NATHAN Clifford hears voices.

But before he started experiencing auditory hallucinations, hearing voices in his head, there were real voices, following him round, taunting, making his life a misery and causing long term effects.

The 29-year-old from Fareham was bullied from an early age, both physically and mentally.

"It was a prolonged trauma, that has rewired the way my brain works, and shaped the way I view myself today," says Nathan.

Nathan experienced his first psychotic episode when he was 19, which was when he began hearing voices.

He has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and suffers from psychosis, and works as an expert by experience for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

"I spent the majority of my childhood trying to make myself as small as possible, as if the world might leave me alone if I could just find a way to disappear," he says.


Nathan today

"It seemed to be what my bullies wanted. They shoved me on top of the lockers, put me in the bins and locked me in cupboards.

"They hid me out of sight, and ironically, that was just where I wanted to be – out of sight, unwanted, left alone.

"They never left me there for long. If I was hiding, they would look for me, and when they found me, I'd wish I was invisible."

Nathan has since stepped out of the shadows and shared the story of his horrendous bullying experiences, as well as his mental health journey, on his blog,

Shockingly, as well as receiving a great deal of positive feedback, sharing his story has also prompted cyber bullies to send anonymous abusive comments.

But that hasn't stopped Nathan from wanting to tell his story, in the hope that others can learn from it, whether they are victims or perpetrators of bullying, and that it can help stop it from happening.

"There was nowhere to go, and nobody I could turn to," he says.

"Being bullied is one of the loneliest places to be. It doesn't just destroy you; it isolates you."


Nathan at the time he was being bullied

Nathan was too ashamed to tell his parents that he was being bullied, instead, lying about what was happening to him – that he'd lost the uniform which had been stolen, that the bruises were from fights, rather than from being attacked.

He says that while his parents have found it difficult leaning what a difficult time he had at school, he is always very clear that it was not their fault that they didn't notice as he was extremely good at covering up what was happening – too good.

"It was easier to be the problem child, than to admit that my things had been stolen, that my clothes were cut into pieces, that that I had a bloody nose because I'd been beaten up."

Nathan says that his teachers didn't notice what was happening and had no friends to talk to about it.

"Even when I did manage to cultivate a friendship. I always felt guilty for it, as though I was dragging them down to my level," he says.

"If these bullies, who were popular, confident and surrounded by friends, were so sure that I was nothing and that all I was good for was being kicked, abused and hurt, how could they be wrong?

"What other possible reason could they have for doing it?

"It's a question I still struggle with, a question my voices still ask.

"I spent years trying to hide, but now I wish that I hadn't done it so well. I wish someone had found me, had seen what was happening to me, had pierced through the shroud of profound loneliness I spent my childhood living beneath."

Nathan adds that the psychological damage of what he went through was far greater than his physical injuries.

At college, once he was away from his bullies, he was able to reinvent himself but, he says, the feeling of being an imposter never really faded.

"I always felt like a fraud, and that at any minute, they'd realise who I really was and what I really deserved," he says.

"I remember making plans to go to the cinema with a group of friends and arriving early, before anyone else had got there. In that moment, I was certain that they had set me up, that it was all just a big joke they were playing, pretending to be my friends, and that they weren't coming.

"I thought they were somewhere else, laughing at my stupidity as I stood in the cold, waiting for them.

"I was wrong, of course. They came, completely oblivious to the torture I'd been through while I waited. It was like that for a long time; I never felt like I fitted in.

"For years, I believed what my tormentors drummed into me: that I was worthless. That no one would ever see any value in my existence. That I could never be good enough."


Today, one of Nathan's hobbies is being a basketball referee

Nathan now suffers from auditory hallucinations, some of which echo the messages of his teenage bullies.

"Every day I have to ignore the voices that repeat them, that try to get me to buy into their sickening message," he says.

"It's a terrible legacy to leave a child with.

"I don't know, and I'll probably never understand, why I was bullied. I used to believe that there was something inherently worthless in me, that the bullies could somehow see, and that that's why they chose me.

"It's only now, years later, that I can say definitely 'no'.

"I am not inherently worthless. I am worthy of respect. I have value as an individual.

"The bullies tried to make me believe the opposite and my voices have kept up the campaign of hatred, telling me that I'm not good enough, that the world would be better off without me, and that ending my life would be a service to everyone around me.

"I have to ignore their hateful whispers every day.

"I'm choosing self-respect.

"If I could give my childhood self one message, it would be 'don't believe in the person they want to convince you you are."

Nathan encourages anyone who thinks someone might be being bullied to talk to them about it and listen, without rushing in with a solution.

"I hope no one ever has to go through what I went through," he adds.

"I hope we can all start looking a little harder for the people who hide."