With the sheets pulled over my head, I wished I could hide there until the bruises and swelling were gone. While the pain was horrendous, every blink sending shocks of agony through my face, it wasn't the pain that bothered me. What was keeping me in bed that morning was the embarrassment of being beaten in front of my friends and classmates the day before. It wasn't something they would easily forget -- they would all laugh at me when I showed up for school; they'd stare at my bruises and swollen shut eye and make jokes. The bigger guys would poke at it and laugh as I cringed. The thought of more embarrassment was torture.
That scenario, ones just like it and much worse, were common in my daily life as a child. Not only was I picked on and called names, I was beat up, severely. To say this affected my life is an understatement. In reality, the abuse I suffered at the hands of my classmates formed my entire personality in my life. It made me a tougher, meaner person than I ever thought I would be. While I learned to deal with the demons of my childhood over the years, my personality today is a direct result of the abuse I took.
While it was traumatic and horrible to go through, there was one good side effect that came out of those years of torture -- it drove me to prove the bullies wrong. I would show them that I was somebody, that I wasn't the weak little nerd they thought I was. The anger I felt towards them drove me to push and do everything in my life the best I could. I wanted, or more so needed to succeed in life to prove them wrong.
As the years went by and I got bigger by working on my body, I grew more confident in my life, but I still felt that need to prove everyone wrong. When my career took off and I started to work in Hollywood on a regular basis, things seemed better. I was a successful stuntman in big movies and even moved over to acting as the years progressed, while my childhood bullies didn't do much with their lives. Part of me was thrilled that I could throw this in their faces, that I was a success, and they were just another nobody. But when I reached the success and was able to show everyone, the pain didn't go away.
With a lot of soul-searching and thinking during the writing of my biography, I realized the abuse I went through as a child took away a part of my life. No matter how successful I got, no matter what I achieved in my life, it would never fill that hole those kids punched in me all those years before. It was something that would never leave me. I have learned to live with that hole and to make it part of my motivation in life, but I will always wonder what my life would have been like if I never suffered such abuse.
The sad part is the kids who beat, teased, and tortured me probably don't even remember doing it. To them it was just something they did to make their friends laugh. It was a mere split second in their life that they then probably forgot within a day. That's the horrible thing about bullying. Kids don't realize the long-term damages it can cause someone. They just see a chance to make people laugh and take advantage of it, not having a clue that what they just did might haunt that person for the rest of their life. Thankfully my bullying stopped when I moved from my hometown to a new location with my parents in the South Pacific. I was able to start a new life there. I started to stand up for myself and fight back, I didn't let myself get picked on anymore, and that felt good. Being able to make a bully back down when I refused to let them pick on me helped me gain the confidence I needed in my life to grow up and succeed.
All these years later, in a new world where bullying is being taken seriously and not something that "is just a part of life," I feel obligated to reach out and help others that have been hurt like me. The media focus seems to be on stopping bullies these days, but bullies will always, always exist. We need to focus on teaching children how to deal with bullies, how to handle what is thrown at them, to not be afraid to report someone hurting them so an adult can step in and help. While my childhood bullying might have helped my career, I know I am the rare exception, that most people don't turn that anger into fuel. Sadly, instead they let it eat them up inside, and at times that can result in horrible outcomes. People like me who are in the public eye, or anyone for that matter, need to speak up about how they were bullied or picked on, so children know they are not alone. Hopefully if we all speak up, our children can heal and have a healthy life -- instead of letting their bullies haunt them forever.