'Rumination' is a term used in psychology and mental health practices to describe when a negative memory keeps revisiting you.
Corinne and I went to the same college together in Portsmouth, UK. We bonded over art, our work ethics and also the fact that we were the only few People Of Colour (POC) at that school. This doesn't mean that we are against anyone who was not a POC. This just means that we were easy targets, prone to bullying and that's what we had both experienced so heavily throughout college.
From our last conversation, it was apparent that the effect of bullying is still very much in us. It slips into our mind like a relentless parasite, hijacking our nervous system, altering our emotions and actions. We know that it is there but no matter how hard we try, there is no way of getting rid of it.
The only thing we can do is to either ignore it, let it eat away our soul and infect our surroundings with hatred and blame. Or, we accept that it is part of us and try as hard to create harmony with it.
I would define bullying as a process of demeaning a person of their value. It implies that their existence is worthless, that they are less than. It is simply not relevant if the bully intended for it to be or not. It has the same result on the bullied.
The older I get the more I see the toll it has taken on me. The experience of bullying had created a feeling of shame so deeply embedded in me, a feeling of shame from being who I am - an Asian with small eyes as perceived by the Western society and a fag in the heteronormative world.
No matter how proud I am of myself today, no matter how many people believe in me and cheer me on, I still get moments when I would feel like I am never good enough.
With relationships, my appearance, at work, when I feel invalidated I feel like a loser to everyone around me, including people who love me. No matter how hard I have worked or how much I have achieved, it doesn't change the fact that my brain would replay the same phrases again and again:
‘I’m worthless and people will turn away as soon as they get to know you, so why bother?’
It's a sense of perceived invalidation, be it true or false. Whenever I feel invalidated by someone or by an event, most often my brain would tense up and I would feel like I needed to either fight or flight. There was no in-between for me when I was younger and I had no idea where this fine line between lashing out in rage and feeling hopelessly defeated came from. I thought this level of intensity was a universal response that everybody has.
Back when I was in school, no one said anything about it. The only thing they would do was to walk away and isolate me because it was deemed to be ‘too extreme’ and it was simply too much for them.
If you are not sure how to respond to someone telling you about bullying, my advice to you is: DON'T TURN AWAY. Don't ever walk away and say something like ’toughen up' or 'be a man' or ‘grow a thicker skin’. They are in need of help, this is not a time to ‘teach someone a lesson’, it is a life and death situation.
The effects of bullying have damaged my mental health and are now a rumination, entwined with the grief of losing my dad and protection. There is a solidarity in our struggles in overcomeing different types of pain; I made it through, and so did John. - Corinne Crosbourne
Ask your friend, family member, your child/ children tonight about how they feel. How they truly feel. LISTEN properly and try not to get too caught up with problem-solving. Yes, try to help by telling the teacher or local authorities (depending on the case) about what's going on and intervene in a way that is appropriate. Though, what's most important for that person is having their feelings validated and letting them know they are loved and being supported.
Obviously I don't have any children myself but if you are a parent, I wanted to let you know how much I needed someone to just listen to me and tell me that things will be ok. That I deserve to be loved just like everyone else.
I want to share a poem by Corinne. It reminded me how strong and brave we have become. How much we have grown from our pain. How much we respect and love we have for each other, for what we have been through. This love and admiration cannot be compared to anything. It is what inspires me to keep on surviving and why I need to keep writing these blog posts.
If you're experiencing something similar, this poem is a reminder that you are vital to the world. Your bravery will make you special and you will inspire others to keep on surviving as Corinne did for me. No matter who bullies you, know that the bullying comes from a place of not only ignorance but also a place of hurt and pain, it has nothing to do with you not being good enough.
You might not feel like it is fair on you and trust me it’s absolutely not, but you will earn the respect that you so wanted by respecting the fact that they are hurting also. Hating on hatred does not bring peace.
Would tell me “stick with your black friends” (if you can)
When I would come home and complain in tears,
Of the white girls and boys, (my college peers)
Who would undermine my grades and say that I,
Should not could not- aim so high,
And pull cruel pranks, like the time, I’ll share,
I found a Facebook group about my hair,
And the looks and stares and coldest words,
Would fly at me like feeding birds,
I’d find myself alone at break,
I’d say to him, I’m about to break,
And he would say “Corinne my sweet, for goodness sake”
And I would breathe in and shoulder once more,
A burden I felt right to my core,
And I felt that my parents could not see,
The pressure was making me unhappy.
And then one day my dad collapsed,
Inside his lungs, an illness mapped.
And it’ll always sit in my mind,
When I visited and saw the tubes entwined,
And it worsened the state of my mind,
And the girls and boys were still unkind,
I’d pick my skin and hair and teeth I’d grind,
I could not sleep for weeks at a time,
And then one day I broke down and cried and cried
So three years later when he died,
I resolved to not let the hurt inside
And it’s taken a while to learn to heal,
And decipher which friends my dad would say were real,
I miss him lots and wish I could say,
That Nicole* looks more like him every day,
That what I went through made me strong,
That he was kind of right, all along
And that I’ll always make the time,
To share my love and remember to be kind,
And when I write this-
Line by line,
It does grant me,
That peace of mind
*Nicole - Corinne's younger sister
– By Corinne Crosbourne, @thewomanistwords on instagram
Corinne's literature work often addresses the experience of 'a misogynoir', a term expresses the intersection of both racism and sexism unique to black women.
Feel feel to leave a comment below about your experience with bullying, how it affects you, and how you've dealt with it. You can also send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org you'd like them to be shared on this blog.