I’m a 34 year old woman. I have a career I am proud of, I have values that I stand by, I think I am a good friend, and I am plagued by insecurity stemming from my childhood. The fact that I “think” I’m a good friend rather than knowing is just one example of this.
It is amazing how profound the impact of childhood bullying can be, and continues to be, for an adult woman.
I still don’t know what was or is wrong with me. Why I was friends with some kids in primary school and suddenly I wasn’t. Why my young “friends” literally ran away from me one recess as a way to de-friend me. On another occasion I had a peer put “itching powder” down my back and the teacher had to offer me a shower in the teacher’s quarters to relieve the itch. It was embarrassing to say the least. I still don’t know my crime. I was maybe eight years old.
What I do know is that the internal scars that experience created are embedded in me, and have impacted on every aspect of my life. I lived in torture through the rest of primary school. I was a painfully shy girl in high school who didn’t try to make friends as, well, who would want me? I remember doing a questionnaire in class in Year 8 where you had to say how many friends you had. I wrote 1 – I was nothing if not honest – and the girl next to me noticed and said she was my friend. Can you imagine being that girl? Mortified at her own answer, embarrassed someone had noticed, proud to be able to cross out the 1 and put a 2. That second friend changed schools shortly after.
I survived high school. I still don’t know how. In all honesty, it is a minor miracle. More torture. More horrific girls. More insecurities developed. Add in hormones. Significant depression. Thoughts of wishing I could just run through the glass door front entrance of the school and forget everything. To not have to fight any more. And yet I somehow survived.
Listen to Mamamia Out Loud: Do parents have to crack down on teens?
I got to University and was overwhelmed by actually meeting nice people and forming friendships. For whatever reason, my depression got worse. I developed bulimia, started self-harming and having thoughts of ending my life. I somehow had some insight and sought the help of the Uni’s free counselling service. They made me sign a contract that said I wouldn’t kill myself. All I saw was that to them I was a liability, they didn’t care about me but wanted to make sure I wasn’t detrimental to the Uni’s reputation.
I went to my GP and asked for an antidepressant. Bizarrely, and honestly reflecting my mental state, I was worried she would say no. Of course she didn’t. I filled the prescription and had to hide the box secretly in my room. My family (I thought) had no idea of my torment.
My GP was my saviour. I couldn’t tolerate the meds and had to stop them. She suggested I see a private psychologist but I couldn’t afford it, and was aware that one of my siblings was seeing the same person. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I agreed to continue seeing my GP. She saw me every week for a double appointment. I apologized every time for taking up her valuable time that was surely better spent on someone else. Those appointments saved my life.
I dropped out of Uni. I worked in retail and travelled a bit. Somehow I recovered. I made great friends and I started a career in a caring profession in my bid to help others who might be as desperate as I was as a young adult.