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Bullied in school -- still hurts 40 years later


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Well group, this is where i tell you why i joined this forum.

I apologize in advance for being verbose.

I was a battered child; the Sperm-Donor (some men don't deserve the title "father") slapped me for even small mistakes, and sometimes punched me. He threw me down the stairs once too, i remember. He brainwashed me into thinking i could never defend myself or stand up for myself. Because, well, a child can't defend himself against a 6-foot 200-pound adult. Softened me up real good, that guy did; turned me into the perfect punching bag for the school bullies.

The bullies discovered me when i was about 10 or so. When we started to play team sports in gym class and i didn't know how to play them, then the bullies realized i was different. That's always how bullies smell blood in the water: find the one who's different and has no friends. So they started. They tripped me as i walked in the hall. They walked up behind me and pounded me in the back of my head. They knocked the schoolbooks out of my hands. They took money from me. The verbal abuse was just as relentless: "spazz," "dork," "dorf," and the entire dictionary of homophobic insults. When your gay neighbors complain about school bullying, you should believe them. I was the target of homophobic insults, and i'm not even gay.

I wish i could say that the girls bullied me less than the boys. Not so.

The girls knew (as the boys did) that they could get at me by stabbing at my masculinity.

They knew i was shy and insecure. One of their tactics was to air-kiss me or say "you look cute today" and then, if i was innocent enough to accept the compliment, they'd join with their girlfriends in laughing at me for being so gullible. In fact, girls used me to bully other girls: if they wanted to really insult a girl, they'd tell her "[my name] likes you!" That was the worst insult they could throw at a girl: the idea that i might be attracted to her.

So much shame. From not knowing how to defend myself against bullies, and from not knowing how to attract girls. And my high school had several other ways to make me ashamed of myself. Gym class had one classic (that many of you may remember): if we boys were about to play a team sport, two of the higher-ranking boys would choose who they wanted on their team. So at nearly every gym class, each of us had a person-by-person measure of exactly who outranked us, and whom we outranked. I wasn't the last one chosen, because nobody actually ever chose me at all: they were just told that i was on their team because i was the last one left. I didn't outrank anyone; i was the bottom of the pile. National Honor Society was another big moment of shame: i had the best grades in my class, but because all off my activities were non-school activities like Boy Scouts and church, they wouldn't let me be on Honor Society. They completely invalidated the only thing i was good at -- schoolwork.

Shame continued through college. I was so ashamed of myself, i could hardly talk to women my age. So i didn't have many dates. Didn't have my first date until i was 19, didn't experience my first kiss until i was 23, and was a virgin until well after i graduated from graduate school. Having so few sexual partners -- that's been a huge source of additional shame for me.

I'm ashamed of my career failures, too: i was a trial lawyer for 12 years, but could never succeed in a law firm and couldn't make enough money on my own to support myself (i once washed trucks at UPS for awhile, just to bring in some the cash i wasn't making as a lawyer). I eventually had to leave law and become a computer technician, which is what i do now. I'm ashamed that i make so little money. Here i have a law degree, and in my last job i made only 30K a year (less than that, if you look at take-home pay).

Now here i am, 57 years old, with a lifetime of failure behind me. I empathize with the people in this forum who write that they hate themselves. I hate myself, too; i wish i'd been a completely-different type of man. I'm grateful for my wife of 24 years, she's the one sunny spot in my life. But even in our marriage there's a lot to make me ashamed of myself: she makes more money than i do, her career is more stable and successful than mine, and we weren't able to have children. So i failed there, too.

I'm sure very few people have read my entire story here. How could they? It's so long and so depressing. But i thank anyone who read any part of this without laughing at me or judging me.

I needed to get all of this off of my chest, and i hope somehow i'll find comfort here.


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Guest ChinaDoll

Hello TooOld4This. I'm glad you got that out of your chest. I hope your stay here wilp help you deal with your negative sense of self. Being bullied in school-- yeah. I could relate to that too. The challenge there is how to rise above your past. I am sure it is possible and it doesn't matter how old you are. As long as you are alive, "just keep swimming" as Dory would say. XD (Yes, I'm taking advice from an animated fish. LOL)

Have you ever talked to your wife about your feelings towards her success in comparison to yours and your lack of children? I think she is the best person who can support you in this.

Strength to you.


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Thank you, everyone, your words are very kind.

I wish i could put the past behind me, i really do. When people say "put the past behind you," i don't think they realize how much the present can remind you of the past. When i look at the present, i see bullies winning everywhere: cops in Ferguson and LA, conservative talk show hosts, gangsta rappers, professional athletes. Donald Trump and Ann Coulter are just people who bully for a living, in my opinion.

So the present keeps reminding of all the ways in which i don't measure up, all the reasons why i'm The One Who Never Was Chosen. I have a memory, unfortunately; i remember being inferior. And the present reminds me, in so many ways, that i'm still inferior.

Again, thank you for your willingness to hear me out.

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Guest ChinaDoll

I'm laughing right now because there is truth to that.(I have the attitude to laugh at things that upset me as a way of coping) It saddens me how much manipulation is practically a necessity for survival nowadays. Long gone maybe are the days of chivalry and honor?

I dunno about you though but I'm not ready to give up the fight. :)

Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks, Klingsor and ChinaDoll

I'm grateful for you and all people who empathize, not criticize.

I realize that people who give me pat answers ("put the past behind you," "just get a higher-paying job," "just don't let it bother you") are not intentionally trying to be cruel. They're trying to create hope, trying to imagine a quick way out and a quick happy ending.

What they don't understand (and, unfortunately, i've been to a few therapists who say these kinds of things, too) is that inferiority is not a transitory emotion, like fear, or a self-created mindset like racism. Inferiority is an experience. Bullies and snobs treat you as inferior, and in that time of inferiority you lack the power to either challenge their treatment of you, or to prove that they're mistaken.

So it becomes an obsessive quest: i'm always searching for validation and equality. Always looking for that irrefutable proof that says, "Yes, I AM EQUAL TO YOU." People assume that i chose this quest, so they come out with several variations of the idea "don't LET IT bother you" / "don't LET THEM have power over you." They don't realize that i didn't choose the inferiority experience and didn't choose the quest that comes with it. It was never just a series of erroneous statements that i invented myself and started to repeat in my head. No, those bullies really did harass me. They really did get away with it, they really didn't receive consequences, because they really did have more power than me. That's not some subjective illusion; it's what happened. And those girls who wouldn't date me, and the people of both genders who didn't socialize with me? That really happened. (You women who remember boys rejecting you because of your weight? You African-Americans who are followed by security guards in the store? You all know that this is real.)

Please hear me, well-meaning people and therapists: this is an experience that occurs in society; shame and anger are natural responses to it. I didn't invent inferiority by myself in my own head, so i can't invent self-esteem in my own head. And you, the one who claims to have devised your own self-esteem: i'm not buying it. You had help: unconditional acceptance from your parents, your school peers, your football team, your drama club, your sex partners, the mentor who helped you get your high-paying job, SOMEBODY. If you want me to stop complaining, then help me bring an ending to this quest.

I hope i'm giving voice to the pain that many others are feeling.

Sometimes that's as much comfort as we can give each other.

And i'm more than willing to try to convince you, if i can, that you're as good as everyone else, no matter what you experienced.


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