more clearly, from a different perspective. I try to focus on things I am grateful for and to celebrate those each and every day. It can be something so simple like focusing on nature, sitting on the beach and enjoying the sound of the waves as they break on the shore, going for a walk to my favourite place, listening to music or watching a film or reading a book that makes me smile. Whatever you can do to make yourself feel good. The more you focus on positive things the more positive things will come into your life.
So if you are reading this and you feel alone, scared and depressed, reach out, start with a simple conversation with someone who can listen and understand, there is big wide world of amazing positive energy out there and people ready to help and support you, who understand you and who will not judge you for being you. It get’s better..
Sending Love and Light from Spain. Aaron x