Much as I might try to deny it in civilised circles, there’s an unavoidable truth under whose burden I’ve been crushed by since I was child. I am, for want of a better expression, an emotional cripple. My inability to express myself in anything other than my default settings of rage and functionality has subjugated, restricted and limited my interactions and the way I deal with people. Social situations are, for me, at best awkward and at worst a potential shit storm in the making. Mingling with those I don’t know always ends badly, as strangers regard me as arrogant, obnoxious and rude, whereas in reality, all of those facets of my personality are exaggerated and projected as part of a front that I use in order to deflect the unwanted attentions of every single person I feel unfortunate enough to meet. Like the best of the best in the professional wrestling business who intensify their normal personalities tenfold in order to get over with the collective force of fandom, the misanthrope that I’ve played for so long has ended up becoming who I am; and now it’s almost impossible for me to escape his influence and control. Don’t misunderstand me, my lack of affinity is not due to some overwhelming hatred toward the rest of my species, it’s more a case of not being able to relate to the vast majority of them on any level.
I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been told that when I was little I was incredibly gregarious, found it easy to mix and mingle and was content to spend time with and enjoy the company of my peers. I can’t recall that being the case, but I’ll take my family’s word for it. They seem to think it used to be all sunshine, moonbeams, lemonade and lashings of ice cream. Maybe it was, but all that shit changed the minute my family uprooted me and moved to South Wales. I wasn’t just the new kid, I was also small, skinny and ginger. And I talked “funny”. My old man (convinced that the world outside of Liverpool regarded all Scousers as being subhuman) had also forbidden me from fighting as he thought it would only increase the inherent negative perception, and that if I ever fought anyone and he found out, he’d beat the holy hell out of me and give me such a hiding that it’d even make baby Jesus cry. You know when weather folks talk about a perfect storm, one created by an unlikely combination of factors, that wreaks havoc and destruction everywhere it lays its hat? That combination, all those implausible things happening at once in order to make something unique that was me. I might as well have had ‘victim’ etched into my forehead with a razor blade, and like a pack of starving wolves that have caught the scent of blood, it wasn’t long before the animals descended like a horde on the weird little kid who couldn’t fight back. And for next five years, my life became an endless cycle of daily mockery, beatings, humiliation, pain and psychological destruction. Some days were better than others. Some days there weren’t any new bruises. Some days I didn’t get my head slammed in a desk, repeatedly punched in the face or kicked in the balls for whatever reason my persecutors deemed fit, but even on the days when there was no physical pain, the mental torture, the perpetual insults, they continued unabated. That was my life and every damn day was the same.
But what about your friends I hear you cry? What about them? The few that I did have, they didn’t want to get involved for fear that they’d end up sharing the same fate as me. Hell, sometimes, some of them even joined in and then the next day, pretended as though nothing had happened. But I remembered, because when you’re caught in the eye of the hurricane, there’s very little you can do except recall each and every indignity and disgrace, every moment of fear and shame when you’ve submitted to the inevitability of the devastation your life had become. As for my folks, well, they had enough of their own crap to deal with and were busy enough paying the bills and keeping the ship afloat, so didn’t need to be burdened by my woes and misfortune. This left the teachers, who either didn’t give a flying fuck about what happened to the “horrible brats” in their care or were too wrapped up in their own shit to even notice what was going on around them. Being a fast learner I soon realised that I was the only person I could rely on and trust.
So I hid away. I retreated into a world of books, film, television, role playing games and music, all of which provided solace and comfort to my increasingly battered and defeated soul. And it was there, in the comfort blanket they provided that I promised myself that no matter how much pain I endured, no matter how many times I was degraded, debased and dishonoured, I would not bend, break or become something that I wasn’t in an attempt to lessen the onslaught or appease my tormentors. Sometimes I’d cry, sometimes I wouldn’t, but I never, ever spoke. I just took everything they had to give, got up, brushed myself off and prepared for the next round.
Then one day, without warning, when I was twelve, something just snapped. A new face had rolled up and started to throw his weight around with me, started getting ready to throw what he thought would be a slurry of unanswered punches and before I knew what was going on, or what was happening, I hit him with a chair. Not one of those lightweight plastic, easily stackable disposable items that were designed for discomfort, no I hit with an ancient, made from the odds and ends that were left over from the Ark, built to last wooden thrones. Then I hit him with it again. And again and again and again. Instead of the euphoria and release I expected to feel, I felt nothing. Nothing at all and where the fear, frustration and panic that permanently tied my insides in a knot used to dwell, there was an empty void. There was nothing. The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of the headmaster and my whole sorry tale of agony, grief and anguish was pouring out and he just sat there, listening intently, his attention focused entirely on my life story. Instead of the expulsion that the near hospitalisation of another pupil would normally warrant, I was given a two day suspension. I don’t know why and I don’t how much he told, or what he said to, my parents, but instead of the existence ending pummelling that my father had promised to mete out to me should I ever raise a fist, let alone a chair, in anger, he just looked at me and without saying a word, gave me a sorrowful smile and nodded. He didn’t need to say anything and neither did I. We both knew that my days of holding back, turning the other cheek and being a victim were over, that they had ended in the silent acceptance of everything that had happened.
Wish I could I say that there was a happy ending to the story, I really do, but five years is a long time and during that half decade, I learned everything that I ever needed to know about people. It taught me that I never wanted to feel that kind of hurt, that kind of abasement and ignominy ever again. It taught me that I would never let myself be humbled or made to feel ashamed of who I was, and am, ever again. It taught me to get a good offence in first, to come out swinging and if you ever do have to fight, it taught me that I needed to fight to maim, mutilate and kill and that the only way anyone would put me down was if they killed me, because I’d learned to always get up, no matter how much it hurt or how loud my brain was screaming at me to just stay down. I learned to live by three golden rules and I still adhere to them. Never bend, never break and never give in. I’d set the parameters of, and was comfortable in, my world. I still am. There are hundreds of thousands of others who have endured the same things I had to, who were made to feel as worthless, weak and pathetic as I was made to and who continue, like me, to live with the legacy of what was done to them. Not everyone made, or makes it through; and every single time without fail, I hear that someone else has been broken by abuse, my heart aches and I shed a tear. Because I lost count of the number of times that I came close to doing exactly the same thing.
I don’t know who I was supposed to be before I became a victim of bullying and I never will. That person is long gone. He died in a five year flurry of meaningless, undeserved, punches, kicks and excruciating psychological anguish. All I know is who I am now. A barely functional, emotionally crippled survivor. And you know what? That’s enough for me. It has to be.
Tim Mass Movement