The Gentle Giant

The title of this story refers to my persona and me.  If you look at me today you wouldnít think of me as the stereotypical bullying victim, (by the way there is no such thing), but in my last years in primary school and for the first few years of secondary school my life was unbearable (ages 10-14).  Kids in my primary school would say ďDonít touch him and stay away from him, he has a diseaseĒ and they would pretend to spray themselves.  Just about everything I did was mocked. 

Other things would happen, such as rumors being spread about my sexuality.  Even at that young age, that sort of thing was happening.  I lived my life in misery, all in the name of so-called fun.  Bullying didnít just happen in school; it was also among kids from the neighborhood. 

I was the kid who everybody liked to pick on even among my so-called friends. I was often ridiculed, mocked, and beaten up until I was 14.  There were times when I was too afraid to go outside because I was told false stories of people spreading rumors about me, which it turned out never happened.  My so-called friend was lying, just to get at me and make me upset, which he did.  There were times I was completely out-cast altogether.  I was told to go away and not allowed to associate with the others.  It seem to me that there were five reasons, or classifications which caused others to see me as different; my tall thin frame, my very pale complexion, my red hair and glasses (that I still wear), and because I was bad at sports. 

The bullying wasnít as bad in secondary school (high school), but it still went on.  Mostly the bullying consisted of ridicule, the mocking, and the occasional punch.  At 14-15, the physical bullying had begun to stop as the school bully ended up in a Juvenile Correctional facility for stealing cars and I had grown in size.  I had started standing up to people and they began to leave me alone.  Iím sure they began to realize that I was now bigger than they were and that I wouldnít lie down in front of them anymore.  Nevertheless, I still had low self-confidence, no self-esteem and self-doubt and depression and these problems had truly taken over my psychological make-up.  The damage was already done to my mind, no matter what size Iíd grown to.  I was still shy, unsure of myself, and low in self-confidence. 

By the time I was 16, I found that I excelled at athletics.  The school wasnít known for sports and when it was obvious to my peers that I was a talented athlete, I was asked to socialize with the jocks (yes we use that term in Northern Ireland as well).  I refused, knowing I would have joined and became one of the very people who made my life a living hell for those few years. 

At that age I also met some new older mature genuine friendís, two of whom, in particular, succeeded in repairing the damage which was caused to me during those tortuous years when I was branded a stupid, ugly freak of nature by other children, including my so called friends Ė so many times I began to believe it.  Due to the good work of those two people whom I will always consider them my closest friends, I am a much more confident person.  I also know I was one of the lucky ones, because if I hadnít met those wonderful people when I was 16, who knows what would have happened to me or what I would have done to myself.  In fact, it is not dramatic to say that I might not be alive today if it wasnít for those new friends.  I was close to committing suicide on a few occasions.  Some of the bullies from those early years are now changed men who are now my friends and are truly sorry and ashamed for the way they treated me and for what they did in the past. 

Now that I am of a much bigger physical size and a much more confident person, I will never let that sort of thing get to me again.  I will never bully anybody, because I know how it feels.  I pride myself on being a gentle giant and not a bullying thug. 

My message to victims of bullying is simple, if you are being bullied, it isnít your fault.  Tell someone, your parentsí your teacher, a friendly ear, but donít suffer in silence.  That is what the bullies want you to do.  By telling someone, you are saying, ďNo, what youíre doing to me is wrong and I will not put up with it!Ē 

Bullies are cowards who only do what they do because they are simply sadistic people who get a perverted pleasure from picking on those who they consider different.  They are the ones who are at fault, not you, and nothing they say about you or to you, is true.  Trust me I know Iíve been there, and Iíve come through it.  I now have a job that I love, a university degree, my own house and I am working on furthering my career.  I have won national championships at two different sports, and I have even represented my country at one sport.  If you had told me that ten years ago, I would not have believed you.  My point is this, if I can do this then so can you.

Gerard O'Reilly - Belfast Northern Ireland

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