When I was eleven, I was bullied. At primary school, I was never what you might call popular, but this was something different. Many people have a way of rating bullying, permanent scarring is worse than ‘normal’ physical abuse, physical abuse is worse than psychological abuse, etc. I don’t believe in that crap, bullying is an awful thing to go through. It’s degrading, humiliating and you have no one to talk to. At least it was for me.

I find myself, at the age of eleven, being sprayed in the face with a can of deodorant, and wondering if I should tell my parents. It is the bullied kid’s dilemma. Do you rely on your authority figures, because they seem to be able to fix everything else? On the plus side, you have confided in someone and you have some sympathy. On the minus side, they’ll tell the school. When that happens, the school will do something about it, usually to the bullies themselves. And when the school does something about it, the bullies do something about it too, and the cycle continues. It didn’t help that the school didn’t give a shit, the guy whose actions could very easily have cost me my eye-sight was given the punishment of missing the school day trip to Calais. He sat outside the headmaster’s office all day. I realised then that no one gave a shit. I couldn’t tell my parents, because they would tell the school. The school would punish those responsible, but not in a way that would make them stop doing it. They were punished in a way that annoyed them, and then they took it out on me again.

When human beings are in trouble, we cry. It’s our natural reaction, it is, quite literally, a cry for help. Babies do it, young kids cry crocodile tears, looking for something from someone. But in order to be able to cry, psychologically speaking, you need to be aware that there will be someone there who will be able to make it better.

At the age of 11, I stopped crying. There may have been people there, but they couldn’t make it better, they could only make it worse. So I just got on with it. In emotional situations, when other people would cry, they would see me not crying, and pour their emotions out onto me, because they thought I was the strong one. In reality, I could feel all of their emotions, plus an extra one: Jealousy. Why? They were able to let their emotions out, they could CRY. I couldn’t. I lost the ability to cry when I was eleven, it was taken from me.

My best friend came back after a year away, I wanted to cry tears of happiness. Nothing happened. My brother got married, I wanted to cry tears of happiness, just like the rest of my family, but nothing happened. At the end of my gap year, everyone cried because many of them would never see each other again. I knew I would never see many of them again, I was upset and I wanted to cry. Nothing happened.

Two years ago, when my grandmother died, with my family all around me, I cried for the first time in seven years. Floods and floods of tears. I wasn’t really that close to her, but I had watched her as the pain became greater, and she was given more and more drugs, until they could give her no more, and she had to be sedated so that she didn’t feel the pain. I didn’t see her die. But I saw my father saying memorial prayers for her over her body. Eshet chayil meimtza. A woman of valour, who can find her? I cried then. I had cried unhappy tears, I had cried crocodile tears, but that night, and every night since, I was hit by the fact that I have never been able to cry tears of happiness.

My girlfriend and I have been together for about 8 months now. Sometimes she cries when we are together, out of happiness or out of sorrow because we live at opposite ends of the country and one or other of us is about to leave. I love her so much, but I feel an intense jealousy that she is able to do that. March 23, 2004 will for ever be a landmark day for me. Curled up in her arms, watching a movie, but not really watching the screen, more watching her. For the first time, the ultimate realisation that she can always make it better, no matter what the problem is. The greatest day of my life. At long last.

Tears of happiness.