I’m Louna, a freelance blogger & influencer at Bursts Of Autumn. I’m a mental health advocate, newly appointed mentor with the diana award and expert by experience.
As I grew up I was severely bullied throughout education including primary school. I began to lose my hair bit by bit and after many hospital visits, blood tests and consultations we realised it was linked to stress from being bullied. I was subconsciously ripping my own hair out. I was diagnosed with a stress disorder called trichotilomania. It took a long time to regain my hair and in the meantime I was bullied even more for not having much hair. 7 years old and not being able to do anything right. With hair I was picked on and without I was. It was an endless cycle and carried on into secondary school. Luckily my hair grew back and I only suffered slightly with it from there on. Looking back it was a form of self harm. 7 years old and self harming? It has to stop.
Skip to secondary school. I loved education and learning and reading and just being in a classroom taking in new information ready to write about it. It was an exciting time for the high functioning Autistic that is me. But guess what? It was soon dampened by bullies and that’s where my mental health journey fully came to light and began. I was under mental health services, psychiatrists, psychologists, eating disorder specialists and nurses.
I developed severe anxiety and struggled to get to school, making up excuses to my mum as reasons to not go to school but there’s only so much you can say before it gets obvious.
I was verbally, mentally, emotionally and physically abused in school by other students, and teachers weren’t taking it very seriously and I felt I had no one to turn to. I let it carry on until it started affecting my grades. My teachers became disappointed in me for letting my grades slip. But how could I achieve if I was being bullied so badly, I was even scared of my classroom. I was anxious of people, of where I had to sit. I worried about group work but also individual work. I doubted myself in everything. How could I achieve if whilst this was happening, these very teachers weren’t listening? Again it was broken record.
Being followed home, having cans of pop and bottles thrown at me. Having apples lunged at my head and my hair ripped out. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the school to care, because let’s face it, I was one child out of over two thousand others at my school. Why would I matter?
One day after school I was chased, had grass thrown at me and my friends and whilst trying to help my friend who had been thrown to the ground and my other friends ran away, I was pushed, headlocked and my only way of getting out of near being choked was to dig my nails into the persons arm. After sprinting home crying, I was taken to the emergency doctor. I’d gotten whiplash from this attack and emotional trauma. Do you know the punishment those kids got? One day exclusion. I had two weeks off school because of this and the school refused us getting the police involved. I was terrified and my anxiety starting getting worse. I began self harming severely with anything I could find, broken rulers, sharp hair grips, my own finger nails, pencils and all else really. I felt lost, trapped and hopeless. I wanted to insert myself into walls, I wanted to jump out of windows in my classroom. I wanted to scream out loud randomly and these overwhelming feelings just made me feel sick. It was in the core of my stomach and I couldn’t rid it.. I just lost touch of reality. I began to lose my identity and it was the scariest place I’ve ever been.
Whilst my mental health services were there, I didn’t feel I was being helped as much as I could’ve but part of that was me not feeling ok with being 100% honest due to the fear of judgement and not being accepted, since my teachers often dismissed me and I just didn’t feel I could cope with any more people looking down at me. I drowned my sorrows in work, books, writing and singing. It wasn’t all bad, I still somehow enjoyed school despite all that was happening. I felt safe in my music department. I’d eat there, relax there, work there, talk to teachers there and hang out. I had bass, guitar and singing lessons and music was my main GCSE subject so it was my pride and joy and my solace. I could escape the playground, school halls and bullies in the music department. It was my safe space.
Skip to 2012, I’d just started year 11. My last and most important year of school.
The bullying was still happening, my only outlet was music and I’d become numb. I’d become used to it and learnt to just simply, cope. Then my best friend died. We were both 15 and I just broke completely. I went into a deep hole of depression, extreme anxiety and the self harm got worse. I didn't want to be here. I was then being bullied and people were spreading rumours that I had Cystic Fibrosis, which is what my friend died of. That’s when my mum knew she had to do something. We were rushed into the doctors and he got onto my mental health team and made the decision to take me out of school. Not to move schools, just take me out. If It wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. After pushing for diagnosis, I finally began understanding who I was and why I was feeling so different. I was diagnosed with high functioning ASD, mild tic disorder, reactive depression, mild OCD, mild social phobia and extreme anxiety. All of the worry, behaviours as a child, routines, funny movements with my body and nervousness made sense finally. I wasn’t going mad, that’s all I thought. I felt I was on the right track now I didn't have to be bullied every day to school, at school and on the way home from school.
When I thought bullying was over, I was then cyber bullied for a number of weeks on Ask FM. I later found out it was one of my closest friends and was devastated. She bullied me because of my grieving for my best friend who died. I confronted her via message and kindly unfriended her for a number of years. The way I dealt with it was a huge learning experience and helped me realise how we approach things is so important.
My GP was working closely with my mother and my mental health team and was fighting for me to become homeschooled. After months of waiting, having no education and just feeling hopeless and useless, I got a call. I was accepted by James brindley specialist school and they were going to begin home schooling me. Bare in mind, I’d been threatened by my school to be taken to court. I’d been told my fiends, family, teachers and many others that a school drop out will never amount to anything. I believed it. How could any college take on me. How could someone with no grades get a job. Well I’ll tell you how. I managed to pull myself up and finished all my GCSE’s at home. I then got into college and passed the course with triple D* – The highest grade to achieve. I made that happen. I put the work in and when I say I’m going to do something I do it and I do it with all of my heart. During college I was bullied emotionally but my tutors were really helpful and we found ways around it to allow me to continue the best education that I deserved. It made me stronger.
I then met someone and it became a toxic relationship. It involved abuse and bullying in every way. I was 17 and I’d never had a boyfriend. I didn’t want to be intimate or anything like that but I didn’t seem to have a choice and became used. He controlled me, threatened me with his life and quite literally put his life in my hands, telling me if I didn’t do things, he’d kill himself. He made me self harm and I also developed an eating disorder. He changed me and made me very unwell. I became further and further from myself. He turned my family against me and I couldn’t talk to them about what was really happening behind closed doors. I was the one who looked like an emotional wreck. Short and sweet but here’s the important part. When he left me I rebuilt my life. I couldn’t work in a Regular job because he turned my colleagues against me and broke down so many of my walls including all of my self belief. I even developed agoraphobia but Spoiler alert, I didn’t let him win.
I began blogging and creating content whilst seeing my mental health team. I did a princes trust enterprise course and began my journey in recovery and finding who I was meant to be.
I was picked up by a journalist a few years ago and featured in the sun newspaper on an article about social anxiety. Through that my mental health nurse showed a member of her team within Forward Thinking Birmingham. He wanted to meet me to see if I could work alongside his youth participation team. I ended up joining Think4Brum and through that group I have found recovery, my passions, my voice and a new family in them. I have now had all of these opportunities; I was on BBCwm radio and Television and am becoming who I was meant to be. I am sitting on interview panels for professionals within the industry. I am taking part in PLACE assessments in inpatient clinics. I am a member of Rethink mental illness’s comms panel responding to campaigns and giving feedback. I am a body confidence enthusiast and freelance model fighting back against body shaming and bullying. I run a successful freelance blog and am slowly building up my empire. I am a mentor with the Diana award and a speaker at Birmingham City university during lectures on the social work course. And I am finding who I am meant to be within the world.
Had I never experienced ill mental health, self harm, bullying, loss and being broken, I’d never have become the person I am today doing these amazing things to change the face of youth voice within the world. I believe in the power of youth voice and I believe together we are stronger. I want to use my experiences and help so many people who are experiencing bullying in any form whether that be in school, college, UNI, work or in life in general. One of my main aims in life is to help others. I am extremely passionate about anti-bullying!