That sounds extreme doesn't it? I never thought anyone could be bullied and suffer 'trauma' either some time after or, as is the case with me, years after. See, I've been seeing a wonderful therapist who is going through CBT with me, teaching me about my social anxiety, my fear of blushing and slowly taking apart the reasons why I've struggled so much over the years with these problems.
Today was a tough session. For the first time ever I sat there and spoke about what happened in school when i was a teenager. What happened in the corridors, in the classroom, on the school bus. It hurt. It really, bloody hurt. I said I had these memories, that I can remember everything and almost every time these bullies said something, who they were and where we were, what I wore and what I was doing at the time. Normally nothing to be fair, just paying attention and minding my own business, trying to get a damn education.
So through the digging and the asking of questions my therapist looked up at me. He doesn't agree these are memories. They are so much more than that. I used the word 'flashbacks' and that's when he said this isn't just bad memories, this is trauma.
When I think of trauma I think of women who have awful births, of people who have fought wars, killed people, seen awful things in dangerous countries, of people who have come close to death in a terrible accident. Not a 26 year old woman with a good life who is a bit socially anxious and has a past, like so many people, of being bullied.
But then I thought about it. Of course it's bloody traumatic. You're 14 years old and you're scared of going to school because you're going to be humiliated (another key word we pulled out today that has so much meaning going forward) I would spend drama lessons, English lessons, french presentations anything I felt threatened by really. locked in a girls toilet cubicles. I would pray to be invisible, or for one of the boys to get sick. I just wanted to study. I just wanted to have a laugh. I just wanted to be left alone.
Those bullies had a massive impact on my teenage years. I hated myself, I really, really did and what I live with now is the mind of a scared, anxious 14 year old girl, traumatised by being humiliated in front of classes of 29 other children, on a bus where there are no exits until you or them get off. It still sounds a bit lame to say I was 'traumatised by bullying' but how many young people have taken their lives because of bullying? How truly awful does it feel to be bullied? Bloody awful I can tell you. Some people change themselves, some people don't let the bad guys win, they keep moving forward and they don't hide away. Some people are like me, they hide and they run and they avoid. They relive those moments despite them being so, so long ago they are more than memories and they continue to make you feel bad, weak, scared, anxious and worthless. To not bother trying because why would I want to humiliate myself!?
Something I came up with today was a little chant to say to myself when I struggle to walk pass teens, when I get nervous in the street, at appointments and hopefully when I meet up with people for coffee, meetings and in the future, work:
You are 26 not 14.
I am 26 and not 14. I am a woman, a wife and a mother to two young children. I have conquered fears like spiders, literally climbed a mountain, travelled trains on my own, met people I've never met before and now call friends. I'm sure as hell going to kick the shit out of this too. It won't be easy, reliving moments of intense humiliation and self hate is horrible but I will find a way to deal with it all. I will have a life, it's been too long.
I am 26 not 14.
I am 26 not 14.