The Wall

The Wall

My blog went live last week and I had no clue what to expect, which made me feel quite anxious for a few days. However, the comments that I received so far offline and online were all positive. Thank You!

Alright before I write any further I have to do a round of EFT(Emotional Freedom Techniques). I learned this at therapy from my strict but fair (her words haha) Psychologist Merel Hovestad.
Okay brb…

My childhood is something I rather avoid talking about, but because it’s probably the source of my mental health issues I decided to dedicate a blog post towards this topic already. To get straight to the point, I was bullied, for nine years during my childhood. It all started in the third grade of my elementary school. I had to repeat second grade because I was too playful, which I’m still today, but I turned it into my job by making games for a living haha. Once I made it to third grade I was one year older than the other children, I was skinny, not very strong, I cried a lot, and on top of that, I had a teacher that had a dislike towards me. It was the perfect combo to trigger bullying which unfortunately happened. I didn’t tell my parents about being bullied for a long time. I remember I was sitting at the dining table crying and confessed to my parents that children were bullying me at school. My parents immediately called the teacher, and things improved a bit for a while. But not long afterward my bullies started to threaten me. They succeeded because I didn’t say much to my teacher anymore or parents. At some point, I thought I found a way to get rid of my bullies. I was in 5th grade, and it didn’t look like I would pass to 6th grade. So I decided to do even worse… The unenviable happened, I had to repeat the same grade. Obviously, my parents were not overly enthusiastic about it, but I didn’t really mind. I finally had some room to breath because there was a chance that I would end up in a more friendly class, which happened. The bullying didn’t entirely stop, but it was not as intense as before. The one thing I didn’t take into account was that my previous class including the bullies not suddenly disappeared when I had to stay in the same grade. My bullies were aware of the fact that their favorite black sheep was no longer part of their class. So they stepped up a notch because they had to reach their weekly target hours of bullying of course. After school hours I was often their target, and if it was not the bullies from my school. Other kids abused me. It was almost as if they could smell I was the black sheep. There was no escape…. Only during the holidays, I was able to catch my breath. Elementary school was a living hell for me, but once I made it to final grade my daily life started to improve a bit. My bullies went to another school, so I no longer had to be afraid of them.

Finally! I passed my elementary school and went to high school. Fresh start I thought… Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. At the new school, they instantly knew Jeroen was a perfect target for bullying. I was bullied at school and often on my way home. The cycling path was the ideal spot to ambush me because there was no other route to get home. My self-confidence already hit rock bottom, and my self-esteem wasn’t far from it. I also started to develop suicidal thoughts, I had those before but never at an extreme level. I asked myself the question “Why would I continue like this if so many people want to hurt me? I never told anyone about these thoughts and decided to keep going. A few years went by till I reached the point where I fought back. Not everything changed, but I was no longer bullied on a regular base. Unfortunately, I failed to get my VBO diploma, but at the time I didn’t really care. I ‘finished’ school that was all I could think off.

When you fail for a High school diploma, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, even though some teachers tried to convince me otherwise. In a matter of days, my parents found a new school for me.
I didn’t feel like going to a new school, but my parents persuade me to continue and at least get a degree in something. At the new school, I almost had to start from the bottom. The first six months I was very anxious that history would repeat itself and had to deal with being bullied again. But that never happened. That felt very strange at first, but I thought I was able to close this chapter of my life at last.

Unfortunately, I discovered the effects of being bullied for such an extended period. I started to develop anxiety. Social and my performance anxiety became much worse. I had days that I couldn’t look into someone’s eyes; I had no clue why… I was afraid of people. I started to build a ‘wall’ around me that nobody could penetrate and I began to act differently. I shut down my emotions to make sure nobody could hurt me ever again. Smiling was my way of hiding my true feelings. And I have to admit it worked really well and sometimes it still does. However, inside of me the invisible person was slowly destroying itself and just wanted to make it stop… I managed to keep going like this for years. I denied my past for a long time; I thought if I never think or talk about it, then it would just go away. I’m a much stronger person these days, but the effects of being bullied are still with me. Also I still have to climb over the ‘wall’ or punch through it; both ways are fine with me!

Thank you for reading and if you find this blog interesting, please like and share on social media!! Also, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me directly. 

Jeroen van Werkhoven

You can find me on Twitter | Instagram and Facebook

10 Replies to “The Wall”

  1. The fact that you are able to speak/share about your experience shows how far have you come! Keep up your spirit! 🙄
    Btw your game looks amazing! 😉👌

  2. Wow my friend, you truly are something special. I feel like i can relate to your story soo much cuz i too have experienced bullying from elementary school all the way to high school. I do feel like this all happens for a reason & that its not meant to destroy us. It’s meant to build us and make us stronger as people emotionally & mentally. If you hadn’t gone through these tough experiences; you wouldn’t be the sweet, talented, fun, loyal strong minded person you are today.

    I used to get bullied because of my teeth and my smile everyday. It really hurted like heal to be teased like that. But eventually i started fighting back & cussing people out. Eventually the bullying stopped. Sometimes you have to make an example out of one bully just so the rest of them won’t screw with you.

    Either way im honor to have you as my friend & to see you open up to me & people you barely know. I feel like Joanne videos have healed us both & she nurtured us back to normal 😊. Each day, i see you getting stronger & i just know you can beat this. I’ll be praying for you & supporting you all the way. Yes your game is gonna do great. Let me know when the next blog hits. Stay strong 🌟

    1. Thank you for your kind words Georgio and sharing this. Sorry to hear that you had to go through that. You’re an amazing guy, my friend, never forget that 🙂 True! About setting an example, I did the same as you can read on my blog. Will do, you to man. Stay strong!

  3. So proud to see you write this blog. I was a bit bullied at school but not to the degree you described. I’m very glad to have met you in Seattle and it makes me happy to see you part of the success of Insurgency. Talking about your dark past takes a great deal of courage and I respect you a lot for your bravery. I wish you all the best in your career and I hope you take solace in the fact that your work on insurgency has given a great deal of people enjoyment.
    I think we are blessed to be working in the game industry. It’s rare to have a job that we love to do and get paid to do it. Good luck with your career and hope to meet you again at game events in the future.

    1. Thanks Minh! Sorry to hear you were bullied, even if it was a little bit, it’s still a painful experience. Yes me too man, was fun talking with you in Seattle. I agree we are blessed, it’s the main reason why I can get out of bed even on the worst days. Thanks again and I hope to catch you somewhere around the globe in the future. All the best with your career too!

  4. This is very brave for you to share your story Jeroen. I wasn’t bullied so harshly but there were several girls in elementary school and middle school that seemed to target me: “Look at her hair, it’s not brushed” “What are you wearing? Haha!!!” “Amy is still an A-cup!!!” and a lot more laughing in my face if I made even a small ‘mistake’. My best friend at the time even became friends with these mean girls and stopped talking to me. I ended up lashing out at some of these girls which put me into trouble, but luckily they stopped. I can relate how this can develop into performance and social anxiety. Today I also deal with a bit of social anxiety myself. I have a lot of trouble going places alone.

    I’m so glad you’re getting help Jeroen. It takes time but you have to dig deep and find the real Jeroen. The innocent one, who isn’t tainted anymore by those cruel people. I’m sorry you had to go through it for so long. When you’re young you’re so vulnerable so these things end up sinking in a lot. I’m looking forward to more posts and watching you heal. 🙂

    1. Yeah.. Kids can be really cruel sometimes. Ugh, the laughing was the worst, it felt like being observed 24/7. Sorry to hear you had to go through this Amy. Thank you so much for sharing and kind words!

  5. Really proud of you Jeroen. Bullying is a very cruel thing no one should have to put up with it. Thankyou for sharing your story, you’re one of the most talented source engine mappers I’ve known and have done some amazing work on Nuclear Dawn and Insurgency I’m glad you found something you like to do as a job. We live in a cruel world unfortunately and sometimes others try and take advantage and hurt us but we should be strong and push through it. I’m looking forward to whatever it is you produce in the future.