Category Archives: Psychology

Cyber-bullying

Yes, I know, another blog on that played-out theme … cyberbullying. The difference here, though, is that I have personally experienced the brutal effects of cyber-bullying, as opposed to many of these ‘experts’ who are on the outside looking in.

A few years back (2009, I think it was), I was friends with a gay couple. P was the older of the two, and had schizo-affective disorder. C, the younger, was a little hyper-protective of P. I myself had been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder at that time, the latest in a long list of ‘diagnoses’ that had been given to me to try and pinpoint what my exact problem was (the current, and most fitting so far, being BiPolar).

I was friends with these two for about two years, I think. I shared a lot of personal details with them, and they did likewise. And then one day P ended up in hospital due to an episode of his illness. I was one of a small group that C took into confidence about this event, and I respected that confidence.

Earlier that year, I had written about my experiences with mental health problems in response to a challenge in a creative writing group I was part of. At that time, I had had several requests for more information, and so I promised that at some point in the near future I would write about it. Well, not long after P ended up in hospital, and completely coincidentaly, two friends asked in the same day for me to tell them more about my experiences. Neither of these two knew about P’s current struggles, and I personally didn’t link the timing of his struggles to the timing of these requests for information. So I wrote about my experiences. I made no reference to P whatsoever.

And then hell broke loose.

C decided I was ‘grandstanding’ P’s illness, and proceeded to harrass me. He told mutual friends about “what I’d done”, and I received harrassment from them also. Attempts to explain the actual circumstances of the blog were met with hostility and accusations, and I began to receive nasty messages about how I was “stealing P’s story” and how I was a nasty person. Several mutual friends turned their back on me, and the stress of the situation landed me in hospital myself, having triggered an episode of suicidal depression and psychotic delusions.

Upon my release from hospital, I was again attacked, this time via a publicly-available blog entry from C claiming that I had never been in hospital, that I had made it up, and that there were “more holes” in my “story” than swiss cheese. A friend of mine stood up for me and was attacked for her efforts. I ended up abandoning that blog and hiding behind a new, private persona. My trust was deeply affected, both online and offline, and it was close to a year before I began to venture out again.

Cyber-bullying is every bit as real as any other kind of bullying, and has much the same effect.

I heard one ‘genius’ quip: “if you’re being bullied on the computer, duh! Just turn the computer off!” That’s over-simplistic and fails to take into account the psychological effect of bullying. ANY bullying. For many people who are bullied online, they’re online in the first place because they have trouble being accepted in the “real world”. Fat kids, awkward kids, kids with zits, kids with glasses, kids who stutter … all find refuge in the internet, because nobody can see their “imperfections” online, the only thing that shows is their personality. These kids (and adults!) can find acceptance online because that first visible barrier is taken down.

That said, telling someone to “just turn the computer off” if they’re being bullied is the same as saying “if you’re being bullied at school, duh! Don’t go to school!” or “if people bully you at work, duh! Don’t go to work!” or “if people bully you when you play sport, duh! Don’t play sport!” It’s telling people to let the bullies chase you away from whatever it is you’re doing.

That’s not the answer. The internet, for all its flaws, has opened up a world of friendship and opportunity to people who previously couldn’t access them. It’s a place where being a ‘nerd’ is something to be proud of. So why should people just walk away from it because someone gets off on being nasty?

Nope. The answer, like the answer to any other kind of bullying, is to stand up to/ignore the bullies. Just like the kid in the playground who steals lunch money, cyber-bullies get a kick out of getting a rise and having people fear them. So don’t give them that kick. Ignore them, and just enjoy the online experience elsewhere. Report the bullies to admins where possible, use the block feature where available, and just don’t give them that kick. Whatever you do, don’t let them get to you, because then they’ve won.

I took a long time to learn this. I hid for years after I was cyber-bullied. I feared venturing away from my own little page where I’d built a fort made of privacy controls. I even went to the extent of trying to justify myself by posting copies of psychologist/psychiatrist reports to prove I wasn’t lying. All I had to do, though, was simply block them and move on to better people. It’s the online equivalent of walking away from a schoolyard bully, and denying them that power. You haven’t left the schoolyard, you’ve only left the bully.

A final thought for those who know someone who is being cyber-bullied; stand up for your mates! Let them know they’re not alone, even if it labels you “uncool”. What a bullied person needs most is support, and with that support, they’ll survive. And if enough people stand up to support the victim, the bully ends up with egg on their face. What got me through, in the end, was friends.

Why doesn’t she leave?

I was reading a post on Facebook today that made me angry, as similar posts in their arrogance always do:

“I give up! If she wants to go back to that dipshit, she’s obviously happy being abused”

So simplistic!  Of course everyone who stays in Domestic Violence is perfectly happy, that’s why they call it Domestic Violence; it’s code-name for “land of happiness and bliss”.  And if you’ve never been in DV yourself, it can be almost impossible to understand why someone would escape just to go back again.  And again.  And again.

So why DO people go back?  Is it an underlying sado-masochistic tendency that enjoys being abused?  Some people seem to think so.  Let’s explore that, though … if a person is truly sado-masochistic (or whichever term you’d like to apply, “sucker for punishment” perhaps?), then why do they leave in the first place?  Leaving is often traumatic in and of itself, so why go through it again and again?

I’ve been in Domestic Violence.  My partner had violent mood swings, and would lash out at me over the simplest things; perhaps I hadn’t folded his washing exactly right.  Perhaps I bought the wrong size drink.  Perhaps I just happened to be standing in the wrong spot.

I justified his behaviour.  I explained to people that he was under stress, or that he’d had a hard life, or that he was just having a bad day, he wasn’t normally like that.  I explained away the bruises.  When my parents revealed that he’d been preventing me from receiving their calls, I explained that he was just protective of me.

It was bullshit of course, but when you’re in that situation, there’s always an explanation.

By the time I finally decided to leave, I was on my own.  All my friends had turned away because I obviously liked it, or I wouldn’t have stayed.  My family had been distanced by his behaviour.  I ended up on the street briefly because I had nowhere else to go.

So I went back.

The next time I left him, I took what little money I had and I went to a caravan park.  He begged me to come home, promised me he’d change.  So I went home with him.  I was convinced that I loved him.

And then I got to a point where I hated him, but then my confidence was so low that I believed I didn’t deserve any better.  So I stayed.

It wasn’t until he violently raped me, resulting in a pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage, that I could finally leave.  I threatened to call the police if he came around again, because the grief of losing the baby was stronger than any hold he had over me.  If that hadn’t happened, I might well still be with him now.

So when I read comments like “well, she obviously likes it or she’d leave”, it re-opens those wounds.  Were those years just self-inflicted pain?  That’s what comments like that imply.

It’s easy to judge when you haven’t been there.  Of course it looks simple enough to leave, when you’re sitting there in your comfortable life, with your store of confidence, and things are going well.  Of course it’s easy to see he’s an asshole when you’re on the outside looking in.  But when you’re on the inside, it’s not so black and white.

I’m helping a friend right now who is in Domestic Violence.  He can’t seem to leave either.  Yes, it happens to men as well …

Maybe if we can get people to understand what living in DV is like, they’ll be a bit more supportive of their friends who are in it.  Because support is what’s going to help them get out, not more judgement and criticism to reinforce what they’re getting at home.

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