Somewhere between the ages of 12-14 or so, I was a bully. I was one of those kids who made a few other kid’s lives miserable in school. Not a lot of kids, just a few. They were actually friends of mine, that I “sprung” being a bully on. They never saw it coming. Neither did I.
I hated that part of me. I never knew why I was doing it. It made no sense that I could be walking out to gym class with a friend and just punch her for no reason. I actually did that…we were walking and talking and I punched her in the cheek. I instantly said “I’m sorry” and acted like it was no big deal. What the hell? And she stayed my friend. She was a quiet, meek sort of girl. Just like me. Except I hated that part of me, so I guess I hated it in her. And because she was quiet and meek and didn’t have a lot of friends (like me), I knew I could get away with it. I didn’t understand why I needed to do that, it’s just something that erupted from me. I felt guilty afterwards. Shame.
I did it to a few other girls. I can remember starting a fight with a friend of mine in 9th grade. I made up a lie that I had heard her talking about me, and I punched her. We had been friends for 3 years, and I spring this crazy shit on her. Just awful. There was another girl who was new and befriended me. She would come over my house sometimes. No one really did that, so you think I would have valued the crap out of her. Nope. This one day, I decided to become really angry at her and chase her out of my home with a big kitchen knife in my hand. How scary must that have been for her? I can remember thinking to myself “why am I doing this?” as I chased her, scaring her… like it wasn’t even a really me. Like I was harboring a wild animal inside me and it would just break free on it’s own. I really had no control over it….or at least, that’s how it felt. It was sort of like watching a movie of it happening. When it came out, I think I felt a little powerful, or maybe in control…both things I never had in my life.
Over the years, I felt terribly guilty for how I treated them. Still, I never knew why. I just chalked it up to me being a bad person. I had always inherently known I was “bad”. I was never really sure why this was so…it’s just how it was. I think I must have thought I was bad since my mom decided she didn’t want to live with me anymore. And I must have thought I was bad because my dad would keep reminding me that he offered me to her and she didn’t want me. He must have offered me to her because I was bad? Is that what I thought? I’m not sure I consciously thought those things, but looking back, I can see that I felt them. You don’t always have to put words or labels to feelings, or even understand what they are. You still feel them, and they define you.
I continued to do “bad” things, because that’s what “bad” girls do. That’s how I made sense of it. When I was molested at 13, that was me being “bad”. I figured I had “let” that happen to me because that went right along with me being “bad”. So, it only made sense for me to have sex with other guys when I was 14, because I was already so “bad” for doing what I did at 13. Even though I told those boys no, and looking back now I can see that what really happened is they raped me…I thought I was just “bad”. I had no control over it. It was just who I was. It was me. I was bad. Not even just bad…I was a whore. But hey, we all know whores are bad, so really, what’s the difference?
When Facebook came on the scene, I found a few of those girls and apologized. They had moved on, of course, but seemed genuinely happy to hear me say I was sorry. I apologized for ruining what should have been the best years of their lives. I couldn’t give them an excuse, because I didn’t have one. That was 7 years ago, and I hadn’t started therapy yet. I was still bad.
Fast forward to now. I’ve been in therapy for a year now. And I don’t mean “just therapy”. I mean deep, painful, hard work therapy. I was going twice a week for most of this spring and summer. Writing up to 10 times a day in my journal. Peeling off those 30 year old layers resulted in PTSD…nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, confusion, panic…really life changing stuff. I describe the whole therapy process as a giant jigsaw puzzle. After I process a few layers, I’m usually able to put a few pieces together. Last week, the pieces that seemed like they just might fit was the piece of me being a bully and the piece of me being sexually abused. I wrote to one of my victims and asked her about the timeline. She remembered it vividly (which sucks, because I know she remembers it because that’s when her life was hell because of me). It was right around that time. I’m still not sure if it was right before the sexual abuse started or right after. If it was right before, it must be related to my mom leaving. If it’s right after, it must be related to the sexual abuse (or maybe the physical and emotional abuse of my stepmother?) Either way, in the big picture, the point is moot…. it’s not going to change what happened. I have my answers….I was a bully because I suffered trauma. Does it really matter which trauma caused it? No, it doesn’t. Trauma is trauma. Which one is minor details. All I need to know is that my trauma caused someone else’s trauma, and that sucks. We are in our 40s now, and they have all moved on, and even consider us “friends” now, so I am grateful for that. And hopefully, by me making amends, maybe when they think back to those awful times, they might not be so awful now. I’d like to think their memories sting a little less now that I’ve reached out to them, but I’ll never really know.
One thing that does not make this whole question moot is… most bullies do what they do because something bad happened to them. Well, I can only speak for myself. Maybe some kids are just born bad, or just have bad role models… but I really don’t think that’s the answer for most of them. I love that schools and society are addressing bullying now. Back then, it was brushed under the carpet as “kids being kids”. That’s wrong. Kids kill themselves from bullying. It needs to be addressed. But I also wonder…if someone had dug a little deeper back then…if they had found out why I was acting that way…do you think I could have been saved? Saved from 30 years of carrying that heavy load of guilt and shame inside me? Saved from making lifelong bad decisions because that’s all I thought I was worthy of? I’m not going to wonder too much…it’s a moot point. The past is the past. I can look back at it, but only for so long. I need to look forward, because I’m not going back. I’m moving on. All I can do now is try my best to add happiness to the world, including to myself. I hope by doing so, I might reduce the amount of bullies in the world…even if just by one.
This post is in response to the prompt “moot” in part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. It’s neat way to stimulate writing. It’s organic…we can’t edit it. So, what you just read is raw…straight from my brain to yours….