I grew up in the early 2000s, an era that despite being nearly a decade away still feels like yesterday. It was a time when the summers weren’t too hot, and the rainy season didn’t bring destructive floods. It was a time of my innocence and naivete. It was also the time I was bullied.
Since I went to an Augustinian-run school that took pride in its quality Catholic education, my parents were confident that I was doing just fine. On the surface, I was. My grades were average to above-average. I came home from school with some stains and dirt on my uniform. I did my homework and refused to eat my vegetables and felt like a badass every time I stayed awake past 10 PM. But as I said, that was on the surface.
At night, when I would lie in bed, the pain would wash over me. I would remember that time a classmate of mine put a headband on my head and said I was gay. Or that one time a group of high school students came out of nowhere and cornered me in a hallway, saying the same thing: you’re gay. There are a whole bunch of “events”, but I won’t make myself suffer by reliving more of them.
Even then, I knew why they said that to me. I wasn’t as masculine as any of the other boys. I didn’t play basketball, nor was I athletic in any way,. I didn’t start cursing in 4th Grade, or sneaking out of school to play computer games.
I sought comfort in my friends, but there were times they ended up laughing at me instead of defending or comforting me. Sometimes, they would bully me too. I thought of asking help from my teachers, but during this time, the concept of bullying was practically non-existent. Everything save for the most violent acts were dismissed as “child’s play”. I even considered begging my parents to transfer me to another school, but I was too scared. I’m their only son, and I felt that admitting to being bullied would be a sign of my weakness. Eventually, I came to believe that it was.
I can safely say I was depressed during this time. Some nights, I just cried myself to sleep. But that adage holds true, I guess. Time heals all wounds. I’m 17 now. I’m still not as masculine as most of the jocks in my university, but at least no one walks up to me and calls me gay or faggot.
Am I happy now that the bullying has stopped? Yes, I am. Despite this, the bullying I experienced in my childhood will stay with me forever. While those wounds have healed, the scars remain. They always will. I can never erase those memories of me crying myself to sleep.
But if there’s one thing good about those scars, it’s that they serve as a reminder. Not that I was once weak, but that I am now strong. I survived all of the taunts and insults. I had the courage to wake up everyday and face the world, no matter how much I wanted to just disappear forever.
Now, if you’re being bullied, here’s what I want you to learn from me:
1) Seek help. At this point, our society is far more aware and concerned about bullying than it was back then. Don’t be ashamed the same way I was. I can’t imagine how hard it is to talk to someone about this, because I never did, but I hope you find (or already have) someone in your life you’re comfortable with. Someone you know will defend and support you.
Record audio of them harassing you, or have a friend record a video when those bullies start shoving you around. Go the police. Go to those bullies’ parents.
2) Fight back. I’m not advocating violence as your initial reaction to being bullied, but if someone throws a punch at you, I believe you have every right to punch back. Defending yourself isn’t wrong.
3) Cry. This doesn’t seem encouraging, doesn’t it? But those times I just let the tears flow are the times I got to release all of the negativity and sadness and pain inside me. As Isak Dinesen said, “the cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.”
There may be more ways, but these were the basics for me.
Lastly, I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so I will say this: suicide is an option. But before you do, think about the chances you’ll miss, the experiences you’ll give up, and the people you’ll never meet. For me, the emptiness of death can never rival the fullness of life. If you have experienced or are currently experiencing bullying, and you feel that no one in the world cares about you, I want you to know that I do.
This post was inspired by a Daily Prompt: We all know how to do something well — write a post that teaches readers how to do something you know and/or love to do.