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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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