There are so many people who dream of a better life than the one left after years of trauma from bullying. The shame is that life didn’t have to go this way. But for many, it has. It is an unconscious pain and fear that most of us don’t know where it comes from years later, as Maria share’s in her story below. No one is ever alone in any of this and that is the most important aspect to remember. Try to take the daydream about how you want your life to be and make it the reality you want. Let your past go and live in the now, with great plans for the future. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Well as most know it isn’t and you have to face your fears head on to conquer them. Don’t let them conquer you and make your life what you don’t want it to be. ~Alan Eisenberg
I’m 28 years old and recently started seeing a counselor while at grad school. I felt I could no longer deal with my paranoia, anxieties and low self-esteem alone. My last therapy session was the most intense since I started. We’d been making connections between my feelings of anger to feeling ignored and frustrated as a teenager.
However, I hadn’t experienced a session that felt quite as terrifying and overwhelming as the last one. I can’t quite remember how this came up but we began to talk about my school bully, Eleni. I couldn’t say her name at the time and I didn’t want to. Dredging up all those memories, as painful as it was suddenly put my life into perspective. My experience with her was the root cause for many of my worries, reactions and anxieties. It may sound like I’m blaming her but allow me to explain the connection.
She was present in my public school life and my private family life. She would bully and intimidate me in front of both groups for almost five years, from year 4 to year 9/10 (she stopped attending school in the latter years). Yes she did bully me and embarrass me until I felt I had no dignity but, and this is the embarrassing part, I still wanted her approval and I wanted to be her friend. Or at least I was too scared not to be her friend. She was nasty to my few friends and I was too scared to defend them. I became isolated from everyone else. She said nasty things about my family, everything about her life was better than mine. She would pick on everything I said, everything I wrote, the way that I looked. My presence just seemed to annoy her. My presence began to annoy myself in fact.
It felt that she picked me out to treat me the worst, like I deserved it on some innate and untouchable level of my being. I can say with definitive certainty that this led me to remove myself from many situations by daydreaming. In the car, at school, at home, and later at university and in social situations. I had a secret imaginary world where I was funny, social, people were attracted to my presence and I had the attention I lacked in the real world. Attention that I protected myself from and attention that I also desperately craved. In the real world, once I had the attention I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do with it and became anxious. In high school I worked in chaotic, frontline jobs that concreted my fear into assuming that people would always react to me in a hostile and unfriendly way.
This to me explains so much about myself that I find it frightening, that something that happened so long ago had remained with me on a purely unconscious level. The danger was gone but the feelings remained. My paranoid feelings that no one likes me, my body is horrific, that I’m so hairy and unable to keep friends. Desperately wanting more human contact but feeling irritated when I had it, afraid that I might say something to ruin it, to make them see just how boring I am.
Since primary school I was living with the fear of talking, of having opinions that might piss someone off or led myself to feel ashamed. I wanted people to treat me well on their own so I wouldn’t have to point it out and embarrass myself. Sometime I felt I was living in a world of unfriendly eyes, looking at me and seeing only the negative and I wanted its approval. I think that is the most frustrating thing about it.
In the counselling session I felt weak and felt I lacked control. How could such a big thing escape me? My negative thoughts begin with seeing the negative in everyone else and then they shift onto myself. Of course it comes from my time with Eleni, I see that now. But what happens now? I feel relieved that there really isn’t an innate and untouchable reason in my being that I really can’t understand. Although its painful to face the root of my fears, I also feel calmer by understanding this. Rather than dismissing it as something embarrassing, I have to admit to myself that it really was traumatic.