Bullying… Shame and Humiliation

When I was a wee boy, I wished so hard to be a little girl. I happily spent the time playing with my sister and her friends. Whenever Mum’s high-heels vanished, they’d usually be found under my bed. Nothing indicated that this was “wrong”.

With best intentions, my parent’s eventually put a ban on playing with girls, including big sis. I was about 5 and this was the first enormous wrench from my tiny life. One day, I’m happily playing as a girl, and the next being forced to play with boys….yuck!

Two memories that immediately spring to mind are feeling completely lost and alone in a little boy’s alien world and… eeeeek… they did smell! I wasn’t comfortable and they never looked over the moon either.

Fortunately, we had a couple of mutual interests in dinky toy cars and marbles, but when they were kicking a ball around or swapping football cards, I was secretly playing with dollies and skipping ropes. Action Man would even be dressed in Cindy-doll clothes!

There were some nasty bullying incidents at primary school, but that was more to do with being too fearful and timid to stand up for myself. The first recollection of verbal abuse was when I started Secondary School.

It wasn’t friends or the boys at School who started the name-calling, but the older 16-18yr olds, who had already left school.

After a rocky introduction into a boy’s world, I found my own unique niche and was always out with different friends after school. By that age, it was cool to hang around in groups of boys and girls (smoking!).

Full awareness of my apparent “effeminate mannerisms” only came to light when the first insult hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was around 12-13yrs old.

Those hurtful names would tear me apart, but only ever in private.  They say “sticks and stones…”, but that’s a load of bollocks.

I could be outdoors with friends, when suddenly older lads would be hurling abuse in the street, “Pansy-boy”, “Nancy-boy”, “Queer”, “Poof”… “Shirt lifter”… blab la dee bla

Friends would say, “Just ignore them… don’t let them see it bothers you”.

I’d lie convincingly, “It doesn’t bother me”.

When name-calling crosses the line, it easily escalates into pushing that boundary a little bit further. First, there were threats of violence, and then the actual physical attacks.

While bullying and violence were being played out at home, I was also falling victim to the same outdoors. It’s easy to see why someone might develop a certain belief that it’s all they’re good for. There’s a warped resignation for your fate.

Whether the older boys hollered, “Poofy-boy” or punched me in the face, I would turn away as though I didn’t hear them and even pretend not to feel the punch. I lived in daily fear of my tormentors. Behind closed doors, the loneliness was heart breaking.

I started to watch other boy’s behaviour very closely, taking note of voice tone and actions, etc. I would practice walking and sitting in front of the mirror and record my voice in an old reel to reel recorder. I was learning to become your average man.

Today in group therapy, a member was talking about being bullied by someone they feared. There was something about his experience that was awakening memories of an old emotion.

Shame and Humiliation.

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41 thoughts on “Bullying… Shame and Humiliation

  1. Priceless Joy

    I am so sorry you had to experience this kind of hateful treatment. It is ugly! I don’t understand why children do this? Is it because they are being bullied at home from a parent or sibling? I know what it feels like to be shamed and shunned and it is very hurtful. Be the person you are, because that person is beautiful on the inside and very much loved.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That’s a very interesting point, Joy, about being bullied at home. I think that probably plays a big role in their own motivations, although, it certainly didn’t turn me into a bully.
      I was always true to myself and even came out at a time when it was still considered outrageous to be gay. Yes, the emotional turmoil was difficult, but I didn’t allow it to beat me. Ultimately, the scars are still there, but my therapy is about making peace with them.
      Your support is always appreciated, Joy, thank you

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    1. Cat Post author

      I’m sure most of them barely give it a second thought, but I often wonder if more recent awareness for bullying reminds them of a time when they too were nasty… perhaps some carry a degree of guilt

      Thank you, Kat

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  2. myspokenheart

    Oh Cat 😦
    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will rip my heart out and crush my self esteem… that’s how it should go. My heart broke a bit reading this and all I could think is why wasn’t your mother wrapping her arms around you and loving you through this??? I think shame and humiliation are two of the worst feelings of all.

    I read a blog post today about equality that I wish people would embrace and understand. I thought it was a good read. I think it’ll make you happy to know that not everyone out there is a neanderthal… (or a predator).

    http://jamesmsama.com/2014/10/10/why-we-need-to-be-careful-about-forced-equality/

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    1. Cat Post author

      Well, Andrea, it was difficult to talk to them about it because they were doing similar behind closed doors. There was an occasion when mum heard them just as I was opening the back kitchen door…”Nancy Boy” they were shouting…. Mum laughed. When it reached a peak, the only advice was to toughen myself up and not fuel their fire. Dad would say, “don’t let them see it bothers you”
      I might have given the wrong impression in my post because they were never able to beat me. I always held head high and came out at 18. While the experiences are in the past and most of the emotions are there as well, there is that shame and humiliation hidden deep beneath the layers. It’s my intention to make peace with them too.
      Thanks, Andrea, that means a lot

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      1. myspokenheart

        I don’t think you gave a wrong impression? I think for me it just breaks my heart knowing that you were getting similar treatment at home, from the one person that you should have been confident would always be there for you. You lacked a support system. No-one deserves to have to go it alone. Life is hard, and to have little to no support system is one of the harshest things I can imagine. We all need some-one to wrap their arms around us and just let us be us, especially on the ‘bad’ days. And to realize that there are so many out there that lack that… well it hurts deep down inside and I have to disassociate from it because it is overwhelmingly painful.

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        1. Cat Post author

          It’s nice when people understand. Thank you for your supportive comments, Andrea. The loneliness of the past can still feel quite potent

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Amber… No, I’m not bullied and neither do those memories chop me up. However, the shame and humiliation scars are evidently still there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downtrodden about it, but if psychotherapy is encouraging us to think about what’s affecting us in that moment, then there will be many more of these memories bubbling to the surface. The reason I wrote about it is a way to exorcise those forgotten demons.

      Did I give the impression of still being bullied? I often question how necessary it is to explore stuff like this from the distant past or if it is dredging up things that are best left where they are…. I’d love to know what you think

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      1. sensuousamberville

        You didn’t give the impression of still being bullied in the context of your post, memories though can bully us. So to answer your question, is it necessary to explore the past, hmmm perhaps. Why? You answered, to exorcise those forgotten demons that are not truly forgotten.

        I don’t know if nightmares torment you, I have picked up though, you feel some self blame. I have mentioned a few times, this is also normal, the child is not to blame, but so difficult to understand, when to have undergone abuse that is so illogical, some sort of justification must be made by the child, hence, self blame. Nightmares/terrors, anxiety, are often signs of hidden memories tormenting. Some can be buried below many layers. Perhaps we don’t even feel they are a source of discontent. Group can be very reveling sometimes, even just listening, feeling others feelings, can awaken things to be explored.

        So, opening these memories with the hope of turning that around, eliminating those feelings can be very beneficial. Memories can be totally hidden, but still torment. It is the past that shapes us, dredging through it and sorting through it, though painful, can be a road to healing. You continue to learn that now I think, with your past few posts, some things are becoming clearer.

        How is your depression now vs a month or so ago?

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        1. Cat Post author

          Hi Amber… Sometimes I have a niggling doubt that exploring the past is not necessarily the right thing to do. The Therapist who assessed me for this Mentalization Based Therapy suggested that perhaps I use the past to avoid the present. I’m slowly becoming more confident that talking about past trauma is most definitely a very valid and valuable way forward.

          You’re right about the self-blame and agree this is “normal” under the circumstances. This was a massive hurdle in previous years, but recently that thought process is slowly changing. It’s interesting how self-blame and guilt have been a regular feature throughout childhood. If I dig around the present, they are most likely floating around somewhere. Awareness is the key to healing, I’m sure

          The nightmares stopped when I gave up SSRi’s. I do have vivid dreams occasionally but nothing traumatic. I am intrigued about hidden memories and do wonder if I will have some of my own during this therapy programme…. But I doubt it.

          You asked about depression now-v-1 month ago.. Interesting you should ask because I’m just becoming aware that the depression isn’t so bleak and the days when I’m not depressed have been feeling more peaceful and grounded. The most recent depression was following on from a couple of sessions. It did give me a scare, but I felt more in control of pulling out of it, rather than being unable to see past it

          Blogging and responding to comments are contributing to that overall therapy process. Thank you, Amber, for taking the time to share, it’s been really helpful….although, sorry if the comment’s a little too long

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        2. sensuousamberville

          First, I love long comments, it shows that the post topic was one that inspired thought. I knew the answer to my depression question, I wasn’t sure if you did though. Others usually notice the change first, the climb out is slow, so it really goes unnoticed. I think too, from recent posts, that coming to terms with some things is giving you some peace. Perhaps you are sorting and filing them away properly rather than holding on to them.

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  3. Ellen

    Those are hard emotions to remember. I was bullied as a child also, and I hate to remember the shame of that. Sorry you went through that. Probably good to remember it consciously now though.

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    1. 5Cat Post author

      TBH, Ellen, I didn’t intend on writing about them, it sort of bubbled to the surface of its own accord (in a good way). Yesterday, when I was listening to the other group member describe his experiences of being bullied, I’m so out of touch with my own feelings, I didn’t even remember the bullying I also endured. A couple of people commented that I had become quieter and quieter as the group ticked by. There was something bothering me, but I had no clue what it was until I sat down to write the post.
      Rather than feeling down about it, I am more encouraged that the (son of a B) therapy is obviously working.

      Thanking you for all the support, Ellen

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  4. paininhidingabuse

    We as family have experienced this with our older son bullied bashed up at school etc all because his more softer now” gay”
    For us as a family his our son he is his own person and a lovely guy !

    Take lots of care I’m sorry you experiencing pain in memories.

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    1. Cat Post author

      This is sort of a double edged sword. The memories don’t bother me now and neither does the shame and humiliation grip me the same way it once did. However, those emotions are evidently still buried deep beneath the other life experiences and sharing them is a means of making peace with them.

      Thank you for your supportive comment. I hope you’re doing a bit better

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  5. mandy

    I’m sorry that no place was safe for you Cat. I remember that too. I was teased all of my school years because I was over sensitive and cried. A lot! Even teachers told me “If you don’t stop all that crying no one will ever like you.” Not knowing about my abuse at home. . . To this day I feel great shame at being over sensitive and when I cry. I’m glad today kids are getting a little more support if they are “different” but I’m sure the bullying continues.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Unfortunately the bullying does continue in schools today The UK has been raising awareness since the suicides of kids who were victims of bullying
      I’m a little uneasy that this post might have given the impression that I was in bits over the memories, which isn’t the case. It’s in the past and I realise now they were all total morons who had nothing better to do. However, shame and humiliation might now be in retirement, but they still lay there dormant, waiting to be triggered by another person’s experiences

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      1. mandy

        I completely get that, Cat. It seems no matter how “healed” we become (or our past abuse lies in remission), just hearing another story can trigger those old wounds. It still hurts if we allow ourselves to dwell on the way it was back then. I’m glad you wrote about this–it’s a reminder to me that I don’t need to get shook up by those triggers, they will pass.
        Here in the US we think we are making great strides in the schools, yet it’s clear we have a long way to go. Another wonderful teacher lost his job this week because he let kids know he is gay. He had seen students suicide because of the lack of tolerance in the school and he thought it might help to let them know all he overcame to become a teacher. Admin told him to keep quiet about being gay-he refused and lost his job. He’s a real hero.

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        1. Cat Post author

          In the UK that prejudice wouldn’t be allowed and the teacher would be in for a large pay settlement. That doesn’t stop people from maintaining their ignorance and intolerance, but it helps to keep them in line
          Unlike many, I don’t usually see “triggers” as necessarily bad, They are like little notelets reminding of us issues we need to work on and find peace with. Each time we analyse them, they hopefully become a little less significant.

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          1. mandy

            I’m sure there will be court battles.There usually are, and then settlements. Too bad they put the teachers through this.

            “Notelets.” I love some of the words you use, Cat. As a matter of fact, from now on, I will use the word when I think “trigger”!

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            1. Cat Post author

              Sometimes I surprise myself, Mandy… ‘Notelets’ is a much better word than triggers and will remember that in the future ;0)

              Hope you’re doing well…

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            2. mandy

              I think we are surprising ourselves in good ways lately! Why, I had a notelet yesterday, called it a horse bidortie, and it went away. Progress! 🙂

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  6. Eric Tonningsen

    That was then, Cat. Way when ago. Today you are here, fully present and wanting to live life. Please consider not dwelling on or in the past. It truly serves little constructive purpose. Be strong in who you are now!

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    1. Cat Post author

      I might have given the wrong impression. Those memories hold little importance today and the emotions were only triggered by another group member’s story. If I continue to burry difficult emotions, I think they will always affect me, probably even end in depression. They might be dormant for years, but there is always the potential for life to trigger them. Going through Psychotherapy, I made a commitment to face up to and make peace with the past. I’m quite sure I will reach a point in therapy when these memories don’t conjure up the same emotions.

      Thank you, Eric..

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  7. brokenbutbeingrepaired

    Oh, Cat ❤

    Think the self-blame is heightened so much when the abuse from home is repeated at school, in the street, and in life. It makes it feel like "it must be me. If it was *just* home, it would be more bearable". The names you were called are ones probably kids are still called, today.

    Feeling the shame and humiliation must be so painful. Am hoping you find ways to soothe those pains and to keep remembering none of this was your fault.

    xxx

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    1. Cat Post author

      I look at it all in a different light. I see the arse holes for what they were and can even laugh at some of their ignorance. However, that hidden shame and humiliation is evidently still there. It’s not just with the bullying but they are common features throughout my early development. As part of the therapy, I feel I need to sit with it and hopefully heal as a result of that work

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Susan… it’s so nice to hear from you. Thank you for the encouragement. The process is not easy but the results are worth it.

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  8. lifeconfusions

    Oh Cat! My heart hurt while reading it. I can’t say anything that all your other blogger friends haven’t said already. But I do admire your strength to write, It was necessary to write. Its a form of healing and dealing with our inner struggles or past demons. Stay strong after all as they say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger ❤

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  9. RisingSong

    I’m glad you could write about this, Cat. Like you said, it’s better to explore a feeling or memory that makes it’s way to the surface than to ignore it and have it bite you when you are not looking.

    I’m glad your “SOB” therapy is working 🙂

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