A few months ago Mike submitted a story shared here called “Daydreams & Nightmares”. His story was very close to my own and shared both a personal knowledge of being bullied. Mike has submitted a second story to share here called “Bullying Scars for Life”, again sharing a very personal and real perspective to what it is like to live with the long-term pain and effects from bullying. ~Alan Eisenberg
Bullying Scars for Life
Bullying can scar you for life. After graduating from high school my life followed a hypersensitive crumbling path. The next eight years are a medicated blur, and yet, simultaneously, a calculated demonstration of survival tactics. Most of the names are forgotten but not the pummeling pain of existence. Just thinking about those days causes me to be physically debilitated as I try to transmit the daily trauma across these computer keys.
I was living in an apartment with one of many different roommates I would have as I scraped towards a college degree. I awoke on this Tuesday in October of the fall of 1980. My first class was at 8:00 and as usual my intention to be prepared had not come to fruition. I showered and consumed my usual two bowls of Captain Crunch. I chewed on the right because two teeth on the left were hurting bad. I hadn’t made it through a dentist appointment in over four years. Fulfilling the minimum hygienic expectations, I then initiated the survival techniques for the day. The pistachio supply was adequate and positioned in all the key locations; a handful in the two front pockets of my jeans, half a bag in my coat inside pocket, and another bag for backup placed under my passenger seat. This was going to be a distinctly tougher day as I had not been able to get my hands on the yellow pills for quite a few days.
Driving towards school, the radio was set on a golden oldies station as I drifted into my safe world of daydreams. I found some peace while I drove since I was in control and it was a place where I could be the person I always wanted to be. Today, I found solace as an amazing tennis player wowing the world with win after win at Wimbledon. Pulling into the school lot, I longed for that John Denver song to just go on and on so that the crowds would keep cheering. As I headed pass the baseball field towards the campus, I transformed myself and was now invisible. This was the absolute key to surviving for the day. I had given up on directing every neuron and fiber towards the cause of looking cool. I wasn’t anything but a piece of dirt that wandered through each day wondering why was I of such little significance in this world.
I took the usual path working my way through the halls passing hundreds of students. They were not peers since there was no relationship or connection. I glanced at the pretty girls, envied the guys they were talking to, and wished so deeply that I could just be a part of all this. As I passed my class room I glanced in, considered entering for a second and then proceeded on by. Like a ghost, shy of any typical frightening intentions of a ghoul, I slipped quietly into the school library. The girl behind the desk was gorgeous. For days I had worked on fooling my internal guards so that I could say hello to this beauty.
As I approached the desk, it started. The symptoms were always centered on my left side. The muscles around my mouth started quivering as I began to bite down hard on my lips. The corner of my mouth started to twitch. The tongue began pushing against the bottom part of my mouth and then slashed across the inside of my teeth. The elbow flickered and the fingers moved almost uncontrollably. Popping a pistachio I chewed feverishly as I got the next nut under my upper lip. It was too late. I was in overdrive and was escalating out of control. As my mind maneuvered feverishly to control my anatomy, the physiological elements finished me off. Breathing rapidly increased, the left leg was gripped by a vise, and the foot felt heavy. The throat muscles tightened as all parts of my mouth moved incessantly. The panic set in as I emptied my last sources of energy to avoid collapsing. I was now a moment away from dry heaving. At this point, I knew there was no way I was going to move forward. Now my only chance of avoiding total embarrassment was to get out. So I did.
I walked around the perimeter of the campus to avoid as many people as possible. As I hit a quiet stretch, I could feel myself slowly settling down. No one was around which meant there was no one to impress… which meant I could return to my safe point of invisibility. Another day at school had been attempted with a recurring result. No classes were attended, no schoolwork was completed and I headed home elevated in stress and depleted in self-worth.
In order to reset my vitals to a functioning level, I had to separate my mind from reality. I got back to the apartment, slouched onto the sofa and turned on the TV. Cable had not yet come to pass so I had to settle for the soaps on one of the three network stations. After an hour, I was feeling better, but was quite aware that phase-two of surviving the day was soon to arrive.
I worked about five days a week at Sears in the paint and sporting goods department. It was time to now get prepared. The problem with this job was that I had to talk with many people during each shift. The bigger problem was that I was paralyzed with fear that I would dry heave while interacting with co-workers and customers. Over time certain foods seemed to be more effective to help me keep cool. Lately, I found that popsicles had become short-term tranquilizers. It just happened that we had a refrigerator just behind the warehouse doors in my department. So before clocking in I went next door and picked up a box of assorted flavored popsicles. Quickly, I noticed that my body and mind was still ultra-tense. As customers asked questions my symptoms were returning. The throat tightened, the mouth muscles went spastic and my left side stiffened. I was good for about four minute intervals before I had to get to that freezer and take a bite of my popsicle. Think about the level of tension that existed over the four hour shift.
After two hours I was drained. The department manager called me over to discuss inventory paperwork. When I was in this state, I felt like I was choking if I couldn’t get to my relief valve. As Tom spoke to me, I couldn’t decipher a thing that he was saying. My mind was totally zoomed in on avoiding a dry heave. Both legs grew heavier and more painful by the second. My mouth was hyper as I tried to survive and acknowledge Tom’s directions. Finally, exhausted I collapsed to my knees placing my head in my arms. Tom was bewildered and asked what was wrong. Holding back tears, I mumbled that I was fighting a flu. The strangest thing was that whenever I gave up, the pressures would cease and I always felt a few moments of serenity. Tom sympathetically released me and I slowly weaved through the stock room to the punch clock. By the time I got to my car, I was numb in a similar way as the night before and the night before that. When I arrived home, I turned on the TV. Two hours later I began to drift off, sadly aware that I would go through all of this again when the sun rose tomorrow.
~Mike S. (Author of Bullied)