What I learned in Five Years

Five years ago today, I had just been employed at my previous job for a few months.   Also, I was five years into membership at my previous church.  I had just met my mentor J, maybe a year back.  All in all, I could have never known the adventures in my life that awaited me, even a year or two later.  Five years later, I can honestly say that I have learned so much. Here are some of the things I learned:

First and foremost, I learned how to relate better to other people.  The one thing that I will always appreciate about my former place of employment is that they taught me so much about how to relate successfully to customers that I also apply to the job that I have now.  For instance, I learned how to cater to the customer’s needs, even when it may have been inconvenient or difficult to do so. Thus, I learned just how valuable the customers are to the business.  More recently, I have also learned the power of forgiveness. I can think of several people that I currently work with or for that I had misgivings about in the past, with whom I now get along great!  One important thing that I learned from those experiences that helped me to be able to forgive these people is to put myself in their shoes.  I know it may seem very difficult to do, especially since they hurt you! It was tough for me too, but when I was able to do this, I found that I was able to see, not just the person that hurt and damaged me, but maybe a hurting, vulnerable soul inside. I was able to see them through eyes of compassion and love, instead of through eyes of hate and disgust. Thus, I also learned how to love people better. Though being angry is still a struggle for me, I have learned so much about understanding others better and being a living sacrifice both for God and others.

Secondly, I learned some secrets to be content. Overall, I can say, five years later, I am more content with my life than I had been before.  One secret of contentment that I learned is gratitude.  In 2014, a year after 2013 (which was five years ago), I became very ill and had to be rushed to the E.R one day. (For the full story on this, go to this link.).  To make a long story short, I had an inflamed gallbladder that was twice the size it should have been, and it had to be removed. However, it was only three years after the surgery that I realized that I could have died had the surgery not occurred when it did! So, realizing that, I have learned to value my life more.  Also, many people around me have either gotten sick or died, and experiencing these trials alongside them has helped me to appreciate my good health more and also the value of making a positive difference in others’ lives.  Very recently, I have also learned to worry less. Though I still struggle with worry sometimes, I can happily say it is less than before. I have learned to trust God’s plan for me and also to let certain things that used to worry and aggravate me, go. For instance, I used to get really upset when traffic was really bad and people cut in front of me.  However, ever since my recent vacation where I learned how to tolerate traffic that was BEYOND horrible (even though I did not drive), I learned to be more patient and grateful for the comparatively smoother traffic I have where I live!

Finally, I also learned how to stay motivated and passionate in life.  One of the things I learned was to widen my interests. I learned this primarily by reading others’ blogs, as part of the blogging community I am part of online. Reading blogs covering a variety of topics, has piqued my interests in things that I didn’t care about or focus much on before, such as cooking and travel.  I also met diverse groups of people at work and at church. Meeting these people has also helped me discover new interests and things to learn about that I have never explored before.  I also have learned how to look to the life beyond the grave. Because of what I have learned in church and in life, I have learned to focus on a.) eternal rewards (i.e heaven) and b.) leaving a positive legacy for future generations more. This focus has motivated me to do the best I can in almost every aspect of my life. I want to leave this world knowing that I contributed something of value to it, and that I loved others as the valuable beings they are.

Overall, though these past five years have gone by so fast, I have learned so much. I can honestly say that I am a different person than the one five years ago. In the future, I want to continue to grow as a person and continue to live a positive legacy for those around me.

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On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

On Narcissism

Have you ever wondered what some of the root causes of your broken or failed relationships are? I have, and I think it is useful to know because if we know what is ultimately causing destruction in most of the broken relationships we find ourselves entangled in, we could begin the process of repairing and restoring at least some of them.  I have found that most of the broken relationships that I have been in, or have witnessed, have been caused, at least in part, due to one or both parties’ selfishness.  Selfishness is the very nucleus of narcissistic behaviors, which then cause the other parties’ needs not to even be considered or met.  Narcissism is a big problem in much of the world. Some may even submit that the president of my country has problems with narcissistic behaviors and attitudes.  However, I think narcissism not only affects leaders of countries, but even ordinary people as well. Also, the majority of humanity has some issues at some times with narcissistic attitudes or behaviors as well.

In order to understand why narcissism is so bad and how to combat it, we must first understand what it even is.  According to the Cambridge English dictionary, narcissism can be defined by, “too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities.”   1)  According to the Mayo Clinic and the DSM V criteria, some of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (i.e  an illness characterized by excessive interest in self) are: a.) Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance b.) Having a constant need for admiration and entitlement.  c) Having an arrogant, boastful, and pretentious way of behaving. d ) an unwillingness or inability to look to the needs and desires of others.  (2). All in all, narcissistic people worship themselves. They think they are gods, and most important in the whole universe.  Because all of us are humans, we all sin (do wrong morally) at least on occasion and thus have struggles with some aspects of narcissism, though probably not enough to have the illness! Though it may seem that narcissistic people have too much self-confidence, I have read and heard that most of them, in fact, have little or no confidence in themselves whatsoever. When something really breaks their spirit, they most likely will have a complete mental breakdown.  However, in order to protect themselves from this, they cover themselves by presenting in an arrogant and often, belittling, attitude towards others. Though not many people are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or even meet all the necessary criteria for it, the narcissistic mindset is becoming more and more prevalent in our worldly culture, and it is destroying relationships all around us.

When we have even a little of a narcissistic mindset, this attitude produces callousness in our heart. When we think of ourselves, to the exclusion of any other people, we eventually stop caring about the needs around us.  I have found this mindset prevalent when people talk about the poor around us.  They say, “ I would love to donate money to those in need, but I need to take care of myself and my family first.” To them, I would say, “Why can’t you do both?”  Of course, providing for one’s family is essential and probably more important than caring for those you may not know, however, we are also called to donate money to those who need it.  This self-centered mindset can also present itself at work with our co-workers.  For instance, we want to take a break and catch up with a co-worker and friend who we haven’t seen in a week. However, there is another co-worker who feels overwhelmed in her work.  A self-centered mindset would ignore the co-worker feeling overwhelmed for our own desire to talk to our friend.  However, a selfless, caring mindset would sacrifice our desires in order to help a stressed-out co-worker in need.  Also, a narcissistic mindset ultimately hurts others, especially those who are suffering or in need, because it is apathetic to them.  Your own needs trumps others’ needs, creating a relationship where your needs are full, while the others’ are lacking. This creates both friction and an abandoning both of the relationship and that person’s value to you. If we become clinically narcissistic (i.e  having the disorder/illness), this mindset will ultimately hurt and destroy ourselves because it will break off our connections with others.  People will not want to be with us willingly in relationships, and you will fail to see the value and depth in a person.  Narcissism ultimately results in deep loneliness and rejection.

Because of the harms of a narcissistic mindset, we must learn how to combat it in ourselves. One of the most effective ways I have found in combating a narcissistic mindset is to practice gratitude.  For me, when I write or say my prayers, I include at least three things that I am thankful for that day. Other people I know have created a gratitude jar, of all the things that they are most thankful for. Even writing thank-you notes to those people who have most positively affected our lives can be helpful in cultivating an appreciative attitude towards others.  Another effective way to combat narcissism is to live to serve others. Always ask yourself, “How can I serve today?” For instance, if you are married with children, ask yourself, “How can I help my spouse feel loved and appreciated by me? How can I help my spouse be a better husband/wife? How can I help my children to be loved and a better person? How can I cultivate a grateful and joy-filled attitude towards the world around them?”  This servant mindset demands we look at others’ needs as more important than our own. Yes, there is a time for self-care when things get too overwhelming and stressful for us.  Sometimes, we do need to fill ourselves so that we have more to give to others. However, as a general rule, we should look to serve and help others without expectation of return.  Some people may be afraid to serve others because they think they may be taken advantage of by some. While that does happen, when we trust that our good will be rewarded, even if not this side of eternity, and that we are doing the right thing for some higher cause, we will not hesitate to reach out to help others.  Because people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa thought of others before themselves, they changed the world for the better. They created, at least, awareness that each human being should be treasured or loved, regardless of their social status or income, or any other human identifier.
Thus, a narcissistic mindset is excessive admiration and thought for oneself to the point of self-worship. This attitude can harm others because it devalues and discounts them and their needs. This attitude also harms the person with this mindset because it produces a spirit of callousness and apathy within their heart for others, especially many of those who have suffered because of their self-centered behaviors, and  this mindset ultimately ruins all their relationships.  However, when we are vigilant to combat narcissism  in ourselves and become selfless instead, we are then free to love and serve others with joy and contentment, both for ourselves and for others.

 

 

 

 

Sources:  1) English Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed August 5, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/narcissism

2) Mayo Clinic Staff. (November 18, 2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

What I Learned From My Vacation : July 2018 edition

You may have wondered why my posts suddenly stopped and why there hasn’t been new material recently.  Well, I was visiting relatives, some of them I hadn’t seen in eight years! It was a good vacation, but not without caveats along the way.   As on my vacation last year, I learned many valuable life lessons that I would like to share today:

  1. Be grateful for what you have. You never know when they will be taken from you.—This is the number one lesson I learned on this journey. Before I went on vacation, I had over-idealized how things would be like in general. I was so stressed at work and in life, in general, that I had forgotten to treasure what God had given to me. One of the things I had to deal with during part of my trip was the lack of water to take a shower.  My family and I were in a boat where the water supply was scarce. To say I was relieved when we arrived at a hotel a couple days later with good, running water was an understatement!  Another thing that happened was that everyone in my family got sick for at least part of the trip.  I vomited twice and had a couple bouts of diarrhea.  I also got sick yesterday after coming home from the trip, but am much better today, and will learn to not to take good health for granted anymore.  I also am learning to value the time that I spend with loved ones and not to take their presence or kindness for granted.  Before this vacation, I was grateful for my aunt, but it really didn’t sink into my mind how much she had done for my family and me until she got very sick on this trip.  She sacrificed everything she could for us so that we could stay in her house during some part of our vacation together.  She made sure we had enough food and supplies to feel at home, and the continued to think of us even when she was not feeling well physically.  Finally, I have to say, to my shame, that before this vacation, I used to get very upset and impatient with traffic jams and slow drivers.  When I was on vacation, in the place where many of my relatives live, the traffic was so bad that it doesn’t even compare to some of the traffic jams where I live! I remember on my vacation, one of the traffic jams was so bad that my family and I were sitting in traffic in the same spot for 15 minutes before we even moved!
  2. Let go of the things that hinder you from being the best you can be.—Along with being more grateful, I also learned to let go of certain things that had hindered me from being my best. I had to decide not to be so upset at certain things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to or how I expected it to be.  For instance, I had to adjust to the conditions of the boat we were in, even though it may have been less than ideal.  Also, on the last full day of our trip, I had to let go of the desire to shop more because most of my family needed rest and time to pack. If I got upset, then I would have certainly made things worse than it was. I also had to let go of the expectation that I would be able to see everything on our vacation because of the time it took to get to certain places, complicated further by unpredictable traffic jams.  When I was able to let go of my expectations and just go with the flow, so to speak, I found that I felt much freer and more at peace with things.
  3. Others need our love. Love generously and without reproach.– Finally, one of the things I learned on my vacation was how much other people need our love and how we should love generously without reproach. Sometimes, I had gotten weary of doing good, especially to those who I think are rude on purpose and don’t have care or consideration for other people other than themselves.  However, I have learned that they are some of the people that need my love the most.  I found that when I love others generously and without expectation, that people are more receptive to what I have to say and offer.   I learned that when I, or others, showed love and care to those who needed it the most, that it often alleviated whatever suffering and stress that they were going through at the time. For instance, I had had a very tough time learning to snorkel (and I still can’t do it right!), but when the tour guide helped me through this and was patient with me, he helped me alleviate some of the stress I had with learning something  I wasn’t good at.  I was even able to laugh with him!  Also, initially I was very upset at someone on one of the flights I was in because they had inconvenienced my whole family with their self-centeredness.  However, by the end of the flight, I learned to look at them with more compassion, even though I didn’t know what they were going through. Also, when my family and I helped my aunt with several things, she seemed to feel more at peace and less stressed.

These are the main things that I learned while on my journey this year.  Though I was gone for more than a few days, I never stopped learning, and I continue to learn today.  Overall, this vacation will change some parts of my life for the better, and for that I am grateful.

How to Give Hope to the Hurting

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you or someone you love is in a crisis, please feel free to call -1-800-273-8255 (the Lifeline). Someone there can give you the help that is needed. Also, triggers for mentions of suicide.

 

In the past few days, many of you have heard about the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. It has been confirmed by various sources that they died by suicide. However, they are not the only ones who have struggled with depression and feelings of hopelessness in their lives. In fact, suicide rates in the U.S have gone up 30% since 1999, and 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016. (1). In fact, many people I know, myself included, have struggled with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. However, I found hope in my life in God and in the fact that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have also found that there are many people around us that need hope, and some –even motivation to live!  The good news is that, we can help them find hope in their lives and maybe even save some lives!

Here is what I found from my own life experiences that have helped others (and me) find hope in our lives:

One of the most effective ways I found that is effective in helping those who are hurting find hope in their lives again is to speak encouragement into their lives.  One way to do this is to offer hope-filled words to those who are hurting or stressed. We can offer just the right words for the person’s situation. For instance, when my manager Chris* (*=not his real name) was stressed, I gave him a note that had a Bible verse about rest for the weary soul. I think it was Matthew 28:20 (KJV), which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He really seemed to appreciate the note.  Also, when I was upset and felt despairing of life, my friend Veronica* (*=not her real name) spoke encouraging words into my life as well.  Though I don’t remember exactly what she said, I do remember that after she talked to me, I felt much better and more determined than ever to better my life.  When we lack this encouragement, we will not have as much motivation to persevere in our lives, and can even become cynical and bitter of the people and the world around us. I remember when I felt discouraged and felt that no one was there to emotionally support me, that I became paranoid of the world around me and felt unmotivated and ready to give up on life.

Another way we can speak encouragement into others’ lives is to give praise to people when they do something good. Don’t do this just to flatter them or to manipulate them. This will only serve to make them bitter and cynical in the future, because your motivations will eventually be found out!  However, when you genuinely praise and appreciate someone for the good they do, you create a spark in their heart and their eyes often light up. When my co-worker *Ted got complimented by a customer, I knew he genuinely appreciated the gesture because of how excited and happy his voice was when he related the story of how the customer said that he should be rewarded for his good customer service to them.  When I told several of my managers several months ago how much the opportunity they gave me to be employed full-time there meant to me, they felt genuinely appreciated and loved in a way most of them never have been before.  When people lack this type of encouragement in their lives, they feel nothing they do is ever good enough, so they eventually stop giving their best efforts.  They feel like their hard work is done for naught.  If someone both lacks this encouragement and is constantly being belittled and criticized, he or she can spiral into a deep, dark depression. This lack of encouragement can even lead him or her to self-injure or, worse yet, commit suicide.

Another way we can offer hope to those who are hurting is to offer them practical helps.  If the person that is hurting emotionally is also sick or bed bound, just offering to spend quality time with them will mean a lot.  Also, if possible or necessary, help them with basic household chores to let them know that they are not alone and to help their home to be kept up. Of course, also speak encouraging words into their lives. Let them know that you value them and that they are loved. Let them know that they are not alone, even if it seems that way to them.

If the person is hurting because he or she is stressed and/or anxious, we can offer hope by removing them, if possible, away from the stressful situation. For instance, if a family member is making a person stressed, suggest they spend some time away from them, whether it is at another location or even just in separate rooms of the house, until they are ready to deal with the source of the stress again.  Also, we can offer to be there for them in the stress. Your presence should help them feel less alone in their fears and stresses.  You can also offer to pray for them, if they are religious. We can also be an outlet for them to be able to vent and talk about their stress and fears. When you want to be an outlet, there are some important things to keep in mind. 1) Don’t judge them. Judging someone will only make their stress and anxiety worse, and won’t help the situation at all. Moreover, they will, most likely, shut down immediately.  2) Also, listen attentively to their concerns. This will show that you care about them.  3) Don’t offer to “fix” things (i.e  give unsolicited advice). Sometimes, all people want is for you to listen and affirm them.  4) Affirm who they are as a person. This does not mean you have to affirm their behaviors, but you do need to let them know that there is hope for them and that you value them.

One final way we can offer hope to the hurting is through our own example, mainly having a joy-filled, eternal perspective on life. By focusing on our legacy and being motivated on something that will last a long time, you can inspire others to live hope-filled lives as well. Don’t focus on things that won’t last, such as money, material things, fame, or outer appearances. However, focus more on things that will last forever—such as God (if you are religious), the legacy you leave to the next generation, your relationships with others, and who you are inside.  By focusing on things that will impact your legacy to the next generations, rather than just things that will be gone when you die, it will give you a bigger perspective on life and will give you more motivation and hope for the future.  We can then teach this principle to others, giving them hope as well, especially when they are looking for it themselves.

When we help others find hope through our encouraging words, through coming alongside them and helping them in more practical ways, and by inspiring others through our hope-filled, larger perspective on life, we can help heal a broken world.  There is always hope when you are alive, and you can make a positive difference in others’ lives by how we live every day.

Source: 1) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  (June 7, 2018). Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html.

Effects of Bullying

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about the author or any other bullying survivors  Triggers for talk of abuse, references to suicidal thoughts, and talk of bullying.

Bullying can impact almost anyone, regardless of any human identifier, though it is more likely to happen to those that society perceives as “different” or “inferior” in some way.  According to the website, StopBullying.gov, from about 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 students in the United States has experienced bullying (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying).  Unfortunately, I am part of these statistics, having been bullied at school since the third grade until about the ninth grade, though there were several incidents of more sporadic bullying later as well, in my life.  Bullying has many forms, including verbal abuse and taunts, social exclusion, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other related abuses.  The effects of bullying can be devastating and life-altering for the survivor of such behavior.  People experience bullying and are affected by this demoralizing behavior in different ways and in different degrees. No two people have exactly the same bullying experiences in their lives. However, many of them share similar effects.

However, this is my story of how being bullied for years has impacted me personally. I share these three major effects of being bullied, not so people feel sorry for me, but so that people will realize the gravity of this demoralizing behavior and that more people will not have to experience what I went through.

Effect#1 of me being bullied—Low self-esteem/insecurity

In third grade up to eighth grade, I was regularly teased and mocked because of the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, and even how I looked like on the outside.  I don’t remember one classmate or teacher at that time tell me that I was “beautiful.”  Some of them even wanted to “re-make” me into their image of what they thought was acceptable, not accepting the way I was made or looked like.  To add to this torment, I did not feel very close to any of my peers during that time.  Some people would pretend to be friends with me, only to have them callously “reject” me later.

As a result of this torment that I experienced during my childhood years in school, I have struggled (and still struggle) immensely with insecurity and low self-esteem.  For instance, when I get criticized or put down (especially harshly) , even by strangers, I often get a sense of discouragement and hurt.  It’s like I am unconsciously keeping in mind the times when my classmates and even teachers taunted me for either my appearance or something that was a struggle for me. Like people who have been abused by family members, criticism can be especially hard to take by people who have been mercilessly bullied by peers and even authority figures in school.  We can tend to take criticism as rejection of who we are as a person, rather than something we just need to correct to become a better person.

Another result of this torment that I had experienced was the feeling that what I do is never “good enough.”  I am a tenacious person. I do not give up easily, but sometimes never feeling like you measure up to any good standards can threaten to undermine my tenacity.  I sometimes (wrongly) think, “Why even try when no one will accept you and your work anyway?”  I struggle with the concept of doing good just because it’s the “right thing to do” sometimes, because I feel that if we are not rewarded in some way and if we are not going to change anyone else’s lives for the better, then why do anything good at all? Sometimes, I felt that if I just did x then the bullying would stop and that people would love me as I was.  This is another effect of being bullied by others.

Effect#2—Fear of trusting God and others/paranoia

When I was little, I had a very trusting nature. However, people would use that to take advantage of me and hurt me for their own pleasure.  For instance, they promised if I gave them x thing, then they would be my friend. So, I did, but they just continued to belittle me or ignore me.  Because a lot of people pretended with me, and were not very honest or genuine towards me, I began to have a blanket paranoia of almost everyone around me. By high school, I was dubbed in my last year there, as “most paranoid.” Moreover, some well–meaning friends tell me to “believe the best in people,” not knowing that I have had a history of being bullied and taken advantage of by others by doing just that! However, to their credit, when I become paranoid, everyone seems evil and self-aggrandizing in my eyes, and I become cynical and bitter. I have met and talked to some abuse and bullying survivors that have had similar experiences of becoming paranoid and cynical to the world around them because of how many times they have been abused and taken for a ride, so to speak. This paranoia has also led me to sometimes have this immense fear of what people think of me and could do to me.

Effect#3—Depression

Ever since I was little, I have also struggled with depression.  Because of my experiences of people bullying me and simultaneously excluding me from their gatherings, I felt this impending sense that no one outside my family would really want to know me as a person, with both my blessings and flaws that I bring to this world.  No one wanted to know my story.  I felt alone, bored, and miserable, especially during my early teenage years. I struggled with several mental health issues that I tried to keep hidden from the outside world and deny, even to myself, that I had.  It has been said that bullying increases the risk of suicide in its victims. Yes, people have died from the torment that they endured from being bullied at school by their peers and others.  This is why the fact that there is no law against bullying is a sad indicator of what our society values more. (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying)

Healing

However, because of the supports that has been graciously provided for me through a variety of means, I am happy to say I am beginning to heal from the effects of being bullied.  However, this has taken many, many years.  I am thankful for the consistent support that I have received thus far from my friends, both near and far, for my co-workers and managers at my current job, for my mentor J, and last, but most importantly, support from my family and my God.  Because they have believed in me and encouraged me, I am slowly able to heal from the years of pain inflicted on me in the past. Though I still struggle with these effects, I have great hope that things will continue to get better for me.  If you have been bullied, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for you. If you are reading this and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline). Remember, there is always hope when you are alive.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (September 28, 2017). Facts about Bullying. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.

To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

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Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, I had written: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

I also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia