Who else hated P.E (physical education) when they had to participate in it at school?
I can’t recall P.E being a problem when I was a very small child. P.E was moving and running and jumping about. What joy. (Well, not entirely) Then I remember in year 6 boys and girls were split into their respective genders and put into separate classrooms to change into the P.E kit. Because we were ‘growing up’. That was a time us girls started to feel we needed to ask our mums to buy us vests to wear year-round. Because we were growing, well, outwards rather than up.
What changed in secondary school?
I did not like the intimacy of changing into my kit in a changing room full of girls. I was the last to wear a bra, and I knew it would be totally mortifying if I were to flash my boobs at my classmates.
As you can probably guess, not wearing a bra meant running was awkward. I could not do a long jump or trampoline without a bra on. Especially if the boys were also having their class in the field next to ours. Having boys laugh and point at your unleashed boobs is something that still haunts my nightmares today. I hated the kit that we had to wear. As soon as I could, I swapped the shorts for trousers. Trousers with pockets, so I could sneak in sweets. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do a deal more with the thin t-shirt. I disliked having my arms out even then.
So there was an awareness of my body (and the bodies of others) which puberty made me loathe and I then hated the performative nature of P.E. I didn’t want to do netball, with the competitive girls who used their elbows to knock you flying. I didn’t want to do rounders, because of the aforementioned running part of it. I didn’t want to get into pairs and do sit ups, because I didn’t have anyone who wanted to pair up with me.
I decided eventually to not participate. It became a problem. When depression came in and fucked with my head, I lost control at times and I didn’t feel I had control, so I would kick off. I thought school was pointless. P.E was a lesson I would try my hardest to skip. Because once my classmates realised I was someone who kicked off and would disrupt lessons, there was always a – I don’t know. They knew there was a good chance I would refuse to do something that the teacher had asked. They thought it was hilarious. I’m not someone who likes attention. It was embarrassing. But how else was I supposed to tell the teacher I was, to put it mildly, pissed off? We clashed because I was a problem and my behavior was not conforming to their rules. Rules which my depression and I had had enough of. It wasn’t the teacher’s fault, but they made my life so difficult. I was self-harming at that time and if I was mad at them and how they had treated me, I would go home and self-harm and punish myself for not being ‘normal.’
Thankfully, I was allowed to quit P.E when they realised, I was not going to bow to pressure. I was put on a reduced timetable, which had a few lessons on it and I would come into school for those. And I spent the rest of my time in my bedroom, trying to pretend I didn’t exist. Because my mum didn’t want me at home, doing absolutely nothing in her eyes. It wasn’t the best solution for me, brilliant for the school, but not for me. I was bored. I needed help.
I think about it now and I was heading for trouble, anything to numb feeling.
And this is why I now live a mainly sedentary lifestyle.