Being an obese child carries its own emotional and physical baggage but when you’re also a depressed, bullied, lonely nine-year-old kid, the world becomes bigger and you begin to lose yourself in a time when you should be developing yourself.
After a little argument with my father I remember running into my room, sitting on the floor behind the closed door and thinking “I wish I didn’t exist”. As a mum to a nine-year-old it would kill me if any child was to feel or think this way.
A nine-year-old should be fun, vibrant, full of life … unfortunately I wasn’t!
I had no friends at school or at home, I would sit in the toilet cubicle alone eating my lunch with my legs tucked up, so the other kids wouldn’t bully me for being a fat kid who couldn’t stop eating (maybe this is where my secret eating habit started). I would stay in the same toilet cubicle when the home time bell rang waiting for all the kids to leave school grounds so I could walk home behind them instead of them teasing and walking behind me.
Having a Turkish background meant my name was also “different” and provided the kids another reason to pick on me, I was “seagull flies in the air dropping boogies everywhere” thinking about it now I laugh but remembering that lonely nine-year-old girl I hated my name, my parents, the kids and everyone else.
At school I was finally selected to be in a play. This was it – a time for me to show myself as being the same as the other kids. As I was walking towards the stairs to get on to stage a boy named David stretched his leg out, I fell and hit my nose on the first step. I stood up crying, with blood streaming down and realised I’ve just given those kids another thing to pick on.
Two days later, when I went back to school, David was forced to apologise in front of the class for what he had done but this public apology cost me later after school. I recall a few boys including David standing behind the bottle brush tree but I didn’t give much thought into why they’re standing and giggling there. As I walked past with my head down trying to put as much distance between myself and the boys, David started the name calling and that’s when I felt it – the boys had collected small gravel or rocks and chased me into my street throwing rocks at me and laughing all the way.
That night after everyone went to bed I took my parents’ pack of paracetamol and wrote a letter to my parents the same way I had seen in the movies. I was crying and scared. I thought this was best for everyone, if I disappeared mum wouldn’t have to be upset that her child was fat, the kids wouldn’t care and I didn’t want to live anyhow.
Mum has this scary mother’s intuition, she sees something in her dream which later reveals itself the same day. Thankfully, that night she saw I was kidnapped and never returned, and like all mums she needed a sense of relief. She came into my room to tuck me in, check the windows were locked and all was OK.
Instead she walked into a room with her daughter on the bed crying, writing a letter and holding a packet of tablets. Her much-needed relief turned into fear.
I remember standing in the principal’s office trying to translate this furious lady screaming in Turkish demanding the bully kids be punished. Mum had no English, her upbringing made her shy to speak up but I realised then and there that when it came to me – her child – she didn’t give a care what others thought of her non-English rant.
Seeing Mum’s reaction was all I needed to know I mattered, I did continue carrying all the emotional scares into adulthood but I knew and understood then that my mum loved me. I wasn’t always a quiet kid at home instead I would talk a lot trying to gain any sort of attention from my parents.
As a mum myself I believe my kids have been taught well not to bully anyone but also to stand up for themselves and speak to me, a teacher or an adult if they are bullied themselves.
I’ve taught my kids to stand up for what’s right, if they know a child is bullied but the teachers aren’t aware of it, then an anonymous tip off to a teacher or even to tell me and I will approach the school on the child’s behalf.
Kids may be small but we have to remember they carry everything they feel and think as baggage in to the future.