This is a story about axe grinding...
I tend to assume that nobody is going to rush to my aid if I'm in distress. I assume that nobody's going to stick up for me. I assume that I'm all alone; isolated. I assume that I'm the only person who's going to fight for justice. I assume that I'm going to have to defend myself. I assume that my enemies will close ranks and use their considerable advantages to pommel me into the ground; to destroy me. I assume that I have little hope of protecting myself: I'm an easy target.
When I opened myself up and made myself vulnerable in the past, it felt like people eagerly exploited the chinks in my armour. Where I had been honest, my disclosures were used against me. Things which had happened to me a long time ago were dredged up as ammunition to attack me with. My self-confidence and self-esteem were attacked and my happiness and contentment were replaced with insecurities which I thought I'd vanquished. The pride that I felt in my achievements was robbed from me and I was made to feel like a failure; worthless.
I tried to re-invent myself: to prove myself capable of leaving all the misery of my old life behind, re-asserting my value as a person. However, I was always afraid that my past might catch up with me: I was always looking over my shoulder and my insecurities remained.
At my lowest ebb I started to have a psychotic episode where I was hearing voices. The voices told me that all my friends, family, former work colleagues and other important people in my life, knew everything bad about me. "They know" said the voices.
At first, I was devastated by the idea that people who I liked and respected would know everything about me which I was ashamed of. This was my very worst fear: that my most shameful experiences were common knowledge.
Then, I shouted back at the voices: "do your worst, you cowardly bullies!" I yelled.
I refused to be blackmailed, threatened and coerced by those who sought to shame and embarrass me. I refused to hide in shame. I refused to give in to the bullies. I refused to let anybody have that power over me: to share my private secrets and be able to shame me.
A few months later, I started to write this blog.
At first, I felt like I was writing my own obituary. I felt like there wasn't a single person who could be trusted to speak about my achievements, and that it would be unfair if my tormenters were given an opportunity to tarnish my reputation because I was dead and not able to defend myself. I wrote about the things that showed me in the best possible light. I wrote about my proudest moments. I wrote about the positive things I wanted people to know about me.
Then, as I contemplated suicide, I realised that such an account would feel fake. It's natural that we tend to remember the good things about people after they're dead, and we don't talk about the bad stuff. It seems disrespectful to trash-talk somebody who's dead, but seeing as I was writing my own obituary, I started to think that I should write about everything: both good and bad.
As I admitted my faults, mistakes, misdemeanours, bad things I'd done, character flaws and numerous other things which painted me in a very unflattering light, I felt quite empowered by the process. Little by little I was taking away the power from the bullies; from those people who had betrayed my confidence and used my secrets against me. Little by little I was destroying the people who had robbed me of my self-esteem and self-confidence.
I used to be afraid about revealing unflattering things about myself, and I would feel regret and self-doubt about whether I'd made the right decision, for days after I made some new public revelation. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing, or whether I was making a foolish mistake that couldn't be reversed.
Then, it became a habit and an obsession to document every bad thing about myself - any secrets; anything which might bring me shame - and write everything down very publicly with unflinching candid honesty. I lost the fear and I lost the filter... I felt happy unburdening myself and there weren't any negative consequences.
My fear of the past catching up with me was replaced by a newfound pride in my identity. I became proud of my achievements again, and I even started to feel proud of things which I had previously kept secret. Telling the world about the adversity which I'd faced made me see that there was something to be proud of, even during my darkest moments. Yes, I was putting myself at huge risk of prejudice, but the more I wrote the more I knew that I was protecting myself from anybody who wanted to label me.
Yes, if you want to call me a homeless alcoholic junkie bankrupt with mental health problems, go ahead, be my guest. If you think you can shame me to the point where I'll allow myself to be marginalised and excluded from society, you simply haven't bothered to do the reading.
My reaction to anybody who patronises and insults me; who sells me short and can't see my full potential; who thinks the worst of me... my reaction to people who treat me like that is pretty strong and forceful. I'm fiercely protective over the pride, self-esteem and self-confidence which have taken such a substantial amount of effort to rebuild. I'm never going to let anybody bully and abuse me again.
I can react in a way that seems disproportionate. I can act in ways that seem very vindictive. I can become quite obsessed about my perceived mistreatment. In actual fact, the way I act is completely to be expected given how long people have been shitting on me and trying to destroy me, and how hard it has been to escape the bullying and abuse of those people and rebuild my life.
When I've gone on the offensive, because I've felt threatened, I've definitely acted in way which could be considered an over-reaction; I've gone too far. I've swiftly and brutally dumped people out of my life at the first hint of trouble, which may have been unnecessary and was done with a level of aggression which I'm not proud of, but it's a defensive reaction. Life's too short for me to get mixed up with any more bullies and abusers: if I decide you're doing me harm, it's goodbye and good riddance and it won't be pretty.
There's a question mark about whether I should hit back or not. I'm certainly asking myself whether it was the right thing to do, to make the bullies and abusers pay for what they did to me. I'd like to be the bigger person, and to just move on and forget the past; move forward positively. I think it's an unfortunate feature of my illness, that when I'm unwell I can get pretty vicious and weaponise my blog to hurt the people who've hurt me. I don't think I should do that.
I'm not claiming to be a saint... that's the whole point about my writing: I'm writing about my flaws and mistakes as much as I'm writing about anything. I'm trying to figure out how to get myself into a comfortable situation where I'm happy and confident enough to let any mean, unkind words just bounce harmlessly off me; rise above all the shit.
However, be warned: if you pick on the bullied kid thinking they're a soft target, one of these days you're going to get an explosive reaction; you're going to unleash hell.