Let’s cut the bullshit; banter is bullying…
Updated: Sep 1
This is a follow up to my previous article E M D ARGH! It builds on the story as I continued my EDMR therapy and goes on to discuss the wider impacts of bullying both inside and outside of work. It is pretty emotional and in some cases distressing.
Apart from that though, it’s the usual cheery stuff I talk about…
Previously I talked about my experiences with EMDR and how many of the problems and issues I have in myself are actually intertwined and cannot be addressed individually, but need to be considered as a single larger problem.
This week, the wonderful Gemma Ridge guided me through another EMDR session. We sat down; had our usual chat about Greggs coffee and the like, before settling into the EMDR session. Gemma asked me a very simple question and where it led me was to something that I am truly disgusted by.
Gemma asked me what the lasting image in my mind was with regards to the memory we were exploring. I paused for a moment and said something along the lines of;
I can see the cut on the back of my leg from the pencil sharpener blade. However, it’s wider and fat is falling out and dripping down the back of my leg.
This didn’t happen.
That would have been terrifying.
This was a memory and an image entirely of my own creation based on the things said and the experience as a whole.
If you’re struggling to imagine this; go watch some Dr Pimple Popper videos on YouTube; WARNING. GRAPHIC CONTENT.
I described this fat, that was falling out of my leg, as a sort of mouldy and congealed cottage cheese and or porridge like substance. It was heavy, wet and disgusting.
This was what was in my mind when I thought of this image. It doesn’t matter if it was fake, it was there and this is what I needed to face into!
Going a level deeper…
We started the EMDR and as always it takes a little bit of time to get into things. After a while though, I was there, reliving every moment of that horrible image.
Then it got worse.
I started to see a black vitriol liquid oozing out alongside the fat. It was thick and was almost like half-set jelly in how it flowed over the surfaces of my leg, the blood and the fat.
Then I could smell it.
It was disgusting. It smelled so bad. I felt physically sick and this smell that was only in my mind and was attached to a substance that doesn’t exist in a memory that I made up.
And then the real nightmare started.
I could feel this awful substance; this congealed, rotten fat and black ooze like liquid under my skin everywhere. It was everywhere. It was consuming. It was part of me.
I recoiled at the thought of this and in that moment I felt all the shame I have ever felt about my body at once. This is why I hate my body and have such a negative body image of myself.
This is why I hate me.
In that instant I felt I would be unlovable as if anyone ever found out about this, then that person would hate me as much as I hate myself.
This is the memory I needed to process.
It’s not even real.
Yet it’s destroyed all confidence I’ve had since I was eight to ten years old.
What do I do now? I’ll find out at my next EMDR session!
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will…
How do you finish that old rhyme?
Is it; …but words will never hurt me… ?
After going through this I think it would be closer to
…leave lasting psychological damage that you won’t feel immediately but will sit with you and have an impact on you far worse than that sticks and stones would have had many many years later…
Here’s the thing; I’ve experienced a lot of bullying over my lifetime. I remember almost all of it.
I remember at aged 11 to 13 ish at school the people in my classed used to joke about how I was too fat that I needed to go through doorways sideways…
I remember teachers making fun of those of us who were on the unfit side and weren’t able to achieve well in the ‘bleep test’ or whatever the fuck that was called.
I remember teachers regularly threatening to shave our hair and facial hair because it wasn’t proper. When one of them grabbed me by the arm as I was walking by and yanked me to one side of the corridor, threatening to shave my head; I lashed back threatening to report them for physically touching a minor in a school. Whilst I’d defended myself, I was now conscious of my hair style and have since changed it to be somewhat more appropriate…
By the end of my time at school, no matter how much I loved the education and the establishment, I hated my body and myself. No part of me was good enough and I resented everything about me.
High School Never Ends…
Here’s the thing. I thought all this would be left behind when I started at work. I thought by joining a professional establishment with a solid reputation for taking care of their staff that I would no longer need to worry about my image as much. I might be able to find happiness in myself.
Bullying is re-branded within these organisations as Banter.
And Banter is supposedly a good thing as it promotes inclusion in the team.
I’m all for a bit of camaraderie amongst team members, but what people say and do in the name of Banter is beyond reasonable.
The thing is; this Banter is really passive aggressive. It’s so passive that many won’t realise the impact it’s having at the time.
I’m fairly sure I’ve mentioned some of these before, but for the avoidance of doubt;
A woman as part of a team said ‘why are you going out for a second birthday meal? you went out for one last night? Guess it’s okay though, we’ll pick up your slack.’
Great – now I feel guilty about enjoying my birthday.
A team member at a meal said ‘I bet you love food Salkeld’ and then the manager says ‘you can’t say that’ and cuts him off.
Great – I didn’t even think of this as fat shaming but others did so now I’m self conscious of my weight again
Three men in my peer group decide to log onto an online forum for a game I play which they then proceed to insult and make fun of something I enjoy. Then share it round the entire peer group.
Great – Now I’m ashamed of things I enjoy; so much so that I end up quitting them
There are loads of other examples of where people would openly ‘banter with’ me in the office about hobbies, music tastes etc etc. And when I say banter, I mean just openly saying things like ‘Why do you play shit games?’ or ‘That’s a really shit taste in music’ or here’s a good one ‘Why don’t you like coming out drinking?’.
It still hasn’t changed…
I still get the thick end of the stick most days from my friends. They properly take the piss out of what I’m doing here and never let an opportunity go unmissed to tell me that I don’t have a real job, or to make some joke about how ‘Disney Lied To Us’, maybe even how something is ‘Kinky AF’.
This is still bullying.
But I also have over 10 years of friendship with them.
They also came to my rescue when all the shit hit the fan when my ex-wife left me.
Which they also still remind me of and joke about.
But we have a shared history.
And that’s the difference.
Don’t assume the jokes that you have made with your friends in the past are appropriate in a new culture you are entering into. Don’t assume just because you see two people making a joke between themselves that it’s appropriate to make the same jokes. Don’t assume some ‘harmless banter’ won’t harm someone.
Take the time to get to know people. Find out what matters to them. Find out where they are sensitive and where they aren’t. Know where jokes can be made and know which ones will fall flat (most of mine…).
End it All…
Bullying lasts a lifetime for those who are bullied. For those who are bullying, it’ll last not much longer than the incident itself.
I bet the person who left me with that awful and sickening image of the fat inside my body doesn’t remember the incident as vividly as I do.
I look forward to continuing on my journey of self discovery and fighting my fears and phobias within me. It’s gonna be a tough journey, but one I know I will feel better for once I reach the end.
just another guy