The Hallmark of Victim-Mentality- Living in the Past

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.

How I Healed from Bullying: Graduation and Beyond

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.

blame accuse pointing finger

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!

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)

How Music Helped Me Cope with Bullying

During the years I was bullied in school, I’d come Home in the afternoon, and take refuge in my bedroom. I would then turn on my stereo or play one of my cassette tapes (they were the thing back then) and get lost in the music.

I was a Prince fan and hairband girl. I’d put in one of my Prince,  Dokken, Motley Crue, Ratt, Judas Priest, or Skid Row tapes and rock out in the privacy of my bedroom. I would turn the music up full blast and have it blaring so loud the entire house shook.

Other days, I’d come home and boogie down to some Janet Jackson, Al B. Sure, Salt N Pepa, or Paula Abdul. I was into New Jack Swing hip-hop as well. And sometimes I listened to softer rock on the stereo, “Money for Nothing,” by Dire Straits, “Tell Me Lies” by Fleetwood Mac, or Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love.”

For me, listening to music always helped me recover from a bad day and made me feel great. There was nothing like bebopping all over the floor in my bedroom to the beat of a great song. It seemed to make all my troubles and worries disappear. It was what made me feel alive!

Today, I still listen to those songs either through my music downloads, on YouTube, or I play one of my numerous Prince CDs.

The music of today just doesn’t have it- doesn’t have the heart and soul it used to. The music of today is all about “me me me- all eyes on me” and is doused with blatant, in-your-face sexual profanity, or it’s pity-party music, as I like to call it. Yuck! Who wants to hear that?

The music of my day was music that you could let your kids listen to without fear. Here are a few more reasons I prefer old rock over this new crap.

  1. Rock music from my era was about having a good time. It made you want to jump up and shout! New rock is too emo- it’s about “my partner left, and now I want to die,” or “Mommy and Daddy didn’t love me enough, and now I’m one messed up individual.” No thanks.
  1. Old rock didn’t have the blunt vulgarity that today’s rock has. What profanity we had in my day was more innuendo that went over the heads of most small children. Sadly, some of the lyrics in today’s songs are downright cringeworthy.
  2. I like old stuff. Old songs take me back to a time when life was much simpler.
  3. Surprisingly, I’ve noticed that many of today’s young people listen to music from my generation, which is refreshing! Because you know the music’s good if your kids like it too. My oldest son loves AC/DC and Ozzy Osborne, and just the other day, I had the pleasure of seeing a car full of teens riding around with Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blaring from their car stereo. Now that put a smile on my face!

‘You see? Back when I was young, if we were caught listening to music from our parents’ generation, we’d be ridiculed so hard by our friends and peers we’d never want to show our faces in public again. So, knowing that kids still dig music from our day is truly amazing!

Music is great medicine and has always picked me up. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be a devout music lover until the day I close my eyes!

Are there any music lovers out there among my community of blogger friends and readers? Feel free to comment.