Today’s anonymous story….
My story is about school and exclusion – but self induced exclusion rather than state enforced. From my 1st year at senior school until I left at 16 I did not have a full week at school. Sometimes I was away from school for weeks on end. No one really noticed and even fewer really cared. I wasn’t your typical truant, not necessarily a visibly aggressive, badly behaved or troubling child, in fact clever and in the top set – so my absences were not pathologised. I pretended to be my mother and often rang the school and had conversations with teachers about ‘lucy’. No one suspected.
I excluded myself form school, from life – because it felt unimportant – my daily life was about survival, about avoiding being hit again , avoiding the emotional and sexual abuse that had come to be familiar to me. I felt ‘too old’ for school. How the earth strata was organised, or French verbs seemed so trivial to me. My fear…consumed me, and need to hide consumed me- I was alone in my head. if I became invisible at school maybe id feel less visible at home. I’m not really sure what my thinking was , I just know school was too hard. Too disappointing – I so desperately wanted help – but no one looked and no one listened.
I’d acted completely ‘out of character’ and hit a girl, I slapped her – to my eternal shame – I was sent to the head of year who told me this ‘wasn’t me’ , and ‘what was wrong with me ?’ . I was asked if there was ‘trouble at home’ , I said yes – I even said , I remember saying the words ‘ my stepdad will kill me’. I wasn’t being dramatic – I believed it with every fibre of my being. he almost did, … on several occasions. But nothing happened , no knight in shining armour, no help, no further questions, no support – no safety. So I gave up, what was the point in asking for help again.
My mother who was meant to protect me didn’t /couldn’t- school, who I think I knew should have, didn’t- police came and went – saying ‘its a domestic’ , neighbours for the most part ignored it , turned a blind eye, or rang the police – who then turned a blind eye – It was the 70’s and early 80s – Tracey Chapman’s song ( behind the wall ) was the truth of domestic abuse in those days. I stayed home to hide bruises initially, to hide the mark around my neck, the fat lips the black eyes- but then it just became a habit. I felt free. I felt safe – in the house on my own it was the only time in that house that I was safe, when I wasn’t walking on eggshells, waiting…. . School seemed pointless, far away. When I took an overdose nothing changed. I was biding my time.
I left at 16, the only qualifications I had were in the subjects the teachers told me I’d wasted my time and I would never achieve anything – I wanted to prove them wrong so I got an A’s in those. The rest, I didn’t sit or failed. I had a baby – that’s what kids who don’t go to school do – that’s what girls desperate to leave home and find love do. That’s what I did. It saved me; my son saved me.
Now for him, for my next son and my daughter – for them I wanted better and I got it – eventually I made it. Now a professional, an academic almost finished my PhD. Ill never feel quite good enough because of all the school I missed. I have imposter syndrome. Every day .
But I’m safe, my kids were safe and loved every day, in a healthy way – and they went to school.
This is an anonymous entry that has been validated by Lisa Cherry.