When your former bully becomes a psychologist

The subject of this post is exactly what the title say.

Today I discovered that none other than Regina, the girl who tortured me and initially turned the rest of our peers against me, is now working as a psychologist.

When I initially saw her name, and that she indeed is a certified psychologist, I laughed. High enough to probably scare my neighbours.

Not only that, but I found an article she had written, about low self esteem and how it affect your sense of self worth.

I couldn’t stop sniggering.

But, even though I think the lack of self reflection is incredibly funny, a part of me is concerned.

People come to her for help and guidance. Vulnerable people. And she knows how to seek out the spot that is softest and impossible to defend and to drive the knife home. She has had a knack for it from at least the age of 8.

I know, I was there.

I sincerely hope she doesn’t use her position of power to harm anyone, like she loved to do in the past. But I wouldn’t be the least surprised if she did.

Because she is a bully. Bullies don’t change.

Why should I be nice to my bullies?

One of the most astonishing things about being a survivor of bullying, is that society expect me to be all nice and smiley to my bullies when I meet them today.

To this I have to ask: Why?

Why should I be nice to someone who turned my life into one long struggle of distrust, misanthropy and a general hate against said society?

The answer, of course, is that people who weren’t bullied don’t understand the long term effects. Their thought process runs something like this: «Yes, bullying someone isn’t very nice, but they were just children. It was a long time ago! Why should the victim be bitter? They haven’t seen their bullies in years!»

Trauma doesn’t work that way.

It stays with you always. It festers.

But most importantly, the reason I will never be nice – or even civil – to my bullies, is because I know they are horrible people. Why should I be nice to someone who has proven over a period of several years, that they enjoy humiliating and belittle another human being?

But apparently I’m the difficult one. I am the one who is in the wrong, somehow.

It’s as if bullying is actually okay.

I’m part of a writing group, and some time ago one of the people in this group submitted a draft for a story, concerning a woman who was a big bully, a classical mean girl, in high school. Then something really traumatic happened to her, and ten years on she is trying to reintegrate into society. She moves back in with her parents in her old neighbourhood, and meets several of the people she tormented in their school days.

The thing was, her previous victims were completely over her. The bully acted the same way she had done when she was 17, being a bitch to her old classmates, destroying their possessions and making fun of them, and they did absolutely nothing to retaliate.

They were basically balanced adults who just felt sorry for the bully and the difficulties she was now facing.

I of course, called out this strange behaviour, and asked the submitter exactly how bad the bullying had been. Did this girl just act like she was better than everybody else, or was she a cruel sadist to everyone she deemed «below» her?

Because, if she was a proper bully, there was no way in hell her previous victims would be so kind and understanding. They would get back at her. They would humiliate her and make her pay. There was absolutely no way they would pasiently sit and watch her continue where she left off.

And to drive the point home, I told them a story I heard in my student days. One of the people I was going to university with, told me how he got back on his school bully.

He had a part time job as a debt collector. One day, who’s name didn’t turn up on his caller’s list, than his bully’s. My student buddy – let’s call him Will – called the bully up, introduced himself the standard way, explained why he was calling, and told the bully the debt needed to be settled immediately.

The debt was for several calls to a sex phone line, just to add insult to injury.

The bully couldn’t pay. So Will added all the extra fees he legally could add – he wasn’t stupid enough to do anything illegal, obviously – and the end result was that instead of settle a debt of maybe €60, the bully ended up paying over €200.

The person who had submitted the story was very quiet while I was talking, and really had nothing to say to any of my questions. It was like my persepctive had never entered their mind at all while writing it.

None of the others in the group seemed to have concidered it either, because once I finished relaying my story about Will, one of them exclaimed «What a facinating story!»

I had to stiffle a chuckle. This is why we hardly ever get realistic depictions of bullying. Because the people writing the stories never were on the receiving end, and the editors haven’t either. That’s why us bullying victims just roll our eyes every time we see a depiction of a bully who suffered some trauma, and then we should believe they are the «real» victims.

Honestly, the only realistic depiction of bullying and its psychological effects I have seen in any fiction, is in the novel Let the Right One In. But that is because author John Ajvide Lindqvist was bullied in school, and the book draws heavily on his own experiences growing up. And it shows. Even though the book is about vampires, it carries a realism most «realistic» fiction can only dream about.

And I have to admit, for me the most satisfying part of Let the Right One In, was when the bullies had their heads ripper off.

No resources

When a child is singled out by bullies, the decent into total isolation is no different than abuse among adults:

It begins with remarks and gossiping behind the victim’s back, to destroy the victim’s confidence and their trust in their own senses.

By diminishing the victim’s worth, in their own eyes as well as their surroundings, the bullies prepare for more heavy abuse later on.

This is done partly to make sure no one will react: If everybody already thinks the victim is worthless and that they deserve the abuse, no one will intervene. But it is also to make sure the victim will not retaliate: By breaking them down emotionally, until they are nothing but an empty shell, there will be no resistance. And the abusers will have their punching bag for as long as they pleases.

Of course, this is also done to make sure the victim is completely isolated. Broken down, with no allies, there are literary no one to stop them. Just what these sick people wants.

Then, after having secured their position, they move in for the kill.

In an endless stream of insults, snide remarks, gossiping, and sometimes violence, they live out their sadistic pleasures, with no guilt or fear of repercussions.

I will say however, there is one very important difference between bullying among children and, lets say, workplace bullying. It is, as I’ve previously mentioned, the ability to speak out.

Thanks to websites like Glassdoor or Indeed, employees who have suffered under abusive and bullying superiors now have the opportunity to speak out. And thanks to these platforms they are often listened to.

This past summer I was unfortunate enough to have a short gig at an absolute awful company, where the manager and supervisor were not suited for their positions in any shape or form. I did read the reviews on Glassdoor before I took the job, and they were scorching, but like the fool I am I thought they were greatly exhagerated.

The fact there were over 50 1-star reviews for this one company, accumulated in only 8 months, should have told me to run as fast as I could, but like I said, I couldn’t believe it was that bad.

To cut a long story very short, it turned out the Glassdoor reviews were completely justified. I left with hatred in my heart and with a thirst for revenge.

I made sure to complain to HR, the agency that recruited me, as well as posting my own stinging reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed, detailing exactly what it was like working there and why nobody else should.

My review received a double digit number of «Useful» clicks, which is highly unusual, and only prove there were many out there who felt the same.

And now, they are stuck with unqualified and unskilled worked, because no professional will consider them after reading the reviews.

It belongs to the story that my shitty supervisor suddenly got «promoted» to a back-office position after my complaint, where they would have no power over any other employee. A small victory, I guess.

My point is, as an adult you have certain resorces. You can inflict damage to those who wronged you, even if it only inconvenience them. As a child, you have zero urses

 

Living in Stepford

The suburban neighbourhood I grew up in was a very typical one for that area and time period. Think well off but not upper middle class and lower middle class.

On the surface a quiet, nice area perfect for families with children. The school was close enough for all the students to walk there, and we had several shopping malls at a short driving distance.

And the concensus was that this area was just so nice. If someone dared to mention how there had been several instances of creepy guys trying to lure kids into their car under the pretext of driving them home (happened to one of my classmates), that teenagers would stop second- and third graders on their way to school and not let them get there on time (happened to my sibling), or that kids would try to push one of their peers into the road in front of a fast moving car (happened to me), people would just shrug and brush it off with “That’s awful, but that happens everywhere.”

I realise these examples are pretty tame compared to what happens in other areal in other parts of the world. I will not play the game of “Who’s worst off?”.

But it was just so nice, you know? Everything was just picture perfect. Everyone knew, if not each other than at least of each other, and everybody got along just great. In school all the children got along just great and my school scoret brilliantly on the wellness check they did every year, so there.

We all got along just great. It was great. It was fine. Just smile.

I think it was this environment that made me allergic to hypocrisy and false niceness. I simply can’t stand it. If I get as much as a whiff of someone turning a blind eye to a problem or brush off real issues because they find it unpleasant, I immediately despise that person.

Some may call it harsh. I call it realism. So far this immediate distase has never been wrong. Any person who display such behaviour has turned out to be as fake as their niceness later on.

This is the only positive effect I have found from my years of relentlessly being bullied. I learned not to give such people my time.

It has saved me a lot of trouble.

The day it all began

Let me tell you a little story. The story of how it all began for me. Like all bullying victims I didn’t see it coming, and did not know what to do.

Before

My childhood is strictly divided into a Before and After. Before I was a happy-go-lucky girl without a care in the world. I was the one who led the play and came up with scenarios we acted out – usually involving princesses and pirates.

Before I had never, not once, experienced being rejected by my peers. I was well liked and the other children liked spending time with me. To have everyone turn against me and being completely abandoned, was not something I had ever contemplated.

My first year of school was great. I can’t say I remember much about it, but I had my best friend and neighbour attending with me, and I got on well with my classmates.

But after our first year my best friend moved away. Now this shouldn’t be a problem. By then I knew the rest of the children very well and we got along fine. I would not be lonely.

After

I can’t say I remember what day or date it was, but I know it was pretty early in the second school year. It can’t have been any later than September, for I was wearing a light pink jacket only suited for early autumn.

The sky was grey and overcast. The whole class was out in the school yard, waiting for our teacher to come and fetch us. In our first year we had been put in pairs, and we had to make a line with our “line mate”, if that makes sense, when the bell rang.

The girl I had been paired with, lets call her Regina George, lived only a block away from me, and we often walked home from school together. I had nothing unspoken with her and thought we were friends.

It was there, while waiting for the teacher, Regina suddenly turned to me and out of the blue said: «You think you are so pretty.»

I was stunned. I had no idea what she was talking about. I was 8 years old, and couldn’t care less what I looked like. I was a bit of a tomboy as a child, which meant I preferred pants to skirts, and loved to play in the forested area behind our school when the teachers weren’t looking. Unnessesary to say I had no fashion sense, and had never even raided my mom’s makeup bag for fun.

So what made Regina say that?

Looking back with adult eyes have made me realise she was testing me. She wanted to see how far she could go. The fact that she would bully me for my clothes and shoes later on also shows she was not consistent and it was only a flimsy excuse.

And she found out she could go as far as she wanted. I was, first of all, unable to understand the situation. Even though I had done well socially up until that point, I have always struggled with understanding social situations and social cues. Therefore I didn’t know how to approach the situation or how to fire back at Regina. I was helpless.

I was stunned into silence. I didn’t understand where it was coming from, or what I should say back.

The difference from before was that all of my peers had been accepting of me. If I had any quirks, it had not been a problem. This Regina was determind to change.

She talked constantly behind my back. Repeated to the rest of the class, but especially the girls, that I thought I was so pretty and that I was stupid and weak. Now, I know the automatic response to this will be: «Why didn’t you defend yourself?»

How, exactly? When one of your classmates, someone you up until that point thought was your friend, suddenly turns against you and repeat the slander from Regina, while Regina herself stands behind her with a smug grin plastered across her face, what do you do? Hit the stupid bitch and the slanderer?

Who will be punished? I knew, and so did Regina and the rest of the class, that if I hit them I would be in trouble. I would be hauled off to the Principal’s office and told you shall never hit anyone and violence is never the answer.

This is a crucial part of the mechanism of bullying: The cooperation from the adults. The adults don’t see it this way, of course. What they see is a difficult child who pushed and hit another student, and the adults will pat themselves on the back for interupting and correcting the difficult child.

What they have actually done is to empower the bullies, by showing them it is completely safe to torment their peers, that the adult will protect them and punish the abused, they will even assist in the humiliation, by forcing the bullying victim to apologies to their abusers.

Unneccessary to say, I am not fond of teachers. They are nothing a part of the problem.

And a few years later, I came to discover they were more than just collaborators, they were bullies themselves.

It never goes away

It has been a rough month.

The nightmares I have suffered since I was trapped in the hellpit have returned.

For months I was better, or at least free of reexperiencing the torment every night, and then, about 3 weeks ago they suddenly returned full force.

I don’t know why now, exactly. I did start a new job one month ago, and perhaps the stress is getting to me in a way I can’t detect conciously.

Why is irrelevant, really. The only thing that is important is that I have to relive the same cold  laughter, taunting gazes and whispers I had to put up with every single day for right years.

I am no more free of them now than I was when they surrounded me.

Last night was different though. Last night, my abusers didn’t have their own faces, but an identical wide grin of razor sharp teeth. Rather similar to Venom.

I was completely helpless and equally scared as 14 year old me, the only thing stronger was my hatred towards them. In my dream I attacked them, for the first time.

I attacked their soulless Venom-like faces and tried to rip their eyes out. But of course they were many, and I was one, and they overpowered me.

I awoke with my heart racing. It shook me up all day.

It hasn’t been this bad in a long, long time.

Do they know I still relive their harrassment?

Probably not, and if they did know, they would snigger and congratulate each other on a job well done.

 

Call it by its rightful name

«It is just something kids do. It doesn’t mean anything.»

All victims of bullying have heard a variant of this frase.

Yes, of course it is. It’s just a little game kids play with each other. If you carry scars from the abuse you suffered for years, decades – the rest of your life – you are the problem.

Isn’t it so?

Instead of redusing «bullying» to just a «game», let us start referring to it for what it really is:

Harassment. Assault. Abuse.

Why are we so compelled to soften the blow of these words? Rather than acknowledging the behaviour for what it is, we have a need to reduce it to something «harmless».

Probably because so many of us have witnessed it, and not intervened, or participated in the bullying ourselves. To soothe our own concience, we reduce the abuse to something harmless (in the minds of the non-bullied people).

I realise it is difficult for people to understand a situation they have never experienced. But when people come forward with stories of how they are struggling with PTSD, anxiety, low self esteem, anger issues and substance abuse decades after they got away from their tormentors, it should call for some reflection.

Bullying is not something you just walk away from. Neither when it is happening or later in life.

Kids have to go to school. They have to stay on the school grounds for the entire day from Monday to Friday. They have to be around their abusers. They can’t walk away from the situation.

They are trapped.

All schools have pretty slogans of how they are not tolerating bullying on their premises, and if something is happening you should tell a teacher.

But this is just pretty words. The truth is schools and teachers don’t care. They will allow bullying to happen, and if anything just tell the victim they are too sensitive.

The truth is children, the weakest and most helpless members of our society, stands without any type of protection from harassment and abuse. And society seems totally okay with it.

If you want to know the true values of a society, look at how they treat the most vulnerable. Are they being listened to? Are their well being truly the concern of the people in power?

Or do they just laugh it away and make excuses when children are being harassed and abused by their peers?

If it was an adult that was subjected to such abuse, it would be taken to court. The abusers would be named and shamed. But because the victim is a child, it is of no concern. The little weirdo probably deserves it as well.

 

It has been a long time

So yeah, I started this blog and it was meant to be a weekly thing, then life and a soul crushing job took completely over and at the end of the day I had no energy to spare.

To write good text takes a lot of work. It demands peace, quiet, time and a huge level of concentration. None which I had.

But I do now, and during the year that has come and gone since the last time I wrote, I have done a lot of self analyzing and contemplation on my life and what happened to me in the years I was bullied.

There will be many ugly insights, regarding my bullies, myself and our society that allows this to happen. No, more than allows it, encourages it.

I promise I will not bail out again. So let us start. Continue reading It has been a long time

Why me?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times over the years.

Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I’ve reached an answer, and it’s probably something the broader audience don’t want to hear.

The favoured perception of a bullying victim is the weirdo, the outsider. Someone who provokes their poor, normal peers into bullying them. Because no-one would ever bully someone for no apparent reason, right?

I have some bad news for you:

Bullies don’t bully because they feel helpless, provoked or scared. They don’t do it because they’re hurting on the inside or have a shitty home life. They do it mainly for entertainment. Because they’re bored. Because they like torturing their fellow human beings. Because it’s fun.

Like hyenas they single out the smallest and weakest prey and tear at it mercilessly, until all that remains are some unrecognisable, bloody pieces of flesh.

I know this is not a popular statement. In our society we prefer to paint perpetrators as victims. And it is a deeply disturbing and worrying trend. But I will come back to this in a later post.

So why was I chosen as the designated torturing victim?

I was a very timid and quiet girl. I was very scared of provoking anyone and would certainly never start a feud with someone intentionally. I tried to be agreeable and friendly to my surroundings. In other words, I was the perfect bullying victim.

At this point someone most likely will raise the question: So why didn’t you stand up for yourself?

A perfectly valid question. Why didn’t I? If I just stood and took it I can only blame myself, right? To this, my answer will be: Because you can’t defend yourself against an entire pack. Go on and try. Try being rounded up and attacked from all sides. Try walking into a hostile environment every single day, where you have to keep your guard up all the time. Try standing up for yourself and all you get in response is a roaring laughter, resembling the screeching of rabid monkeys.

To all those who was never bullied and can’t understand why the victims of bullying didn’t stand up for themselves or were so affected by the abuse they received:

You don’t know how lucky you are. You don’t know what kind of blissful ignorance you are living in. You have never suffered abuse and therefor don’t know what that does to a person. How it changes the person’s perception of themselves, the world, their fellow human beings, how it changes their personality.

And as a closing remark I have to say: I deeply envy you for this.

Beginnings

I’ve thought a lot about how to begin my story, but frankly, I don’t have a clue.

Should I jump straight to where my daily hell begun, or sometimes before that?

I figured I should start with the beginning. Maybe not as intricate as David Copperfield – I will not bore you with the hour of my birth or go into great details of my early years – but I figured it is important that the reader knows a little of my background, to better understand where I was coming from.

My early childhood was a happy one, I know that for a fact. For one, that is how I do remember it. My parents were not wealthy by any standard, but we did have a house, I had more toys than I could ever play with, and we could go on a long vacation every summer. Like almost every child in my country, I went to kindergarten from I was a year old until I started first grade.

I loved kindergarten. It was not like it is now, with focus on teaching and preparing the children for school. We did nothing but play, all day, every day. There never was a dull moment. When we tired of one game we always came up with something new. I was surrounded by friends and it was always so much fun.

We didn’t have internet, computers or tablets in those days, so we had to use our imagination during playtime. Often I would take charge. My imagination never slowed down , and I liked to make up scenarios, characters and storylines we would play out. This doesn’t mean I was loud or particularly bossy. I was a very timid and quiet child. But I was surrounded by people who liked me and I trusted, and so I bloomed.

I don’t have to rely solely on my memories for this part, because the photos of me from this time doesn’t lie: I’m always smiling in those picture. I just look like the happiest little kid around. Even my mother, knowing my story so intimately, being with me the entire way, has commented on this.

I looked forward to starting school. To this day I can still remember with crystal clarity that the morning was an overcast day, that my backpack was purple, the dress I was wearing was blue, me walking into the schoolyard for the first time with my mum. I remember thinking I was a big girl now.

And knowing nothing but acceptance from my peers, I had no reason thinking my journey forward would be any different. That is the luxury of being naive and untried. Everything appears to be so easy.

Boy, was I headed for a wake up call.