Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Ready Brek Rage

As a child I was bullied. Badly.

Not asking for sympathy or understanding. It happened. It was vile and while never degenerating into sexual assault it encompassed most of the other aspects of what the dictionary calls “an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally”.

It started at nursery (kindergarten for anyone over the pond) and got steadily worse until I left home to go to Uni in 1990. From the age of 4 to 19 I was told that everything that happened to me was my fault. If I lost my temper with someone, I was a vile, foul tempered thug. If someone lost their temper with me and lashed out either verbally or physically, well that was my fault too.

Reasons cited for my black eyes, bruised ego and tears included:

“Ooh, the way you LOOK at people sometimes Lance!”
“I suppose you had a sulky face!”
“If you pulled that face I’m not surprised he hit you!”
“You need to smile more often and not be so sulky.”
“You don’t know how that teacher/ boy/ girl/ adult/ shopkeeper felt!”

Etc.

I was also told at age 4 to never hit back. My father was working class, a black belt in Judo and old school “punch them on the nose”. My mother was middle class, went to a private school and regarded all physical aggression as wrong. Her screeched “advice” to me at nursery was to “be nice to people then they won’t hit you”. When I still sometimes came home with ripped clothes, bloody noses and black eyes it was obviously my fault for not being nice enough. Not being N.I.C.E to violent little thugs who would have backed off if I’d simply been allowed to stick up for myself.

I’m a strong believer in the theory that you attract to yourself the type of people that reflect what you believe about yourself. So I was constantly meeting inadequate, insecure, spiteful little tossers who would use me as a whipping boy for their own pent up frustrations. From nursery to primary school, from secondary school to college I was under the magnifying glass of my own demons and paranoia.

I fundamentally believed on the most instinctive level that I was deserving of all but the most obviously unjust bullying. After all, bullies find ways to justify what they do and excuses ranged from “it’s not what you did now it’s what you probably did ages ago and he/ she has only just got round to letting you know how they feel about it”. Another one that used to wind me up beyond all tolerance was “you are very annoying sometimes” as if my personality and way of being justified hot coffee being hurled in my face during an argument about the washing up (1995); being held down by two bouncers at a pub I worked in while one cut my hair (1990); or having my bedroom trashed by my mother on the pretext that 6 weeks ago I’d borrowed the sellotape and she couldn’t find it so it MUST be in my room somewhere. When it turned out to be where she thought she’d left it she didn’t apologise, simply said “your room was a mess anyway and it needed tidying up (1982).

So through all of this I was never allowed to express my anger. I was once threatened at age 12 with withdrawal of privileges if I didn’t stop stamping my foot while being chastised for my vile behaviour. I genuinely believed that this was the pinnacle of sulky, unpopular, no friends, deserve-what-you-get rebellion.

My mother had friends who I have since had counselling about. One was a big fat bitch who wore tight black leather trousers, drank too much, was blatantly depressed and used to sit on my sofa sipping red wine and looking like a ginger haired beached whale. She spoke to me like I was shit, she humiliated me in front of my family. I was told it was my fault she treated me like that. I used to fantasise about watching her die.

So, it went on. Uni was a 3 year break but then it was back to the self fulfilling prophecy of being a victim again. I couldn’t break free of the cycle as I believed on every level that this was somehow, in a way that I couldn’t explain, justified to punish me for being me.

Every anger needs an outlet and mine became like a Ready Brek glow. Instead of keeping me warm against the cold it kept me warm against the injustice of the world. I loved violent horror movies. I read James Herbert (Lair with extreme violence, sex and language…at age 9) and wrote Death Wish-esque revenge stories in English class that the teachers would reluctantly mark in the 70 and 80 percents, and then have a quiet word with my parents on Open Evening.

Through all of this I never made my feelings known. However the paradox was that I believed that somehow, through all of this my internal grief, desperation and anger were so obvious that people would know how I felt anyway. I also had a memory that would put many a magician to shame. I couldn’t remember everything, but if you made me unhappy or I was having a great time I could recall EVERYTHING. Found out in my early 40s that this is called Enhanced Emotional Memory. A blessing and a curse. While I can remember every good shag I’ve ever had, I can also remember things that happened at nursery that made me cry.

Untapped, unchecked rage can go many ways. In my case, it simply remained internalised. Expressed only through art (briefly), literature (even today) and the odd tantrum. Problem was that whenever I got close to a woman my depression reared its head and more than one relationship ended after a few happy months with “I don’t want to date someone who’s depressed and pissed off all the time”.

I would assume hatred around me at all times. I’d not even be aware that I thought everyone had it in for me. That I was going to be a target for other people’s desire to let off steam after a bad day.

I joined the police in 2004. A couple of people who knew me said it was to “get revenge for my childhood rage”. Thing is…it wasn’t. I wanted to be a protector for those like me. Those who didn’t have anyone to stand up for them. I never once abused the power my warrant card gave me (i.e. never blagged a free meal/ coffee, never jumped a queue) and I always did what I believed to be right. Problem was, the modern UK police do not aspire to be superheroes in Kevlar, but instead target driven, soulless, vile drones out to score easy points. I met the same kind of bullies from school (although to be fair there were only 2 of them, but unfortunately they had the same level of power as the little boy with his hand in the dyke) and left almost suicidally depressed in 2008.

The rage had kept me warm for so long that I didn’t know how to be anything else. I tried and tried to be “normal” but injustice would drive me to distraction. I had an argument with a manager in Specsavers who was unbelievably rude to me one day in 2011. I got the usual fob off letters saying how “deeply apologetic” he was, but written by other people. When I found out I wasn’t the first person he’d upset I pursued a complaint all the way to Specsavers head office in Guernsey and to the regional director of the West Midlands. Finally a handwritten apology arrived from the bloke in question.

But was it worth it?

Nope.

A friend of mine who owns a pub in Leamington Spa said to me recently, “the problem with you is that you focus only on the negative”. I realised this was true. Alcohol fuelled my paranoias and made me worse. The drunken mouth did not so much speak the sober mind as the mind that was cowering in fear behind a garden wall in case the bigger boys found him and beat him up.

I deeply believed no one liked me unless they were the 1 in 100. I remained obnoxious and aloof. Idea being that if someone really liked me they would see through the cellophane. When I had sex I couldn’t see that some people just wanted a good time, and the few attached wives or women with boyfriends that I fucked regarded the experience as merely escapism, NOT an opportunity to ride off on my steed, eloping into the sunset.

Now….

It’s April 2012 and I sit in a flat in Leamington Spa. Singled just over 2 months ago I have a cat for company and recently gave up drinking to get some focus. I am more at peace now than I’ve been in a long time. To be fair, the Propranolol prescription has probably helped but I have moved on. I had a fight with the manger of a restaurant in the same terrace that I live in a few days ago. I stood my ground, didn’t back off, refused to be humiliated or cowed. I phoned the police, they mediated and me and the other guy shook hands. I saw him two days later and we shook hands again. I don’t dwell on this incident for the simple reason that I handled it with dignity, pride and courage. I did what I thought was right and I didn’t bottle up what I really felt and fantasise later about becoming a dark avenger to take the guy out.

I spent a year writing THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN which has major themes around bullying. It also has the personifcation of every bully's worst nightmare. A 7feet tall warrior with a 3 bladed sword named Mordalayn. Writing this book (for children) has helped a great deal as I can put down in print just how much victimisation and injustice have always fed my fury.

Normality and an ordinary life are now things that I no longer fear, except I believe they might not be as much fun as my own imagination. I don’t believe that I’m the focus of everyone’s bad moods and a punchbag for the vitriol of others. Those who do piss me off I can simply tell them to fuck off and leave it at that. Or alternatively, choose not to if I genuinely believe it wouldn’t help matters and walk away.

The positive things to come out of all this are that I can genuinely enjoy knowing someone who hurt me (or those I care about) is dead or in pain, and I don’t feel guilty. I can also stand my ground and most things of a confrontational nature no longer scare me, even if I can’t deal with them like Liam Neeson in the movie Taken.

Rage is a fuel that warms us. But it is unstable, volatile and prone to overheating. When you can find the peace within yourself to have your own sense of confidence keep you from freezing solid, you can walk through life enjoying every moment.

5 comments:

  1. This is excellent, powerful stuff, Lance - good to have you back writing like this.

    And you really need to see/watch 'Let's Talk About Kevin' ...

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  2. Lance. I read you on Gadget. That is where I linked into your site. I have just retired after 31 years in the police. I note your assessment about the people you worked with in your time as a constable and that they fitted into the same categories as those who caused you so much pain during school years. I joined the police at 18 & 1/2 after a short spell working in the Min of Agriculture after leaving 6th form. During my training at Chantmarle, the two instructor Sgts behaved in the same way you describe. They outwardly and without prejudice bullied me into a submissive state whereby the easiest route was for me to resign in training. Most of my small intake were either ex forces or cadets. I was considered a mere irrelevance in the big scale of Machismo. However, although bullied at school myself on a lesser sliding scale, I learnt to keep going and not let the bastards grind me down. One of the Sgts was called Pigeon, the other Gray. I did receive some ridicule from my fellow student officers when the two Sgts picked on me to elevate their own status and the perception of humour they engendered disguised from the insipid sarcasm it was. One example was physically pulling me out of a lesson and telling me to fuck off because I looked out of the classroom window when I was distracted by a noise. Pigeon told me to fuck off into Sgt Grays lesson if his was so uninteresting. I was placed in the centre of a semi circle of desks with Gray at the lecturn barking the lesson at me with sniggers from those behind, then told I would never make a copper as long as I had a hole in my arse. Strange that my happy domestic life at home from a rural background as a child led me to take up an interest in shooting and conservation. I have spent the last 31 years shooting as many grey pigeons as I can. Some days I kill over 200 if the conditions are right. How cathartic! I had a very successful career and experienced virtually all of the ops based roles concentrating on dog handling. I got promoted, gained several commendations and at the end had a very happy and memorable leaving bash with some fantastic people, many of whom no doubt have experienced their own dibilitating mental challenges caused by personal relationships and corporate madates that screwed them over. Not all police officers are unrelenting narcissistic bullies. Obviously I met some but the vast majority were decent people. I suffered depression a few years ago without realising what was happening. It was due to some of my closest colleagues that i was able to deal with it, no real help from the medical profession! I sympathise with your situation but please do not tar all those who wear a uniform as the ultimate catalyst in causing such debiltating and catastrophic feelings. You don't know who reads this stuff and you may unwittingly influence some people who could have a rewarding and successful career within police service if there is any jobs worth doing after the current Cameron/May/Winsor attacks. keep writing. I enjoy your analysis. Cheers Mg6b retired!!

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  3. I agree from re-reading that it does appear I'm slagging off the whole force. Was in fact 2 people only, will edit accordingly to make that clear. Thanks for your reply and the time you took to do it. Lance

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  4. Thoughtful stuff, Lance.

    Like Mg6b retired I read your comments on IG and linked through to here. On the basis of what I've read so far I've downloaded a Kindle version of 'Catastrophe' and I'm looking forward to it.

    I was bullied at school and determined to do something about it. I learnt Judo (mid 60s it was) and felt a new born confidence. Then I got really bloody hammered :-) So then I decided to get bigger and did serious bodybuilding; this at least gave me some peace after a while. In later life I studied Karate to black belt and beyond and Aikido too as I got older and less flexible (well, you have to keep your hand in, don't you). All these years I've despised bullies in all their guises - simple physical bullying right through to government sanctioned bullying . They have to be fought at every turn ... but intelligently and not blindly.

    If you don't mind I'll report back once I've read 'Catastrophe'

    All the best

    C

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  5. Thanks, the book has very strong anti bullying themes and one chapter has caused controversy due to how the main character treats a bully.

    Thaks for the support and let me know.

    Best
    L

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