A little story: There was a kid, a nice, happy go lucky kid, he went to school one day and got beaten up and humiliated. Then for the next thirteen years he got beaten up and when he wasn’t beaten up he was alone, humiliated and ignored. He was so alone that he very rarely ever spoke to anyone, if asked a question he’d give one word answers and he was always scared. Always. Every single human being who came near him caused him to feel the most profound fear. Even outside of school people picked on him, he was always the butt of jokes, always teased, always alone.
One day, after a long period of getting beaten up regularly, he came into school and everyone looked at him differently. Everyone was terrified of him, no one would come near him, no one would speak to him; whereas before people would give him evil looks and tease him, take the piss out of him on this day everyone left him alone. No one teased him, no one poked fun at him, no one would even make eye contact with him. This day was 21 April 1999, the day after two kids in Colorado shot their school up and from that day on no one picked on this kid. In fact some of the people who picked on him suddenly started being nice to him, they even stopped other people picking on him.
Of course this kid wasn’t stupid, he knew exactly what had going on: everyone thought it was fun to pick on him until it dawned on them that this could get them killed. Suddenly these people perceived that it was possible that their very lives depended, after pushing the kid to the edge, on making sure no one else pushed him over the edge. It’s one of those delicious ironies that these people thought that they were on the very of being destroyed by something they created.
Roll on a few more years and this kid has no social skills, no friends, he’s unbelievably shy, the fear of other people still hasn’t left him but while everyone else just dismisses him as some kind of freak he actually still has human emotions. He’s lonely, he wants friends, more than anything he wants a girlfriend, he wants to be loved but he realises that he is a complete freak. He realises that he is literally unloveable. He can’t talk to people, even the most simple of social interactions fill him with unbearable anxiety and he hates himself for it. Even making eye contact with a girl is next to impossible, so he has no chance of getting a girlfriend and he knows it. The rage this produces is beyond anything that can be described, to know that you’re broken, to know that other people have broken you, to know that you did nothing to deserve this, but that your entire life has been ruined by it and ruined by people who have friends, have relationships, have sex. The rage of being trapped in your own psyche, suffocated and silenced by your own fear, the rage of knowing that even the most simple human interactions are beyond you, the humiliation of being a total fuck up, none of this can be described.
It’s still something I find easier to write about in the third person, it creates an emotional separation, not much of one, but enough of one. Even now I wouldn’t say that I’ve entirely recovered, whatever recovery is. I’m just grateful that I found an outlet for the rage and that it came out slowly and in a controlled manner. I took up martial arts when I was 15 but it really became serious when I was 20 or so and the bullying had stopped and for years after that I trained for the simple reason that I was determined that no one would ever bully me again. If you’d said to a 22 year old me that actually it was all over, that I was out of a school environment that none of this could happen again my 22 year old self would have poured scorn on you because for him psychologically it was still happening, his mind was still trapped in that environment. In fact when I started university I really struggled to make friends and my mind immediately clicked back into self preservation behaviors, I’d take different routes home for no good reason other than it stopped me feeling anxious, I sat at the back of rooms so I could see everything, I wouldn’t go anywhere crowded, I tried to be alone as much as possible.
For my 24 year old self this was normal behavior. This is stuff which does not go away it’s own, you don’t just take the kid out of the situation and the problem is resolved. The kid needs deprogramming because without it they’re going to stay in victim mode, push people away and start what is literally a death spiral until they explode and likely as not, decide to take a few people with them. Even now my mind still doesn’t understand the idea that a place can be safe, in public I’m still slightly edgy, still alert for that punch that comes out of no where, or having my seat ripped out from under me. I still expect random strangers to suddenly start shouting at me, I still expect to crumple, being shouted at still terrifies me. The only difference is that now I have 15 years of martial arts under my belt and so that terror gets shoved away into the back of my brain, the anxiety that used to cripple me now just keeps me alert and as I write this I suddenly realise this sounds a lot like PTSD.