Life is definitely a journey and the roads to your destination are never clearly lit and marked. Sometimes you take a left but you should have turned right. But one thing that is always consistent and clear is that life is always going to continue to move forward. It is not always the future that we should be prepared for, it is also the past. I hear it all the time “He was so young when that happened. He won’t remember it” but good or bad, a child memory retention is better than you think. A child’s perception of events is as important as what actually occurred.
These retained suppressed memories have the power to shape you in your teenage, adult or even senior years, sometimes sub-consciously. For instance, you can be fine throughout your high school years and then in college, a trigger occurs while you are at the library. Maybe when you were young, the library is where you went to hide from someone bullying you because the Library would be the last place he/she would be. Point is, triggers will happen but if they can be recognized, the effects can be controlled.
Some studies have even shown that those who were bullied as children tend to have a greater risk of being bullied in their adult lives. So when you have been a victim of bullying, your guard is always up against being attacked or criticized. You always seem to question who you can trust. The anticipation and fear usually remain so you naturally will be ready for the next incident to occur. This combination of feelings can make it difficult to focus, which may lead to low self-esteem. Low self-esteem makes it very hard to develop fruitful and trusting relationships.
When you have these visits from the past that are associated with the bullying you endured, your mind snaps into defense mode. Never fails to usually happens when it is inconvenient like being around s group of peers. As a coping mechanism, you leave or avoid everyone. But then that makes you look anti-social, mean, crazy or whatever can be defined in someone’s mind. Then not only do you avoid your peers, but they also avoid you. It is a never ending cycle and you end up being alone all the time.
Those who avoid, distance themselves from everyone
It is very possible that you can develop psychiatric disorders that may need treatment as an adult but often it is difficult to engage the “go” lever in your mind to get it. I get it, it makes sense. If you experience something traumatic like bullying, naturally you want to avoid thinking about it and going to places that remind you of it but there is a really good chance that you can move past it.
A good therapist re-framing what has happened is a form of exposure therapy that is a lot like when someone says “face your fears to overcome them”. The general idea is to expose yourself in small doses with someone there to support. Along the way, you can learn a lot of valuable information like recognizing the flags to situations that will lead you down the depressing path. Research has shown that maintaining strong social ties with friends and family members is crucial to good mental health but you go to learn to pull the guard down first. Your wounds will not heal unless you address them.
Remember, you didn’t choose what happened to you and being bullied IS NOT a rite of passage or just a part of being a child and growing up.