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