A while back, a fellow blogger inspired this post with a comment, and she was spot on with it. For the life of me, I cannot remember who the blogger was, but I’d like to thank her in advance.
Sadly, too many survivors of bullying still render themselves, victims by living in the past. They constantly ruminate over the bullying they endured, wondering if they could have done anything differently and wishing they had.
They look back with remorse, shame, guilt, and regret. Now, it’s normal to do right after you’ve gotten out of the toxic environment that encouraged the bullying. I completely understand because I did it too. However, when this goes on for years and years, you only hold yourself back. Unnecessary baggage only keeps you down.
Many survivors trap themselves in an endless cycle of what-ifs. They keep themselves stuck and forgo opportunities to learn from and grow from their experiences. Some seek revenge. Others only bury it, live in denial, and try to rewrite history.
Understand that this is a waste of your time.
On the other hand, some survivors become conquerors. They acknowledge that, yes, the bullying happened, and, yes, it was painful, then aspire to learn and grow from it.
I realize that, once you’re out of an extremely toxic environment, there will be a period of grief. Again, completely understandable. It’s okay to mourn the loss of time bullying caused. It’s okay, even recommended, to feel angry and hurt for a while. In no way should you ever trivialize this period of mourning because it’s real, and it happens to survivors when they’re fresh out of an abusive situation.
And different people have different periods of grief.
My crying stage lasted a month; yours may be a lot longer or shorter. It depends on the person. Some may choose to get therapy, and others won’t. But there comes the point when you must move on and not allow it to take over your life. Don’t let your bullies live in your mind rent-free for too many years. They’ve already taken away enough of your life. Don’t you think?
You owe it to yourself to heal and begin to accept what happened, then learn and grow from it. Only then can you reach empowerment and find happiness.
Happiness is when you contribute to a purpose bigger than yourself. Becoming an advocate for the bullied and tackling things about bullying that few people think about is where I get my happiness.
That purpose is informing others aspects of bullying that no one talks about and in that, helping targets reclaim their personal power. This is so much bigger than me. And it’s why it feels so rewarding!
Contributing to helping others more successfully battle bullying isn’t for material gain, fame, or fortune. It’s for my spiritual fulfillment. It’s the inner rewards I get. Rewards of the heart- knowing that this is making a difference and making the world a better place- even if just a little bit.
There’s no reward that matches that! I want to be the person I needed when I was targeted years ago.
Sure. Material rewards are nice, don’t get me wrong. And I certainly won’t turn them down if I’m ever blessed with them. I would love to make a good living doing what I love. After all, I’m human too.
But at the end of the day, the inner rewards- the rewards to the heart and spirit are more satisfying than I ever thought they would be.
It’s what keeps me going and it’s where my fulfillment comes from.
Graduation was bittersweet. Although I was happy to graduate high school, I was sad because I would miss my classmates and teachers from Roseburg High. I felt that it ended too soon.
My first five years post-graduation was full of ups and downs. I struggled with bouts of depression and didn’t know why. I was on the rollercoaster again and desperately wanted to get off but didn’t know how.
I lived, and I worked. I was a mother of two small children but only going through the motions and surviving- existing. It felt as if I was living on autopilot. But then, something amazing happened!
In 1995, I came across a magazine article while on my lunch break at work. The article was about a kid severely bullied at school. Like me, his bullies had tormented him so horrifically that he thought about suicide and eventually transferred to another school. Also, like me, his life changed for the better. He, too, had made a complete turnaround and finally gotten the chance to experience the friends, fun, and excitement that high school was supposed to be.
Reading this article was a turning point for me, and finding it was one of the best things that happened. This piece in the magazine answered so many questions and confirmed that none of the abuse I’d suffered at my classmates’ hands was my fault. The article was also validation that there was never anything wrong with me. It only cemented the truth I’d always known deep down inside- I wasn’t to blame for their abuse.
They were the perpetrators.
They had the issues.
I was being held responsible for problems that were theirs, not mine.
With this confirmation came my empowerment!
During those years, many people, including a few well-meaning family members, had often told me that the bullying I suffered was all in my imagination or wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. Many more had said to me that I brought it all on myself. Deep down, I knew better.
In my heart, I had known the truth years before I found this article and held on to it. Maybe this personal knowledge was why I resisted my bullies and fought back, even if it meant getting hurt. And perhaps it was why I suffered so many physical assaults. Nevertheless, I needed confirmation- a second opinion of sorts, and the article was exactly what I needed.
At that moment, everything fit together like a perfect puzzle! I cannot express the relief I felt. It was as if the article had lifted an enormous weight off my shoulders. My heart began to soar!
For the first time, I was able to see the bullying for what it was- abuse!
I began to thirst for even more knowledge of bullying and the human predator/prey dynamic. From then on, I read everything I could get my hands on- magazine articles, essays, books, online articles, everything that pertained to bullying and peer abuse.
There were so many unanswered questions:
“What was it about me that made me a target?”
“How had my bullies been allowed to get away with their brutality?”
“What was it about my bullies that made them so charming and good to everyone else?”
The word Answer on a puzzle piece to symbolize the quest for understanding in answering questions and concerns
“What were the ingredients to their charm and allure?”
“Where had their intense hate, mean-spiritedness, and sadistic natures come from? What had precipitated it?”
“Had they too been abused, or were they just spoiled, coddled narcissists infected with schadenfreude?”
So many questions haunted me and increased my curiosity. So, I continued digging for information, like a police detective eager to solve a case.
During the late nineties, I came across Tim Field’s BullyOnline.org and hungrily read every one of his articles. The website was massive, and it took a while to read. I went through it with a fine-toothed comb. If I had questions, I emailed Tim, and he would always reply in a timely and courteous manner.
Sadly, Mr. Field is no longer with us. He passed away from cancer years ago.
It’s been 25 years since I found the article that changed my life, and I cannot tell you how many sources of information I’ve poured through. I can’t measure the truckloads of knowledge attained and how much just the knowing has empowered me.
Between experience and two and a half decades of reading, research, and study, I’ve gained insights that have empowered me even more. That article back in 1995 set me on a path to greater knowledge and a passion for helping other bullying targets through writing and advocacy.
I’ve found what I love to do, and it is so rewarding!
I thank God for placing that article in front of me that day at work. Otherwise, I might still be wandering in the dark and trying to find my way.
That magazine article truly changed my outlook on the bullying I suffered. I no longer see it as something that ruined my life. No.
I see the bullying as an event that gave me a fiery passion for speaking out about my own experiences and sharing the knowledge I’ve gained to help people who endure bullying today. It showed me my life’s work and, through that, gave me eventual confidence and happiness.
I do not need to hate my bullies, nor to take revenge. Turning abuse around to the benefit of others is how I turn victimization into power! And that, my friends, is the best revenge a person can ever take!
If you’re a target of bullying, know this:
What’s happening to you is wrong and it isn’t your fault. You never asked to be brutalized, you do matter, and you are enough!
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Amber, a friend and fellow blogger who inspired me to write this post.
The healing certainly didn’t happen overnight. My trial by fire ended during my senior year when I finally managed to escape my Oakley High School bullies through a school transfer. My new school, Roseberg High, felt like a paradise! Everyone there accepted me as I was, and I made so many new friends. I felt safe again and was finally able to relax and be myself.
I felt as if my life was finally beginning, and I could finally put Oakley High School behind me and move on. But it didn’t come without a few hang-ups. The last several months at Roseburg were the best of all four years of high school, but I didn’t realize that I was still carrying a lot of leftover baggage from the severe abuse I suffered at the old school.
Although I was in a much safer learning environment, there were afternoons during my first month at Roseburg when I’d have a long cry after I got home from school. Being four months pregnant at the time, I mistook the tears for the raging hormones of pregnancy. And though I loved my new school and all the people there, I regretted that I couldn’t have transferred schools earlier than I had. I was grieving the loss of so many years- years that I could never get back.
Child abuse with the eye of a young boy or girl with a single tear crying due to the fear of violence or depression caused by hunger and poverty and being afraid of bullying at school.
My then-husband worked a twelve-hour graveyard shift, and I spent most nights at home alone. In the afternoons, he would be asleep when I’d come in from school. So, I had plenty of time to grieve.
During those times, I also suffered flashbacks of the bullying, and they would come automatically and without warning- flashbacks of being shoved to the floor, brutally beaten, cursed out, and yelled at. At night I’d have nightmares.
In these nightmares, I’d be swimming in a lake and enjoying the water. Suddenly I’d stop and look around to see that my classmates from Oakley High were in the water as well, and they surrounded me. One of them would push my head underwater, and I’d fight like crazy to come back up for air. But as soon as I’d get my head above water and gasp for breath, they’d shove me back under again. Once more, I’d have to hold my breath and fight with my arms flailing in the water, trying to come up and get away from them.
Finally, I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and had no other choice but to give up the fight to live. Just as I inhaled and felt the searing burn of water fill my lungs, I’d wake up with a jolt. I also had another dream that one of my old bullies hunted me down and shot me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, so frightened I couldn’t move a muscle. I’d only lay there, trembling in the darkness.
During my first month out, I also dealt with a lot of sadness and anger that didn’t show. Roseburg High was my happy place, and while I was there during the day, I didn’t have those emotions, nor did I have the flashbacks. The sadness, anger, flashbacks, and dreams only happened when I was home alone or sleeping, and I wanted so badly to forget about Oakley and live in the present.
During that month, I also felt a degree of shame- shame that I now realize wasn’t mine to bear. In my mind, I’d ask myself,
“What’s wrong with me? I’m out of that hellhole now! I should be happy about that! And I am, but why do I keep having these episodes of crying and feeling angry any time I’m alone?”
When I felt angry, I wasn’t as mad at my former classmates but myself for allowing them to tear me down and bring me so low.
I felt like a battered wife who’d just left her abusive husband!
I was fortunate, though. It didn’t take long for the raw emotions, the flashbacks, and the nightmares to go away, and I begin to focus on making great memories with my Roseburg friends and classmates. During that month, I had allowed myself to feel and to cry. I talked to a few of my most trusted family and friends.
I realized that I wasn’t wrong to have those emotions as they were signs that something was terribly wrong in my previous environment. I also began to understand that I wasn’t what was wrong. I’m thankful that I didn’t bury those emotions like so many survivors of bullying do. I’ve since concluded that what I experienced was the release of feelings that had, for a long time, been suppressed.
They were emotions that I wasn’t allowed to have in the old environment and was afraid to feel and show because I knew they’d punish me for it with more bullying. The only alternative had been to keep those feelings buried deep. And although my parents were well-meaning, there were times that neither of them could accept the emotions I felt.
Only after I got out of there did they begin to pour forth.
After a month of riding that roller coaster, I can tell you that everything finally subsided, and I felt like a new person! I didn’t get any therapy, although I should have. I was young, newly married, and expecting my first child, and everything was changing so fast I could barely keep up. So, I worked through it on my own.
Beautiful cloudscape over the sea, sunrise shot
And with the help of a new and nourishing environment, a few trusted people in my life, and new friends, I was able to get through the horrible after-effects of bullying and peer abuse. I began to set goals to learn about computers and make Honor Roll at my new school. As my grades skyrocketed and I achieved those goals, so did my confidence!
Sadly, most survivors of bullying aren’t as lucky as I was. Many take years to even get through the grief.
I don’t want to imagine where I’d be if I never healed from the bullying I suffered in the past. It’s not something l like to think about and it isn’t something I enjoy bringing up. However, I feel I’d be doing you a huge disservice if I didn’t.
If you were bullied at some point and you did the inner work and healed from it, you are one of the lucky blessed and I extend my congratulations to you.
But sadly, many survivors of bully never heal, and I can only feel terrible for them. Because these people go their entire lives, dragging so much pinned up anger, resentment, sadness, and depression with them. Those emotions tend to fester into powerlessness- they simply don’t know what to do to make their lives better and achieve happiness and prosperity. Others only let it make them unfeeling and uncaring- and this second set of survivors often find prosperity and success, but they don’t find happiness.
So, what do these unhealed survivors do end up doing and where do they end up?
1. They join gangs. Many times, when a person has been bullied and hasn’t healed, they often join gangs and extremist groups to get the sense of friendship, unity, belonging, and empowerment they were for so long denied. In a gang, these survivors are ensured protection from further bullying. And they use fear to get that protection.
2. They join extremist groups. Because these survivors were bullied terribly and never healed from it, they often feel a sense of unfairness and injustice. So, they take up a cause. Don’t get me wrong. Taking up a cause can be a wonderful and constructive way to deal with pain and trauma. But extremist groups are never good because they have a tendency for violence. In joining extremist groups, survivors also get the friendship, support, alliance, and power they couldn’t get before.
Interior of cell block in abandoned State Correctional Institution, or jail., common room with jail cel
3. They end up in jail. Remember a few posts back, when I mentioned that anyone who is consistently told they’re bad, crazy, or evil will begin to exhibit behavior which matches the labels? When people are made to feel that they’re horrible people, they may go out and commit crimes either to get attention or because they feel they’re owed for all the bullying they suffered.
4. They become workaholics. In the past, they were bullied and made to feel powerless. So, they work like dogs to make lots of money because they feel that having lots of money gives them enormous power.
5. They get into drug abuse. Many become drug addicts and alcoholics to quell the PTSD, trauma, sadness, and depression that is brought about by bullying. Instead of seeking the right kind of help, they self-medicate.
Understand that healing from bullying is a must if you want to go on to a happy and peaceful life and that sometimes, healing means seeking therapy. Healing and getting closure take a lot of work. But I promise that if you get the help and put in the inner work needed, it’ll be so worth it in the end!
I understand because I’ve been there. It took me several years to forgive my classmates. It was why I didn’t go to the ten or twenty-year class reunion. I had no desire to see their faces. I was just damn glad they were out of my life and had forgotten about ninety-nine percent of them.
As long as I stayed away from my former schoolmates and they stayed away from me, I was happy. But when I’d see one of them on the street, I’d turn and walk away without giving them so much as a “hi” or “kiss my ass.”
During the first twenty years after leaving Oakley High School, I only had something to do with maybe one or two of my classmates. The rest of them, I could’ve cared less if they dropped off the face of the earth.
When you’ve been a target of bullies, it’s only natural to feel anger, resentment, and disgust toward the bullies for a while. To heal, we must allow ourselves to feel the pain and raw emotions.
Never bury the pain. Never keep it stuffed down inside because you’re afraid to make anyone angry or uncomfortable. Because it will only fester if you do. You will internalize everything you’ve been through, which is the worst thing you can do because it will come out sooner or later in either very destructive rage or physical illness, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Take your time and feel your emotions as long as you need to. Just don’t stay in that dark place for long. Don’t set up your tent and live there!
Be open about your anger and talk to a friend, family member, or therapist. Tell them you’re pissed. Speak out about the abuse. But get it out! And realize there will be people who won’t like it.
Understand that, in this world, there are people who won’t mind wiping their feet all over you but will be greatly offended when you become angry about it and talk about it, or worse, tell them a thing or two!
There will be people who expect you to be okay with something they know good and well they wouldn’t be okay with if it were done to them. But tell those people to get lost because they don’t matter. What matters is that you care for yourself and put yourself first.
Why should you give a ticker’s damn about their feelings? They never gave a damn about yours. So, never let those ignoramuses make you feel guilty for speaking out and responding in kind!
Tell them how you feel and let it out. But do it constructively. Put some bass in your voice. Be firm, but don’t yell. A certain amount of cursing is expected when you’re pushed too far.
But don’t drop any F-bombs. Raise your voice if you need to, but don’t scream and yell. Screaming and yelling will only incite toxic people to push your buttons to see you react, then tell anyone who’ll listen that you’re “mentally unstable.”
Go somewhere private and cry if you need to. Crying doesn’t mean that you’re weak. It means that you’re a human being with feelings.
Do whatever you must do to get it off your chest because the sooner you can process those bad feelings, the sooner you can forgive and move on to a better life.
Forgiving your bullies and anyone who’s ever wronged you is the most important thing you can do for yourself.
I know, I know! I can practically hear the groans of dread and scoffs coming from a few already. To be honest, I once had the same attitude myself anytime I was advised to forgive. I wasn’t ready to because I hadn’t healed yet.
Sometimes, you need time to process the abuse you suffered and heal before you can forgive. Completely understandable! And only you can know when you’re ready. Understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean that the transgression committed against you is okay, nor does it mean that you have to be buddies with the person who wronged you. But when you’re ready to forgive, it will only benefit you, not your attacker.
Allow me to delve a little deeper:
Forgiveness is a must! It is a prerequisite for re-empowerment and happiness. It’s not about letting anyone off the hook, it’s about setting yourself free from the toxic feelings of anger and hate, which will hold you back.
This message is not only for people who are being bullied at school today but also for survivors of school or workplace bullying. Forgive them. The sooner you forgive, the sooner you will be happy. I can tell you that for me, being able to forgive was like a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders. There’s truly no better feeling!
Anytime you hold on to grudges and hate for a person, that individual controls you whether you realize it or not. They may have exerted control over the years they bullied you, but you don’t have to let them control the rest of your life.
Let me put it another way, holding onto and carrying around anger and hate doesn’t hurt the person it’s aimed at, it hurts you. Because the people you hate and hold grudges against either don’t know about it, or they don’t care.
While you’re sitting around stewing over someone who did you wrong, that person could care less. They’re going on with their lives and not giving you so much as a thought. So, while should you allow them to take up space in your mind?
Forgiveness is the only solution to this problem. It’s the only way that you will be able to take back control of your life.
If you want to be happy, successful, and live in peace, forgive the people who wronged you. It’s the only way!
Bullying is very traumatic and makes such an impact on self-esteem; it often takes many years to heal. People who’ve never endured bullying cannot comprehend how it can change your life. The good thing about leaving a toxic environment is that once you’re gone, you can begin healing and rebuilding your life. However, in many cases, it’s easier said than done.
Here are eight things you can do that can help you heal quicker:
1. Seek Therapy. Though I realize that there’s a certain amount of stigma that goes with it, getting therapy is the best and most important thing you can do for yourself. You must do what you must do to take care of yourself. Don’t concern yourself with the opinions of others about your care. Right now, you must do what’s best for you.
2. Rest. When you’re fresh out of a bullying environment, you’re more than likely to be exhausted. Get plenty of sleep. Take some quiet time for yourself. Go on a walk in the park on a beautiful day, or take a pajama day. Get all the rest you can get for a few days.
3. Music. Music is therapy in itself. Once you’ve got plenty of rest, put in some easy listening for relaxation, maybe some slow jams like TLC, or Keith Sweat? Or pop in some dance grooves and rock and roll to make you feel upbeat and like dancing.
There’s nothing that lifts the mood like shaking your booty around the house to some Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul hits or rocking out to some Van Halen, Judas Priest, or Def Leppard. Whatever your taste in music, you’ll feel much better when you do. So get out those CD’s or stream some music on your computer.
4. Lean on the people who love you. When you’re recovering from bullying and a toxic environment, one of the most important things you need is a network of love and support to balance the positive with the negative. Keep company with the people who uplift you, love you, and make you feel good. It’ll help you salvage the confidence you’ve lost.
5. Do things you enjoy most. Indulge in your hobbies and favorite activities.
6. Exercise. Exercise is a major stress-buster. And you can get rid of all that negative energy like anger and depression by sweating it out either in the gym or, if you don’t feel like going anywhere, a workout DVD.
7. Take a trip. After being in a toxic environment for so long, sometimes, we need to get away for a while. Visit a family member in another state. Embark on a camping trip in the mountains or hit the beach and relax in the sun as you listen to the sounds of crashing waves. I guarantee that you’ll return home feeling much, much better!
8. Treat yourself to a day or night out with the guys or gals. You and your pals could go to a concert or out to lunch or dinner. Maybe go window shopping or to a bar and listen to a live band. The key is not to isolate yourself. Get out and have fun. Because sometimes it pays to go out and paint the town red!
Just go easy on the drinks, as alcohol is a depressant!