She looked beautiful as she sat across the table from me at one of my favorite, swanky restaurants. It was a bright and sunny Friday, so my wife, Nicole, and I decided to splurge on an expensive lunch date. We chatted about the kids, how our days were going so far, work...the typical. Our waitress had a lovely and rather bubbly personality. She spent a little more time with us than she did with her other patrons, mainly because she and I shared some friendly banter back-n-forth. But as we bantered, I could feel it happening: nervousness; anxiety; shame...these life-long, antagonistic acquaintances of mine had joined our table for two. Our waitress walked away, certainly unaware of what was happening. Because of therapy, I've learned to identify and face whatever it is that I might be feeling:
Scott: "She was making fun of me."
Nicole: "What are you talking about?"
Scott: "Our waitress...she was making fun of me."
Nicole: "What are you talking about? She was having fun with you."
Scott: "Really? Are you sure? (Nicole nods) Ok. I'm ok."
This is just one small example of my conditioned mind. But what else should I expect? Why would our waitress not be laughing at me or think negative things about me? After years...decades...of being emotionally abused; being called names to my face and behind my back many times throughout the day; the whispers in the hallways; walking into classrooms with lies written about me across chalkboards and all over classroom desks; turning the other cheek while other classmates gawked at me, a senior, being physically harassed and punched by a freshman football player in the P.E. locker room; experiencing exclusion and feeling shame that I must be some sort of freak that people would actually treat me that way...this is just the way I believed life was designed for me. As a result, I started to feel ashamed of myself, early on....and I never understood the reason why...until recently. And just like so many others who have been emotionally traumatized, the shame that came from bullying broke me. I was alone. But it turns out...as I now know it...I wasn't alone, afterall. In Dr. Ellen Walser deLara's book, Bullying Scars, even Lady Gaga is quoted as saying:
"I was called really horrible, profane names...I was so embarrassed all the time. I was so ashamed of who I was....when certain things are said to you over and over again as you're growing up, it stays with you and you wonder if they're true."
Aside from shame and embarrassment, the following are other symptoms of those who have been identified with Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome (also taken from Bullying Scars):
1. Self-Esteem Issues: "I virtually have no confidence in myself."
2. Problems Trusting Others: "I constantly worry that others are judging me."
3. Problems in Relationships: "You begin thinking you don't deserve any type of good relationship."
4. People Pleasing: "I feel my best defense is to blend in by pleasing others."
5. Substance Abuse: "I drink a lot to help me with anxiety I feel from past bullying."
6. Emotional Problems: "Bullying has destroyed my spirit."
7. Feelings of Anger: "I feel angry with myself."
8. Body Issues: "I've tried changing physically so that I'm never bullied again."
9. Positive Outcomes: "I have more compassion and empathy than the average person; and I am inspired to do good with my life as a result of being bullied."
Just like so many others who have been bullied, I've experienced all of these symptoms at some point in my life. Just like countless stories as told throughout Dr. deLara's book, I didn't know that I had the power to defend myself; nor did I feel like I had anyone to talk to about the emotional trauma from which I suffered...even into adulthood. And just like so many others, I hid. I hid the hurt...I hid the shame. And I kept the pain hidden until I met one of the best friends I ever had...someone who had become like a brother to me; and I to him.
I'll share more about my journey of healing in my next blog entry, but until then, live magnificently and love each other well!