(This contains some previously posted information, but I wanted to put it all together in the way I’ve come to fully understand it.)
Over the past month I have gained a complete understanding of my entire life – and figured out the answer to the question that made me start this blog. It feels just short of miraculous.
It started with reading a post called Memoirs of a Bullied Kid on the blog Single Dad Laughing, and the comments to it. I saw myself in so many of the comments. I had never realized until then that the way I was treated in elementary school and junior high was bullying, or just never thought of it that way. I thought they ostracized and made fun of me because I was actually different, weird – wrong, somehow. I was subject to the forced dilemma described in the book Genius Denied: social intimacy vs intellectual development. At the end of fifth grade, I rejected intellectual development, only to find out that doing so still didn’t make me socially accepted. I hated myself – hated being smart – and was very lonely.
In junior high, boys suddenly started taking a lot of interest in me – physically. I was naïve and desperate enough for any sort of social intimacy, or even any sort of positive attention from my peers at all, that I didn’t (or maybe just refused to) realize that their interest was sexual and nothing else. Or maybe I just didn’t care. Anyway, I became pretty boy-crazy, but nothing much happened. Until…
In eighth grade, exactly three weeks prior to my 14th birthday, we had a Wednesday off from school due to parent-teacher conferences. I talked my mom into allowing me to go to my friend Mindy’s house (I had actually managed to make three friends by that point). Mindy’s parents were out at work. A lot of kids came over including another friend, Maria’s, high-school aged sister and some of her friends. The older kids got into the liquor cabinet and started playing a game of quarters. I was feeling adventurous and extremely curious, and joined in the game, thinking I’d finally be “cool”. Let’s just say, I was not good at it. Also, everyone else thought it was hilarious that I was playing and chose me to take the drink every time they got the quarter into the glass. I have no idea how much I drank, but I’m sure it was close to a dangerous amount.
The game ended (Why? I don’t know. Maybe the bottle was empty?) Kids began to pair off into bedrooms. Still adventurous and curious, as well as blind drunk, I joined in with that too. So drunk, I had to crawl up the stairs. A boy named Shanon (yeah, for real) invited me to lie on Mindy’s bed with him. As soon as I did, I began to pass out. I heard Shanon say to another boy named Frank, “help me get her pants off.” (It was, after all, the days of Jordache jeans so tight they looked painted-on, always with a comb in the back pocket.) Frank very willingly obliged. I knew Shanon was going to have sex with me. But by the time they had my jeans off, I had completely passed out. The next thing I knew Shanon was shaking me awake and trying to pull my jeans back on, hours later, saying, “come on, get dressed, get up, we have to get out of here!” Everyone was in a panic because Mindy’s mother was due home any minute. I heard Frank say, “just leave her here, man, we got to GO!” That scared me enough that somehow, I managed to stagger out of the house and go with the crowd to a pizza parlor nearby.
It was 5:00 – the time my mom had said she would pick me up. I went to the convenient store next door with Maria, to use the pay phone to call home and beg to stay later (i.e., until I could sober up). There was no answer – which was because when I came out of the convenient store, there my mom was. Less than halfway home she realized that I had been drinking. When we got home she told me to take a bath. While I was in the tub she put all my clothes in the washing machine (some kids had been smoking, and they stank). I think I then went to bed for the night.
The next day I went to school. I’m still amazed by the fact that I had no hangover whatsoever! Mid-morning, Mindy handed me a note between classes. It was two pages long, but all I remember of it now is the sentence, “The whole school knows you f—ed Shanon yesterday.” I felt I was drowning in shame. I was teased about it mercilessly, and branded a slut.
It was at this point that I forced myself to stop caring about any one, and any thing. To say I was depressed, is an understatement so vast as to be meaningless. I was afraid that if I allowed myself to feel any emotion at all, I would be overwhelmed. The sole object of my existence became a search for total control, absolute power, over myself. I rebelled, hard, against my parents, teachers, church leaders – any adult authority figure – because I felt they were trying to control me, and I wanted to be the only one to do that.
I created a shell around myself. I acted just as hard and tough on the outside, as I was fragile and vulnerable on the inside. I flew into an indignant rage anytime anyone dared to express an opinion, good or bad, about me or anything I did. I felt nothing I did was anyone else’s business but my own. I was utterly insensitive to other people’s emotions and regarded people as weak and worthless, just for having them at all. I very badly hurt four people, that I know of, and I’m sure I hurt many more.
Needless to say, this did nothing to help me achieve social intimacy, throughout college, and my seven-year engineering “career”, and among other parents after I stopped working to raise kids. I was unable to recognize overtures of friendship and reacted defensively rather than accepting them. I think many people just concluded that I was a terrible snob and quickly lost interest in getting to know me. In reality, I was just too afraid to let anyone inside my shell. I didn’t understand that at the time – by then, having extremely few friends was so normal to me that I didn’t see it as even requiring an explanation. But still, I was so lonely and felt so isolated.
That shell lasted 26 years. It did get thinner over time, and gradually more and more people slipped in through a crack here and there, but it’s only now, due to my finally having realized that I was bullied, and connecting that to the desperation for social approval that drove me to make those two stupid decisions that I had blamed myself for ever since, that it finally shattered altogether.
Thanks to Facebook I was able to get in touch with two women who had been especially hurtful to me: M.A. in elementary school and J.J. during junior high. I contacted them because I wanted to forgive them. They made it very easy for me to do so. M.A. wrote, “Truth be told….. I often think of u. Just yesterday I did. I’m so very sorry for any and all hurtful words/ actions.” J.J. didn’t actually even remember the comments she had made, but found it easy to believe she would have said them, and sincerely apologized. I learned that both of them had been bullied as well – I would never have guessed that at the time! They both were harrassed on account of their nationalities and religion. The whole domino effect of one person’s suffering causing them to hurt another person, and then that person’s suffering resulting in pain for a third person… became so immediately crystal-clear to me. The burden – the weight of that shell I’d been carrying around – just dropped right off of me and I felt such an immense relief.
Seeing the world anew, without the distortions of that shell, has been an indescribable joy. I am FREE!!
In the blog post referenced at the beginning, Single Dad Laughing says “People who love themselves don’t hurt other people.” I completely understand that now. My whole purpose in beginning my blog was to analyze the world and discover all the things people needed to do in order to achieve world peace. That’s a lot of things. I tried to simplify it by focusing on education, religious beliefs, equitable use of resources, and inner peace, but it was still an unmanageably large problem. But I have found my answer: peace will exist when each person loves him- or herself. We can educate everyone, fix all the religious beliefs to eliminate violence, use resources absolutely equitably – and, even with all of that, still have people who don’t love themselves and will therefore cause suffering to others. But if we are ever all able to love ourselves, all of those other things will automatically happen because we will insist upon them.