Michael Wayne’s life has been anything but easy.
The Comox Valley resident who has suffered with lifelong bullying, shaming and verbal and physical abuse which has manifested itself into PTSD, bulimia and bipolar disorder says he still finds the ability to laugh every day, and loves to draw and sing.
“In some ways, I have a wonderful life; I continue to live my life with love.”
Wayne (name changed to protect his identity) says an incident early this week of verbal abuse directed towards him in the Valley prompted him to reach out to remind others that shaming and bullying continues to exist – not only directed towards children, but adults too.
“I was treated with such disrespect. It’s not just one incident; it’s been like that all my life.”
Born in Newfoundland, Wayne explains he was sexually assaulted as a teenager, and by 18 years old, he was homeless, living on the street. He notes he was bullied in high school for his appearance, and it continues throughout his adult life.
“I’ve been spat on, and I’ve been called a faggot just because of my appearance. Bullying in school can leave a trauma that can last a lifetime. There’s a ripple effect to this abuse.”
At 18 years old with a Grade 9 education, Wayne moved to Montreal and turned to prostitution because he was too afraid to return to school and needed money to survive.
“It was very frightening, and I continue to feel a lot of pain. I know how shaming takes away a future, it takes away joy.”
Working the streets, Wayne says he knew he was on a self-destructive path. His mom – a successful businesswoman – lived in the Comox Valley, and he decided to move to the area to escape.
He notes he’s trying to find the pieces to build his life up again.
Last year, Wayne visited Mexico and acknowledged the “welcoming, friendly” culture. It was a step in the right direction until he became ill – he believes a bacterial infection from drinking water – and ended up needing medical attention.
While he says he’s “now on the mend,” he admits the incident brought back his bulimia, and adds he can’t hold much food.
He’s worried about the little food he can eat and keep down, but Mexico is in his sights again, aiming to return next month for an extended period of time.
He acknowledges one of the roots of bullying – he says it begins at home – and wonders how people, whether children, teenagers or adults who are shaming, can be stopped.
“Violence isn’t a resolution; jail doesn’t help – it just makes them more angry. It takes people to stand together against senseless violence. It takes a village to be a village and to love one another.”
He notes the long-term effects that bullying can have on people: alcoholism, drug abuse, problems with homelessness and both physiological and physiological scars, and says in many cases children hide the fact they are bullied.
“What children need is a place to go – they deserve help and need people to rally together. It takes a smile or a slap and it can change a person’s life.”