Oct 28, 2011

Of Being Bullied...

I grew up around some of the meanest kids ever. Of course, not all of them were mean. I knew some really nice kids too. But a lot of them were, and I was weird. Invariably, I got bullied. Bad.

It’s funny what bullying can do to your personality. What I experienced was bullying bordering on abuse. Well ‘bordering’ is a mild term. But anyway, I don’t want to dwell on what has passed.

I want to talk about the path to recovery. More importantly, my path to recovery.

It’s hard to identify when a child is being bullied. More so, when you happen to be that child. At an early age, you believe that what goes on around you, is what life is. You really don’t know that things can be another way. So when someone told me I was stupid, I believed I was stupid. When someone told me I was ugly, I believed that too. When someone else told me that everybody hates me, and no one wants to be my friend, I believed that I was not worthy of having any friends. Someone told me that God hates people like me and I will burn in hell, I really thought I was going to hell.

Why bullying happens is something I am yet to comprehend. As innocent as they are, sometimes kids can be very mean. Probably without meaning to. Perhaps, the only way they can make sense of their own messed up surroundings is by making others feel as bad as they are feeling inside.

It’s sad but it's true, of almost everybody. Even me. We feel better about ourselves when the people around us look bad. Some of us are not vocal about this, and some are very. There are probably a handful who manage to rise above this state of mind.

I remember from my own experience that as a child, it is very difficult to talk to an adult about what you’re going through. Mainly because, an adult will either belittle everything you are saying and attribute it to your imagination, or go do something that will make you even more unpopular. Face it, not every adult is a Dumbledore. Most are just Umbridges, and a few rise to the level of a McGonagall or a Flitwick.

A lot of people assume that if you are a kid growing up with parents who are able to provide for you well, with a certain level of affluence, your life is made. You are a blessed child with nothing to worry about. Well sorry to burst your bubble, but ugly situations reside in every walk of life. With the rich and the poor and the middle class. Money really has very little to do with happiness. And that is the unfortunate truth. It is also a liberating truth, should you choose to embrace it.

When I got a little older, reading a few books and stuff, I was able to comprehend what really happened with me. Not just around me, but with me. I realized that I was a changed person. That I could no longer have a group of people near me laughing without being terrified that they were laughing at me. (I always check if there’s something wrong with my dress or something stuck in my teeth). I could no longer say things with the ease that I used to, I had to say everything in my head a dozen times, inspecting and weeding out everything that could be made fun of. This ultimately led to me becoming a very quiet person, from a non-stop chatterbox.

Childhood experiences affect different people in different ways. This is how it affected me. When I first realized it I cried a lot. I wallowed in self-pity. Until I got that out of my system.

I then started a whole journey of introspection that has lasted a good 12 to 15 years. The result of this journey? I have made my peace with who I am.

It’s a very difficult situation, not accepting yourself the way you are. Fortunately, varied circumstances have allowed me to come to this conclusion. Probably my own will has contributed to it more than anything else. I remember someone asking me once, what is the one thing I want in life. My answer was instantaneous. To be at peace with myself, is what I said.

So initially, I went about blaming myself for what happened. Many people told me that I did not handle teasing well. I thought that was it. I was too sensitive and I could not handle the people around me. I played the self-blame game for a long time.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I started watching the Oprah show a lot. There were some people on the show that she would interview, who have been in similar situations as I have. As I listened to them speak, and then a shrink speak, and then Oprah herself speak, I was exposed to the whole ‘victim’ attitude. These people spoke like victims. They did not hold themselves responsible for what happened at all. Neither did anyone else. It was like watching a concept totally alien to me until then.

I tried it too. To see that I was not responsible in anyway. Yes, it eased up the pain a lot. It was relieving to see that many others had been where I was, and that I was not to blame. But in the long run, I realized it made me too bitter. When I blamed the people around me, I did not become a better person in any way whatsoever.

A lot more reading and understanding later, I came to the realization that I was not responsible for what the people around me did, but I indeed was responsible for what that did to me, within me. Yeah, sounds simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it took me a long time to get there. I’ve been a slow learner in life.

After a considerable amount of yoga, spiritual seeking and guidance, I’ve been able to come terms with my past and be completely okay with it. The way it has become now, is that I can talk about my past, without batting an eyelid, without shedding a tear. Without remorse. With anyone.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming any greatness. I’m no saint, no angel. I feel bad for things that happen today too. But I’m able to wash it away with much ease. It doesn’t stick to me easy. Nothing does. It’s a good feeling.

I guess I’ve been incredibly lucky. For the number of years I’ve felt lost, I’ve been blessed with a good support system. I’ve had a strong family, my mom and dad, feeling their love and support throughout. Even if they never did fully comprehend what I was going through, the fact that they never broke down when life handed them lemons, did not allow me to break down completely. Looking at their resilience, I learnt never to give up on myself. Sometimes setting an example can go a long way, than just listening, understanding and talking.

No matter how much I got depressed, I always made it a point to bounce back. To try again, to try harder. To look in different places, to look deeper and deeper within myself.

In a way, I sometimes look at my childhood situations as a blessing. If I had not had a difficult time, where would I have gained this rich inner life from? How would I have learned to look at life so deeply? How could I have ever learnt the meaning of being calm, still, silent?

If my life was all a bed of roses, I would have been too arrogant to look within myself, let alone look at anyone else.

Perhaps, there really is a reason for the things that happen around us! J

P.S: What I would like to point out here is that child abuse is more real and more often than you think it is. If you observe a sudden, drastic change in the behaviour or mood of a child, more often than not they are victims of some sort of abuse. It may be verbal or physical. From adults or their playmates. Any form of abuse is bad. Children really do not know how to talk about it. It is up to us adults to understand what’s happening and take them out of abusive surroundings immediately. And also to coach them on how to deal with such situations.

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  1. Thanks for being so brave & sharing your agonizing past with us!
    Yes, coercion of any kind, is extremely detrimental to the abusee! These bullies thrive on a narcissistic behavior & get their highs from this imbalance of power, making their victims suffer their inadequacies. They are just sad human beings! Some of the states here in the U.S.A, have laws against bullying, my state, Colorado included!
    I am happy that you could work through this difficult period of your childhood! You look like such a nice person!

  2. A very brave post. I can fully understand how you feel, because till now, I am not at peace with myself. But for different reasons, though. A lot of incidents affected me and still I hesitate to talk about them and it is hard to get over though it is in the past. :(

  3. This is such an honest post! :)

    I have never been bullied by fellow students at school, although I can think of certain adults who tried to make my life difficult. Thankfully, my parents and a few good friends were always around to help me deal with them and now when I look at it, it just seems like a distant dream. I agree that these are insecure sadistic people who like to make themselves feel better by making others feel small- My dad would always say, 'Never bend your knees before insolent might!'

  4. You've touched a sensitive yet very important nerve with your post. The fact that you are able to share something that has molded the way you perceive life today shows how much you have grown from being the victim to where you stand today.

    Some grown ups today are no better than children ; just for their ego to fly a few notches higher, they will resort to absolutely anything. More importantly its vital that we understand that the abuser wants us to be affected either physically or mentally, it is this very luxury that we should teach our kids not to give them.

  5. @Nazarina: Thank you for the kind comment :-) It's good to know that you have laws against bullying and steps are taken to curb it! It is something that is often overlooked and must be taken more seriously.

    @Keirthana: Thanks! Yes, getting over the past is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. And yet it's the most important, to be able to get on with life being truly happy.

    @Sruthi: Very rightly said by your dad. And, thank you!

    @Atrocious Scribblings: Glad that you were able to understand the post in the spirit that it was written. :-) Totally agree with what you said, although, these days I'm inclined to think that the abuser is also a victim in some ways...