The Truth Behind Bullying

Editor's note: Trigger warnings for mentions of bullying and substance abuse. Thank you to Charlotte for sharing your story and experiences.

My life has been inundated with bullies, from the day I started school, right through into my working life. I would like to think that I am a kind person with good intentions but for some reason, I seem to attract attention. Maybe it is because I always want to help people, which makes me an easy target. Maybe it is because I am so shy and quiet that bullies think I won’t complain. No matter what the reason, it has shaped me into who I am, leaving me with many layers of trauma and difficulty with trusting people and maintaining relationships.

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My life always revolved around the bullies. If someone bullied me at school, I was the one who moved classes or schools – As a result, I attended about 8 schools in my life. I had to suffer and put my life on pause to escape, rather than the bully being penalized for their actions. I would like to say that bullying is isolated in schools but sadly, they are also among our friends, family and in our adult life as colleagues.

I still suffer from bullying and abuse today but it doesn’t affect me as much as it used to. I suppose that as my own inner strength has grown, as well as my understanding of mental health. I know that bullying is just when a person projects their own fears and it has nothing to do with me, so I ignore it or give the bully support and this seems to resolve it. It is never nice to be insulted or have salt poured into already-existing wounds, but you can protect yourself. It is not just about making a stand, it’s about the way that you respond. There was an occasion when I became the bully to stand up against my bully, I found out a secret of theirs and threatened to expose them, while this stopped them in their tracks, I felt like I had let myself down. On the flipside, I was once exposed as being bisexual in front of my class, so I just said ‘Yep I am’ and took my seat, my lack of interest in their game meant just left everyone without words. I was never bullied by that person, or any member of that class again, as they knew their words would have little effect on me and be wasted.

I have learned that if you ignore the hate and you remove both the hate and your self-doubt from your life (which can be done by working on your mental health), it will end because you are not giving them what they wanted – yes, your parents were right on this one. The great thing about social media is that you can block and mute, use these functions. Rather than add fuel to the fire, you can even do this in real life by just walking away.

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I still fully believe that you should always talk to someone about being bullied, don’t hide your pain and go it alone, it is not your fault. I was raised in a way that taught me to let the bullies make the comments and move on, as ‘it happens to everyone’. This way of thinking was so damaging to my own mental health because I was such an easy target. I went through my whole school life without telling anyone, which meant the bullies never learnt their lessons and it made my school life harder than it should have been. I’d like to think that if I had been taught differently and had reached out, I may have better grades and would have pulled less ‘sickies’ to avoid attending school altogether.

Something that changed my mind and the way I acted towards a bully was when I came face to face with one of my own. I spoke to a bully who I had not seen in eight years. They caused me a lot of pain but when they found out about my mental health advocacy, they reached out. It turns out that this person had a very similar story to me with substance abuse and death in the family, they bullied because they were hurting and didn’t know how to manage it as they were alone. We spoke and had a very civil conversation and dare I say it, bonded. My substance abuse was a result of being bullied and having no healthy outlet, so I suffered alone and self-medicated, which was the same as the bully in question, despite acting different, we were more similar than we knew. Grief and losing a parent can be extremely hard on you when you are young, I know what it’s like to act account and become reckless because of it, so I really related and felt for the bully – she just needed a real friend.

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We need to remember that bullies are only projecting and trying to manage their own internal pain, they just don’t do it in a healthy way. You see, the only way we can achieve peace and support each other’s mental health is if we actually listen to each other. If we stop judging and start learning.

So much of my own mental health stems from trauma from being bullied and abused. But understanding why my bullies and abusers did what they did helped me because it made me understand that I am not alone in my struggles and it is not my fault.

Maybe, if we respond to each other with kindness, even when we are being bullied, we will all prevent trauma that will most certainly leave a scar and years of issues without our own self-esteem. Kindness in itself can be a wonderful support for mental health and best of all, it’s free and accessible to all.

- Charlotte Underwood
Norfolk, UK


Charlotte Underwood is a 22-year-old from Norfolk UK. She is a mental health advocate and writer who uses her words and candid approach to inform and support others. She is passionate about helping others and removing mental health stigma.

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