Mental Heath: Bullying

This was originally suppose to be an article of psychological trauma, but I realized my experience just doesn’t support that topic well. Instead, let’s talk about something more common and something I have experience with. Bullying.

Not me bullying someone – though it’s entirely possible that might have happened somewhere along the line – but rather, getting bullied, and why bully victims often develop psychological problems in life.

First, there’s the verbal bullying. I had a teacher in Secondary school whose tongue was sharper than a sword. She could verbally cut you down with such ferocity and eloquence that you’d be a sobbing mess by the end. I’m probably overplaying her skills by sheer nostalgia, but that was how it felt to me.

With the hindsight of age, I know that she was just trying to get through to my thick teenage head what a proud asshole I was. And it worked like a charm. I lost a lot of that pride. In fact, I lost so much of it, I have low self esteem now. Hah! But none of that is her fault though. If I was teaching a problem child, I might have done the same.

But the effects, while unintended, worked very much like the emotional scars caused by verbal bullying. I guess, in a way, it was. Unintended, but still. It became such a norm for my teacher to scold me that it sort of became a common theme in the school. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m very grateful for that teacher. But I always felt the verbal jabs got a little too out of hand.

People knew me as the kid who got scolded often, and many found it within reasons to make fun of me through it. And most weren’t jokes, but mean spirited insults to raise their own standings.

I was fine with it at the time, but it is only now looking back on it, that I realized how broken a mentality I had. I carry the same mentality to this day, and it’s not something that’s easily changed, since it’s so ingrain to my personality.

Of course, the mentality I’m talking of is the ability to accept insults. Not ignore them or take them with a grain of salt, but to completely accept them.

It’s not, “Hey, it’s fine!” kind of acceptance.

More along the line of, “Yeah, I know I’m fat and stupid. So?”

It’s an acceptance that I am fat and stupid. Now, I continue to be fat because I keep being told it, and my self esteem is low because I believe it. Logically, I know those things aren’t true, but emotionally and psychologically, there’s a disconnect that I can’t fully get over. Sometimes, I’d start an exercise program to get fit, but instead of getting encouragement, I’m always reminded of how fat I still am by the people around me, so I just lose hope and give up. Rinse and repeat.

Kids are very impressionable, and I was no different. Imagine being told you are fat, lazy, and stupid, over and over again throughout your childhood. Most people would have some balance in their lives, people like parents or friends who praise them. I didn’t have those praises, so the only descriptors of myself I heard growing up were insults. At some point, you have to make or break your way of thinking to fit that kind of life. I’m still not sure what I did.

Then, there’s the physical bullying. Oh? You thought it was over? Hah! No. That’s just the ending. During primary school, I was the target of a school-wide bullying. I had the actual nickname of ‘Public Enemy Number 1’. People actually called me that. As in, that was something people said, out loud, with their voices. Getting beaten was a weekly thing, too.

There was this one time when a group of about 7-10 seniors ganged up on me. They tied me up to a netball post, one with wheels but a 20kg weight. So I could move slowly, turn, and kick, but my hands and body were otherwise restrained. They took turns taunting and beating me. It wasn’t until I landed a good clean kick to one of their face that they backed off. Took me half an hour to untie myself.

Do you know what’s the worst part of it all? Aside from everything? It was when I saw two separate adults walking by in the distance. To them, it’s entirely possible that we were just ‘kids being kids’. That’s a terrible phrase that I realized most adults have now that I’m part of that age group, because to me at the time, I felt abandoned. Oh, by the way, I was ten. It’s a saying on par with ‘there are kids in third world countries…’. How are we ever supposed to relate?

We had a family gathering last year, and while everyone (20+ adults) were swooning over the youngest of my niece, her elder sister, about 9 years old, sat to the side. The elder sister tried starting conversations but was always interrupted by her younger sister. Eventually, one of the adults let slip that the elder was just being a kid, seeking attention. The look on her face was crushing for me. I picked her out from the room, seeing a little of my younger self in that moment. I’d like to think I cheered her up a little.

The painful part about physical bullying is not the punches or the kicks. Those you can get over. It’s the feeling of abandonment you get by watching people walk by your situation day-in and day-out that hurts the most.

Physical pain is nothing. In fact, my pain tolerance now is ridiculously high. I once got punched in the face by the largest, most muscular student in secondary school. It hurt, sure, but it didn’t hurt. I felt so little pain from the punch that I had my first public psychotic break as I realized how damaged I was. I laughed at his punch. He continued to punch me. I continued to laugh. I think he must have punched my face more than half a dozen times and I kept laughing. The entire class didn’t interact with me for a whole week after that.

Some far right parents like to say that beatings builds character. But so does having an education, playing video games, reading books, and doing charity work. I don’t understand why beatings must be the main source of building character.

On the bright side, because of my run-ins with bullies, I can really take a hit. And with my recent years of training, I can dish them out pretty well as well. Not to mention suicide has been great at cutting away most of that fear of death. So, the character trait that I had built up from the beatings from bullies is that I will offer to beat up anyone who says beatings builds character, and ask them what ‘character’ they think they’ve built once I’m done. I think that’s a scientific way to test the theory.

Beatings builds characters. Don’t make me laugh.

I can’t imagine how kids of today handle though, with the new and fancier ‘cyber-bullying’ going on. If that had happened as well in my time, I might have flipped and off myself way earlier.


1 Comment

  1. I was bullied in school a lot – it took a lot out of me. I lacked confidence. In fact, one of the clearest memories I had was when I was quite young. I’m not sure how old I was – maybe 6 or 7 since I had only been in school for a few years (kids start at 5 in the UK). I was on a camping trip with the Rainbow/Brownie Guides (like UK version of scouts but for girls). I had been chirpy and happy to go up to anyone and talk to them. So I went up to a group of 3 girls and asked if I could play and they said ‘Uh we don’t play with girls with glasses’. Bewildered, I stared at one of the girls who happened to wear glasses and I said ‘Oh but you have glasses’. To which the older one went ‘yeah uh we don’t play with girls with freckles and green glasses’. After that I became very reserved and shy, afraid of being rejected.

    My response to bullying was to ignore it. I was the kid who sat in the library reading. It was only when I started college (the equivalent to senior year in the USA – you go between 16-18) and then went into work that I got any confidence back. I started to stick up for myself and assert myself (not from bulling – there wasn’t any at this stage) but in doing so I realised how much I had lost just from 3 little girls who shunned me.

    You are right – some of the worst of it is having others let it happen. I was bullied in class and sometimes the teachers saw it but pretended they couldn’t. Then I had some classes where the teacher wouldn’t stand for it. In those classes I thrived and felt like a human being, in the others, I switched off and just tried to stay out of trouble.

    Unlike you I didn’t get physical beatings. People tried to trip me up, or when we were walking in crowded hallways nudge me over into the opposite line of ‘traffic’ but that was about it. I cannot imagine having to withstand what you went through.

    You are right, yes bullying and physical beatings can be character building but the character they make is rarely good and many other things can build character and build it positively.


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