Healing From Abuse and Bullying

I am a survivor of bullying and emotional abuse.  I was bullied primarily from third grade until my freshman year of high school.  Then, later, I was emotionally and verbally abused by a teacher, who thankfully is no longer teaching at my alma mater.  So, if you have ever experienced abuse or bullying, you are not alone.  I get so upset when I hear or see someone abusing or bullying someone else, because I know the healing process is often long and painful.  However, if you are a survivor of these traumas, know that healing and joy in your life IS possible.  Here is what I learned about healing from the effects of abuse and bullying:

  1. Be nice to yourself.—When I was being bullied, I struggled with thinking (and still do) anything good about myself. I questioned my worth as a person, and I thought of myself as lower than an animal sometimes! (All lies , by the way!).  Often when one is being bullied or abused, the perpetrator instills in their victim a feeling of powerlessness and worthlessness.  Unfortunately, even after the abuse is over, the survivor still can very much struggle with this low sense of self-worth. That is why it is important for survivors to have or seek out genuine people in their lives who can restore in them a sense of confidence and the reality of their intrinsic worth.  Also, try to do things on occasion that you genuinely enjoy or help you relax.  Tell yourself positive things, not negative criticism all the time. 
  2. Set good boundaries.—Part of setting good boundaries is learning how to say “no.”  When I would attempt to set boundaries or express my displeasure at the bad things that my perpetrators were doing to me, they would either get upset or disregard what I had to say.  This increased my anxiety and my bondage to their bullying tactics. When I discussed with one of my managers (and mentor) about this, she told me not to care about if the perpetrators get upset or not.  I think this is very wise advice, because, as she told me also, the people that get upset at you when you try to set boundaries or disregard them are not your real friends anyway.  Being apathetic (in a good way) to people who disregard your reasonable boundaries  by not being bothered if they are upset at you  will also help you find new people who do respect your boundaries and you as a person.
  3. Don’t let your perpetrators diminish your love for others.—For years after I was bullied, I struggled with forgiving almost anyone who hurt me emotionally or verbally. I would hold grudges for years! Don’t let this happen to you! When I let my former perpetrators make me a bitter and angry person, I realized that I was giving even more power to them.  Finally, in the past five years, I was able to let many of these grudges go. Thus, I was able to love more freely and more powerfully than I ever did before.  When you refuse to forgive your perpetrator or perpetrators, they have more power over you to make you an angry and bitter person. You may think they are getting the “justice” they deserve by holding a grudge against them, but I have realized that the person who it really hurts the most is you!  The perpetrator often does not care how you feel about them, and will not care if the relationship is damaged or not. Moreover, when you hold a grudge, your relationships with others will be stunted too, because you may not trust that these people are really “on your side.” Barriers to trust stunt the relationship because it inhibits our ability to be vulnerable with others. Forgiving a perpetrator does not mean you still can’t pursue justice or the legal system, if they have committed a crime against you. Furthermore, you still can request amends be made.  Also, you don’t ever have to reconcile or see them again! However, forgiving the perpetrator means you are releasing the need for vengeance against them to the powers that be.  This frees you from thinking about them or being chained by your anger and bitterness to them.  It also frees you to be able to bond with your loved ones and friends more deeply than you were able to before.
  4. Get some counseling.—Whether it be counseling from your religious leader or a therapist, it is best to be able to have some emotional and moral support from a trained professional.  A good counselor will help you get your life back on track and deal with the after-effects of the abuse.  It make still take time to heal from abuse, but the time spent with someone supportive , I believe, is worth it.
  5. Finally, be an advocate against all forms of abuse and bullying.—This does not only include signing a petition online to stop abuse. Being an advocate also means defending and standing up for the bullied at school and/or at work.  It means comforting a child who has been unfairly berated by his or her parents. Being an advocate means being supportive and validating of all those you know personally who have suffered abuse or bullying. 

If you or someone you know has been abused, there is hope and help out there. You are not alone, and remember the abuse is NEVER your fault!  The fault of the abuse lies in the hands of the perpetrator or perpetrators, who always have the ability to control their actions in some way.  I am very passionate about helping abuse and bullying survivors heal and have their joy and dignity restored to them.  From my own experience and those of many around me, healing and hope from abuse

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Hope -a poem

-to everyone going through pain and hurt right now

When everything falls apart

When things start to unravel

When you are on your last rope

I still see a glimmer of hope

 

Because one day I almost died

In me, there was almost no fight

I almost missed that glorious light

But that bright light filled my soul

 

The light can also bring you much hope

If you let the brightness fill your soul

You will be able to see much love

And again your life will be made whole

How to Cultivate Gratitude

I am happy and blessed with my life, though it is not always free of challenges and trials.  As I have shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was a little girl.  Though this was not the cause of all of my depression, I found that when I realized what I actually had rather than focusing on what I lacked; I found that I was able to cultivate more joy and gratitude into my life.  Yes, cultivating gratitude can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you are facing something tough and personal. However, it still can be done. Gratitude should be cultivated even more during times of prosperity and peace.  Here is what I am learning and have learned about how to cultivate a grateful attitude:

  1. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have: I believe that the number one barrier to being grateful is our focus. When we focus on all the things that we lack, we tend to develop an attitude of self-pity, which often leads to complaining and bitterness. When we focus on the things we do have, we realize just how much we are blessed. For instance, when I get frustrated at myself because I don’t know how to do something right, my focus is wrongly on the talents that I don’t have instead of my strengths. However, if I shift my focus on something I am better at—such as writing– I find that I can be much more encouraged and less upset at the thing in which I am struggling.  Many people who struggle with being grateful for what they have also struggle with envy because their focus is on getting (or wishing they had) something that someone else possesses, instead of what they have already been given.  For instance, I used to envy people who were happily married and had children, because, as a single, I did not have those for myself. However, when I instead focused on the relative freedom and time I had to help others, I realized the blessing that I had being single that these married people no longer had.
  2. Know that we are often given more than we deserve: Many people, including myself, at times, struggle with the fact that we get more than we deserve, because of our sense of entitlement. However, even though we have all hurt others, though maybe not all intentionally, most of us still have people that love and care for us, and we have some semblance of joy in our lives.  The fact that others still give us mercy even though we may have hurt them before should cause us to rejoice and be thankful!  If you drive, have you not gotten a ticket even though you were speeding through traffic? That is evidence of mercy!   Or you made a serious error at work, and your boss does not fire you? That, too, is evidence of grace and mercy!  Bring to mind the moments when you should have had to bear the consequences of your bad actions, but in God’s and others’ mercy, you didn’t have to.  Moreover, think of the times when you did something careless, but you were saved from disaster.
  3. Consider others who are in worse situations than you: Finally, a great way to cultivate gratitude is not to look at others who are doing better than you, but see the people around you who are in more difficult situations than you. For instance, some people I know have either a loved one struggling with a serious medical issue or are struggling themselves. This helps me to be grateful that my family and I are in good health, even though I may come home from work tired sometimes. Recently, at work, we had a celebration for the bonus that my co-workers and I were able to get on our last paycheck.   They served pizza. Though the pizza became cold after being out for several hours, I was grateful work provided pizza for us because of what I heard about the struggle of people in other countries to get any food at all. In particular, I was thinking about the people of Venezuela. I heard that since they have had an electrical shortage, meat cannot be adequately cooled in freezers, so eventually it becomes spoiled, but the stores sell them anyway because people need food. So, the people actually buy the spoiled meat, season it with some spices, and eat it!  Their dire situation helps me be grateful that we have so much food, electricity, and working cooling systems (freezers and refrigerators) in the U.S and that we can eat delicious, edible food that is not spoiled.

By focusing on all that God has blessed me with, by knowing that I am often being given more than I ultimately deserve and by considering people in worse situations than me, I am able to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my life. When I do this, I find that I am not only able to be more thankful for what I have, but I am also to have more joy, even in the tough times. Even though we may face many challenges and struggles, we still can cherish and appreciate what we do have before it is too late.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness    9/14/2018

Seeds of bitterness invaded my soul
A flaming rage was consuming me whole
Even a momentary glance your way
Evoked feelings of revulsion and dismay

But when I saw the agony you were facing
And the endless burdens you were carrying
The wrath burning in me melted away
The barrier that was between us gave way

My heart of wrath melted into one of love
Being able to give compassion to you
And give you forgiveness that was true
Because someone had forgiven me too

Dangers of Apathy

I have heard countless stories on the news about parents who abused and then killed their children, about terrorists beheading their victims, and countless other reports of violent atrocities committed against humanity and  animals.  The perpetrators of these acts have often ceased caring about their victims and much of all humanity, as well, except themselves.  Some of them probably think they can a.) Get away with their crimes or b.) Don’t care about what will happen to them in this life, or sadly, the next.  My pastor has warned our congregation repeatedly about the consequences of apathy in life and about other people.

Here are some of the dangers that we can put ourselves and others in when we get apathetic:

When we are apathetic towards our lives in general, this is generally a sign of major depression.  I have experienced this somewhat in my life during the depths of my depressive episodes.   Not only did I have few, if any, close friends, but I also became bored with almost any activity that I tried to do.  I was just “surviving,” so to speak. There really wasn’t any joy or purpose in my life at the time. When people get to the point in their lives where they “just don’t’ care about anything,” they need a serious mental health intervention.  Even though most people do care about their lives with their loved ones, I know of many people that hate their jobs so much, they just do the bare minimum, with no passion or joy in what they are doing whatsoever, and they wonder why they feel so miserable. When people are apathetic of an important aspect of their lives, or even all of their lives, their performance in that area often suffers greatly. They no longer feel motivated to do their best or come up with new ideas. Sometimes it is because they do not receive the needed encouragement to get motivated, as is in many cases, with people hating their jobs. Another reason they may fall into apathy is that feel that nothing they do is good enough, so they stop trying. Since apathy can be a symptom of depression, if one gets apathetic for too long, he or she can quickly become suicidal and/or self-destructive in other ways.

When we are apathetic towards our loved ones and/or most of humanity in general, this leads to destruction. In fact, as I have heard and witnessed myself, when a person stops caring about others, he or she becomes a monster.  I don’t mean the cartoonish ones on television, but the evil, angry menace that is embodied in all true monsters.  Apathy towards humanity not only devalues them, but also leads to destruction. In fact, most, if not all, murderers have some degree of apathy towards their victims. Apathy towards humanity and/or our loved ones not only destroys others’ lives, but also our own.  When one realizes the destruction their apathy has caused, it is often to relate to rectify their actions.   Apathy comes from a heart of selfishness and narcissism.  Apathy towards humanity isolates people because it cuts off our ability to have compassion towards another’s pain or misfortune, and this leads to them not wanting to relate to us anymore.

So, how do we avoid being apathetic about life or about other people? How do we avoid this destruction in our lives?  Reversing apathy takes hard work, but it is well worth the cost.  One thing we can do if we struggle with apathy is to learn how to love others again.  One way to do that is to learn how to have compassion for others. We can volunteer in our community or help out where needed at our jobs, not just for our benefit, but for others’ benefit as well.  We can also learn about the trials and the struggles our loved ones are facing and know how that will affect our own lives, as it should.  Then, we should actively try to encourage and support them in any way we can.  Intentionally invest in other people’s lives and try to influence their lives for the better, not the worse.  Another way to love others is to be willing to make any necessary sacrifices for them and/or be willing to give of our time, talents, and resources to help them. Learning how to be generous and sacrificial of ourselves is not only a great way to combat apathy, but also a wonderful way to have joy and be grateful for what we already have!

Even if it seems that many people in society are becoming increasingly apathetic about life and/or other people, we can upset the applecart, so to speak, by having a motivation to better the lives of others and our own as well.  Apathy is a slippery, steep slope to destruction of all kinds.  Apathy can take a while to recover from, but with hard work, renewed passion, and perseverance, it can be done.   Let’s live our lives with passion today, because as my pastor has often said, “Time is life.”

Ways You Can Encourage Others

In order to celebrate the National Day of Encouragement, which is officially September 12, I think it is important to make those around us feel loved and encouraged, especially that day.  Sometimes, we may be at a loss as to what to say to someone who is feeling especially discouraged today, or we may not feel especially motivated to be encouraging, especially if the people around you keep berating you in some way, or they are pressuring you into being someone who you are not or cannot be.  However, tough as it may be, the difference we make in others’ lives just by encouraging them can be life-changing. Here are some ways I have found that we can encourage others:

Through words of validation:

My online friend Holly is the best at this, even though she has been invalidated far too often.  When I was upset, she always respected my right to vent and feel what I was feeling.  She offered me words of encouragement that let me know that she was on my side and would support me through it all.  So, how can you validate someone?  A) Refrain from judging or condemning the person, even if you disagree with some of the choices the person has made.  Just listen to them, and offer words of hope. You don’t have to agree with everything the person is saying, but you don’t have to insult them or be judgmental either.   For instance, if someone you know is struggling with an addiction, don’t tell them they “should” do this or that. A.) They may not be prepared to hear advice yet, and will just shut down if you try to tell them “shoulds.” B) A better way to approach this person is to tell them that you will support them when they are ready to stop the addiction and will be there for them even now.   Another way to validate someone is to affirm their best qualities. This validation will especially boost a person who struggles with low self-esteem.  Of course, do not just “flatter” them to get something you want, but do it in a genuine, heartfelt way. 

When someone is going through a tough time:

I just had a really bad day yesterday when I was just feeling down on myself and was very stressed.  However, several people who were really close to me encouraged me by reminding me of the good that I had accomplished in my life and told me how I was doing the best I could.  Telling someone who is struggling with depression that they are doing the best they can for the situation that they are in expresses both empathy and validation for their struggle.  While other people may wrongly think that they are just being “lazy” or “negative” in some way, you can be the beacon of hope and encouragement in their lives by validating their struggle. You can also encourage people going through a tough time by just spending quality time with them.  When one of the congregants at my church was very sick, many people visited and encouraged her. She was very happy to see us, and thus she was able to not feel so alone in her pain. 

Through words and actions of appreciation:

There are only a few things worse, in my opinion, than having the good that you have done on earth or for someone go unappreciated or rejected.  However, some people feel that the good that they do is either in vain, or that no one appreciates them. I am trying to change that mindset in my sphere of influence by making sure that the good that people have done for me does not go unappreciated.  I want the people in my life to know that they matter and that they are loved.  You can also make sure the good that the people in your life have done for you is appreciated and valued. Some of the ways you can show your appreciation for others is by writing them a heartfelt thank-you note, by telling them how much you appreciate them  (It is better if you can point to specific instances where you felt loved and cared for by them.) , and by caring for them in their time of need.

These are some of the ways I have found that you can encourage others today.  Many people around you are facing stressors of different kinds, and some are even feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by life’s circumstances.  However, with your words of encouragement, you can help boost their whole outlook on life and give them hope in whatever they are facing.  Let’s be encouraging to those around us, starting today and see the world change for the better!

Healing

Author’s note: This poem illustrates how God has saved me from darkness and depression and has given me love, joy, and peace. This poem also illustrates how I aim to love others who are going through suffering and trials. Many interpretations are possible. I hope this poem gives you hope if you are going through a trial right now. 

poem written: 8/29/2018

The same things every day

You are tired of the drudgery

And of all of the hurt and pain

Hoping that you still stay sane

 

To the world you wear a smile

But inside your heart is breaking

From all the agony and guile

Of the people surrounding you

 

You ache for something true and real

You want an end to all this pain

You want to taste joy and love

You want peace from up above

 

I will hold your hurting soul

When you feel broken inside

I will heal your hurt and pain

So again you can be whole

 

I will give you all of my love

I will sacrifice myself for you

So you will know true, real joy

And the peace from up above