Safety in Isolation: The Consequences of Being Bullied

Safety in Isolation: The Consequences of Being Bullied

Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with the use of gold, silver or platinum in order to highlight the fractures that are now part of the object’s history. Rather than hide the flaws, the point is to celebrate them. It’s taken me 35 years to realize that it’s okay to be broken.

I’ve always been sensitive. One of my earliest memories was being taught to ride a bike by my dad, on the street near our house. My bike had ‘stabilisers’ fixed to the rear wheel. Two neighbouring boys watched my attempts at balancing and laughed. My dad told me to ignore them dad but I couldn’t get their reactions out of my mind. It didn’t take long before I was labelled ‘soft’, ‘a jessie’, and ‘a stupid gay boy.’

At secondary school, I was an easy target for bullies. I was shy and blushed easily – particularly if sex was mentioned. I can’t recall how it happened but one bully noticed this. ‘Do you know what a penis is?’ I won’t use names here but I will use initials; it was PL, a boy who seemed keen to make my life a misery. I was embarrassed, and said no. It quickly became a blood sport, with people lining up to humiliate me. The questions became more sexually explicit. ‘Do you know what a fanny is?’ ‘Do you know what shagging is?’ ‘Anal sex?’ Fear froze in my bones. What does shame feel like? Like a toxic mixture of fear and self-consciousness.

The incidents became more frequent; I became conditioned into believing I deserved it. I would walk into a classroom, someone would make a joke at my expense, and everyone would stare. I wanted to disappear. On it went, day after day of casually administered hurt. Some days I was so scared, I would have breakfast and immediately throw up what I’d just eaten.

On a school trip to Chester Zoo, PL stood up in a carriage and announced that he was in love with me. People laughed and another piece of me died. On another occasion, he stole my watch, or rather he ‘borrowed’ it, and then claimed to have lost it. The school did nothing to challenge his claim and he carried on laughing.

There’s a continuum of bullying behaviour which starts with teasing, and progresses to verbal abuse and physical attacks. MJ grabbed my hand in the school dark room, and made me put in on a hot plate; I pretended to find it funny because I was desperate to be liked. DR once pushed me down a flight of stairs; another time, he stood next to me in the toilets, and urinated down my trousers, chuckling at his own brilliance. I recently discovered he’s in prison for murder.

One damp afternoon in November 1980, MB punched me in the head. He said I was boring – though he at least had the courtesy to tell me it was going to happen. I watched the hours tick by with an increasing dread and at 4pm he stuck to his promise. The event was witnessed by JS, someone I once considered a friend; he cackled like a drunken Hobgoblin, and then scurried off to spread the gossip.

The next day, people whispered in corridors when I walked past, and I decided to become invisible. The only way to survive was to isolate. I was afraid of everyone. People hurt me, I reasoned, and the belief became pathological. I used to eat my lunch in a toilet cubicle in the school science block for the simple reason that nobody ever went in there. On a trip to the Natural History Museum, I walked round alone; when I crossed paths with someone from school, I hid behind the exhibits, ashamed of my loneliness. I built a fence and a moat around myself, and in front of that a barbed wire fence; a form of perverse ostracism.

This pattern continued for years, long past the point where it continued to serve my higher good. In my twenties and thirties, I would spend entire weekends alone: binge watching television, aimlessly wandering around record shops, and engaging in various addictive practices which only deepened my self-hatred. I kept everything to myself. Deep down, I was dying of loneliness. I needed someone to put their arms around me and tell me everything was going to be okay.

I’ve had thousands of shame attacks. If someone looked at me with anger or indifference, the old feelings of worthlessness would rise to the surface. I still find confrontation difficult. If my line manager says ‘Can I have a word?’, my body fills with anxiety. Intimate relationships are difficult because it takes a long time for me to trust people.

According to John Bradshaw, shame is the master emotion, and the motivator behind all toxic behaviours, such as compulsion, co-dependency, addiction, hypervigilance and people-pleasing. I’ve suffered from all of these conditions, along with several others like anxiety and depression. For a long time, I experienced paranoia, convinced everyone was talking about me. I used to have recurring dreams in which ants, snakes and spiders crawled over my body; if that’s not a metaphor for feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, I don’t know what is.

It’s taken me 35 years of therapy to work through my hurt. In my darkest moments, I’ve got on my knees and asked God to end my life. The pain has been overwhelming. People say ‘forgive and forget’, without really considering the amount of work it takes to do so. It would easy to become angry and bitter but that’s not my style.

I’m still broken. Only now I chose to wear my brokenness like a crown. Turning pain into gold takes the shame out of it. If I could travel back in time, what would I say to my 15 year old self? ‘You’re a good person. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not you – it’s them.’

 

Steve Timms

 

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

— Follow Us —

Up Next

Forgiveness After The Storm

Forgiveness After The Storm

The muse of poetry in its depths stalls the ensue of thee,Drowning in the sparse spectacle of hope left, one dives into the waters of misery.Triabilsing in the painful stance of existence, death in its allure creeps behind,To be or not be in the bane of tormenting breaths, in their truth one seems to find,

The hostility that binds, convulsion in its gloating flair laughs hysterically at the corpse of being,Dreariness to live in its slow burn writhes the only ounce of light left to see.The void of embracing the freshness of unadulterated air forges to question the beauty,Of living a life that could lead in the lightness of radiance and the smiles of unbridled glee.

The trueness of being lapses in the oscillation of turbulence and the sea of calm,Yet the tides of uncertain syllables that breed animosity render the sou

Up Next

Beyond Materialism: The Psychological Motivations Behind Retail Therapy

Beyond Materialism

Most people can understand the happiness that comes from purchasing something for oneself when we talk about needing some retail therapy. Can shopping truly improve our mood? Clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, affirms that shopping can have psychological and therapeutic benefits as long as it is done in moderation, according to research. Engaging in shopping activities, whether online or in person, can provide a psychological and emotional boost. Even just browsing can bring happiness, but it’s important to be mindful of your spending habits. Dr. Bea outlines various explanations for the phenomenon.

Shopping helps to regain a feeling of power or authority

Research demonstrates that engaging in shopping activities can help individuals feel more in control of their

Up Next

Mind Over Met Gala: Analyzing the Intersection of Fashion and Mental Health in 2024

Mind Over Met Gala

The most confidential information about the 2024 Met Gala, which will take place on the first Monday in May, is now known. A total of 250 objects, many of which have never been seen in public before, will be on display in the Costume Institute’s “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2024. Before the much-awaited event, Vogue is compiling all of the information we currently know.

What theme will the 2024 Met Gala have?

The official dress code for the 2024 Met Gala is “The Garden of Time,” in honour of the Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibition, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” About 250 rare objects from the Costume Institute’s permanent collection will be on display. The designs, which span more than 400 years of f

Up Next

The Aesthetic Epidemic: Understanding the Roots of Lookism

The Aesthetic Epidemic

We care about more than just ourselves – we care about our loved ones, our communities, and the world around us. We are affected by tragic events, especially when a child is murdered, regardless of where it happens. It deeply impacts us and makes us feel disheartened. Moral evils raise doubts about the goodness of the world and the value of existence, especially for those who believe in a benevolent deity. However, anyone can contemplate the purpose and value of the universe in light of such evils. We may not need to worry about the value of the Universe and instead focus on finding value in our own lives or the lives of our loved ones. The concept of value is subjective and can be created by us.

The important question is what we should value or find pleasure in. Some people may try to ignore moral evil by focusing only on their own lives and loved ones, but this narrow perspective is unsatisfying for most. I

Up Next

An Open Letter To The Hustlers

An Open Letter To The Hustlers

To be or not to be, to go all in or to unwind and relax, we question our dreams, running in constant chase of our quests to come true, we are the ones who never sleep. Dreamers we are called, the ones who passionately strive in the endeavours of the best they could ever be, here is a letter to me, a letter to you. In the stride of embracing the best you have ever been, nurture your soul before the onset of the abundance in you that lies unseen.

Too bold, too much for your age, you are doing too much, how often have you heard these notions been used to describe you? As we tirelessly strive to achieve the next goal we have in our mind, we are often told that we are being hard on ourselves, to enjoy life a little. Life in its entirety passes by us in its dynamic flair, and the existence we envisage holds unique individuality to each one of us. The choices one makes for themselves belies them and them only, and t

Up Next

How To Remain Centered And Calm In Face Of Difficulty

My life is a mess and I have nothing to be grateful about! I witness myself say this phrase from time to time, where life plonks us into the desperation of ebb and flow of wilderness and things not going in our favour.

It is easy to say we are grateful and in complete balance when things are going well and life feels like the warm embrace of the sun shining on a Sunday morning. But the real test lies in remaining grateful and centred when life feels like spinning out of control.

While it is easier said than done, here are some reminders that might help you get through the days that feel like a burden –

1) This too shall pass, no moment in time that feels permanent loses its impermanence. We often lose hope when things don’t go our way and during these sad days, we should remember, that t

Up Next

15 Most Liberating Thoughts For Someone Who Needs It

Our life unfolds in a succession of revelations of who we are. It is when we sit down and repeat the same sentence in our head over and over again, in every action we perform, every activity we indulge ourselves in, does it indulges into our existence as a habit.

The key to having a sense of liberation is allowing life to flow through, not forcing anything and more essentially not resisting change. I believe that our life improves in the direct proportionality of how often we are exposed to situations where are forced to challenge our age-old beliefs and counterfeited perceptions and seek the greater version of ourselves. When we get too comfortable in the comfort zones we build for ourselves, we do not grow into the people we are meant to be. Sadly most people embrace change only when metamorphosis is the less painful and only possible option.

I know that