Tamworth man speaks of years of being bullied – in the hope of helping others

Sunday, 6th January 2019

A BRAVE man from Tamworth has spoken out about years of being on the receiving end of bullies, in the hope that it may help other people or better still, prevent bullying.

Mike Jewkes, who is now 42-years-old and lives in Polesworth has shared his emotional and heart-wrenching story, which starts in 1986 at a local junior school and takes you through his experiences at high school and into his completion of a YTS.

A ‘nightmare’ is how Mike describes his younger years when the bullying started at the age of 10, but courageously he speaks about having forgiven those that bullied him. Unfortunately, however, the years have not erased the memories.

Years of both physical and emotional abuse left Mike with mental health issues and resulted in self-neglect as a teenager and later in life, the lack of confidence to enter in to a relationship.

Speaking to Tamworth Informed, Mike said: “I must admit, [having an article written] actually gives me a bit of pride. It has taken me a long time to take to the keyboard.

“until I wrote this, I don’t think even Mom and Dad knew the half of it.”

The hope is that if sharing Mike’s story prevents just one person being the victim of bullying, then this is all worth it for him.

Mike’s Story

My story starts in 1986 if I remember correctly it was February. I can’t say 100% due to the fact I was a 10-year-old lad. I started a new school, as you can imagine after moving house and being moved to a new school at that time I was a bit apprehensive but also excited due to what I think we are probably all told as kids; you know, you got the chance to make new friends and make a new start etc.

However, this wasn’t the case, on my very first day at [a local junior school], what I now consider my nightmare began. I was put in a class with a teacher we were all petrified of, not that he had ever done anything but just because we were told he was very strict.

I won’t put the names of any of the people involved but I will say, guys if you read this I have forgiven all but I will never and can never forget due to how your treatment of me affected me.

On my first day I had probably been in my class in the 2nd year of junior school for two hours when as you do I needed the toilet so I asked [the teacher], he was fine and told me “off you go”. So I got into the lads loos and low and behold two lads from my class came in. I can’t remember what was said, after all, this is being written 30-years later.

These two lads cornered me and well, for want of better wording, kicked the c**p out of me. It may even have been the first of FOUR times that bullies broke my nose.

We all got sent to the Head Teacher who did pretty much nothing; the two lads got lines and missed a couple of breaks – that was about it for that occasion. Unfortunately, being what most in that school considered an outsider word got around and well it all began.

I’ve never found it easy to make friends really, even at this time, but l I did make a few who did help me immensely throughout the years. As I seem to remember around that time making friends with one group who were a lot like me, to be honest. I would say of the five good friends I did make at that school, four were in the same position as me and were being both physically, mentally and emotionally bullied by a group of at least a dozen of the ‘Popular’ kids.

As a child, it was drummed into us that if someone beats me, I’m to belt them back, and if I didn’t then I would be punished as in the area I originally lived, that was how everyone was taught by their families.

Now, there was a big problem with this, I’ve never been a fighter unlike my little brother whom we will come to later but where I felt able, I did as I was taught but this only made things worse. After I had defended myself once, if I was going to be physically assaulted by the bullies at that school, they didn’t do it alone in future.

I firmly believe this was the start of my mental health problems, but from what I can gather mental health conditions didn’t happen to children in the minds of the adults, so it was never approached medically or at least never mentioned to me in any way shape or form.

I can’t actually remember having a day from that first day onwards where I didn’t either have a bullying problem. I was always either getting the name calling (everyone just said take no notice as names don’t hurt you) or physically assaulted which as I remember whether I’m right or not, was at least a weekly occurrence.

Though I can say I didn’t always come off worse especially when I hit the 3rd year when my little brother started in the same school as then if there was more than one of them trying to assault me then they had the 2 of us to deal with which did make SOME think twice.

The one anecdote I can remember of this one was walking home from school the one day at the time on my own when two of the lads from my year came running up behind me and attacked me just across the road from the school, one came running at me and did a flying kick into my back. What he didn’t bank on was that my brother was just the other side of the road and saw it.

As we have nearly always been a very close-knit family he came running and helped me. As soon as he hit one of them, the pair of them ran off, which I can say proves to me what cowards they really were. Considering he was two years their junior and they felt they couldn’t deal with what I consider a fairer fight.  However, when we got to school the following day nothing was done at all to deal with this problem.

Anyway, rather than go over and over the same old thing this continued throughout my time at school, day after day.  But I will say this is when I had what I would consider now to be a mental health condition as this was when I remember I started self-neglect.

I wouldn’t wash, clean my teeth, bath or shower; don’t get me wrong, Mom and Dad always made sure we bathed but I wouldn’t do any of it by choice.

The way I saw it was no matter what I do it continues and so it did especially as I was doing this but with me feeling as I did I didn’t care, I felt I could have been in the best clothes wearing top brand trainers and be spotlessly clean but it would continue even if I had all these things.

Anyway, I will skip forward here due to the fact it would just be repetitive as it was same old same old for my entire time at that school, although I will say thanks to Mrs Griffiths I did find my love of music and a little confidence in myself after auditioning for the choir and for that reason,  if ever she reads this I am eternally grateful as that is what helps me through the hardest of times, even now 32 years later.

I started [a local] High School in 1988 and well it all continued from day 1, but in my mind quite oddly, due to me following the rules. This time I did have a few of the lads and lasses from [my old school] in my class but some that I encountered there were much worse in how they treated me at first it was all the usual, well if I’m fair my first year was pretty much the same as my time at junior school.

However, my Dad became seriously ill from his job. He got a job as a paint sprayer at a scaffolding company but what he didn’t know was that the paint he was using contained high concentrations of cyanide. Due to firstly not knowing and secondly not being provided with the correct protective equipment, had been absorbed into his body. Basically, one morning he got up and went to wash as normal and rubbed water over his hair or he may have been washing his hair, I’m not sure at this stage, but his hair came out in his hands and over the next year or maybe more his weight plummeted. He lost as he says every hair on his body and went white as a ghost.

Mike and his family at the time his Dad was ill.

Mike and his family at the time his Dad was ill.

I was 12 at the time, maybe 13, and in my eyes, I knew I could lose my dad, not that these bullies gave a damn and I know I said I would forgive those who had bullied me but those that bullied me [because] of my Dad, I can never forgive.

They made one of the worst periods of my life a thousand times worse calling him all sorts like Beetlejuice, (a movie out at the time). It’s bad enough calling someone’s Dad down or saying offensive things about someone’s Dad but when he is that ill, it is unforgivable.

That year or two was hell for me and I can’t tell you a lot of what happened because I simply can’t remember a lot of what happened at all. Afterall, I was scared of losing him and then having to deal with the bullies on top of all that. Basically, I think it must be pushed to the back of my mind because I really don’t want to remember it.

Although I can say I do remember every person that was involved in that episode of my experiences of bullying whom as I say I can neither forgive nor forget what they did to me. It has me sobbing just writing this part as I remember that happening to Dad like it was yesterday.

If I remember correctly my Dad’s illness was over by the time I took my options in 1990 but the bullying still had a long way to go.  I had done very well in all my exams and ended up in the top group of everything I had chosen which obviously I was pleased about. I’d suffered all that and I couldn’t have come out with anything better.

Yet again the bullying continued and because of it to be quite honest I left school with terrible results but I got the opportunity to stay on and do the sixth form, which there is nothing to tell about as half the course was 6th form and a half was college. But after the first day at college, I left 6th form and went full-time college. I did well, I still had some problems with both my mental health (though I didn’t recognise it at the time) and some bits of bullying.

I still worked hard though and studied for a BTEC in science which I didn’t get in the end, this time around really down to health and so I went and got onto a YTS (Youth Training Service) course doing my NVQ level 1 and 2 in care work. I absolutely loved that but well £30 wasn’t a lot even in the early ’90s. I did get the qualifications there and 2 years of experience at a nursing home working with the elderly.

Those were 2 of the best years as I didn’t have a problem with bullying there but the damage was done to be fair, I feel as I really had no confidence at all other than as I said earlier with my music which is still the same to this day.

I still had a lot more problems through the years but it has left me with a lot of regrets, a lot of issues and worst of all now a 42-year-old man who has never had a serious relationship due to the fact I don’t have the confidence to speak to the fairer sex.

I am extremely lonely, so people please do me a favour and anyone else – don’t bully your fellow man – it destroys people and lives.

I feel we need to do a hell of a lot more to tackle this as expulsions, detentions and well so-called anti-bullying policies do not work. What does need to happen is more like me to come forward and tell their stories. This is in the hope that this and whatever else Government or Local Education Authorities put into place will make kids think twice.

This wasn’t the end of my problems with bullying but I can’t put myself through any more of the emotion this has thrown me into for today. So I will leave it there for now and just hope that people allow their kids to read this or adults who do bully folk which I know they do will also take a second thought before doing it to someone else.

If I didn’t have the friends and family that I do have, I doubt very much that I would still be on this earth thanks to the people who put me through all I have told you.

Help, Support and Advice

Are You a Young Person in Crisis?

Text the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger, for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • If you need urgent help text YM to 85258
  • All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
  • Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

You can also visit the YoungMinds website.

Are you an adult in crisis?

Call the Samaritans free helpline. It’s open 24 hours, 365 days of the year.

Helplines

  • ChildLine: ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline for children and young people. They offer advice and support, by phone and online, 24 hours a day. Whenever and wherever you need them, they’ll be there. Call 0800 1111. They have a designated page for bullying issues that includes a new video about building up your confidence after bullying.

  • Direct Gov: Information for young people on cyberbullying, bullying on social networks, Internet and email bullying, bullying on mobile phones, bullying at school, what to do about bullying, and information and advice for people who are bullying others and want to stop.

  • EACH : EACH has a freephone Helpline for children experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying or harassment: 0808 1000 143. It’s open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm.

  • Victim Support: They offer support to young people affected by crime. Their Children and Young People’s (CYP) Service also deals with cases of bullying; offering advice and working with professionals to ensure young people get the support they need. You can call their Supportline for free on 08 08 16 89 111.

Websites

The websites below have lots of information and advice for anyone who has experienced bullying.

  • The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) maintains a website for children and young people, and parents and carers about staying safe online: Think U Know

  • Childline: information about bullying