Trigger Warning: This article may contain elements that might trigger certain people’s traumas (physical, verbal, and emotional abuse). You have been warned.
I’m a professional software engineer in a reputable company, earning enough money to raise a family of my own and still have some spare change to buy the small things I want. In my spare time, I work on my first passion which is writing. I write everything from career guides to my social commentaries. I don’t have any plans to write my own book but I think it’s a cool thing if I’ll be able to do that. I have a caring family, a wife to die for, and friends that are my ride-or-die. I probably don’t have everything I want. But I have everything I need.
But regardless of how good life is now, my mind keeps on pulling me down to that place: that place that I don’t really wish to be in any time of day. My mind just takes me there randomly, regardless of whether I’m busy or not. Once I’m in, my blood pressure rises, my mind gets cloudy, my patience becomes razor-thin. When I realize that I’m there again, it’s too late. I got trapped in my flashbacks again.
You see, for decades now, I’ve been battling the effects of bullying on my entire well-being. It’s been years since the last time I got bullied. But to this day, I still suffer from its effects on my self-esteem, on my thought processes, and on my capability to trust people. I thought of writing this to hopefully provide people with a view of what bullying does to people. This is my personal account of what happened to me, from childhood to adulthood.
I remember my childhood as a collection of bittersweet memories. The good times are good, but the bad times are really bad. I don’t remember a lot of things about my childhood anymore. Unfortunately, the bad memories seem to outnumber the good ones, and they’re all in vivid detail. Here are a few of them.
In grade school, I remember one of my classmates took my activity booklet and replaced it with his own. It should’ve been alright if not for the fact that his copy was badly printed and was cut in the wrong places by the publisher. I know he switched them while I was not looking because I checked my own copy page by page before I left it under the desk. I knew it was him because I had a glimpse of him going through my stuff minutes before the activity. When I told him that I know what he did, he says I got no proof because my name is not written on it.
This is also the same person that wants to call me names just for kicks. I don’t remember the words he said anymore. But I know it’s along the lines of me being a fat kid. My head still remembers how it felt. I was not even super fat at the time. I was just a little bit overweight, something normal for growing children. But since I keep on hearing insults from other children, I really thought there must be something wrong with me. This person, along with people like him, made me believe that there was something wrong with me, and it annoyed the bejeezus out of me when I hear children shouting “taba” (fat) or “tabachoy” (another fat insult) or “baboy” (pig) towards me. Knowing what I know now, I would say that talk is cheap. But I was not a bright kid and I get annoyed by insults way too easily.
I may have forgotten most of the insulting things he told me. But I still know how those things made me feel, and that feeling keeps on going back to me to this day. It’s like my brain takes me back to that day, and I can’t do anything but be in that situation and just feel the same negative emotions over and over again. This is the thing about childhood traumas. You may have forgotten what actually happened or what words were uttered. But something would trigger that vague memory and all of a sudden, your day is already ruined.
It would’ve been better if that’s all of the things my little brain and little heart needed to handle. Of course, it doesn’t end there.
My other classmates in grade school were not really nicer than that idiot. I don’t know how it reached them, but there were rumors about my father having extramarital affairs back in the day. I don’t know how children can be that mean, but some of them used that against me too, as if I got something to do with my father boning someone else. It’s like they made a parade at my family’s expense. It doesn’t matter if the rumors were true or not. The point is they used this information to hurt me, and for what? Just to have that satisfaction of hurting someone else?
Top it off with a teacher throwing jet fuel to the dumpster fire. She talked to my classmates about my attitude, saying that they should excuse my behavior because I’ve been through things. I have no idea what she told the entire class. I don’t know if it’s regarding my father allegedly cheating on my mother. But isn’t that something she should tell me or my parents first? If it’s that important, she’s not in the position to talk about it without us knowing. She did not help the situation at all. But other than that, I just have to say, I know I was a weird kid. I know I made bad decisions and I know I got my priorities wrong. For the life of me, even to this day, I can’t really find any valid reason for this teacher to talk about me and my “problems” behind my back.
I’m not sure what she’s trying to do. But this is the same teacher that talked to us, her own students, about another teacher in the school when that teacher got pregnant out of wedlock. She said that even in Catholic doctrine, getting pregnant outside of marriage is a sin. I don’t know what she’s thinking since I don’t believe that learning about a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock is something a bunch of children needs to know. Regardless of the reasons why she did that, the point remains that if she can talk about her own colleague like that, what more her own student? So looking back, I’m not really surprised.
I try my best to think she may have the best of intentions. But as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You claim to be a Christian but you gossip about other people. This is one of the reasons why for a long time, I had an aversion to hanging out with people who claim to be Christian. In my eyes at the time, they were just a bunch of hypocrites trying to convince people that they were nice. Now I know they’re just a minority and there are a lot of really nice Christians. But I digress. Let’s carry on.
Outside our grade school, it’s not really different. Wannabe tough boys in our village just want to feel macho and are always on the lookout for children to bully. Usually, it’s me that they find. They love bullying me because I have a wild imagination and they get the added satisfaction of seeing me cry. A week never goes by without a confrontation. It’s usually me doing my own business with my friends, then they show up and ruin our fun. If we’re building something, they will surely break it. If we’re playing, they will push me and pretend it was an accident. When I get fed up and stand up to them, they will challenge me to a fistfight like stupid idiots wanting to prove something.
Then the day came I just got tired of all the bullying so I just give them what they want. They wanted to see me cry so I just cried. I just got tired of all the bullying. I just want to go back to what I want to do. They want to punch me? Fine. They want to pull my pants down in front of a lot of people? Whatever. They want to humiliate me in front of my friends? Just do it and let me be on my way. It went on for years. I stayed in that village until I graduated from grade school. I wanted to get out of that place so bad.
I thought when I move to high school, the bullying will end. Oh, I was so naive. The bullying never stopped, neither inside nor outside the campus. It never stopped and it got worse.
The classic name-calling never went out of style among other childish things. Toxic masculinity is in full swing. Being called “gay” was an insult and usually starts a fistfight. We’re in an all-boys school, and a lot of boys want to prove they’re men. Looking back, I find that concept stupid and a huge waste of time.
What made things worse was that some of the conduct awardees are bullies themselves. They look nice and angelic in front of teachers. But they’re the worst in my opinion. At least for the real bullies, they don’t beat around the bush and they don’t hide who they are. The so-called conduct awardees are the worst and whenever I have flashbacks about bullying, they’re the first people I remember. From property damage to ruining the lives of students with mental challenges and/or disabilities, they’re just a bunch of idiots that want to feel badass but are too cowardly to face the consequences. I thank God for therapy and I don’t have any desire to exact vengeance on these imbeciles anymore.
During that time, bullies in my batch would find pleasure in taking a large portion of my lunch, throwing my lunchbox over the fence, throwing their trash in my backpack, someone even called me “abno” (short for abnormal, or someone with a mental illness). They even laughed at me when I said I want to be a writer.
Certain upperclassmen in our school service were bullies too. But I vividly recall a specific one. He’s nothing but trouble. He’s out to make us cry. Even when we’re in a computer shop to chill, he’s there to insult and disrespect us. I remember one time I was playing when he suddenly dry-humped my arm and my back. In-game, he intentionally cheats just to ruin our game. He just wants to ruin our day for some reason. Until now I don’t know what his deal is. I thought he was going to be the worst person that I have to deal with as I power through high school. But no, it gets even worse.
Third year was the worst. I remember a time one of these conduct awardee posers had the guts to insult and belittle me, implying that I have a mental illness. It would’ve been impressive if he went alone. The fun part is he went with someone else. That’s another thing about these idiots. They either go in a group or they go alone if they know their target is incapable of fighting back.
So this person insulted me, I got fed up and punched him in the arm. He laughed at me and when I walked away, he punched me at the back of my head. I almost lost consciousness that time. But I was able to keep my feet on the ground. I got hit really bad and I can’t hit him back anymore. I know it was my fault for punching first. But I think he knows the only way for him to win is to punch me when I was not looking. Typical coward.
He’s the clown that I will never forget. He’s the same guy that made an effort to be part of the cool kids, goes all goody-two-shoes in front of teachers, but humiliates those people he considers beneath him. He always says, “nagsama-sama ang mga abnormal” (the freaks are together again) whenever he sees me and my friends together. It’s usually just verbal insults with him. But there was one time he took a chalkboard eraser and forcibly dusted it on the face of one of my classmates. He knows the guy can’t fight back. I thought I would never see that kind of thing in person. That’s the kind of stuff that you only see on television. Truly he’s a clown, a sick one at that. The funny part of it all is that when you ask his friends or anyone close to him, they will say that’s he’s a kind and caring person. Oh Lord Almighty, he’s a double-faced moron.
Here’s another that I will never forget. In our class, there is this group of students that think they’re funny. They think making fun of me is all in good fun, that I was in on the joke. I kept on telling them to stop, and it appears they can’t be bothered to listen. When I get fed up and make a scene, they make it appear like it was my fault.
Well, I just want to go along with my life. I’m sorry if I ruined your fun, you bunch of basic bitches.
Anyway, one day, one of them started shouting in the gymnasium, ran towards me, and challenged me to a brawl, with the intent to kick and punch me right then and there. I was not doing anything to him. I was not even talking to anyone. I was just walking around, minding my own business. He just finds pleasure in making my life miserable, I guess.
It was the worst time of my life, third year. I got so desperate that I even brought a small knife that I personally sharpened. I’m so frustrated that I don’t care if I get expelled or if I kill one of them. In fact if not for one guy’s fast reflexes, I probably would have sliced off one of his fingers. I’m tired of the jokes. I’m tired of the insults. I’m tired of the bullying. I just wanted everything to end. The situation got even worse that I threatened everyone that I would blow up the place with an old grenade we were keeping at home at the time. Of course, they just laughed and did not believe me. I was tempted to bring it along and show them who has the final laugh. But I stepped back when I thought of what my mother would think. By that time, my father’s been dead for about three years. She’s been through a lot already, trying to raise her three children alone. I did not want to trouble her any more than I have to.
It was also around this period that I learned how to cuss without remorse. I learned that I should strike first if I want people to respect me. I had to shut people up by raising my voice. I rudely correct people to show how stupid they are. I had to be the worse version of myself just to get a semblance of peace of mind. My homophobia and sexism got worse. I bullied those with a weaker performance than me. I became a bully myself.
I brought this baggage with me as I moved to college. It’s one of the things that made my college life worse, now that I think about it. My bad behavior prevented me from making new friends. I made people hate me at that time. It prevented me to see the good in people. Someone even punched me in the face because I called him “bobo” (stupid). It was not one of the things I’m proud of. Arguing with an idiot also makes you an idiot, after all. But in all seriousness, I could’ve handled the situation better.
I can never get along with the easy-going people in the class since I was acting all smart and superior. I can never get along with the smart guys because I’m not as smart as I thought I was. With the help of close friends and years of soul-searching, I found out that I became the asshole that I hated all my life. I worked hard on improving my attitude and by the fifth year, I made more friends than in my previous four years of college.
I found out that rudeness is an effective way of keeping people out of your life. But that’s the problem with being rude. You never get to know the people you should keep in your life. My fear of being bullied again got the best of me, and I don’t want that to happen again. So I kept on working on myself. Fast forward to today and numerous therapy sessions, I got friends from different places, from different walks of life, and of different backgrounds. I also found the love of my life.
But even now, as I’ve mentioned, I’m still weighed down by these flashbacks of bullying from time to time. It’s not just the bullying that I experienced. I became a bully myself at some point, even before high school, and I regret the times that I succumbed to my desire to stop everyone from bullying me that I resorted to being a bad person without considering the repercussions that go along with it. I deeply regret doing those things to this day, and I work hard every day so that I won’t go back to that kind of mindset ever again. At the top of my head, I can remember two instances where I acted like a bully towards the people who don’t deserve it.
When I was in grade school, I have a few friends in our neighborhood. There were twins and their younger sister, and there was a gentle boy smaller than I. To feel more superior and to show the bullies that I’m one of them, I made those four kids cry by threatening to hurt them with something I don’t remember anymore. I still remember them crying in front of me, their cries getting louder as I brandish that thing I was holding. I can also remember the bullies cheering in the background as I make these poor children cry. I don’t remember if I was holding a large belt or a long stick. But whatever I threatened them with is not the point. Hurting the friends who trust you just to impress the people who don’t even care about you not only is the wrong thing to do, it also won’t help you in the long run. I learned that lesson the hard way when the bullies needed to hurt someone again and I’m the only one around.
In high school, I go to school by a service jeepney. We’re in an all-boys school as I’ve mentioned, so you just know a vehicle filled with boys just spells disaster. Underclassmen are bullied by the upperclassmen unless they need something from them. There was one time they made fun of me, we got rowdy, and one of them punched me in the arm. It got bruised up and my mother saw it when I got out of the shower. They asked me who did it to me.
The one that punched me looked scary and I know he’ll beat me up if I tell my family it’s him. I was so afraid of what would happen if I tell my family, and I have to say a name because I will get beat up at home if I don’t say anything. These upperclassmen always hang out together. So my simpleton of a brain picked the least harmful of the group and I gave them that name. I thought if one of them got reprimanded, maybe they will all stop. I did not see what was coming after.
One weekend, my brother and his friends went to this guy’s family’s store and made a scene there. I only knew of what happened the Monday after the incident. That was the time it occurred to me that what I did was wrong.
It did the job in a way. I got bullied less in the school service since then. But someone undeserving of the shame and humiliation got it while the guy who did it was left unbothered. In a way, he got bullied by my brother and his peers when he did not deserve it as much as the guy who punched me. I let fear overshadow the truth and it’s all my fault.
I did say I’m not a bright kid in my youth. But being young is not an excuse. The fact that I had the desire to hurt someone emotionally and physically, the kid pass already went out the window, in my opinion. I already had established prejudices at a young age and I know I deserve whatever lessons in empathy and humility I got over the years. This is why I never called myself a victim of bullying anywhere in this article. I chose to be the bully on certain occasions. I made mistakes too.
Perhaps the greatest regret that I have is there are things that I could have said or done but didn’t. If only I realized earlier that talk is cheap, I would not even bother arguing with idiots that don’t know how to act properly. I could have said “no” to anything they do to me and those people who don’t deserve to be bullied. I wish I had enough courage to take a punch and throw a punch in return.
I wish I had enough courage to take my activity booklet back and not let myself be humiliated like that.
I wish I was smart enough to tell my classmates and teacher in grade school how effed up it is to use their mouth worshiping Jesus while at the same time gossiping about a child’s family issues.
I wish I did not cry in front of the village bullies and just went home.
I wish I was able to keep my cool when someone’s obviously cheating in a game.
I wish I hit that idiot in the nuts when he dry-humped me.
I wish I dared to expose those undeserving conduct awardees and show the entire school who they are: spineless cowards who want to look cool but don’t have the balls to deal with the repercussions.
I wish I was smart enough to fight idiots with words and not end up in either a fistfight or me humiliating myself all the time.
I wish I learned early on, that people with disabilities are people too and they deserve the world as much as able people, that people are different and who or what they love is not a big deal, that being macho is just a construct made by insecure men, and that women are not less than men.
But as they say, hindsight is always twenty-twenty. There’s nothing we can do about the past. All we really can work on is the present. Therapy taught me to let go of the past, live in the present, and look ahead to the future. It was my conscious choice not to hold any grudges anymore, and I make that choice every day. Sometimes I fail and I get eaten by negative thoughts, sometimes I succeed. I’m not saying I’ve forgiven them, far from it. I just accepted that everyone has their own best and worse impulses. I don’t even care if they stayed the same or if they changed for the better or worse. I just choose not to think about them if I can help it. There are better things to think about, and there are better people to spend my limited time with.
I know other people need help, just like me when I was young. Some people need people to talk to. There are a lot of people these days thinking about hurting themselves or ending their lives because they think they don’t deserve happiness, and these thoughts and ideas are often coming from unhappy people trying to find pleasure in hurting others physically or emotionally. Some people want to be as bad just to fit in a mean-spirited, vitriolic, self-obsessed society. I can’t do much to help. But I would be more than happy to talk to these people when given the chance. Maybe all they need is someone to talk to, someone who had similar experiences to what they’re experiencing now.
To the person reading this article, if you’re thinking of hurting yourself, killing yourself, being a bully yourself, or doing anything that would harm you or other people’s well-being because you think nothing good will ever happen to you, always remember this:
IT GETS BETTER.
Bien is a software engineer for more than 10 years, focusing on Microsoft .NET technology. He developed solutions ranging from embedded systems to accounting systems. He spends his free time trying to understand the world and its people.