It can get quite dark.
*The following post contains a discussion on sensitive themes. Reading is recommended for mature/adult audiences.
Let me tell you a story:
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
No, not that story.
Let me tell you a story, now as a 31-year-old man looking back, of an outgoing young man whose life was categorically altered by an encounter with the evil that is childhood bullying.
Growing up in a small country town was fantastic, it seemed like everyone knew each other and everyone got on (for the most part). Schooling was enjoyable, playing with friends and achieving well. The best years for me were Years 7 and 8 (12 and 13 years of age respectively), where I was in an experimental all-boys class with my favourite teacher, Mr Greaves. Sadly the trial only lasted those two years, but those involved knew it was a great success even if others didn’t see it that way. I look back with great fondness on those times we had together as a group (especially Friday afternoon soccer – if we had been good enough!).
By 2003, everything in our lives was increasingly becoming located in the bigger, regional centre some 30km away and our family decided it was best to relocate there after the first 14 years of my life. With that came a new school, a much bigger school – with a tremendous view of the ocean mind you – but life was fair from smooth sailing.
I knew some of the students from junior sport (cricket was an obsession as a child), but largely I knew no one, so I had to start from scratch. For the most part, I had not been exposed to the potential viciousness (and persistence) of kids my age, as the previous school I had come from seemed more like a big, extended family than just a learning institution.
I was bullied both in and out of the classroom, by different groups of people, and they differed in their styles. The verbal abuse I’d receive in the classroom (and sometimes in between classes or at breaks) from these particular students was particular harrowing due to how inescapable it was. I mean, school bullying is pretty inescapable, generally speaking, but more so when stuck in class. I was repeatedly ridiculed and accused of being gay, sometimes for trivial things such as my lightly coloured leg hair as it appeared I waxed my legs (the irony being I’m a bit of a gorilla now). Also, being a bit of a sizeable chap, the mocking of my fatness was never too far away. My academic prowess lent the bullying towards “teacher’s pet” humiliation, except this was usually teamed together with endless insisting of my “gayness” in that I was sucking the teacher off and how much I must enjoy his cum going down my throat.
And then the siren would go for recess or lunch and you’d think yay, some respite, but no, it wasn’t to be.
Another group who’d I hang out with had some bad apples in there, but we played basketball (mostly) and no one else really did so if I wanted to I had to stick around. Being the good natured person that I am, I would go and get the ball from the sports office, but I also did this to try and win some friends – or at least have the bad ones not bother me. The problem was mainly that when the bad apples wanted to bully me, the others either didn’t stop them or they joined in. I had my property damaged e.g. bag, folders, lunchbox etc. I was involved in a few physical altercations, pushing and shoving, that sort of thing. I sometimes would have my bag stolen, particular when I would go and get the ball. One time in particular they lobbed my bag on top of the ring so I couldn’t get it. Another time they all bailed on me, so when I came out no one was there, and I’d just ball by myself. I had one of them expose himself to me and then try and tell me how much I enjoyed it – this also tapping into the gay teasing though I never was gay.
I struggled to piece together why this was happening to me and why I seemingly wasn’t fitting in. I thought I was a good person trying to do good, but, as I now realise, this does not make me immune to evil. Some days I would meander to other groups and kind of wander around like a lone wolf, but I knew I could not escape it forever. I tried to show that it wasn’t bothering me in an attempt to make them stop, thinking that if I lost control and reacted that they’d have realised they got under my skin and won. Sometimes, I did wonder what would have happened if I attacked them, but even at that age I was quite Buddhist and Stoic and it didn’t seem like the intelligent response.
The result of this bullying being a number of things:
I buried myself in my studies, where I knew I was good and would achieve success to mask how terrible I felt about myself and my life. My introversion really took over as I sought solace in solitary activities. I developed a somewhat prickly demeanour, at times, rivalling that of the “Terminator” when I put my sunglasses on, as my default analysis of people had turned into potential threats rather than positive opportunities.
The relentless gay mocking had greatly affected my relationship with my father. I was reluctant to show any man affection for fear of the bullies claiming this as evidence of truth to their assertions – even if the bullies weren’t even there.
And this is where my continual battle with depression originated. It greatly affected my confidence, my social interactions with others, my lack of trust in people, any success in friendships or relationships, amongst other things. I didn’t think people wanted to be around me (or at least beyond their need of me) nor were they going to be nice/friendly towards me or be on my side/show support. It was a real double-edged sword, making it difficult to open up to people when you found it hard to trust only to have the majority of people not understand or worse, avoid and distance themselves from you.
Years 9 and 10 were particularly brutal for me and their effects have been long-lasting, though I have processed it to the point where I feel ok to talk about it. Two of them, years later, apologised for the roles they played in bullying me during high school. I didn’t expect either of them to say sorry, let alone genuinely and to my face. Their apologies went a long way in helping to heal wounds that were still deep and open.
After school finished, I continued to bury myself in study and given my affinity for numbers and not wanting to leave my one and only place of love and support, I studied accounting and finance locally and got a job as an accountant. However, the black clouds worsened to the point where I had hardly any energy, I was questioning my life and direction and I dreaded going to work every day. This was the first time I encountered suicidal ideation. I was so low and felt there was no way up and out. It felt like someone had harpooned my sternum and was constantly giving me resistance or pulling me down. My manager at work, who made the “9-5 life” bearable for me there, got a transfer and within six months I called it a day, much to the surprise of the company.
Within a year, however, I was back at accounting working in a great company where I got on with everyone…except the person who I reported to. She saw me as a threat to her position and made my life very difficult. One time, I came back to my desk to find her snooping on my computer. She later apologised, but this was another example of why I found it difficult to trust people as well as wondering what I had done to deserve such treatment. I lasted about 8 or 9 months before history repeated itself. Funny thing being, she left a month after I did.
Thankfully, I have not thought about taking my life for some time now, though there were several times especially in my late teens to mid-twenties where I genuinely thought it was an option. When you’re thinking of killing yourself, the world reveals itself differently to you. One person goes “oh, it’s beautiful up here at this lookout”, and I’m thinking, “yep that tree would take my weight if I threw a rope around it.” Lamp posts suddenly have other functions and the front end of a truck looks more a relief than something frightening. Joy gets sucked out of any activity, especially those which you at one point loved, to the extent where you don’t know why you even bother to do anything, let alone try and have fun. You don’t feel yourself deserving of love – after all, who could love “this”?
Gratefully, I did have somebody who could love “this”, well, somebodies. My family mean the world to me and offer the unconditional love and support that a son and brother would want to have. Their ongoing support has been crucial to me working through the terrible events of my childhood and the later events and effects. I’ve always been close to my family, mum especially, but it was the fact that I would be leaving ALL of them behind, distraught, if I committed suicide which was the main reason I could never go through with it no matter how I felt about or in myself.
My natural inclinations into the reasons behind human behaviour led me to study psychology. In part, I undertook this to understand and help myself for what I had gone through, truly embodying Carl Jung’s idea of the “Wounded Healer”, as I’ve always wanted to help others. It was also a lot of the philosophical and psychological material I was consuming outside of my studies that was of great help to my state of mind. I continue to put a lot of effort into developing my character and sharpening my intellect to better serve the people of this planet. You’d be surprised what people can achieve with just a little encouragement and support.
As I approach nearly a year of writing on my own website, I’m still in the pursuit of understanding myself, the world and my place in it. I am at the best point, mentally, in my life, illustrating that life can get better. The more I tool myself up the better, I feel, I will be at confronting the chaos and challenges in a courageous manner. I may be a deeply complex person, but I am still a person. I love my family and they love me, but I have so much love to give and I would love to have it reciprocated with other people too. I have endured and survived the torment of others and my own mind…and I will continue to do so because life is worth living…the light will shine out of the darkness.
I understand the material in this post may elicit some thoughts in people and if you feel the need to talk to someone please utilise the assistance listed below (or your country’s corresponding mental health services).
1300 22 4636
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