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Where it Began

I did not always have social phobia.

When I was very young, I actually had friends. I was perhaps more solitary that most children, but I did not feel the alienness that paralyzes me now.

When I entered grade 5, I changed schools, to an all-boys' private school. All the other boys, to varying degrees, disliked me almost instantly. I was conceited, they said, an attention-seeker, a teacher's pet. Before long, I found myself becoming the class' enemy. In a perverse way, I brought them together; an entire clique sprung up whose chief bond was their hatred for me.

If I spoke out in class a lot, punishment was swift and severe. If I fumbled the ball in gym class, the hisses of contempt were loud and savage. Every month when everyone's marks were read out, anyone whose marks were higher than mine would receive cheers.

The hatred soon crossed the line into attacks about my weight. I was not just overweight, but a Pig, an epitome of greed, laziness, and slobbishness. Every time I ate dessert there would be knowing smiles, snide remarks, catcalls.

From there racial insults began to appear. I was South Asian and therefore, in the class' eyes, a smelly offspring of barbarism and superstition. "Pakis" stank, practised obscene rituals, and listened to weird music, in their eyes. I had but to walk by a pair of them and they would start chorusing a parody of Indian music.

Eventually their fists grew to match the power of their words. It grew to the point where I could not walk the halls without being shoved, pinched, kicked, or hit. I remember being surrounded by a group laughing as I struggled to dodge blows from two or three of them.

Not even the bathrooms were safe; once while sitting on the toilet they threw soaked and soiled wads of toilet paper at me. Another time one boy pushed me into a locker, locked me inside, then urinated on me. Other times I was framed for things I didn't do and forced to serve detentions or write lines by teachers who didn't believe my denials.

Why did the other boys hate me so much? I was conceited, they said, stuck-up, a show-off, full of himself. They wanted to take me down, lower me a few notches. I was weird, different, a geek, a nerd. I denied this, at first, and they took that as further evidence of my conceit and ego. Who the hell do you think you are, they demanded, don't you think if the entire class hates you there's a good reason?

I denied this at first, but day after day I heard it again and again. Often I was holed up by a small group and interrogated with angry accusations and slaps in the face if I didn't admit my wrongs. Slowly I capitulated. Slowly I admitted they were right and I was wrong. Slowly I learned to hate myself.

In hating myself I found peace, the peace that comes when thoughts and ideas finally synchronize with the reality of the world outside. No truly good person could be hated as I was hated; therefore, I was not a good person. The boys were right. I was flawed, deficient, fundamentally evil. I was the scum of the earth, a sordid, pathetic loser, a mockery of a human being.

I had awakened to reality. Life is not about kindness and tolerance, but about cruelty, distrust, and hatred. Happiness flows not from love, but from power. The strong survive by destroying the weak; the weak, like me, are fit for nothing except to be thrown out like dogs. The vulnerable will be destroyed.

And I discovered that there is pleasure in self-hatred. There is an unholy joy in seeing a victim writhe helplesssly before me, even if - ESPECIALLY when - I myself am the victim. There is a sick delight in torturing, a wild sense of freedom and exhilaration that comes from devising new ways to be cruel. Eventually I could berate myself internally every bit as savagely as the boys did externally, even going so far as to slap and hit myself.

My parents pulled me out of the school at the end of two years, worn out by its high tuition fees, and I returned to the public schools. But I was not the same person, and have never again been the same person.

The rest is history.

Soc-phob, Nov. 14, 1998.