Way of the Totem

Why I react so violently to bullying, a personal story

by on Mar.08, 2012, under Uncategorized

This post will contain words that I detest, but never the less are necessary in the telling of this story. 

I hate bullies. I hate them to the very core of my being. All forms from the real world ones that want to shove kids around or harass them based on their race, creed, gender or gender/sexual identity all the way to the ones who do the same over the internet. When I see someone picking on someone else it stirs something in the very core of me to take action, to do something, to reach out and let the person being bullied know they aren’t alone. It’s something I abhor and will do anything I can to help stamp out. And yes, it’s something personal. 

When I was a kid, gaming was my escape. Escape from things I didn’t want to, or couldn’t deal with in my every day real life. This includes an abusive father who visited random acts of violence upon me, and constant bullying in grade school for being smarter than the average student. Yes, I was the nerd that got picked on. The story of my home life with my father is something that deserves it’s own post, and I’ll get to that another time.

After my father left, it lessened one burden, but then I still had the constant bullying at school to deal with. It lasted all through grade school. Kids would taunt me for being smart, for wearing glasses, for reading books. They’d steal my books from my desk and tear them up and throw them out the windows. I was called a faggot, gay, fat. I was called every derogatory name they could think of, and many times they told me that I should just go kill myself because I was a useless sack of shit.

Every day was a fight, literally. Every day was a struggle emotionally. Everyday was my own personal war. I was being punished for who I was. Geek, nerd, etc. It was so hard to wake up and face every day wondering what I’d have to do to get through the day in one piece.

Through it all, gaming became a safe haven for me. Dungeons and Dragons let me be the hero that could save the world, video games distracted me and let me absorb myself in something other than my daily life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t separate fantasy from reality, it was just that my reality sucked. Everyday I would come home, black eyes, scrapes and bruises from getting picked on and fighting back. It got to the point where as much as I loved my family and friends I had considered leaving this world behind. If it wasn’t for my big brother, my mentor and my gaming friend who pulled me aside, who answered my call when I needed it and spent the time with me to make sure I didn’t do it, and to make sure I knew I wasn’t alone and to help fight back against the bullies, I wouldn’t be here.

He’s the one that helped me use gaming to socialize instead of escape, who taught me quite literally how to fight back. How to stand up for myself and how to cope and handle and eventually silence the bullies. If not for him, and if not for the support structure I gained through my gaming group I hate to say it but I would have made the wrong choice.

Now, this isn’t the only reason that I detest the cowardice of bullies, but it should help frame the mindset I’ve been in about the topic for a long time. About ten years ago, I was a staple at the local gaming store. I would run Dungeons and Dragons games, play magic, and socialize with not only my group of friends but younger kids that were coming into their geekness. Enter my friend Mark. Mark was 14 when I met him. He was just in the process of selecting a High School, and had just realized that he loved geeky things. I saw a lot of myself in him, and wound up becoming his sort of mentor. I helped him pick a high school and pick a major. I answered his questions and let him shadow me at college.

I found out that our pasts were very similar, and that he was having a hard time coping with bullying from his peers, and abuse from his father. He was called a geek, loser, nerd. Kids made fun of him calling him weak, gay, faggot. They would tell him that he should choke on a dick and die, that he should kill himself, that the world would be better off without him.

I did everything I could to try and help him, just like my mentor did for me. I told him he wasn’t alone, helped him socialize and give him a support network of friends. Unlike me though, Mark’s father never left, and so he still went home to that. We called CPS, but they didn’t really do anything to help.  I was on my way home from class, and my cell phone was just dead, out of juice. I get home and find I had missed a call from Mark. Also as I got home, Mark’s parents were calling my house demanding that I sent him home.

Mark had run away from home, and his parents thought I was hiding him. After I assured them he wasn’t with me and that I would contact them the minute I found out where he was, I plugged my cell phone in to charge. When it powered on I noticed I had a voicemail, I listened to it and it was Mark, asking for help. I missed the most important phone call of my life. Unlike my mentor I wasn’t there are the right time, at the tipping point. We looked for Mark for days. We combed the city, I didn’t sleep at all that week. All I could do was worry, and wonder and hope that someone got to him. Some voice of reason, some friendly hand.

He was found later that same week, having hung himself from a tree. He died alone in the cold of winter, and since then I’ve been haunted by him. Not his ghost in a supernatural way, but the memory that I wasn’t there to help save a person’s life. That an intelligent and wonderful human being was gone. That the constant bullying, the picking on the belittling and the abuse got to the point where he honestly felt there was no way out but suicide. I got angry, hell I’m still angry.

When people tell me that internet bullying isn’t a problem, I see Mark’s face. When they say harassment and bullying is just part of the “gaming culture” my blood boils. I tell them they have no clue what they’re talking about. I fight back. I try to help clean up and stop the harassment, I don’t just let it sit there and fester. I don’t just turn a blind eye to it. I can’t. If I do then I let Mark down again. I can’t do that. I donate to the Trevor Project and other organizations that help kids and people in these same situations. I fight back and help CMs and GMs keep communities clean of the taint that is bullying as much as I can. I report it, I fight back.

It’s not OK. It’s not OK to be silent when you see something like this happening. Gaming is a haven for many people, it’s a way to find support, to find something better than what they have. You may think that’s a line, but it’s the truth. If you see something happen, report it. If you know someone who is being bullied or harassed, help them. There are more of us than there are of them, we just need to be louder and be willing to fight back. I urge you to act instead of walk away. It is not just up to those that manage the communities to do this, it’s up to each and everyone of us as gamers, as community members, to keep the house clean so to speak. To support those that need it, and to not just let this cancer fester. Please, do something.

Because if you do nothing, it’s the same as saying the behavior is OK, and your silence supports the bullies and the harassers.

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74 comments for this entry:
  1. Cynwise

    I’m so sorry. :( Thank you for sharing what is a really hard, personal story.

  2. Vitaemachina

    You described entirely too much of my own formative years in the first portion of this post, and the second portion of it broke my heart. I’m so sorry – I can’t even imagine living every day with that on your conscience. I’m really heartened to see that you’ve continued to try and help others – more people like you are who we need to help end this constant blight upon gaming culture and society in general.

  3. R0xsey

    March, is officially Strength Month (well, at least to me now)
    The amount of courage and strength it takes to write a blog post like this, can only be understood by people personally affected by bullying and harassment of some kind.
    This is the second time this week that I’ve had to make a hastey grab at the tissue box, unprepared. My heart aches for you having to experience bullying like that. You have found a strength in yourself that many people, many kids, can’t find. I applaud you for helping others discover where their strength is.

    No one SHOULD have to deal with this kind of thing, but many do. With people like you shouting out emphatically “NO! Your NOT going to bully me again!”, gives me hope that one day bullying of ALL kinds will be eradicated. Totally.
    I’m very glad you wrote this post and give you much Kudo’s

  4. Henry

    I’m just so sorry. For you, for him, for his family. Stuff like this should never happen.

    Stay strong Lodur, you’re a good man.

  5. Fallah

    I am so sorry that you had this experience. I was bullied mercilessly all through school. For being a nerd, for being too smart, for liking books instead of sports, for being quiet & shy, and later because everyone thought I was a lesbian. (If I never hear the phrase ‘fat dyke’ again it will be too soon.)

    Survivor’s guilt is normal in that type of situation but please try not to blame yourself. Even if you answered the phone there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t try again another day. You were a friend to him, you were kind to him, which much much more than anyone else gave him. I know that you know this but: it’s not your fault.

    I am glad you donate to Trevor project. I’m glad you wrote this post too. Bullying is so harmful.

  6. Jaedia

    Oh my god you’ve just broken my heart into tiny little pieces. :’(

    I’m just a little happy that I’ve always at least tried to stand by folk who were being bullied, or as the bullies prefer to call it “trolled”.. But my home server really does have this cancer. It’s such a deeply embedded part of Vashj EU now that you can stand by these people but it really does no good. You can report the offenders, but the GMs ignore it.. I’d love to get away but I can’t afford it so I do my very best to just escape to greener pastures from time to time because it sickens me that all I can do is whisper in a crowd of screaming bullies.

  7. Roger

    Only one of the many reasons why I am proud to work with you, and to know you.

  8. Lodur

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  70. Fletcher

    Like you, I was the nerd who got picked on. There are a lot of us out there. I can’t say my experiences were anything like yours – everyone’s scars are different – but I can say thanks for sharing this story. I appreciate it. And I admire your courage.

    Kia Kaha! Be strong!

  71. Gnomeaggedon

    Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for continuing to fight.

  72. Forgive Me For Being So Brash | Apple Cider Mage

    [...] D/E the Tank! – Bullying: Why My Online Personality isn’t My Real One Digital Incorrectness – A Wordy Response Grimmtooth’s Troops – A Word of Appreciation and Support Mana Obscura – Sub-Humans and the Shallow End of Gaming MMO Melting Pot – Being Harassed in WoW or Another MMORPG? Here’s What to Do. The Anxious Gamer – Trust Me The Big Bear Butt – I Strongly Encourage You To Read This. Please. The Borderhouse Blog – An Incredibly Brave Story of Cyberbullying and Harassment Way of the Totem – Why I React So Violently to Bullying, A Personal Story [...]

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