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A Life Worth Living. Chapter Eight

My journey surviving childhood abuse and how that abuse affected my life experiences and beliefs about life.

School Bullies.

I was bullied from day one of starting school because I stood out from the rest. Often dirty, unkempt and smelling of urine, I was a sitting target for the bullies in my school. It did not help that mam would send me to school in any item of clothing she lay her hands on. Unfortunately for me, one day she sent me to school with a pair of old Victorian, ladies, bottle green knickers, with elasticated legs which were massive. These 'bloomers', could be seen under my skirt even though I had rolled them up and I hung on to them all day to make sure they did not fall down. All day I struggled to keep them up above my hem line and avoid some of the sniggers and name calling from the other kids. On the same day, I had a slip on black pump and a laced up black pump. I was ashamed and embarrassed about the state I was in. The other kids had a field day, picking on me and laughing every time they spotted bottle green knickers like their granny would wear, showing under my skirt. Some kids can be heartless and at my school they were especially heartless. They never stopped to think that I was suffering enough having to come to school dressed the way I did.

I found it difficult to concentrate enough to absorb what the teachers struggled to teach me. No one knew back that I was struggling to understand because my eardrum had been burst by a punch from my Mam. I struggled to hear clearly but no one thought to investigate my difficulties. I was treated as the backward kid without the brains to even know what is going on around her. I was offered no support or even protection from the bullies both at home and at school. I got called rubber lips, because I had lips that seemed too big for my skinny little face. Tramp, scruff and twiggy probably described how I looked to the other kids. Almost daily there would be some hard girl threatening to batter me, ‘Tha gonna get battered at hoem time’, one girl told me in broad Yorkshire accent. Sure enough, she was waiting at the end of the school day and so were the crowds who knew someone was in for it. She hit me full in the face and then grabbed my hair and started pulling me around by it. I never fought back in those days, I was too afraid to. I got more than my fair share of beatings at the end of the day and would go home battered and bruised. My mam was not bothered so I learnt to deal with it.

A day came when the bullying got too much for me. I was stood in the corner of the playground minding my own business, day dreaming and humming to myself like I often did, when I noticed a group of girls pointing and laughing at me. I looked at the bigger girl of the group and she immediately started shouting at me. ‘what tha looking at? she shouted. ‘I dunt know, I said, knowing that I should have kept my mouth shut and said nothing. ‘Ar tha talking to me or ar tha chewing a brick cos tha’ll be chewing me fist in a minute’, she said, with the others egging her on. I tried to act brave, ‘go get stuffed’, I shouted back at her. Before I even got the words out she came running for me and I turned to run off. I had a group of girls all running after me because one of them was going to give me a hiding. She was going to bray me for no other reason than to show off to the other kids and look big herself. She was big, much bigger than me. I was certainly frightened of her. The girls chased me into a stairwell and I knew, either I had to run up the stairs as fast as I could to get away from them, or take my battering at the bottom of the stairs where I was going to be trapped. I tried to run up the stairs with all these girls, screaming and squealing with excitement as they closed in on me. They were like a pack of wild dogs coming in for the kill and I was terrified. I knew I could not make it to the top of the stairs. I just stopped running half way up the stairs, turned around and faced all those running towards me and I screamed as loud as I could ARGHHHH! They all stopped in their tracks and just looked at me. I must have looked like a trapped wild animal because none of them dare come towards me. After a minute or so of this stand-off, they backed off and returned to the play yard. I sat on the steps shaking, my heart pounding, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to flow. I did not get bullied at that school so much after that incident.

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Becoming A Bully

When I did get bullied it was mainly name calling and I could handle that. I would sing to myself, 'Sticks and stones make break bones but calling will not hurt me'. I was wrong and lying to myself that the name calling did not hurt because it did, especially when my mother did the calling. In school the name calling changed to ‘crazy case’ or ‘nutter’. At the time, I did not care, better to let them think I was crazy than keep getting hurt and living in fear. From that day on, nothing frightened me in the same ways ever again. For a while I became a bully and could have been a good one but my heart was not in it. The look of pain on the face of my first victim broke my heart. I hugged her and begged her for forgiveness and never bullied again.

Sick Loved Child

At the age of nine, I went into hospital to have my tonsils removed and hours before the operation, I was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia. Being a weak and sickly child, I guess my prospects were not looking good at the time. I heard the doctor telling the nurse, 'Send for her mother.' Mam came to the hospital to see me, on my potential death bed, but chose to spend her time with a small child on the ward, who was also very ill. My mother showed much love for this sick child and when the child died and my mam was devastated. Those who witnessed my mothers grief, for this unknown child, would have been left believing my mother had lost her own child. While she grieved for a baby she barely knew, her own child laid a few beds away, desperately ill. I felt for the baby that died but I was also jealous that my mam visited him more than me. I was scared because I thought I was also going to die. Not once did mam say a kind word to me or put her arms around me in a loving way, and never did she say that she loved me during that frightening time when I thought I was dying. It felt bad knowing that no one cared about me.

I had to stay in hospital for quite a long time and I was happy to do so. I felt safe in hospital, I could relax and sleep without the fear of my mother bursting through the bedroom door, intent on killing me. In the night I would hear other children crying for their mummy but I didn’t cry, I did not even think about my mam. As much as I loved my Mam, I preferred to be in hospital than be with her. I could relax a little without fear of a fist coming at me.

I got a tutor who not only spoke to me, she would bring me books to read. She used to bring a trolley full of children’s reading books and I would read them as quickly as I could in case they got taken away from me. The tutor came once a week and I got excited, knowing she would be bringing more books. I read C S Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s nephew, The Horse and his Boy and many others children's books, I could not get enough. I devoured Enid Blyton's, Famous Five. I had found something I loved to do and it was reading and learning. I became like a sponge, absorbing knowledge

After about a month, I was deemed fit enough to go home. On the way home from the hospital that day, I felt a sense of dread. Once home, I was sent straight to bed and I spent that first night at home, laid in a bed that smelt strongly of urine, in a dirty bedroom, crying, wanting to go back to hospital, or anywhere, other than home. I was pining for a book. I had found a love of reading, a way to escape without getting on my mam’s nerves and a way of comforting myself, but there were no books. When I did eventually manage to get hold of a book, I was told, ‘And you can put the fucking book down and stop acting like yer all clever, cos yer not’, by mam, as she swiped the book from me. I was not allowed to waste time reading. I was supposed to clean house or disappear, not read. I had to rely on my imagination. In my imagination I was always the damsel in distress, waiting for my knight in shining armour, on his big white horse, coming to rescue me.


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