In support of National Stand Up To Bullying Day, Swaggarlicious CEO Manisha Tailor has chosen to share her personal story and experience of how the impact of bullying can have on not only the victim, but on the immediate family and how much it can change your life. Manisha now uses the power of football to run a Mental Health and football project in partnership with Wingate and Finchley FC.
"Imagine going back in time to July 17th 1980 and spending 9 incredible months with the one who makes you whole and complete – my twin brother. Blaming the fact that I was born in a bridge position and due to the lack of supplies, that my brother took, I was always doomed to remain tiny and only hit 4’9 as an adult, before I even entered our beautiful world, 2 minutes later than he did! This though was the beginning of a bond, closeness beyond imagination.
"Imagine growing up and not having to worry about feeling sad, lonely or stressed as you knew you had a protector, someone who would move mountains for you without giving it a second thought. A life that meant you didn’t develop independence in thought or action and your behaviours followed that of your twin. Imagine this wonderful feeling of care and love, yet so oblivious to knowing what was to come and the impact it was going to have on your life forever.
"Imagine sharing the love and passion for something so powerful with someone that is part of you, something that has the power to change and transform lives – the love for football. The beautiful game had become our lives and little did I know that IT would become instrumental in how I was going to cope with what was to come.
"Imagine just turning 18, standing in universal studios in America, and your twin begins to tell you that he is seeing things, hallucinating and has no idea what is happening to him. My mind in utter confusion and just wanting to return home to London safely. On returning he explains that he can no longer live at home, that he feels he must move away from me and the family. From ME? My heart had sunk.
"Imagine being told that you can no longer go out, unless it was to go to university, because of fear. It was what HE feared would happen. With lack of support in dealing with the situation, it deteriorated. Now he had lost awareness of who he was, of his surroundings, family and ME. He didn’t recognise me. His twin sister. How can he not know who I am? How? Suicide attempts, temper, going missing and being kidnapped, I thought had seen it all. Trying to work part-time, complete my teaching degree at university and take care of my sister who was only 5 years old at the time, along with my mum and dad, and understand what was going on – what would you do as an 18 year old?
"Imagine the day you get told that you are no longer allowed to care for your family member at home. I remember it so vividly, it was in November 2000. The day that your twin is sectioned under mental health, diagnosed with schizophrenia. The day that I felt that somebody had ripped out my insides – quite literally. I felt sick to the bone. All these years I had someone to protect and guide me, now I was lost. This was the day I lost my smile. This was the day that I fell out of love with football.
"Imagine now being in a position of a young carer, a position of responsibility. How did I cope? I didn’t talk to ANYONE. I found a way of channelling my anger and frustration into my studies and completed my BA Education (QTS) that summer. Celebrating our 21st birthday in the psychiatric unit, you face your brother to say happy birthday, but he has no awareness of who you are? How do you cope? I stopped celebrating my birthday.
"Imagine through the years finding out what had triggered his mental illness and actually finding out that his fear of not allowing you to go out, was the fear that his bullies had put upon him. The fear that I would be raped if seen alone. The fear that something would happen to me if he didn’t do as they had asked. Missing for 3 days? Actually being kidnapped by his bullies and not being able to do anything about it. How do you cope? I didn’t talk to ANYONE.
"I carried much blame and felt angry with myself. I questioned - what if I was a boy? Even to this day I carry much guilt for what has happened. Again, I channelled my energy into work and qualified as a headteacher at the age of only 31 and also completed a Master’s Degree in Leadership as well as signing up to do a PhD, which I have not been able to start due to another turn in my life….
"Imagine being so badly racially bullied that to this day, aged 35, although you are now living at home with your family, you require 1:1 care and cannot comprehend information or converse in the way that you use to. BUT you somehow recognise something that you once shared with your twin sister – the beautiful game. In 2011 I had decided to take time out from my role as a deputy headteacher as that same year my younger sister started university (moved away from home) and my mum had a triple heart-bypass. Yes, the super powers that I thought I had sadly were not enough! Instead I coached football on a part-time basis. Everyday my brother would see me in kit and would spend time staring at my equipment, until one day he said…”Manisha…football”.
"My eyes filled up with water and I froze, trying to also make sense of what he had just said. The penny dropped. I knew there was something special here and that was the connection between me, my brother and football. From that moment I had made the decision to pursue a career in football to trigger my twin’s recovery. I had found my love for football as I could see my brother through it. It was an amazing feeling.
"Imagine being me. Becoming a carer, along with your family, at the age of 18. Feeling lost and confused and still question WHY it had to happen. Lose friends and not have anyone to confide in due to a lack of understanding around mental illness and therefore just keep your feelings locked as you have become so use to the ignorance, pointing fingers and laughter.
"Imagine being me.
"Knowing that you live your life with integrity and values the decisions that you have made and continue to make, are based on moral purpose. Beginning your journey with wanting to help your brother, but now truly understanding your calling. To help others so that no-one has to ever feel the pain or be in the position that you are. Football really has the power to change lives.
"Stand Up to Bullying."
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