I'm 27 years old, a director of my own company, and by most definitions, extremely successful. I attribute this success to the toughening process inflicted by 8 years of bullying. And before anyone flames me for supporting the concept of bullying - I don't.
I come from what you could call a broken family - my father divorced my mother when I was 4. I never really got on with my new stepfather, probably because my father was poisoning me against him. He reacted badly to me in turn, and we went through a stormy, often violent relationship as a result.
I have always had above average intelligence, but perhaps not enough to realise that concealing the fact would be the most intelligent thing to do. I went to some good schools early on, with alert teachers, and most significantly, a very high proportion of over achievers. I personally believe this to be relevant, with such a high percentage of students with high self esteem, few seemed to want to cause trouble. I don't recall any particular incidents happening to me or anyone else there.
I moved to another school when I was 9, this time in a large village. The difference in school standards was incredible. I was two years ahead of the brightest people in my class - and I believe that to be because of poor teaching. The school was filled with no hope low life scum, fresh from the council estates, with criminal records, enjoying fist fights as entertainment. I'm probably being unfair to the neighbourhood, but this is a place where one of the ex-students was arrested for firing a sawn off shotgun in the street.
Being ahead of the crowd did nothing to endear me to the prospective crowd of bullies. Maybe if I had been taken aside by the teachers I could have avoided a lot of hassle, but I didn't know, and never gave it enough thought to do anything about it. This started low level bullying, mainly by big kids, usually in groups. It starts easily enough. Name calling can be ignored quite easily, particularly when your own ego looks down on those doing the name calling.
Next came the violence, and this escalated to a frightening degree. It's a two mile walk to and from the school, from my home, and at one point I think there was about 50 people chasing me. My equipment was stolen, clothes were torn, or covered in blood when I eventually got home. The establishment seems to believe that the incidence of this kind of behaviour is low anyway, and when it does happen its unusual to happen more than once a week. Try every night.
I had few friends, and they were more interested in not getting a kicking than helping me. I can't say I really blame them. The teachers didn't want to know, and neither did my parents. That wonderful adage, hit them back and they'll leave you alone, just doesn't work. It got to the point where some complete wimps were beating on me because they knew if I did anything back, in would roll the big guys.
I doubt if he'll ever know, but whilst I'm here bitching about the authority, I want to pay tribute to a History teacher at that school, Dennis Longstaff. This guy got me six months of peace. He risked his job to do it, but I realy, really appreciated it. I wish I knew how to get in touch with him. Basically he lifted one of these guys off his feet and threatened to kill him. I was next door, and he frightened me. Said bully suddenly left me alone, and therefore so did everyone else. It was great.
I decided to take up martial arts, I was 13 at that point. 6 months later, it started again. I was now at the higher school, and you have to remember that by this time, after so many years, you become conditioned into accepting it. I carried on my training anyway. Things were pretty bad again, by the time I hit 14. I did newspaper rounds to earn some money - I regularly got intercepted, with newspapers torn up or thrown in the gutter. The guy I was working for was pretty understanding - there was a lot of competition for those jobs, and it had to be cutting into his profit line.
My break happened when this little shit, the smallest of the bunch figured it had been long enough for him to have another go. He liked to grab the skin on your throat and pull it. This hurts a little, but the humiliation is far worse. We were alone in the corridor, apart from one of the maths teachers. He watched, as the other guy started slapping me in the face - again humiliation is the key here. I don't really know what happened next, I have a dull memory of "seeing red", a kind of haze came down over my eyes. Sounds corny, but that's what happened.
Next thing I know, is the other guy is lying on the floor. There's blood everywhere, all over me, him the floor. The teacher is still watching, and then walks off. I went home, expecting to be suspended. I got yelled at by my parents again. I didn't really take much notice, I was still kind of numb, shaking with adrenaline, fear, anger and I don't know what else. My hands are shaking now, as I remember this.
I got away with it, strangely enough. He spent a week or so in hospital. It turns out I broke his arm, several ribs and his jaw. He never came back to that school. I never understood why nothing happened - no one even spoke to me about it. The message got across to the others that perhaps there were easier targets, and I was left alone.
That was pretty much it, apart from two individuals who tried it on a year later. I avoided them - I didn't want to fight, and they just wanted to be top dog. Again they were bigger, and were also martial artists. I had no interest in competing, and after a month or two, they left me alone as well.
And what now ? I went to further education, got my job in IT, and have been very successful. The process I went through helps me every day in my job, keeping me focussed, and dedicated to the task at hand. If someone doesn't like it, tough.
So is there really a happy ending ? Sadly, no. There is a lot of suppressed rage deep down inside, and it terrifies me to think of letting it out. I'm permanently stressed, and despite my attempts to control it, people are genuinely frightened of me. I hate to think of myself as intimidating people, but I can't help it. I maintain a protective barrier that keeps the vast majority of people away. I make friends very poorly - it takes a long time to earn my trust, and only 1 screw up to end that friendship permanently. I have a very cynical, perhaps even fatalistics view of the world, always seeing the worst in everyone.
The worst thing is frightening other people. The last thing I ever would have wanted is to become like those morons who did it to me. My fiancee says I should just let go of it all - its ancient history.
I can't. When I see one of these people on the street, I want to kill them. My hands shake, my mouth goes dry, the adrenaline flows. I live here - why should I run away ? I'm frightened of walking away - it probably makes the most sense, but it feels like I am giving in to their pressure again. I don't believe that I can handle that. My whole personality is now defined as refusing to back down, and I don't know who I will become if I let that go.
The one good thing about this is that I know how these people think. If you can convince them that you are prepared to go further than they are, you have already won. 3 years ago, my brother was being bullied by a kid from his school. Turned out to be the head boy - that's a laugh. This upstanding individual, this shining example to the school, was sticking a knife in my brother's face and taking his money. I paid this gentleman a visit, and convinced him of the error of his ways - and no, I didn't use violence. At least not physical. Mental violence works better, in my opinion, and he never went after my brother again. I don't know if he just switched targets.
To anyone who thinks that bullying does not do long term damage - you know nothing. The only people qualified to comment are those who have been through it, and I don't care how many BAs, MAs or whatever pysch bullshit is your preference you have.
All I can say to other people who've been there and may still be there : Survival IS enough. It might not be living, but don't give in to these guys. Suicide et al is an easy way out - I considered it, at times, but I figure that's the ultimate way of letting someone get to you. There are good times to be had, no matter how bad it was, or is. If you're still going through it, you have my sympathies.
Those of us who survive have a duty to those going through it today, in any circumstances. If you see a kid being pushed around by a bunch of others - take a closer look. It might just be fun and games, but it might not be - and if it isn't do something about it !
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