the schoolyard bully. part 1

I was going to ask everyone to excuse the Rupert trousers and the short sleeve whateverthatis, but I deliberately chose this picture as behind those eyes of a young (6 or 7 year old) me lies real fear.

I’ve never enjoyed having my photo taken, I usually look the other way, or pretend I’m busy doing something while the camera crazily clicks at everyone enjoying themselves and capturing a moment they’re hoping to cherish. Not me. Apart from the fact I have no idea what to do with my face, I’m scared of what’s behind those eyes, and with good reason, those eyes are hiding a lifetime of bullying and abuse from people who didn’t understand that I’m an autistic person and that I’m different because we’re not allowed to be different, are we!

My earliest memory of this is from a boy, whose name I won’t mention, in junior school. He was bigger than most of us, (I was still waiting for my first growth spurt, which I’m still waiting for) and in particular me. I was the quiet one, and when I first moved to Newport I couldn’t read or write, my mother thought there was something wrong with my development, and I was selective with the people I hung around with. David Critchley, like myself, was a bit of an outsider, and he remained my best friend all our lives until he died in 2009, but I was a loner, I always have been. Within a matter of around six weeks, I’d learned to read and started writing. I had a great teacher, Mrs Moore, who took interest in me and encouraged me to pick up a book, and within a short time I was reading a book a week, and something I still do, however, within the pages of those glorious books I found a new world in which to escape from that world outside, a world where I didn’t belong and still don’t, and a world where I was being beaten up, pushed about, made fun of and abused, all because I was different.

Life went on, but nothing changed. The bully of junior school was replaced with more and bigger bullies, gangs formed in school and I retreated even further and felt glad to leave school, with no qualifications as I was partly too scared to go in, also teaching methods have always been alien to me, along with the inability to do written exams! So, there I was, 16 years old and hopeful for what the world had in store. Apart from being a Rock ‘n’ Roll star or Astronaut, I’d always wanted to be a writer, unfortunately, there weren’t any vacancies at the local jobcentre, although that didn’t stop me from looking!

Slowly, my friend circle expanded, but unfortunately so did the bullying. Things that others found funny I found hurtful, sometimes physically, and again I’d retreat into that little hole I’d dug for myself in my childhood and wait there until I felt safe to come back out again. Luckily, most of my friends from that time were good friends, and most still are I’m happy to say. However, there were still a small amount who’d mock, bully and abuse, regardless of whether they were drunk or sober, it just happened until, thankfully, they either moved on or moved away. Still, the damage had been done, and after around 20 years of that I retreated even further, the damage had been done.

The hole I’d dug as a child became mixed not only with books but alcohol and drugs. I created a new place for me to hide, inside my head, and although I’m often flippant about this period of my life, it’s not something I talk about. I’m not ashamed of it, nor am I proud, it just was. I’ve made mistakes, but haven’t we all?

After I’d given up the drugs in the mid 90’s I received a misdiagnosis for depression, I was prescribed the wrong tablets and given antipsychotics, which had a rather disastrous effect on my psyche. I started hallucinating quite badly, my behaviour was getting more erratic and again, at one point I’d scratched off a part of my scalp, feeling rather proud of the blood running down my head. It was at this point that I’d figured something wasn’t right.

I had to endure being on and off medication for almost 25 years, I started a new career in admin, working for the NHS where I’d also met a woman I fell completely in love with, and who spent some happy years in a relationship with, however, the bullying in work was becoming too much to handle. I decided to go back to the doctors as I still thought that anxiety and depression was the problem, and thus was prescribed some new (apparently cleaner) tablets.

Things in my head were good for a while, I was in love and that was all that mattered, but that bullying at work was getting worse and started along with the medication started taking over my thoughts. I was drinking a lot at this point, even to the point I’d be drinking before I started work, I was having nightmares, becoming more erratic and my relationship was suffering, to the point where I had to leave in fear I would hurt this woman who I loved.

Time went on, and so did the meds and drinking. I started to manage things a lot better at university, although receiving no support, I thought I was doing quite well and started to get the feeling that they weren’t doing quite the job they were supposed to do. My drinking at this point was in a much better place and had gotten back to the place where a nice cup of tea sounded quite nice, so discussed with my doctor about coming off the medication.

Tom Stanger
Host at Supernatural People podcast, Editor/writer at The Pilgrim Magazine, curator of the Pontyddim archives, tea drinker, hat wearer and autism advocate. PhD researcher on Gothic Literature & religion also does book reviews bad photography and other bits and bobs

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