I hope this narrative will be useful to some few souls who are going through what I went through, to let them know they aren't alone and that it is possible to get through it. This is kinda long, so bear with me ^_^ .
I believe my school experience had a lot to do with making me the person I am today. Only after reading about what other people have been through and how it affected them did it occur to me to think about how being bullied at school shaped my life. I've been learning a lot about myself recently. I learned that I have a couple of neurological conditions, namely Asperger's Syndrome (a condition in some manner related to autism) and Prosopagnosia (more commonly known as face blindness, it involves great difficulty in recognising others by face). I think that, in classic 'nature and nurture' terms, those conditions formed my basic nature in such a way as to lead to the ostracism I experienced throughout my school years, which would be the nurture part of the equation, though 'nurturing' is not an adjective I would be inclined to apply to the schools I went to. So, through all of that, I've grown up to be a quiet, socially timid, occasionally depressed, bookish computer geek.
I don't recall ever having real friends in school. I never seemed to be 'on the same wavelength' with the kids I was in class with. My earliest memories of school are trying very hard to be picked to read selections from a book out loud to the class. I think enjoyed showing off my reading skills which, if I may say so without seeming full of myself, were well above those of the other students. In hindsight, I don't believe I had any sort of relationship with my peers in very early grade levels beyond an acceptance of their existence. I suppose that may have given rise to some resentment of me, though I certainly would not have imagined it at the time. I assumed, withough giving the matter conscious thought, that they were all basically like me and were just there to learn and go home. I don't think that I really thought of them as distinct individuals at that time.
I began attending public school about halfway through elementary school I think. Honestly, I'm fuzzy on the details. I continued to behave mostly as I had been. School was something to be plodded through in order to get home to play with the computer (A Commodore 128 at the time, which I still have). This period was when I first had serious difficulties with school. I continued to do very well academically, but socially it was a differant story. I was picked on and teased regularly. The conflicts were mainly on a verbal level, though sometimes my frustration and anger would build to a point where I would become berserk. I remember walking around in a state of rage, just waiting for someone to start on me because I knew that would be the trigger to start a vicious fight. On one occasion I had had a particularly bad time most of the day and on the bus trip home the person sitting behind me starting tapping on my head to the beat of the music on the radio. I retaliated by trying to club him with my clarinet case. There were other fights too. When in that state, I lost sight of any objective besides causing as much pain as possible to those who had hurt me. I ended up going to a differant school for a year and attending classes for, I believe the term at the time was, 'emotionally disturbed' children.
Some of the verbal abuse I went through was about as bad. I was proud of the reading I did and I often used words that were outside the vocabulary of my classmates. Someone once asked me whether I liked Vanilla Ice, looking for more ammunition for teasing. I asked him to specify whether he meant the musician or ice cream. The entire rest of the year there were people who would see me and say "Hey Chris, specify ice!", eliciting much laughter from those around. To this day that phrase causes a visceral pang of anger in me...
But I got better at controlling my temper as the years went by. I was told that people bullied me in order to get a reaction, and they would stop if they didn't recieve one. Well, it didn't seem effective in stopping the teasing, but it did give me a different way to deal with it. One example I remember particularly well was during recess one winter. Someone ran by me and stole the knitted hat I had on, then threw it around betwen a group of people trying to get me to try and take it back. I ignored them and went off by myself as usual. I did manage to find my hat at the end of recess. It was in a half frozen mud puddle. I picked it up and marched indoors...
I begen to feel that I actually didn't care when people did these things to me. I accepted that they happened and that I just had to expect them and deal with it. This mentality is still with me today in similiar situations. I was out flying a kite with my younger brother last summer near his school. His kite was on the ground and some kids on bikes decided to ride up to it at high speed and hit the brakes on it, dragging it across the pavement and ripping it. I calmly let them go at it until they were done, then picked up the kite and headed home. The idea of yelling at them or trying to stop them never occurred to me. I had decided in school not to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they were hurting me. A sort of numbness fills me in these situations.
I hated it when the class was divided into groups to work on projects since I would never be able to find a group (after a time I didn't try) and would have to be placed by the teacher. I decided on one occasion that I was not going to put my name on the finished product (a model of some castle or other I think) because the other group members had built the thing without me. When I so informed the teacher, she tried to get me to add some inconsequential detail so that I'd have had a hand in it and could then sign it. Defeatedly realizing that she was missing the whole point, I went along with it without bothering to explain further. I always thought those projects were pointless anyway.
In junior high things proceeded much the same way. I started getting poorer grades. I'm not really sure why. I never wanted to do homework. I hated going to school. That's a sad comment on the state of our schools, considering that I really enjoy learning. I remember recieving a few in school suspensions, I can't even remember why, and really enjoying them. I had a nice quiet room and space to myself all day! I think I actually got all my work done on those days. Around this time my parents took me out of school for a year and got into home schooling, buying textbooks and teaching me at home. That was an interesting experiment, but in the end it didn't work out too well, unfortunately.
I sometimes wondered why I never felt more focused anger at the kids around me. It was a very generalized feeling for me. I think I understand why now. Being faceblind, I never really got to recognize individual people who were bullying me. I was angry at the general mass of my classmates. I never had specific targets to be angry with. I wonder what I would have done if I had. Would I have plotted revenge? Would I have turned to deadly violence, as others have done? I don't know. I don't consider it outside the realm of possibility.
In high school, things got better. Again, I'm not sure why. Maybe it was all the new people, or maybe some of the old ones were finally growing up. I was still mostly avoided and still wasn't doing very well academically, but I did have a couple people who I played chess with at lunch, though I didn't get to know them very well. I even got into some of the theatrical stuff going on, though once again I never got to know anyone in there really well. I was mainly interested in the technical aspects. The most fun I had with another person in the drama program was when the drama teacher brought his young son with to rehearsal and I played with him with some legos for a while...
I've had a couple years of college now. I did pretty well for a while, then not so well for a while. I was too shy to talk to any of the professors outside of class, and I never knew how to talk to any of the students, so the experience wasn't exactly thrilling. At the moment, I still don't know what kind of career I want to get into for sure, so I'm not going to school. The earlier school bullying has definitely made college harder for me.
I guess that's my story. How does it affect me now? Well, as I said, I'm inclined toward the occasional bout of depression. There are times, much less common now, when, though I'm not quite suicidal, the idea isn't far from my mind. I think I tend to underestimate myself too. I feel like anything that I can do must be fairly easy to learn simply because I've done it. At the same time, I feel like when I fail to do something correctly (like teaching myself how to install the transmission on my truck) it's because I'm somehow inept and I berate myself for not being able to do something so simple, despite the fact that in actuality I'm lucky to have got as far with it as I did. I hope I don't sound too neurotic, I'm not usually that bad. That's just how I can be at my worst.
I can end this on a positive note, fortunately. I've been lucky enough to recently find a couple of wonderful friends, through a local community of people with shared interests. I won't go into details since that would be off topic, but they are the first people I've ever felt able to consider real friends and it's a beautiful feeling. Note that please; it is possible to make real friends, no matter what you're school life was like. I wouldn't have believed it either, but... ^_^ I thought I might never have close friends, but once I mustered the courage up to try making some contacts, things went pretty well, and I found one person who had about as rough a time in school as I did. Those relationships are affected by my past as well. I have a sort of irrational fear that somehow I will lose my new friends, and I think because of that I'm inclined to be a little clingy, and I miss them deeply when away from them, but all in all it's a thousand times better than being alone. I just hope I'm not too big a nuisance to them.
I guess my point, if there is one, is that life will get better once school is done. Always remember that. I feel like crying whenever I hear about a student committing suicide because I know that I would almost certainly have found that person to be a truly interesting and worthwhile person to know, certainly more so than most of his or her 'well adjusted' peers. I wish I could tell each person being bullied that they deserve to be loved and accepted, just in being a human being, and that someday they will be, if they just make it through their current trials.
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