Mel Sherratt‘s latest novel – the much anticipated follow up to Taunting the Dead – is a corker. Not just a perfectly executed, entertaining read for crime fans, it covers a topic that many people will relate to, but not many have the courage to talk about.
I’d like to hope that some people never experience bullying of any kind, whether it be at school, in the workplace, online, or even from family and friends. If you’re one of those people, you’re one of the lucky ones.
So here’s a very brave and personal post; Mel’s story, told in typical Mel fashion. From the heart.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
by Mel Sherratt
I’m often known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. And sadly I’ll never have a poker-face as my emotions are written all over it. But one thing I do have is courage. Writing a book about a serial killer who is one step ahead of the police while he seeks payback for his bullies – was it my therapy because I was bullied? In a way yes because it gave me an outlet to show how bullying can affect individuals. But mostly no – it just gave me a licence to twist and say ‘what if’ a lot more than possible reality. Well, hopefully!
We all know a bully, and we all know of someone who has been bullied. Let me share with you my experience. It started several years ago when I became ill almost overnight. I was then ill for years, with major surgery once a year for three years, eight emergency admissions to hospital via an ambulance, tests, scans, more tests, scans. If I could walk at all without passing out in pain (still not sure what that was all about), I walked with a limp. I couldn’t sit at my desk for long periods, and if I did I would often get up and pass out. My life became one long haul of dragging myself through a week of full-time work without passing out, getting home and that was it. I couldn’t even walk around the supermarket to do the weekly shop. It was during these times that my writing became my sanctuary.
It turns out that a fall in my early twenties resulted in the bottom disc of my spine being crushed beyond repair, damaging lots of nerves with it. Now, degenerating with age, my spine is curving to the right and putting pressure on my hip and I have permanent nerve damage – plus it seems I had three lots of surgery that I didn’t necessarily need. Since then, I’ve learned to live with the pain. Sadly I’ve had to forgo my love of killer high heels, but it’s a small price to pay.
During this time, when I was at my lowest, one person in particular mistook my condition for weakness. I was working at senior officer level, and in a nutshell, one of the manager’s made my life hell. I would work on a project for weeks on end and then be told it wasn’t necessary, nor was it good enough. I would be ‘spoken to’ in the manager’s office for hours (I’m talking three or four hours at a time) and told over and over that I needed to buck up my ideas. I would be sent to meetings with all the wrong paperwork, or not be given the relevant information I would need to complete a report, and then be told I was incapable of doing research. I was warned in front of other staff, criticised in front of other staff and was made to look totally incompetent continually. I was tripped up on every occasion possible. Why? I think it was because a project I had worked on had been a success and I’m not sure it went down too well.
I made a complaint through my union rep, other staff did too but sadly nothing happened. During the last three months before I left, I was sat in a tiny office on my own across from this manager. Up until that point I’d always shared an office. The atmosphere was so bad that none of the other staff that I worked with would dare come in to me as the manager would appear and ask what they wanted. It was awful. They were the lowest three months of my entire working life. Being constantly told that nothing I did was good enough, nor gaining any help when I asked for it was soul-destroying. Finally, I was made redundant as part of that manager’s ‘restructure.’ Honestly, I have never been so glad to be finished in my life – I would never have given that person the satisfaction of leaving.
On my last day, I didn’t feel that I could go in. Why should I? To sit in that room again for eight hours, all alone, with no one daring to speak to me for fear of repercussions? I’m not sure how I got in that day, pride I guess – I wasn’t going to lower myself to their standards by not showing up. But what I will never forget is as everyone was saying goodbye to me, my manager took my id card and went into a room closing the door in my face until I had left the building.
Looking back on the situation, I think I must have been one hell of a strong person to stick at it for four years, plus go in to work every day of those last three months. It made me into the person I am now. Yes, I am emotional but that’s me and I won’t apologise for it. I am a strong woman, kindof an underdog if you think about it. But actually, I’d like to thank my bully for making me into a stronger person. Yes, I have my down days but ultimately I know I can always get back up again. I have a fantastic set of friends, and I work for myself – no office politics for me.
So maybe that’s why my serial killer Patrick’s story seems so raw. Two wrongs most certainly don’t make a right, and of course this is fiction, but I wanted to show how someone damaged by bullies could be affected. Yes I write about a serial killer – which is a rarity in real life, thank goodness. But also, in Patrick, as well as understanding what he was doing, I wanted readers to understand his rationale for his justification – he thinks what he is doing is right.
And maybe it will make people think just how our actions might affect another person’s life and mental state.
Thank you for sharing, Mel. That was a brave post.
Now, at the risk of sounding like a Jeremy Kyle researcher: Have you ever been bullied? Do you want to confront your tormentor? Perhaps you’ve been a bully, and you’re ashamed and want to apologise, but you’re scared. You can tell us in the comments, no need to mention any names. Get it off your chest. And if you need help, clicking here might be a good start.
Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. Since successfully publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of #1 bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to write three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series and Watching over You, a dark psychological thriller.
She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.