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Bullying Trauma: does it keep showing up in your life?

“All this time in history, we are increasingly feeling the call to step forward to tell the truth and disrupt dysfunctional patterns wherever we see them. This “disruptive truth-telling” is part of our gifts. The most skilled we are at initiating difficult conversations, the more we can make profound change in the world wherever we find ourselves.” -Bethany Webster
Bullying is a triggering topic for many. It has been for me for a long time. In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, I want to share my story and how my bullying experiences still impact me today. Long story short, I went through some childhood trauma that put me in a vulnerable state to say the least. Not to mention my epigenetics didn’t help out much since my grandparents were in the holocaust (which sadly put me at a genetic predisposition for stress intolerance, among other things). It seems as if I was destined to be a highly sensitive person (HSP). By the time middle school rolled around, I was somewhat depressed, anxious, sleeping poorly, insecure, withdrawn, feeling alone, and desperate to fit in and have friends. Let’s just say without realizing it, I subconsciously alienated myself and was an easy target. The most disturbing bullying memories include the “I Hate Dani Club” and what must have been the onset of cyberbullying with AOL Instant Messenger. (Anyone else remember those AIM days!?) I distinctly remember “club members” getting together after school–and for lack of a better word–terrorizing me on AIM. I would sit in the kitchen bawling my eyes out in front of the computer, while my mom looked on feeling entirely helpless. I myself felt powerless, left out, alone, flawed and not good enough. Sadly, I wasn’t resilient enough to brush it off and due to my sensitive nature and history of trauma, I internalized it. I was deep in shame and lived that way–with deep shame based negative beliefs about myself and my worth–throughout high school, college and the majority of my 20’s. Considering how much the internet has evolved since the early 2000’s, I can’t imagine how traumatic cyber-bullying must feel now with social media as prevalent as it is, including a plethora of websites and blogs, etc. Bullying is truly devastating; my heart goes out to anyone who has ever experienced cyberbullying or bullying of any kind. ESPECIALLY the sensitive kids out there–my fellow HSPs. You feel so deeply, and it feels like a weakness or flaw right now, but I guarantee you it will be a super-power later in life if you can learn to cope, get your feelings out in a healthy way, and not internalize what people say like I did. Please get extra help and support! Fast forward to 15 years later. I had completed years of intensive therapy with my amazing EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapist, Michelle. I worked hard on reprocessing and desensitizing these experiences and the negative beliefs attached to them: I’m unloveable I’m not good enough I’m powerless I don’t fit in I don’t belong There’s something wrong with me Little did I know, healing happens in layers and is NOT linear. I only healed the first few layers of my “trauma onion”. These experiences came back to bite me when I experienced severe alienation once again, but this time in adulthood. Due to the sensitive nature of the situation and to respect the privacy of all involved, I’m not going to share the details. However, ALL of my old feelings washed over me like no time had passed at all. Not only did I feel alienated, but I felt ganged up on, targeted, scapegoated, blamed, shamed, judged unfairly, labeled, had my character called into question (see shame), bullied and ultimately hated (or so it felt). I also HATE being in conflict with others. I like to resolve and repair, if possible. I usually cannot stand avoiding issues and sweeping things under the rug.  Unfortunately, this was out of my control, and avoidance is what ended up happening. I felt like the I Hate Dani Club was reinvigorated and I felt once gain like that lonely, sad, anxious middle schooler that didn’t fit in, and couldn’t say or do anything “right”. I wondered if middle school and high school truly ever ended? My old pattern was to go into shame and a victim mindset like I had Once Upon a Time… “Jeez.. this shit again?? Why me!? This is bullshit.. I’m a good person! This isn’t okay! And this sure as heck isn’t fair!” I saw that path, and it was miserable. I actually went down the road for a while, only to come back and say “Hell No. That’s not who I am, nor who I want to be.” I did NOT want to go down that path again. There had to be a better way… The other way was to not avoid the painful feelings of my deeply personal trigger and continue peeling back the layers of my onion. It was as if the Universe was screaming at me, telling me to “wake up” and finish healing… To stop avoiding myself and my negative narrative that comes up when these sorts of issues occur. If I disliked conflict with others so much, why was I so avoidant of fully healing the conflict within myself? Because it is PAINFUL. But the other path is just as painful, if not more. I was ready to choose a different path with this negative narrative that was coming up. That’s why this was showing up in my life again. It was a message from the Universe, a chance to choose another way once and for all. It was a blessing in disguise. The Universe was challenging me to choose deeper growth and healing. That’s the path I’ve been on more recently, and in a way, it’s been leaving me even more sensitive and vulnerable – (Shout out and apologies to all of my family and friends!!) It’s given me a choice to soften instead of harden. And softening when you want to harden–when hardening is what’s comfortable, and what you’ve done your whole life– is so dang uncomfortable, scary and vulnerable! But I’m so grateful that’s the path I’m on. I have so much love, support, abundance and resources in my life right now.. How could I not choose that path?! The Universe had fully supported me in setting me up to do the work I needed to do. I’m choosing to CHANGE dysfunctional patterns once and for all within myself instead of avoiding them. Not only for myself, but for my relationship with my amazing fiancé, his children, and for future generations. I am choosing to own and love all of my story and all of my parts–including the little girl inside of me that is still struggling, hurt, feeling unsafe and in shame. They say that the unconscious purpose of adulthood is finishing childhood… By choosing love, healing, vulnerability and softening, I am choosing myself. I’m choosing to shed all the layers of my “trauma onion” that aren’t serving me. I’m choosing to heal and soothe the little girl inside of me. By doing this, I’m coming home to my authentic self. Someone I haven’t truly known in adulthood. Back to my emotions, my truth, my spirit and felt sense of safety so that I can come fully alive with only love in my heart. So that I can have the deepest intimacy and healthiest relationships possible with my loved ones. And if this trigger comes up again, I’ll have so much more resilience to choose healthy thoughts and never question my inherent self-worth. This work is deeply spiritual. Talk about amazing self-care?! WHAT TO DO ABOUT BULLYING? If you or someone close to you is being bullied, it’s important to remember these two things:
  • You’re not alone
  • It’s not your fault
As long as you are not being physically threatened, it’s best to try to deal with the bully yourself. Remember, they are trying to make themselves feel more powerful by trying to take away your power – don’t let them. Slinking off or matching anger with anger never helps. Give a few of these comeback phrases a try:
  • Do you feel better now?
  • Let’s move on.
  • Here we go again. This is boring. Let me know when you’re done.
Sometimes, you just have to walk away and not give them the attention they are so seeking. If the bullying gets out of hand, talk to an authoritative figure, such as a boss, a parent of the bully, a principle, HR, a friend or a therapist for advice or to try to rectify the situation. There are also anonymous help lines if you feel you have no one to talk to, or need immediate help, call:
  • Stop Bullying Now Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • LBGTQ-specific support: The Trevor Project 9-866-488-7386
RESOURCES
  • Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
  • Immediate Medical Assistance: 911
  • Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
  • Crisis Text Line (U.S. only): Text HELLO to 741741
  • Youthspace Text Line (across Canada): Text 778-783-0177 from 6 p.m. to midnight daily.
Without going into the deeper psychology of why bullying happens, know that you can do something about it and that you’re not alone. Below are additional resources specific to Kansas bullying laws and organizations that offer empowerment and support. (https://bit.ly/2CJ3XUC) Now I would love to hear from you.   Have you experienced being bullied? Has it shown up again in your life later? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to going deeper with you. Much love, self-care, and gratitude. Namaste,

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