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Painful memories of my schooldays


Sweet Dreams books

When I look back over my school days, it is hardly a history of good times. It was more a place of torture, with great physical and mental pain.

I remember being hit at with a hockey stick. This hurt almost as much as being told to stick it when I tried to enter and join in close, tight-knit groups.

I was forced to stoop, in all sorts of ways. All my efforts came to nothing, even when I gave the girls money to buy lollies, and lent them my Sweet Dreams teenage romance novels (pictured), which I never got back.

How I wish my days at high school, particularly those spent in my last co-ed school, had been just like in the Sweet Dreams books, where – in my imagination – I was liked and accepted by everyone, and even made the other girls jealous with my gorgeous boyfriend.

When I think of school, all the bad memories come flooding back. There were times where I hated school so much that I would avoid going altogether, or pretend to be unwell and hide away in the sick bay.

During my schooldays, I was kept at bay. At one school, I felt as miserably grey and blue as my uniforms. I was often picked on for my poor form, especially when playing sport. One girl said I ran like a pansy. Other girls would call me retarded. It was no wonder  that I would often run late to class. I became used to girls moving their desks away when I tried to come close to them. In many ways, I had to learn to entertain myself.

I would often go to the library, where I would avidly read books and magazines. This was my escape while I was eating the last scraps of my lunch alone in secret. In many ways, I felt like I was leading a secret life just like many people do today, on the internet pretending to be someone they are not.

I hid behind my books. I imagined myself as a beautiful romantic heroine, or stunning model on the front cover of a magazine. As I kept fantasising, I felt I had the whole world, or at least the most popular boy, like putty in my hands.

I think about the cyber bulling today. Many people get lost on the internet. It is a world that fosters deceit, with many people posting false profiles.

At least I could see through the two faced girls at school, and I had the sympathy of the school counsellor, favourite teachers, and the nice girls who would stick up for me. Now there are dreadful cases of cyber abuse victims who have no one to turn to and throw themselves in front of trains or buildings.  

With the escape of books and writing, I gradually felt I was coming out of the woods, with an increasingly bright torch. I no longer felt scorched as I began to rise above my enemies, with my good marks and powerful writing, particularly in my final years at high school. Later on, with my public diagnosis of schizophrenia at the age of 27, I was on the receiving end of good turns by others, including those who had been my persecutors at school but now showed understanding and empathy.

I worry about the victims of cyber bulling, who must feel trapped in their feeling of total worthlessness. Just like trash left in the trash can. At least at school I could leave all the pain behind by going home. Often cyber bullies can harass their victims, wherever they are, even within the four walls of their own home, where I was able to feel safe and happy.

Now I believe I have moved beyond the pain of my schooldays and have come out winning. I really sense I have turned a corner, as noses are no longer turned up at me and I sometimes feel as beautiful as a rose. A far cry from being called fat and ugly, and having to put up with being given horrible names.

Finally I feel respected as a person and feel the pain of the silent sufferers of cyber abuse who are far away from the peace I now enjoy.

Isabella FelsIsabella Fels is a Melbourne poet and writer. She has been published in various publications including Positive Words, Mental Illness Voice, The Big Issue and The Record.

Topic tags: Isabella Fels, adolescence, education, autobiography, cyberbullying, bullying, mental illness



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Existing comments

Isabella, you are a talented poet and writer and this article is top notch, congratulations! I was the small, skinny one sitting at the end in the front row of school photographs. I aspired to be part of the netball team, a dream never realised. I was passably good at tennis though and enjoyed my rare triumphs in that sphere. Bullying is now incorporated into the internet and I agree it is too easy to be someone you are not on the net. It certainly is better to be real in cyber space.

Pam | 26 May 2015  

Isabella be very proud of all your great work you have come a long way since the pain of school days your a very talented writer! Great Work Well Done

Helen Kilias | 26 May 2015  

Yesterday on the radio an interview with a school principal outlined how he changed his approach to running his school when he had to deal with a very bad student, his own son. If only current principals and teachers could serve the needs of the many diverse students in their care, cognisant of their backgrounds, difficulties and special needs , and set up programs and strategies and employ adequate ,enlightened staff for them as if they were their own children. If that had been in place in your case Isabella maybe you would not have suffered so. I enjoy your honest writing. Thanks for sharing with us.

Celia | 27 May 2015  

To paraphrase, universalise, and update an ancient sage; "When a personality meets a situation, there can be harmony, conflict, or compromise. In your case, Isabella, you wisely withdrew from the social skirmish to develop your literary skills. Well done. What Socrates actually said was; "By all means marry. If you find a good partner, you will be happy. If you find a bad one, you will need to become a philosopher, which is a commendable outcome."

Robert Liddy | 27 May 2015  

Thank you for sharing what i assume are painful reflections, Isabella. It is up to each one of us to build a culture that respects and values each person, by our own behaviour and, when appropriate, by our words. Your story holds a mirrow to this society, of which we are all part, and it challenges and inspires.

Denis Fitzgerald | 27 May 2015  

Nice article. Small point: what you suffered was bullying by bullies, not bulling which would involve the actions of the male of the bovine species... !

Stephen | 29 May 2015  

Great article as always, Isabella. Experiences with which we can all, in part, identify. Bravo for coming out the other end, and becoming the fab person and writer that you are! :)

megan waters | 29 May 2015  

Isabella you convey the trauma of your early years with great skill and polish. Many of the worlds great writers developed under similar circumstances. So all was not in vain. Please keep up your contributions to the public sphere - you need to be heard! As a parent of a daughter who had similar experiences your eloquent voice is greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work!

Rosalie | 26 June 2015  

Isabella, I have so many wonderful memories if you at school, and I was proud to be your friend. The bullying you experienced there was horrendous. I hope I stood up for you enough, but those girls often terrified me as well. I thought the world of you then, and in light of your struggles with your illness, think the world of you now. You will always be remarkable in my eyes. I hope you remember me, I will never forget you. Katrina

Katrina | 11 May 2016  

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