Life Stories Life

The bullying I endured as a child has left me anxious as an adult

When I was about eight years old, I became the victim of childhood bullying. Two girls I had been friends with suddenly stopped talking to me. This was soon followed by other girls in their friend circle. Eventually, the rest of the class no longer spoke to me or wanted to be around me in any capacity. It was over twenty years ago now, but I still wonder, what did I do?

Was it because after some game that I couldn’t win I, in a moment of childish anger, grumbled how much I hated those two girls loudly enough for them to hear? Was it because sometimes I tended to absentmindedly roll my eyes at nothing in particular, and they took offense to that? Was it because they always thought I was annoying, with my crybaby tendencies, and decided they’d had enough of me?

Either way, what I did doesn’t matter.

That is something I have had to repeat to myself over the years because I get so caught up in what I possibly did to deserve being subject to bullying. I bought into this idea that they acted unkindly towards me because I was socially awkward or ugly. From my perspective, everyone sided with those girls because they were better-looking, or just better than me in general. I’ve often wondered if the bullying would have stopped if I stopped being difficult or weird.

For a long time, I also didn’t even register what had happened to me was childhood bullying. I came to look at the situation as those who alienated me simply exercising their right to choose who they wished to be friends with. I thought because I was awkward, didn’t have the same interests, and my personality clashed with theirs, that expecting decency was a burden to them.

There came a point I thought of my childhood bullying as simply a response to my own bad behavior. I was not within what I perceived to be the popular social circle at my school, and I didn’t receive the same romantic attention from my peers as those girls did. So I thought being ostracized, mocked, and receiving verbal abuse from my classmates was justified because it was only my jealousy that caused me to view them poorly.

As a result of all this, I don’t look at my childhood fondly. Rather, when I think of being a child again, I think of being powerless and subject to the whims of others. When I have reflected back on those times in the past, I would ruminate on all the ways I could have defended myself because of a harmful myth that surrounded childhood bullying: bullying would stop when the victim stood up for themselves. But victims of bullying are not equipped to defend themselves because our society does not teach children the necessary skills to do so. Even most adults don’t know how to properly defend themselves or others.

Correspondingly, I think the adults involved at the time didn’t even recognize the situation as childhood bullying. I remember when my third-grade teacher gathered the other girls and me outside of our classroom. She tried to talk out the issues between us in an attempt at conflict mediation. However, the problem with her approach is I was then treated as having the same level of culpability as those girls, despite them being a collective and me being by myself. What’s more, the teacher seemed to view the issue as simply a disagreement between friends rather than what it was: a group of friends against one kid, which was an inherent power imbalance, making it bullying.

Consequently, because no one named my experience childhood bullying, I didn’t realize it was until adulthood. I had a preconceived notion of bullying, thinking it was limited to physical assault. However, according to the CDC, different types of bullying can include relational or social bullying, such as deliberate ostracization of the victim.

I also didn’t recognize my experiences as being traumatic until conversations around mental health on social media got me reflecting on my own struggles, and what they may be linked to. Childhood bullying is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), a potentially traumatic incident that can have negative, lasting consequences on a person.

One such effect is children can experience feelings of shame or anxiety or have difficulty concentrating. I recall when the bullying reached its peak in severity, my grades dropped significantly. In addition, I generally lost all motivation for engaging in school activities. Kids who are bullied may also experience depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulties that can persist into adulthood. I resorted to self-harm as a teenager in response to stress, I struggle with insomnia as an adult, and I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. In the worst-case scenarios, such problems can lead to suicide.

So what can be done to recover from the trauma of bullying? For me, acknowledging that yes, I was bullied, and yes, it does still affect me was a start. Treating trauma from bullying as a serious mental health issue also allows victims to take the steps to seek treatment through a doctor or counseling. Just because the experience happened as a child, between other children, does not mean it should be regarded as trivial or something to be dismissed. Because of the bullying, my childhood was often painful and traumatic. I’m not wrong for feeling bad for how I was treated as a kid as an adult.

However, at least I’ve come to understandI didn’t deserve it. All this blame I put on myself throughout the years has caused me to develop severely low self-esteem and alleviate the burden of responsibility from those who hurt me. In adulthood, I’m deciding I don’t deserve to continue suffering for what happened to me as a child. What’s more, no child ever deserves to be treated in a way that is harmful or traumatizing. And I hope as the conversations around bullying improve over time, bullying against children will be never be normalized again. 

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Book Club Books

“The Passing Playbook” by Isaac Fitzsimons is The Tempest Book Club’s June Pick. Here’s the first chapter.

We’re so excited to announce Isaac Fitzsimons’ novel The Passing Playbook as The Tempest Book Club June read. The Passing Playbook is about a trans boy trying to fit in at a new school after being bullied when transitioning in his last school. As time goes on, he blends in perfectly–big brother, soccer athlete, and proud nerd. All this is at risk when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him. Now Spencer has to decide: cheer from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone—including the guy he’s falling for. LISTEN

As always, we’re collaborating with Penguin to give away a copy. Enter here!  

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Spencer’s morning went to hell when some asshole on a dirt bike swerved in front of Mom’s Subaru.

Mom slammed on the brakes and flung her arm across Spencer’s chest, despite the fact that he was wearing a seat belt, and even if he weren’t, it’s not like her arm would keep him from hurtling through the windshield and becoming sausage meat.

At least she’d already finished her coffee. The last thing he needed was to spend all day smelling like the inside of a Starbucks.

“Is everyone okay?” Mom twisted around to check on Theo in the back seat, but his eyes remained glued to the nature show playing on his tablet. Spencer was impressed by how nothing seemed to faze his little brother.

“Maybe we save the vehicular manslaughter for tomorrow,” said Spencer. He didn’t want to be known as the kid whose mom ran over someone at drop–off. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be known asanything. As far as he was concerned, the less he stood out, the better.

Mom ignored him as she steered the car more carefully up the tree–lined drive and parked at the curb. “Promise me you’ll make an effort today. Talk to people. Smile sometimes.” She tugged on one of his earbuds, pulling it out of his ear. A muffledda–da–da–dun–da–da–da–dun from the song he was listening to trickled out into the car. “It wouldn’t kill you to be more social.”

“It might.”

Mom’s jaw clenched. “That’s not funny, Spencer. Not after last year.”

“Too soon?” said Spencer. If he turned it into a joke he could pretend that he didn’t still wake up in the middle of the night, heart racing, drenched in sweat thinking about The Incident. He called it “The Incident” so he wouldn’t have to remember it all in excruciating detail: the threatening email, the picture of his face in crosshairs stuffed in his locker, the call to the school that prompted a lockdown, huddling in the corner of a dark classroom, the cold tile leeching heat from his body, and knowing that if someone got hurt, it would be all his fault.

“I’m serious, Spence. We don’t have other options if this doesn’t work.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” The back of his neck grew hot and prickly like it had whenever he was awakened in the small hours of the day by the creak of the staircase as Dad crept up to bed after spending all night preparing for the extra college courses he was teaching that summer to pay for Spencer’s tuition.

Even with the extra work, it didn’t take a math genius to figure out that Dad’s paycheck was barely enough to send one kid to private school, let alone two. So after two years in a Montessori program his little brother, Theo, who was autistic, had to go to public school for the first time.

Theo had spent his summer stretched out on the living room carpet in front of the TV watching anything and everything with the word planet in the title. Spencer wasn’t sure how well an encyclopedic knowledge of the mating behavior of amphibians (called amplexus, according to Theo) would go over with other eight–year–olds.

“Hey, what’s with the face?” asked Mom. “This is going to be a great year. For both of you,” she added, reaching around to pat Theo on the knee.

Spencer picked his backpack up off the floor and squeezed it to his chest. He reached out to open the door when Mom said, “Are you sure you want to keep that there?” She pointed at theI’m here, I’m queer, get over it pin on the front pocket.

Spencer’s fingers brushed over the pin. He’d had the same conversation with Aiden over the phone last night.

“Think of it as a test,” Aiden had said. “If someone makes a big deal out of it, you’ll know to steer clear. Besides, how else will you find the other queers?”

“I’m just saying,” continued Mom, “it’s a bit . . . provocative for your day one. Why don’t you wait and see how the QSA meeting goes first? That’s today, right?”

Spencer nibbled his bottom lip. Last night he had agreed with Aiden, but now, seeing the glittery, rainbow letters sparkling in broad daylight, the idea of walking into the building with it on felt like sticking a target on his back. Sure, Oakley might brag about being the most liberal school in the county—-after all, that’s why they’d chosen it—-but it was still in rural Ohio, where just that morning they’d passed by half a dozen churches, one of which had a sign that said:Don’t be so open–minded your brains fall out.

He undid the clasp and tucked the pin in his backpack, hoping Aiden didn’t ask him about it when they debriefed after school.

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“All right, do you know where you’re going?” asked Mom.

“I think so,” he mumbled.

“If you’re not sure, you need to ask for directions.”

“I know.” He tried to keep the tinge of annoyance out of his voice. When Mom got anxious, she tended to treat him like a baby. But this was a big day for all of them.

“Here,” said Mom. She rolled down Spencer’s window, and leaned over him, calling, “Hey, you with the bike!”

Spencer slouched lower in his seat as several kids, including the boy on the dirt bike, turned to stare at them.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

The boy on the bike reversed, rolling backward to the car and stopping outside Spencer’s window.

“I’m sorry about cutting you off earlier, ma’am. I didn’t want to be late.” His voice was low and gravelly and muffled inside his retro motocross helmet.

“That’s quite all right,” said Mom, clearly charmed by his slight Appalachian twang. Her own accent, courtesy of a childhood in West Virginia, came out stronger. “This is my son Spencer. He’s new this year.”

“Nice to meet you.” The boy stuck a gloved hand through the window. The worn leather was as soft as a lamb’s ear against Spencer’s palm.

“Do you think you could show him to his first class?” asked Mom.

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The helmet visor hid the boy’s expression, but Spencer imagined the amusement in his face at being asked to play babysitter. “It’s okay—-” he began, longing to turn around, go home, and try again tomorrow, but then the boy lifted off his helmet and Spencer’s words died in his throat.

He was cute—-all farm boy tan in a navy polo and Wrangler’s. But what really made Spencer’s insides feel like he’d just been dematerialized and rematerialized in a transporter was that this kid, with his brown eyes and megawatt smile currently aimed right at Spencer, was a dead ringer for Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Spencer’s nightly ritual was watching Star Trek with his dad, who would disown him, not as a son but as a fellow Trekkie, if he knew that the only reason he put up with the cheesy special effects was because of his teeny–tiny crush on acting ensign, wunderkind, Wesley Crusher.

Mom gave him a little nudge. “I have to go put Theo on the bus. Have a good day, sweetie.”

Spencer climbed out of the car, careful not to trip over himself, and slammed the door behind him. Did she have to call him sweetie? In front of him? What was wrong with bud? Or sport? Bike Boy’s parents probably didn’t call him sweetie, especially not at school.

He waved them off, watching the Subaru disappear around the corner, and trying to ignore the hollow feeling in his chest.

“So, what grade are you in?” asked the boy, parking his bike and waiting for Spencer on the sidewalk.

Spencer’s thoughts became all tangled up in his head as he tried to shape them into words.

“Are you a first year?” Bike Boy prompted.

“No,” said Spencer, a little too forcefully. He pulled himself up to his not very tall height of five feet. He wasn’t insecure about it, not really, but it would be a long year if everyone,especially cute boys, thought he was a middle schooler who got lost on his way to class. “I’m a sophomore.”

“Cool, me too.”

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He followed Bike Boy up the path to the gated entrance. On the way the boy waved to a couple kids and high–fived another, but he didn’t introduce Spencer. Then again, what would he say?This is the kid whose mom almost ran me over and then made me walk him to class? Not exactly the first impression Spencer wanted.

“Let me guess, you were kicked out of your old school for talking too much.” Bike Boy shot Spencer a wide grin. His two front teeth overlapped slightly, which Spencer found oddly endearing considering that most of his friends had been put in braces as soon as they hit double digits.

Spencer searched for something witty to say back. Something to show Bike Boy that he wasn’t a complete weirdo, but his words got lost again.

The smile on Bike Boy’s face slipped off. “Wait, were you actually kicked out? I’m sorry, I—-”

“I wasn’t kicked out.”

“It was just a joke.”

“I know,” said Spencer, growing frustrated that even the most basic of conversations left him flustered.

Not wanting to prolong the agony, he made a decision when they reached the entrance. He knew where he was going. Sort of. He had taken a tour earlier that summer when signing up for classes.

“So what’s your first class?” asked Bike Boy.

He opened his mouth to respond when someone going past pushed him from behind, and he fell into Bike Boy, who reached out a hand to steady him.

Spencer pulled back his arm like he’d been burned. “It’s okay. I know where I’m going. But thanks for your help.”

Bike Boy searched his face as if trying to see if he was telling the truth. “Are you sure?”

Spencer nodded, scuffing his foot against the floor.

“All right, then. I’ll see you around, I guess,” said Bike Boy, his voice lilting slightly like he was asking a question. He hitched his backpack higher and turned to join the swarm of students on their way to class.

Spencer watched him leave, not with relief, but with something that felt a little like guilt. Maybe he should be a touch nicer to the guy who had offered to help him, despite narrowly escaping death at the wheels of his mother’s Subaru. Hell, Spencer didn’t even know who he was.

Before he could stop himself, he called out, “Wait, what’s your name?”

Bike Boy turned and flashed Spencer a smile. “Justice. Justice Cortes.”

Justice Cortes. Spencer silently mouthed the name before another wave of students knocked into him. He shook his head. The last thing he needed was to think about Justice Cortes, or any boy, really.

What he needed was to keep his distance. If he didn’t get too close to people, they wouldn’t find out his secret. If they didn’t find out, they couldn’t use it against him. Nobody at Oakley knew he was transgender.

Spencer needed to keep his head down, study hard, and escape Apple Creek, population 1,172, where the only traffic jams were caused by tractors and Amish buggies.

But first he’d have to survive PE.

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After a few wrong turns, he finally found the locker rooms just as the warning bell rang.

When he opened the door the nauseating stench of body spray mixed with floral air freshener blasted him in the face, invading his nostrils and making him light-headed.

Spencer hovered awkwardly at the door as a few stragglers in various stages of undress glanced up at him from the wooden benches lining the room. Maybe he should change in the nurse’s bathroom like Ms. Greene, his guidance counselor, had suggested. Private stall, a door that locked, and nobody who’d snap him in half like a twig if given the chance. But then someone might wonder why he didn’t change with the rest of them. First rule of passing: Don’t be different.

He found an empty corner and untied his shoes, avoiding eye contact. He wiggled his toes as a chill from the concrete floor seeped through his socks. After a minute the only sounds in the locker room were the thumping of his heartbeat and the dripping of a leaky faucet.

Alone at last, he jumped into action, wriggling out of his jeans and pulling on shorts from his backpack. He tugged on his T–shirt, grateful, not for the first time, that he hadn’t needed top surgery or to suffer through wearing a binder. Starting hormone blockers at thirteen prevented too much growth and almost one year on testosterone replaced whatever fat there was with smooth muscle.

The late bell rang and he slipped into sneakers, shoved his clothes and backpack into a locker, and hurried out the door.

With its towering oak trees and ivy–covered walls, the Oakley School looked impressive on the outside. But inside, the lemony scent of disinfectant and the squeak of his shoes against the linoleum as he jogged down the hallway connecting the locker room to the gym told Spencer that this was more like the charter school Miles Morales attended than the Xavier Institute. The hallway, which had teemed with the hustle and bustle of chattering students five minutes ago, was empty. He snuck into the gym, where a dozen or so boys were flinging foam balls at each other. One sped toward his face, forcing him to duck. Where was the teacher?

“You’re late.”

Spencer jumped and twisted around to see a man in a baseball cap standing beside him. The man wore saggy sweatpants and a ridiculous–looking cardigan with a hood—a hoodigan?—-and had a toothpick dangling from his mouth.

“Are you Coach Schilling?” he asked, slightly out of breath. “Sorry, I—-”

“Name?” Coach Schilling cut him off.

“Spencer Harris.”

“Harris, eh?” He surveyed his clipboard, rolling the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other.

Sweat pooled clammy and moist under Spencer’s armpits. The principal, Mrs. Dumas, had assured him that his school records would have the correct name and gender, but that didn’t stop the panic rising in his chest. If someone had made a mistake, he’d be outed in his very first class, and all of it—his dad working overtime, Theo switching schools—would be for nothing.

“You’re new,” said Coach Schilling. It wasn’t a question. With a school this small, new students must be easy to spot. “Make sure you’re on time tomorrow.” He pulled a magazine from the back of his sweatpants and began thumbing through it.

“Could you tell me what’s going on?” Spencer sidestepped as another ball hurtled toward him.

Coach Schilling, preoccupied with uncovering the secret to getting rock–hard abs in thirty days, barely glanced up from his magazine and said, “Dodgeball.”

“Right,” said Spencer. “But what should I actually be doing?”

Coach Schilling raised a bushy eyebrow and gave three sharp bursts of his whistle. A hush fell across the gym. Spencer’s face burned as all eyes turned on him. Coach Schilling picked up a loose ball and shoved it in Spencer’s hands. “Take this and throw it over there.” He pointed across the painted line in the center of the gym. “No head shots, no crotch shots. Got it?”

Spencer nodded.

“Good. Have fun.” Coach Schilling blew his whistle to start the game then went to sit on the bleachers with his magazine.

Spencer’s knees knocked together as he joined his teammates. At least if it was a total disaster he could probably duck out after attendance tomorrow and Coach Schilling wouldn’t even notice.

After a few minutes of playing, Spencer’s pent–up anxiety about the first day of school dripped away with the sweat. He might be small, but he was nimble on his feet. He ducked, dived, and even got in a few hits himself, until he was the last man standing on his team and found himself outnumbered, two to one.

His first opponent, a tall boy with shaggy brown hair, chucked a ball at him. Spencer did a clumsy pirouette and it whipped past. He grinned as his teammates called out encouragement from the sidelines.

His second opponent threw a ball, which Spencer caught. His team erupted into cheers as the player moved to the sidelines, out of the game. Now it was Spencer and the shaggy–haired kid.

The boy launched the ball into the air. Spencer used the ball in his hands to deflect it back, then threw his second ball, forcing the kid to defend both shots simultaneously.

To Spencer’s shock, his opponent reached out with hands the size of Spencer’s face and caught both balls. Spencer was out.

Coach Schilling blew his whistle. “All right, game over.”

Spencer threw his head back. He didn’t consider himself a sore loser, but he disliked losing enough to make sure it didn’t happen very often. When it did, it was like a kick to the shins: incredibly painful, but unlikely to cause any real damage.

He forced his grimace into a smile as his opponent approached him, hand outstretched. “Nice moves out there, Twinkle Toes.” He winked at Spencer.

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Spencer’s cheeks ached with the effort of keeping his smile from falling. He took the kid’s hand, squeezing it limply. He couldn’t tell if he was making fun of him or not.

As the kid turned around and started walking back to his buddies, Spencer’s pulse raced. He imagined him telling them what he’d just called Spencer and the nickname spreading around the school. His eyes fell on a ball in front of him, and before his brain caught up with his body, Spencer pulled his leg back and let loose. The ball made a perfect arc in the air before smacking the kid in the back of his head.

The kid whirled around, his cheeks flushed and eyes flashing. Spencer’s brain finally caught up.Oh, shit.

“Who did that?” shouted the kid.

All eyes turned to Spencer. Even the girls playing badminton over on the other side of the gym with their own teacher stopped their game.

The kid rounded on Spencer.

Spencer flinched.

“Did you throw that at me?”

Spencer couldn’t exactly lie, not with a room of witnesses. “No, I kicked it.”

“With your right foot or your left foot?” asked the kid.

“I— What?” asked Spencer, wondering what the hell that had to do with anything.

The kid took another step toward Spencer, who found himself backed up against the wall. “That shot. Did you make it with your right foot or your left?”

“Left. My left.”

To Spencer’s surprise, the boy smiled and turned to Coach Schilling. “Did you see that, Coach?”

Coach Schilling was also staring at Spencer with a curious look on his face. “That I did, son, that I did.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Macintosh, why don’t you head to the nurse and get an ice pack. You.” He pointed his whistle at Spencer. “Harris, right?”

“Yes, sir,” said Spencer.

“You’re coming with me.”

Excerpted with the permission of Penguin Random House.

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Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Work Now + Beyond

My boss’s constant gaslighting made me question my sanity

Gaslighting is commonly associated with romantic relationships. However, this form of abuse is present everywhere, especially at work. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting involves psychological manipulation and/or emotional abuse to exert power or gain control. I did not realize gaslighting at work existed until this summer. I found myself in a very bizarre situation where I was constantly subjected to manipulation and found myself under immense stress and self-doubt.

I worked at an organization that I believed would value and empower me because that is what the organization claims to promote. Just after a few weeks though, I began doubting the quality of my work and felt terrible most of the time. Gaslighters will have you constantly question your self-worth to prevent you from succeeding.  It is up to you to set boundaries to protect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had. I was struggling to strike a balance between work and other commitments. It is commonplace to feel like that once in a while, isn’t it? Well apparently for gaslighters there is no room for validation or empathy. I communicated my feelings to my supervisor who instantly dismissed my feelings and expressed her dissatisfaction with me. It got to a point where I doubted my own sanity. I almost accepted that I was at fault and perhaps incapable of handling tasks effectively.

However, I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues who stepped in to rescue me from a toxic situation. Gaslighters will negate your feelings and opinions and instead insist that their approach is always correct.

I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

It is difficult to identify gaslighters or gaslighting but if you have ever doubted your capabilities or sanity at work then you have probably been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are very smart! They tend to pass on judgments and passive-aggressive comments under the guise of well-intentioned feedback or support. 

Gaslighting is more frequent at work because it is a competitive environment and everyone just wants to excel. It is, however, also underreported because the victim usually ends up thinking it is his or her fault. Working with a gaslighting boss or colleagues can become demeaning and undermine your self-confidence. It aids negativity, which can seep into your personal life as well as push you out of your preferred career.

Every once in a while, it is alright for your boss or colleague to disagree with you. But if it occurs recurrently and you find yourself second-guessing your choices all the time, you are probably being gaslighted. Confusing you makes them feel correct. They may even drop back-handed compliments to maintain an upper hand.

I personally believe people that people gaslight at work due to a lack of self-confidence and assurance. Undermining other people’s credibility reduces their chances of getting ahead. This in turn makes the gaslighter feel in control or powerful. It has been proven by research that gaslighters tend to have low self-esteem. Their behaviors make them assume a sense of power or control.

In order to ascertain whether you are being gaslighted or not look out for recurrent behavioral patterns that are confusing you. If you constantly find yourself perplexed and doubt your abilities, you are being gaslighted – trust your instincts. Do not allow your boss or colleagues’ behavior to take over you. 

Sometimes speaking to a trusted colleague can help. I was lucky enough to have trust-worthy and supportive colleagues that I vented out to. They stepped in to make sure I was doing alright and reminded me that my work was valued.

There is little conversation about gaslighting at work but it is extremely prevalent and dangerous. It can demotivate people and push them out of their chosen careers. It is important that you figure out whether or not you are being gaslighted. Once you are sure, try to keep a record of all your interactions with the gaslighter. Take screenshots of emails and messages. That is what I did! This is especially important if you plan to report the case to your management or HR.

Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

In my experience, a confrontation with the gaslighter never goes well. They will not listen to you and instead throw unwarranted arguments at you. It is best to get support from a management team or HR. It was difficult for me to get any form of help because my gaslighter was at the very top. Albeit, it was a testing experience but I held my ground. I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

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Health Wellness

What you don’t know about living with high myopia

I was only six when I got glasses. I remember it well, some memories just stick to you, waiting to spread the glue every time they cross your mind. We were doing routine eye tests at school and I had to go into the nurse’s office. I can still clearly visualize her calling out my name, the first M in my class. I walked in, my tiny legs hanging off the high stool. I sat there while she flipped on the dreaded screen that peaks my anxiety, even today. I couldn’t read all the letters. As much as I twisted and turned, and squint my eyes, I just couldn’t read them. And so, she called in my mom. There was a lot of crying, a lot of eye doctor visits, a lot of not being able to understand until finally, I got glasses.

I hated them. There was an older girl who talked me through it, saying it wasn’t that bad, and when I wore them, I’d finally be able to see everything clearly, bright as day. I don’t remember putting them on. But I do remember the trauma that came after. The bullying. The taunts. The name calling. I hear it in my head even as a grown ass 26-year-old woman – the voices telling me that my weak eyesight was a cause of insult. And because of that, I’ve always been insecure when I wear them. I didn’t want to be all those names those kids called me. 

I eventually got contacts. While I felt better on the outside, my eyes continued to weaken. Over the years, I soared through the first few numbers. Dancing into higher numbers on each visit to the eye doctor. And damn, I hate that bloody test. Every time I sit in that chair and recite the letters and numbers up on that small screen, something within me stirs. I will myself to read them, knowing my eyes can only do so much. When I was younger, my mother would come with me, and when I’d hesitate across a letter, she’d urge me on, saying you can see it right? How can you not, it’s right there? But I never could. It was too hard. It was the one test I always failed. And I always continue to fail.

Sometimes I’d learn the screens by heart. My memory comforting me. I’d recite the letters off like I rote learnt them for a school exam. Breathing in as I went through them, growing smaller and smaller. But I’d always get caught. I’d leave the eye doctor feeling worse. I never had any excitement in getting new glasses. I’m getting better now, I wear them out more often and yet, every time someone looks at me for a moment longer, my mind lingers – what would they think? 

It was the one test I always failed. And I always continue to fail.

And I know it’s silly. They’re JUST glasses. Everyone wears them. It’s normal. But for me, it never has been. My number has always been higher than everyone around me. The reality is, I have high myopia, and that means my number may never stop increasing. I’m terrified of going to the eye doctor because I don’t want to know how much worse my eyes have become.

I’ve been to so many doctors, been told so many different things. One doctor told me not to lift heavy objects because it could damage my eyesight. One doctor told me to stay away from football matches and cricket games because the movement of the ball could damage my eyesight. But I can’t live in fear of things that are so simple, so mundane, so quintessentially everyday life.

The reality is, I have high myopia, and that means my number may never stop increasing.

The first two months of lockdown, I was nervous. What if something happened to my eyes? What if I needed new contacts? What if my glasses broke? And I know it was just my anxiety leading me into believing the worst. 

Two years ago, my eye number was stationary for one entire year. I go to the doctor every four months, get my eyes dilated, spend the entire day just lost in blurred vision and headaches. I usually have to take the day off work. But at my last check up that year, for the first time in my life, I finally had hope that maybe I could be applicable for lasik.

But I can’t live in fear of things that are so simple, so mundane, so quintessentially everyday life.

So I went in, high spirits, got the test done. Saw purple for an entire afternoon. And then went in the next day to hear that my number had increased by three. I was devastated. I love controlling the things in my life and my eyesight is the one thing I’ve never been able to push into focus.

A lot of people ask me about my eye number as if it’s so fascinating. I get a lot of “Oh, I didn’t know your number could be that high!” or “Can I try on your glasses?” or “Can you see how many fingers I’m holding up?” And it’s normal, humans are inherently built to ask questions, we thrive on curiosity. I know I do. But it’s tough. It’s tough knowing that I can’t get lasik. Knowing that my retina is stretching. Knowing that my eyesight is terrifyingly weak and I hate not being able to see the world without it being reflected back at me from the corners of my thick glasses. 

I love controlling the things in my life and my eyesight is the one thing I’ve never been able to push into focus.

When something happens to my eyes, I’m immediately afraid. Last year, I had a scare where I couldn’t wear contacts for a month to allow my eye to heal. And I was lucky, because it did eventually heal. And I’m learning to live with it. 

But my high myopia isn’t going anywhere. The only possible procedure is too risky. So if you’re reading this, and you too have high myopia, I feel you. I understand. I know it isn’t easy. But we’re doing the best we can under the given circumstances. 

I’m still functioning.

My eye number may be increasing constantly, but so is my strength.

And for now, that’s good enough.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I was only seven when my mother’s cousin hurt me

Trigger warning: sexual abuse of a child

I was seven when it happened.

I remember we were moving apartments. The new place wasn’t completely furnished and my mum was in the last trimester of her pregnancy. Daddy was away on a trip. Several relatives had volunteered to come over and help us with the move. One of them was my mother’s cousin, an extremely helpful, kind and sincere man. I thought so too until my experiences with him taught me otherwise.

The first of my “strange” encounters with him began during the move. My mother and aunt left me sleeping in the living room and retired for the night, leaving him to watch over me. I woke up the next morning disoriented as most children do, but aware that the hand between my legs did not belong. He had slipped under the blanket and cradled me within him himself in a ‘fatherly’ manner. There was nothing remotely parental in his touch. This would become the pattern for the next couple of days.

I still remember that state of confusion until today, I doubt I’ll ever forget it.

The next time, I was visiting my grandparents. At that time a bachelor, my mother’s cousin lived with them. I remember one dayeveryone fell asleep after a heavy luncheon, but my childish buzz kept me awake as he was getting ready for his evening shift at work. With the lure of a game that would help me kill time, he brought me closer, asked me to close my eyes and kissed my lips. He slipped his tongue in for good measure. I pulled away, not knowing what to do. Startled by my reaction and afraid I would rouse the adults, he tried to tell me that it was ‘our secret kiss’ and that I shouldn’t tell anyone about it. Like a good girl, I kept quiet, but I made sure I never was alone in the same room with him again.

As I grew older, I made sure to maintain my distance from him. Unfortunately, that did not stop innuendoes from coming my way. When I got my first phone at age 13, he somehow got my number, started to send me porn and dirty texts. I didn’t respond, but that did not deter him. His messages continued until I changed numbers once I turned 18.

When I was 15, another male relative, some far off cousin came to visit and yet again, my grandparents opened their doors to him.

One weekend when I was staying over, the two of us were watching TV. I grabbed the remote to change channels without letting him know. He jumped on me to snatch the remote, I threw it away far from his reach, laughing. He got really angry and squeezed my breasts hard, pinched my nipples, saying that was my punishment.

I ran away.

He chased me around the house and once he caught me again, he slipped his hand inside my bra and squeezed again. This time, harder. A few years later when he got married, he texted me saying that I should try him now that he has some experience.

Relatives. Such a blessing.

The result of these encounters is that I now associate sex and physical love with pain and punishment.

My boyfriend, who I am head over heels in love with, spends hours trying to make me comfortable so that we can make love. Often times, I just end up in tears and he keeps staring stonily at the wall. We go to bed that way, and the next morning we pretend nothing happened.

My therapist tells me I don’t want to heal.

I love my man, I hate his touch.

He plays the guitar and he has the most amazing hands that turn me on but I hate those beloved fingers on me. The reality is far from it. It’s just a miserable existence. We’ve been together two years, this last year has been filled with daily arguments.

Soon, we’ll break up.

I know the drill, been through it twice already. I have made peace with the hand I was dealt, but I cannot let such a travesty continue.

Though I’m not a parent, I am constantly surrounded by children. Never once have I left them alone with an adult.

They always need to be in groups of their own. Their parents and I have made sure they know where people, not just strangers but anyone, are not supposed to touch them. They know that their privates are off limits. It is indeed sad that we live in a world where childish innocence needs to be marred by such lessons but is the harsh truth.

The sooner we accept it happens and teach our children about consent, the safer we’ll all be.

Two men took away my ability to trust. I’ll never forgive them.

Gender & Identity Life

I prefer to speak a different language than my native tongue, so what?

My heart sank as I read the replies under the comment I posted. Every word was a dagger, stabbing my chest over and over again and then twisted. When I could not handle it anymore, I closed the tab browser and shut my computer down, trying to ignore it. “American wannabe,” “too proud to speak in Malay,” and “disgrace of the community” are only some of the things people called me in their replies. For them, I have forgotten about my own roots and heritage. I should not live here in Malaysia, or better I should be exiled from my country. Although those were not the worst remarks I have received, still, there was a sting in my heart.

“Suck it up and get over it!” I told myself, as usual. It became a normal routine for me since I was a teen.

The next morning as I entered my class, I could notice the stares from some of my classmates as they whispered to each other. As expected, they started to crack their snide jokes to each other, obviously about me.

“Hey guys, minah salleh just came in!” and they all laughed. Again, as usual, I tried to ignore them and walked towards my friends with one reserved seat for me. My friends looked at me with sympathy and scorn in their faces for our classmates’ behavior towards me. The name minah salleh,  which means ‘white girl’ in my language, was meant to mock me. And they intended to let the whole world know about me, the girl who lost her identity.

Because every time they say it, everyone would agree with them.

This is a normal, but distressing scenario I have to live with every day. All because of one thing – I speak one language, English, more often than I speak in my own language.

I love learning foreign languages. But English was the only language I could learn in school. Before the age of ten, English language lessons in school are compulsory for children. But of all of them, I grew fascinated with the language and started to read everything in English from storybooks, newspapers, magazines to signboards and labels on every product I bought. I poured over the English language.

I decided to speak more. I wanted to improve my fluency in English as much as I could.

Unfortunately, none of the kids my age, from my own community, were interested in it. They saw English as a language to pass in examinations from elementary to high school. It was only important for them to survive college one day as it was an academic language, but that was it. They just needed to know the basics, but there was no need to make it as known as our own language.

If I was a diaspora kid or a child of an immigrant, they would not say anything. But I was not and for them, it was peculiar to speak in another language than our own. The way they saw it, I have forgotten my own mother tongue. I was showing off with my ability in speaking English or proudly displaying my level in intelligence – for them English was a measure of people’s intellect. The verbal bullying is not just from people around, but also in social media. Just one post on my Facebook or Instagram with an English caption and in no time, it will be full of comments from critics.

I have been living with these people my whole life and I still wonder – why is it a sin to speak in another language? It is just a language, a verbal or written expression with completely different words. Speaking in another language does not mean I am forgetting my own roots and heritage. I am not ‘converting’ myself into a white – as they called it – but it is simply because I love it.

I would never forget my own native language as I speak it with my family and friends all the time. The only difference between me and them is my ability to speak in another language, but they see it as arrogance. This is not just happening to me, it happens to others from my community who speak English or any other languages as well. Because there is one rule about being born in our homeland – we have to speak in our native language. We do not live in a country of four seasons, eat full English breakfasts or even have colored-eyes and white skin, so why bother ‘changing’ ourselves into one of them?

Just a slip of one English word and every eye will turn to us with judging stares. It is almost impossible to change the society’s mentality about this. No matter what our intention is, they will always be viewed negatively.

Gender & Identity Life

I was bullied in middle school, but it was a turning point in my life

Trigger warning: Mentions of bullying, anxiety, self hate, and abusive relationships.

Middle school is universally a trial-some time for most of us, and being bullied in middle school really didn’t help my case. It’s the age when you’re a fresh teenager and you’re just genuinely (and hungrily) trying to figure out who you really are.

Middle school is that age when everything and nothing feel cool all at the same time. It’s also the age when we’re extremely vulnerable as it shapes a huge part of our adult personalities in the way that it passes. For me, middle school wasn’t all bad, until I was bullied. The first two years were actually pretty great; I was a popular girl, and I loved being the center of attention.

But, eighth grade is when everything changed for me. I switched schools mid-semester and I ended up in an alien land where nobody knew who I was (and didn’t want to, either). I felt lonely and isolated.

The icing on the cake was the fact that I was bullied in that new school.

Up until then, I hadn’t been insecure about the way I looked. I was a happy-go-lucky 12-year-old who suddenly wasn’t so happy-go-lucky at 13 when all of her flaws were magnified and made fun of. The bullying made me hate the way I looked. I became excessively critical of my physical features and my personality as well. I felt as if the two were directly proportional – the more good looking you are, the more people like you. It was honestly a very screwed up way for me to look at myself but it was the sad reality of my life for years.

Over the course of high school, I went through a transitional phase where puberty wasn’t the worst to me. Yet I still held that belief very close to my heart – wherein the more good looking I’d be, the more people would like me.

This philosophy really got the best of me when it culminated in an abusive relationship with someone who I thought only wanted the best for me for four long years. My bullying experience in middle school really twisted my perception of reality and made me extremely desperate for friends in the sense that I’d accepted the first person who came into my life and was decent enough to me – as a good friend of mine. 

I allowed people to walk all over me because of the insecurities I developed from bullying.

For four years I thought that being demeaned, manipulated, anxious, and scared were the normal thing to be in a close relationship. It’s honestly scary what being bullied in eighth grade did to me. It made me an anxious mess who didn’t believe in herself.

It took me the longest time ever to get over being bullied and finally get to the point where I stopped getting affected by what people had to say about my looks and finally to where I am today – absolutely and wholly confident about who I am and what I am made of.

Bullying is cruel and it stems from an ingrained hatred for someone who you don’t even know. And it took quite a toll on me. At the mere age of 13, when I was supposed to get to know myself on a deeper level, I began despising myself – all due to the twisted perceptions of other people.

I suffered from an identity crisis that lasted for years until I finally realized my worth. This identity crisis led me to have various insecurities and internalize self-doubt as an essential part of who I was. And it took a lot of effort to let that go, completely.

Bullying is absolutely horrid and I sincerely wouldn’t want anyone to go through that experience.

I’ve learned a lot in my 21 years of existence, and one lesson that will always stay close to me, because of my experience is that I’m here to spread love and only love – there is no place for such shallow hatred in my heart where I’d make a person feel bad about what they look like or who they are. Nobody deserves that.

Love Life Stories

When I moved to America from my home in India, my classmates tried their best to break me down

I was bullied in middle school and it made me a shell of the person I am today. I had recently moved from India to the United States and I was teased for being observant and having a lazy eye. It was traumatizing to move to a new place and try to adjust, just to feel different and lonely.

Although the teasing stopped after middle school, being bullied continued to impact me throughout high school. I was caught up in a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and the inability to express myself, so I became a lifeless person walking the halls.

I tried to assimilate by becoming quiet and detached from those around me, mostly because I didn’t have the strength to deal with being bullied anymore. It didn’t work. Being reclusive just made it worse because everyone else seemed to be adjusting well and I was still alone.

 I saw people around me be happy and social whereas I was quiet and had no friends.

In the middle of the eleventh grade, I realized that something needed to change. I hated that everyone had friends and I didn’t have that many. I tried to figure out how it happened and I realized that it was a matter of choosing who I wanted to be, and I had to take charge. I felt a need to be defined as more than just a quiet, shy girl. 

I needed to become someone I actually liked.

I had a personality, but it was hidden under the multiple blankets that needed to be unwrapped. Not many people actually made the effort to get to know me, and that bothered me because I knew that I was a great person.

I realized I needed to start making an effort.

I started doing the best I could to talk to people. I would take the time to join in random discussions which I thought were awkward, yet necessary. I didn’t solidly make ‘friends,’ and I didn’t become part of a clique or group of people, through this process, but at least I knew I was trying. And I made acquaintances who were interesting people.

I tried to make friends at home too.

 Opening up and getting to know people was a very slow process and I knew that it would take time, but I was okay with that. I cringe at the thought of trying to make friends. I could barely muster the courage to introduce myself, but I did anyway. 

By the time I left for college, I was still never satisfied with the progress that I’d made making friends, but college gave me the chance for a fresh start. I felt like I could leave most of my past behind. I made sure to choose a university where no one from my high school was going: a small suburban Penn State campus in Erie PA. I vowed to myself that I would not let the ghost of my past haunt me again.

 I would make friends and not be afraid to express myself.

Penn State Erie had a warm and welcoming campus and I made a lot of friends during the welcome week. Since then, everything has been better.

Though it was, and still is, hard sometimes.

My heart still beats crazy fast if I need to talk to a person I don’t know. It beats super fast when I try to talk in class in front of too many people. 

Until two years ago, I even hated ordering pizza or any take out over the phone because I feared my voice would be too quiet.

I still have time when my self-worth drops dramatically, but I notice it and am able to work on it. When it does, I remember where I came from and the progress I have made, and that I don’t let other people put me down anymore.

I can’t change what happened to me in the past or who I was, but I can make sure that I improve on the person that I am and change how to respond to the events that happened to me. Everyone has something they’re not proud of or feel the need to hide from, but I can’t hide from myself.

It takes time but it does happen. I still think about that time and wonder who would I be today without that experience of being bullied and having to struggle to make friends on my own.

I like to think that having that experience makes me stronger, so I have been able to make peace with it.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I fell in love on Tumblr and it was incredible. Then everything changed.

In 2010, in the seclusion of my single dorm room, I spent most of my minimal free time on Tumblr, making friends through fandom. I was almost 21 and had never been in a relationship, though it had never occurred to me to try online dating. Some of my most meaningful friendships had been sown and harvested on the internet, but extending that to my love life felt weird.

Mostly, I felt weird. 

That year, I realized with heart-stopping clarity that my attraction to women wasn’t hypothetical. Beyond that, I had a deep-seated hatred of my body that made it difficult for me to converse with people I liked romantically. I would flirt, occasionally, and revel in comments on my heavily edited selfies. 

But whenever anyone asked about my relationship status, I would freak out and delete the messages.

For years, my weight had been a sticking point with people I’d tried to ask out. It felt like something I would never get past; like no matter how great I was, my weight would always turn people off.

I was the disgusting fat girl. End of story.

Then, a Tumblr friendship became more. We were separated by nearly 9,000 miles and a 12-hour time difference to boot, but that seemed manageable. It felt a little like relationship training wheels. My partner couldn’t see me, or my size, and that made me feel safe, even though the few photos I had seen of them intimidated me.

 Here I was, fat and pasty with sticker tattoos, nails bitten to the quick, and glasses that didn’t suit my face. 

In photos, my partner was clearly too hot for me. But they didn’t have to know that.

When asked, I sent photos of myself. They were always angled to make me look thinner, even once those photos became more risqué. I took off clothes and held the camera high, tilted my jaw to give it more of an angle, pushed up my breasts in my fanciest bra.

The first time we had cybersex, it was after I’d sent a topless mirror selfie, the boldest I’d ever been. My stomach wasn’t visible, nor my wide arms. I tilted my head to make my chin and neck look smaller. We sent each other detailed messages of what we would do if we were in the same bed and brought each other to orgasm, thus erasing any trace of my virginity.

Cybersex became a space where I felt comfortable exploring my body with someone else. After several carefully crafted nudes, my partner said, I know what you look like. You don’t have to hide from me. It felt like permission to be fat and have sex. 

It felt monumental.

They complimented my breasts, my face, my hands; they told me my stomach was “cute” and my thick thighs were “nice.”

They nicknamed me “bebe whale” and made it sound like a cute pet name. Although it made my stomach curl the first time, eventually, I got used to it. I even liked it, as long as they didn’t call me that before, during, or after sex.

Sex became a focal point of our connection. 

We had cybersex, phone sex, Skype sex. We recorded voice notes of our orgasms. Eventually, I visited. Any anxiety I had about being with them in person was erased by several delayed flights and a burning desire to just finish the trip, which made our first real-life hug pretty anticlimactic.

At my hotel, it was different. 

I feared that seeing me — really seeing me, without the filter of a camera or the distance of half a globe — would turn them off. But they didn’t hesitate to touch me, once I asked, and we spent three weeks exploring each other, bodies fully on display, limbs entangled.

Physical sex was different from cyber sex. It was headier, messier, sweatier; I couldn’t control the way my stomach jiggled when we moved on the bed or the way my chin multiplied when I pulled back from a kiss. I was too heavy to be on top unless I strained my arms to keep me up, and my partner noticed all of it.

I was self-conscious, and they told me, it’s fine, bebe whale, I love you. I believed them, though the anxiety never really faded after they told me I was squashing them during a particularly vigorous round of intercourse.

When I came home, my weight became a Topic of Conversation.

My partner told me that they wished I could have been on top. They said things like, we could have better sex if you were more flexible. They suggested I lose weight.

The anxiety I’d felt during my visit amplified into something ugly, and it never really went away, even after we broke up. Our cybersex felt like a safe, comfortable space to explore desire, but our physical sex brought it all crashing down. I felt too fat to be wanted.

After everything, I think that’s the one thing I’ll never be able to forgive.

I’ve been with just one other person since that relationship ended. We’re engaged. I know, unequivocally, how deeply I am desired. How deeply I am loved. My weight is neither a positive nor negative; it’s something that simply is

Compliments from my partner are never about my size. 

The pet names they choose don’t make me feel self-conscious. I used to fear that one day, they would wake up, realize I was a fat, ugly mess, and leave. I don’t feel that way anymore.

Of course, there are Bad Days. 

I still talk to my therapist about my weight. About my ex. When someone takes your worst insecurity and makes you feel safe, then rips that away, it’s a betrayal. 

It leaves a scar.

It’s been a long, slow crawl to once again feel like I can be fat and have sex. This time, I don’t feel like I need anyone’s permission but my own. 

That is monumental.

Love Wellness

Stop pretending you just got triggered. It makes you look ridiculous.

A proper definition of the word triggered is vital before we go any further into this, mostly because it’s highly misunderstood and misused on the internet nowadays.  

Medically speaking, a “trigger” is something that can set off or activate the symptoms of a physical or mental illness in a person who is prone to it, having suffered from it or is suffering from it in the context of it being spoken of.  Being “triggered” automatically connotes a condition where the person would not function normally once they have come in contact with their trigger.

And this is apparently funny to some people.

It’s simply beyond me just how this can be considered hilarious when it’s a serious and dangerous situation to go through. Being triggered is not a joke – it can cost someone their life, if not properly handled.

I’ve seen this pattern on the internet where someone will voice their opinion on something that has bothered them and at least one or two people (mostly Men’s Rights Activists) will respond to this with “Oh you’re triggered” 


 I’ve even seen posts titled as “How to trigger a feminist/feminazi”.

How the hell is this funny?

How is using a medical term used to denote an illness something to laugh about? 

And why do MRA’s think it’s supposedly “witty” or “sassy” to use triggered as a retort? Using the term “triggered” out of context does not make you seem smart or sassy. 

It just makes you look ignorant, insensitive, and ridiculous. It’s not funny.

Let me elaborate on this with an example.

A person who suffers from anxiety tweets out something pertaining to their anxiety that has happened to them, and you (being the wonderful MRA you are) choose to respond to that with “Who triggered you?” instead of trying to be even a little bit sensitive. 

You know what will happen? 

They might actually end up getting triggered due to your so-called wittiness. They might suffer from an anxiety attack all because you lack basic decency and education on this topic. There is a reason why “trigger warnings” are a thing. There is a reason why blood, gore, graphic imagery, etc. are provided with such imminent warnings in movies, music videos, etc.

Even social media websites, in general, recognize the importance of triggers wherein they label certain photos and videos as “sensitive content” before outright displaying it to the audience. That is a responsible use of social media

Casually using the term in an argument just to prove a point isn’t. 

It’s extremely important to be respectful and have at least basic decency even if you don’t agree with someone’s ideologies. You cannot cross the line between arguing and go straight to slandering.  

And it really isn’t that hard to refrain from using the word “triggered” itself when what you’re actually trying to imply is far from the actual meaning of the word. 

Don’t be an asshole, and don’t be offensive.

Culture Gender & Identity Life

I was a victim of ragging during the first week of university in Pakistan. I couldn’t stop it.

The term ragging is probably an unfamiliar word in America and the UK, but the practices are just the same as hazing. Except that it doesn’t happen to the freshmen in any sort of group either sorority or fraternity. In South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia – it happens to every single freshman.

Getting into college was tantamount to that start of new life. I was deliriously happy on my first day in college. There were thousands of plans on my mind, typical plans such as making new friends, acing every semester and to have a good time.

But unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

It started with orientation week for the newcomers. A tiring, torturing week which felt like forever. This was when my nightmare began.

It was a week with almost no sleep. Our day started in the early morning and ended after midnight. The seniors who were in charge of orientation week were with us all the time. I didn’t mind the events and activities for us as I knew how important it was to get us settled in our new place and environment. But keeping us all night just for ranting was absolutely absurd. Usually, the seniors who were in charge of the freshmen did it for petty reasons, mainly to show us their power of seniority.

On the first day of orientation week, one of the freshmen made one unforgivable mistake – she questioned as to why we had to wake up at four in the morning if the orientation activities start at eight. Because of that, all of us were punished. For three hours, they ranted about how rude and disrespectful we were for questioning their actions.

Their ragging during orientation week was more than keeping us up all night. There were ridiculous punishments and demands from the seniors. Some of us were ordered to dance in front of everyone or fetch them food or drink whenever they wanted it. One other freshman got lost at one point and asked for a senior’s help with directions. These seniors were more than glad to help, with one condition – these new students had to squat walk until they reached their destination. There was just no way to escape the ragging. Seniors were everywhere. The freshmen were tormented by physical humiliation, verbal abuses and threats from the seniors at all times.

I thought once the orientation week was over, the ragging would stop. But I was wrong.

Unfortunately for me, I was placed in the same dorm room as a senior. She took a strong dislike to me.

There was one time when I went to my room and she waited for me, with her two other friends. I was surrounded by them and interrogated for what seemed like an eternity. She accused me of disrespecting her that day because I didn’t smile and greet her ‘good morning’. To them, I needed to be put in my place.

After hours of insults and verbal abuse, I was warned to smile and greet her next time. But not just her, her friends demanded the same thing. Do it, or suffer the consequences – those were the exact words they said. Intimidated by their threat, I agreed. But still, I had to be punished for my mistake – I had to do their laundry for as long as they wanted.

Living with her was torture. I was practically her slave for two semesters and did all her bidding – buying her food for lunch, running errands for her and washing her bed sheets. As a freshman, I was powerless. I tried to get used to the bullying but there were times when it reached the point when I considered quitting college. I looked forward to my classes, just to get out of my room but dreaded the moment when I had to go back. Every day I put on a brave face but silently cried at night.

Once I asked a counselor’s help about being ragged. But his answer was disappointing. Instead of support, all I got from him was this answer – “it was just a phase of my college life.”

Luckily, it didn’t last forever. I was finally free from the ragging in my second year.

I was assigned to be in charge during orientation week in my third year. As a senior that time, I had the authority to do the ragging to those freshmen.

But I didn’t do it.

The first year of college scarred me. Those newcomers never deserved the same, awful experience like I had. They came to college with high hopes of bettering their life, not to endure this stupid tradition.

The ragging did affect me in some ways. Now, I’m stronger and tougher, more resilient because of my experiences. I’m more empathetic towards those who have been bullied and wronged by the seniors. Now, I’m against bullying and more perceptive to any act of bullying. It was lucky for me to survive my ordeal, but there were few who didn’t.

Sometimes, I wished I could stand up for myself instead of bowing and scraping like a slave for the whole year. I’ve realized one thing – their seniority shouldn’t define their superiority.

They deserved respect, but only when they earned it, not because they had more experience in college.