Anxiety and Bullying - My Story
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. The content you read here is for information purposes only. None of the information should be used to diagnose, treat, or cure any disorder. Please see a mental health professional if you are experiencing any kind of emotional trauma.
Trigger Warning: PTSD, bullying, self-harm, depression, general dark thoughts, and anxiety mentioned.
I Was Terribly Bullied
Between grades 2 and 7, I was the subject of aggressive harassment and bullying. I was called names and told awful things like, “No one will ever love you” by one boy who was particularly nasty to me. He and several of his friends took every opportunity they could to say really shitty, perverted, and mean things to me.
In computer class the main bully boy was fond of tipping my chair over, with me in it, sending me to the floor in a heap. The teacher would only frown at me while those boys stifled laughter and grins, pretending not to know a thing.
I was kicked...tripped...spit on...my hair was pulled...I was pushed down the stairs...wads of saliva-soaked paper were flicked at me...I was slammed into lockers...pushed inside lockers...shoved in the hallways and even choked once by a girl that was twice my size. She liked to take a fist full of my hair too and pull me towards her like I was her pet.
The same girl convinced me that Clearasil would take care of the ugly dark circles under my eyes. I didn’t realize I had been duped until the skin under my eyes started flaking and cracking. All she did was laugh.
Frequently, I was the subject of not-so-discreet whispering and secret telling. Too many rumors were spread about me to count and most of them didn’t even make sense, but kids believed them.
I was excluded from pretty much everything...birthday parties, sleepovers, etc. I remember watching girls at school talk and giggle and play together, wondering what it felt like to be included like them. What did it feel like to be part of the group? What did it feel like to cross the schoolyard or walk the halls without fear of something happening?
Two casual friends eventually dumped me for cooler girls and I basically went through the rest of my early years at school friendless, playing alone on the playground, eating alone at lunch, and picked last during phys ed. If you call it ‘picked’ at all. Whatever team leader ended up with me, it wasn’t by choice.
Dodge ball in the gymnasium was particularly grueling. The bully boys always targeted me, whipping the balls as hard as they could, not so much to get me out but to inflict pain. It was funny to them. Eventually, I started faking injuries or using my asthma as an excuse to get out of gym class so I didn’t have to participate at all.
Being hyper-alert was my constant. I now know this was a result of developing anxiety but I had no idea that's what it was then.
The hallways during passing time were awful. I walked through the school every day with tense, eyes wide, looking for threats. It could happen at any time and come from anywhere. Some days I would make it through without an incident which would give me a feeling of false security and just when I thought things had died down, it would start up again. I had to be particularly careful on the stairs since I'd been pushed down them several times.
Many times, because it was so hard to sit through lunch alone and have food tossed at me, I would find a quiet place in the hallway outside the cafeteria to eat.
For recess, I usually stood by the school building or one of the playground aids so I didn’t have to deal with any of it. Sometimes there would be a few decent girls using those long, hard plastic jump ropes and I would join in...until someone who didn’t like me would end up as a turner and got the rope going fast enough to make me trip.
Even the geeks had a group of friends to fall back on. But not me. I guess because I didn’t belong to a certain group and couldn’t be labeled as anything specific, no one wanted to associate with me. I don’t think anyone wanted to have to put up with what I did either so, even if they would have been nice friends, they were certainly not excited about what might happen if they were to be my friend.
Rather than cry about it, lash out or write in a journal, it was almost as if I separated my emotions from what was happening to me. It felt like I was outside of my body, watching. Looking in and going numb.
After 7th grade, our family moved two more times so I attended two different schools. Even though my negative reputation didn’t follow me, the trauma effects did. I put up a thick wall and used anger as a defense when I felt emotionally threatened. I still walked the halls with my eyes wide and my mouth shut, avoiding situations that might bring on bullying.
Whether at school, home, or out and about, I kept my protective wall up and was always leery of the way people looked at me, the way they spoke to me. What would come next? Would they shame me in front of my peers? Did they even really like me or were they just tolerating me?
I was always tense and expecting something to happen. It caused me to be constantly analyzing every situation I was in.
I Never Told Anyone Again
I remember telling a teacher at school and all he did was wave his hand and say, “Those boys like you, that’s why they are acting like that.” I told my parents once that I was being bullied. They called one of the kid’s parents and after that, the bullying got worse. So, I never told anyone again.
Instead of being the squeaky wheel - thinking that no one would believe how bad it was for me, or if they did, getting the bullies in trouble would only cause me more suffering - I stuffed it and let it continue.
I never stood up for myself and neither did anyone else. I didn’t fight back because I didn’t think there would be anyone to support me if I did. The entire experience made me hate school and distrust everyone.
Around the age of 11, I started self-harming. It wasn’t much at first, small cuts, bruises...slapping, gouging my skin with my fingernails, or hitting myself. As I got into my teen years and began having other emotionally traumatic experiences, (which I will share in another post) the harming progressed into more serious cutting and burning as well.
I hurt myself for several reasons. As a form of punishment (this was more obvious as I became involved deeply in religion) Also, as a way to release built-up emotion and gain control. I held on to all my fear, frustration, and pain from being bullied and not telling anyone. It was a way to let it out. And it felt like something I could control.
I took control by treating myself poorly. If I could decide how and when my body would get hurt, it felt kind of like mastery. Nobody could take that away from me.
I hid my self-inflicted wounds well and if anyone noticed I would just make something up. I can’t remember anyone even noticing though until I was a teenager.
Suicide was on my mind.
But I was afraid.
Not only was I afraid of the actual final act of carrying it out...I was afraid of going to hell. Because of the religion I grew up in, I believed that a person who commits suicide would go to hell because of their sin of murder. I didn’t want to go to hell. But that’s a whole other subject which I will get into in a later post.
How Bullying Triggered Anxiety
Bullying can lead to a great many mental disorders including anxiety, depression and PTSD. But rather than going on a lengthy dissertation about it, you can check out how bullying can lead to PTSD by following this link: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/trauma-stressor-related-disorders/effects-being-bullied-harassed
I Don’t Blame The Bullys
I have chosen not to be a victim any longer.
And I don’t blame the kids who treated me badly.
I’m not rehashing my story for sympathy and I don’t hate the bullies.
My school life back then sucked piss. I hated it. It caused lasting damage that I’ve had to work hard at to heal and come to terms with.
But you know what?
I learned so much.
I learned what it feels like to be crapped on, so now I try really hard not to crap on other people and I stand up for others being bullied and harassed.
I learned not to let myself be pushed around, to stand up for myself - this one took many, many years.
I learned that people who are jerks are doing it because somewhere along the way they weren’t given the tools to cope with their own trauma and so when they are feeling hurt or emotional, they unleash it on the easiest or closest targets.
It's not an excuse for their actions or a pass to act like a little prick. I am specifically CHOOSING to see people through the lens of possibility, while at the same time calling them out for harmful actions. I am allowing myself to see them with broad-spectrum light. Because people who were given decent life tools, who were taught to respect others, who actually generally like themselves, don’t act like jerks. There is a reason why they act the way they do and its probably because they are dealing with their own unhealed trauma.
Of course, we all can act like a jerk sometimes and we often make mistakes. But hopefully, we own up to it, apologize and try to do better.
If You Have or Are Been Bullied
I don’t care what you’ve done.
It’s not your fault.
You are worth something.
More than you think.
Please don’t be like I was and let them get away with it. Tell someone. Tell EVERYONE. Keep telling people until someone listens to you and does something about it.
Be the fucking squeaky wheel that doesn’t stop squeaking.
If You See Someone Being Bullied
Don’t just stand there asshole, DO SOMETHING!
Speak up and stand up for those who don’t know how to. Be on the side of protecting the vulnerable. Talk to a trusted person on their behalf.
But DON’T walk away and pretend you didn’t see it or hear it. You might be the only thing standing in the way of further harm. You might be the one who stops a suicide.
What’s Wrong With Being Different?
I’ve never really “fit in”.
Whatever the hell that means.
I played with Barbie dolls until I was 14...when all the other girls were shaving their legs and wearing makeup. I like to stand back and watch rather than get into the action. My clothing selections have never quite fit the norm. The conversations I like to have tend to make people squeamish or nervous and my lifestyle choices are not run-of-the-mill.
My mind is always on GO! and I ask millions of questions about everything...at a ridiculous level. I enjoy a low-key, minimally social life. Many of the things I do and think are NOT mainstream...or at least they are not talked about openly.
Even though I was bullied and people didn’t like my permed hair or odd clothing, I never got caught up in trying to act like them or look like them. It just felt...like too much work.
Trying to be something that people want you to be because you aren’t like them SUCKS.
I refuse to do it.
Different isn’t bad.
Any maybe different wouldn’t even be a thing if people were to stop trying to be like other people.
I hope some or all of this helped someone out there!
And if it wasn’t something you need right now, maybe it will be for someone else. At the very least, now you know me a little better.
I’m thinking my next post is going to focus on anxiety and religious trauma...yes, it’s an actual thing...so be looking out for that.
Suicide Prevention Number: 1-800-273-8255 and their website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
I’m sure there are other reputable places to call as well, this one just happens to be the most popular.
By far the most helpful thing in my early days before being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder was this website. https://www.anxietycentre.com/
After taking a test on the site and going through the lists of symptoms, it prompted me to seek professional help. And then after that, I became a member, joined their forums and read through their e-book about why/how anxiety is triggered.
Bullying and PTSD https://americanaddictioncenters.org/trauma-stressor-related-disorders/effects-being-bullied-harassed