This is my story. What's yours
by: Nadia Jamil

Being a victim of mental abuse, more commonly known as bullying, I think it's important to talk about this issue hoping that others who have experienced bullying can relate to my story and feel better knowing that they are not alone.

The important thing to remember in life is that we are only here for a little while and so we must be very watchful of our behaviour towards others not only because we are accountable for it later in life but also because the kind of energy we keep around ourselves can build or destroy things including human beings.

Vulnerability is something that is taken for granted by certain people. A bully only prey on someone's weakness. It's like a parasite that feeds on other organisms and sucks the life out of them in order to stay alive. In my case it would be a huge amount of people who would team up against me. Such a group would always have a ringleader who would incite the rest into blindly following him and helping him feed on my vulnerability.

I have heard that if you leave hens together in a cage, after a while one of them will rise to become the ringleader. She will then find a weaker hen and start pecking her. Before long the rest of the hens will follow her behaviour and start attacking the same hen. I always understood that the ringleader who bullied me did so because of his own insecurities but what I failed to understand was why did the rest follow him?

This led me to remember the example Imam Ali(a) once gave, that God - the Exalted - gave the angels intellect without desires, He gave the animals desires without intellect, and He gave both to the sons of Adam. So a man whose intellect prevails over his desires is better than the angels, whilst a man whose desire prevails over his intellect is worse than the animals.

For a bully or an abuser it's mainly about his desire to control and exert his power over the weak. With the rest of the group the bully will try to trap you by finding out your major weaknesses like financial problems, lack of family support, immigration status, religious background or anything else that allows them to exert their power over you and that is when you need to seek help.

Unfortunately this is where the trouble lies because subtle, often invisible, bullying like mental torture has a far deeper effect on a person than the physical abuse that is visible. A physically abused person can seek help but mentally abused people find themselves isolated as no one can really relate to their problems. Often the only person who can help them is someone who has been through a similar experience.

Now the question is how do you break free if you are caught in such a mess? In my personal experience if you have strong faith it can be a wall of strength for you to help you stand up on your feet after breaking free. It is never easy because now you have to break that glass castle the abuser built around you which gave you a feeling of fake security. Once you are out you are hurt more because you feel ashamed for allowing yourself to fall into such a trap. Your confidence breaks, you feel disgusted with yourself, you feel like you are weak and good for nothing because the castle around you was only made of glass and it was cold with no care, love or concern for your wellbeing.

Originally published in islam today magazine UK, Vol. 1 No. 6 | April 2013. It has been republished here with permission.