Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading, mostly of a blog called Single Dad Laughing. It’s good writing! You should read it. Anyway, some of the writer’s most profound pieces center around bullying. He was severely bullied growing up, occasionally became a bully himself, and has been working through how all of that has affected his life since.
His struggles with it – and the comments of others who relate – got me thinking hard. The thing about childhood bullying is that it doesn’t go away. When the bullying stops, and the bullied child grows into an adult, the emotions and outlooks fostered by the bullying grow right along with them. The bullied child hides everything in a corner to become a seemingly ordinary and well-adjusted adult.
Let me tell you… as a bullied child and later a bully myself… I’m not an ordinary and well-adjusted adult. I’m not even talking about the spiritual spooky stuff going on. I’m talking about the day-to-day, interact with my friends and colleagues, relationship with my family kind of stuff. And, to an extent, it does affect my relationship with my Deities.
The bullying started at home. My parents did not have a happy marriage, and my father took out his frustrations on his children. I spoke to a school counselor when I was in elementary school that Dad “hit me too much;” after that, it turned verbal. I was fat; I ate too much; I was a slob and a pig. At one point, I came home with bifocals and he called me “Six Eyes” for days. At 13, Dad left, and as time went on, Mom became bitter and took out her frustrations on her children. Entering the advanced program in high school was a mistake; I wasn’t a good enough student to complete the program, or to earn scholarships for college. I couldn’t possibly ask for or make more money in my 20s than she did in her 50s. And so forth.
It didn’t stop at home. I was always tall for my age; I wore glasses; I was geeky; I developed early. These all made me a prime target for abuse from my peers. I was called names like Four Eyes, Jolly Green Giant, and Appalachian Trail (for the acne running down my face); in 6th grade I was sexually assaulted by a 5th grader. Middle school was no better. I tried to hide my development behind sports bras and baggy shirts. I ate for comfort, making the teasing worse due to weight gain. I was pelted with spiky seeds called gumballs on my walk home; I was called Master Bator. I did finally have some real friends, good people who helped make it less traumatic, but it didn’t stop me from becoming a bully myself, or losing a few other friends when it came out that I was dating a girl in high school.
The level I endured is nothing compared to some, but it certainly made an impact. I had imaginary friends until I was 14, because my imaginary world was so much better than the real one. I never did make it to college. I slouch to this day, trying to make myself look shorter. I still have a comfort-eating problem that I will always fight. There are days where I am overly sensitive about words. I often hate the way I look. I still feel shame about masturbation. I pick at my face, usually unconsciously, trying to get rid of the acne I still have as an adult (which of course makes it worse). There are other things, all resulting from the teasing, putting-down, and bullying I encountered, both at home and with my peers.
Where my spirituality is concerned, it has given me doubt after doubt. Am I really hearing what I think I’m hearing? Why me? I couldn’t possibly be good enough for this… and so on. Those demons of the past nag at me, trying to raise my doubts and shove me back into that dark cloud. I’ve been fighting that darkness for over a decade, and it’s become more important than ever to reconcile it.
Notice I said reconcile. Darkness is part of everyone, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is that forgivng myself is a better idea than fighting myself. There’s more to it, of course, but it’s the start to furthering my path. It’s a start to seeing myself as worth the effort this path requires. It’s a start to accepting myself, period, and becoming the person I always had the potential to be.
So far it’s one of the hardest parts of this journey. Doing something for the sake of someone else is easy compared to doing something for my own sake. But that’s part of the lesson. He wants me to be at my best, not just because He wants me to be, but because I need to want it. I need to see myself as someone deserving of the effort. That’s why He’s asking for better makeup and hair and clothing; it’s why He gets upset when I overdose on gummy bears and Jelly Belly. I need to forgive myself.
I’m working on it. I’ve been working on it for a good while now, ever since I went into therapy a few years ago. I have the tools. Now it’s time to silence the old bullies and move forward, because while I may not always think so, I am worth the effort.