In part two of this piece, Adrian talks further about his mental health.
Secondary school. Huge, soulless, with a weird aroma (more of that later). Amongst 150 of my peers, I waddled up to its front doors in September of 1979, wearing a blazer, carrying a satchel with enough pens pencils and rulers to fit out a stationery shop, and with a secret hope that my scraggly red locks, and lack of having grown up a Shropshire lad would help me forge friendships abound, and along with that remove the demons of junior school.
If at first I didn’t succeed I would try try again. I think it must have been my lack of a firm opinion on the cultural differences between Beano and Dandy readers, but with more kids came more bullying. I mean how dare I have ginger hair, it’s a crime punishable by death in this country, fuelled by somebody who discovered a Greek myth that all vampires were ginger, fair skinned and didn’t like the sun my course was set.
I tried loads of different approaches. I even broke my female rejection duck by asking a classmate out, she explained it couldn’t happen because she had a disease that would cause her throat to close and she would die, I think I must have been satisfied with that as I didn’t let it affect me, I was genuinely concerned.
I learnt not to claim my mum owned a sewing machine, as the ensuing headbutt wasn’t the nicest of things. Teachers weren’t exactly sympathetic. The PE team particularly enjoyed us non sporting kids taking part in a game of “red spot” where rugby balls were fired from behind huge gym matts, and well get hit get a red spot!
By year three my stomach decided I needed a break, it developed its own self defence mechanism, flatulence… I could clear the room in 30 seconds. If only that could have translated into a career, I would be atop the rich lists. You know things are amiss when your farting gets more of mention in the end of year report than your academic achievement.
Hoping above hope that the return for the 4th year would be a better one, I found myself wishing it never came. 1982 not only saw the Falklands War, but one of the worst experiences possible. In the heady summer approached by 2 older girls, they befriended me, we spent a couple of days hanging around and doing fun things, then without warning things took an odd turn. I was asked to meet them at night, at a specific point, so there I was stood, thinking I had won the lottery before it even existed, when they came toward me. Told me to close my eyes and pulled my trousers and (nylon y-fronts)down to my ankles. They had decided it would be fun to say I had exposed myself, who would believe a pubescent schoolboy over them? I spent the remainder of the summer holidays a recluse, staying in bed citing various reasons for my laziness. I was dreading the start of school, hoping it was all over and done with.
But with Mr Mercury’s dulcet tones, I was welcomed back known as flash. Thanks a lot guys, but hey I could have saved every one of us. Had it not been down to my orange pubic hair, which gained me the moniker Pedro! As the teenager kicked in I kind of became a thing, wanting to be invisible to avoid any more trouble, but not washing, greasy hair, spots and an odd way kind of drew more attention to me.
Throughout my torment, annually I would take part in the Christmas play, this was one time of the year that people didn’t pick on you. It was like a get out of jail free card. I suppose nobody wanted to explain the black eye on the main character. I fell in love with the stage, and even walked away with the drama award in my final year, but once the curtain fell… It was back to normal.
Again the body decided to kick in with an attempt to deflect the vile – it gave me humour. Well it set the seeds. At first it was more slapstick and stupid things, being the clown defused the bullies, but soon they demanded more. In a way it was demeaning. I sold my soul for cheap laughs, and through that got through year 5 – a time most of my group of associates were getting girlfriends, drunk, love bites, hand jobs! I was still the uninvited guest at parties, until I did something that made people laugh.
I haven’t really mentioned the depression word throughout this, I am of the belief that it was not so much at the forefront of my mind, instead it was social awkwardness, an inability to fit in, odd behaviour. I used to wear a Parka jacket – just like the lad in East is East. Never took it off, we were inseparable, but I was intolerable. Without knowing what or who I was I took it out on those closest to me, I didn’t have a clue. The sexual assault, physical and mental violence, and without firm friends I left school believing it was the worst experience of my life, little did I know I hadn’t tasted heartbreak just yet…