Dear Thelma: Being bullied repeatedly has impacted me deeply

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Dear Thelma,

A long time ago when I was still little, I was harassed, bullied and beaten for no reason by this boy. The incident happened at the Tamparuli Suspension Bridge, Sabah, and was witnessed by my first cousin.

I was traumatised for more than 10 years by what he did to me at that time but I never told anyone before because depression is silent. A victim of bullying usually feels too afraid or humiliated to tell anyone that he or she was harassed.

When I was first approached by that boy, I didn't even know who he was.

The first thing he said to me was "Kau minta tumbuk, kah? (Are you asking to be punched?)."

I didn't do anything to him but he suddenly questioned me like that. I did not disturb him but he harassed me.

I did not dare fight back because I was weak and small at that time. He was bigger.

What he did to me at that time made me feel uncomfortable for more than 10 years.

I think we shouldn't take bullying lightly.

At certain times in the past, I felt like I wanted to take revenge. But the more I thought about it, the more depressed I became and I only hurt myself more until I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

When I returned to Sabah from Russia around 10 years ago, I met him at a cafe in Tuaran.

When I said that I wanted to give him my fist to avenge myself, he immediately requested for help from his friends. One of them came and beat me up, and after that they laughed.

However, I learnt to slowly forgive over time because to forgive others is to forgive yourself.

Berry Peter

I'm sorry this happened. As you say, bullying is a horrible thing. Moreover, you were physically beaten. That is a crime, and this man should have been held accountable.

Yes, you were both kids, but an unprovoked assault, witnessed by your first cousin, should have been reported to adults. They should have stepped in and fixed this.

However, from your tale, he was a thug as a juvenile, went uncorrected, and turned out to be a violent thug as an adult too. He hangs out with others who are also violent.

Frankly, they are society's failures.

I notice you don't ask for advice. But as you wrote to me, I'm going to share my thoughts.

You say you have forgiven him, but I don't think that is entirely true. While being angry at injustice is a healthy emotional reaction, hanging on to a childhood injustice for more than 10 years, is not.

You link this childhood experience to your illness when you were an adult, to self-harm and to spending some time in a psychiatric hospital. Hopefully, you talked it out while you were there.

However, I don't think you did because your first reaction when you saw him was to threaten him with physical violence. You know this is wrong. Attacking someone is not acceptable. Again, I'm sorry his friend beat you. That was not right either.

Finally, I'm not certain I understand your final reasoning. As a child, you were the target of a bully. That requires no forgiveness. As an adult, you chose to offer violence. That is something to be sorry for.

But I don't see any suggestion of you acknowledging this was wrong. There is clear shame in being bested, there is humiliation as they laughed, but I have the sense that you are forgiving yourself for being beaten up. Also, you're stepping back because you think you'd lose if you engage in a third physical fight.

I strongly suggest you think this over again, so you can come to a real sense of closure and peace.

Going back to the beginning may help with insight. When you were little, you brooded over the wrong that was done, and I suspect you felt helpless and humiliated. That's very understandable.

But the shame is misplaced. It is not your fault you were picked on. It is not your fault that he was bigger than you.

If you pinpoint where these misplaced ideas came from, and change them in your own mind, you'll be able to move forward.

I'm going to reach, and suggest it may be part of toxic masculinity, which includes the idea that 'real men' are champion physical fighters. In truth, anyone can be a victim of violence. And to shame those who are attacked, is to victim-blame. This is not just unfair, it is cruel.

Also, the idea that men must be happy to fight is demeaning. We're human and we are better than that. Violence is acceptable only if you're protecting yourself from a physical attack. It's otherwise unacceptable.

So, update your ideas on what happened. If you find it a challenge, talk to a mental health professional. Talk about your emotions, and hopefully, you can gain new perspective and put this behind you once and for all.

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Bullying , suicidal , violence , abuse


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