How I Healed from Bullying: Recovery

PTSD

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.

(Continued in Part 2)

Survivors of Bullying Who Never Heal from Bullying and Abuse

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.

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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!

8 Ways to Help with Healing from Bullying Once You’ve Left a Toxic Environment

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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.

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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.

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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!