Do you know what it feels like to be bullied?
Today was National Day of Action Against Bullying in Australia. Happiness Weekly has acknowledged various ways we can take action to stop bullying: Be proactive against bullying and Being conscious of our words and how they affect others – but one thing which has been largely overlooked online is how it actually feels to be bullied. This blog is posted to raise awareness of how it feels to be bullied in the hope of understanding for victims and second thoughts for perpetrators.
To acknowledge the Day, Happiness Weekly is giving an inside account of what it feels like to be bullied – because it’s not a checklist of what happens to people who are being bullied but it’s what goes on inside when we experience bullying that affects us. It’s what the victim feels as a result of bullying that starts them thinking and causes them to react – whether externally by lashing out at the bullies or internally, leading to self-harm and bullycide.
When you search online about bullying, it seems there are a series of resources on how to cope once it’s happened, how to help people when we see it happening, stories of incidences that have taken place and even what to look for in order to know we’re being bullied. What is more difficult to find is an account of what is actually feels like for the person to be bullied.
It’s been fifteen years since I was bullied in high school – but I remember how I felt like it happened yesterday. It affected me really badly back then but now it is what brings me great empathy to other victims and is what fuels my passion to write Happiness Weekly and continue to campaign against bullying and domestic violence.
When I consider how I felt when I was bullied – not only in the schoolyard, but I experienced it at the beginning of my career at work, and recently in a relationship (domestic violence is bullying) – despite the distance in years between each scenario, my feelings and responses were very similar.
So – how does it feel to be bullied?
In two words I felt: helpless and worthless.
It made me feel physically sick to be me. I wanted to crawl out of my body and get as far away from myself as possible. I naturally internalise as a way of coping with things, which meant I felt completely responsible for every situation I found myself in. I was riddled with self-doubt. I was scared. I felt violated. I felt completely unprotected – constantly watching my back for what was going to happen next. I felt as though there was something wrong with me and that still impacts me and my decisions I make today.
When I was bullied I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it because I didn’t want to be seen as causing trouble. I was also concerned that the bullies would be punished and it would make things worse. So I went home and withdrew. Day in and day out I’d write – but I wouldn’t keep a diary, because I didn’t want anyone to ever find it, so I wrote stories that danced around what was happening to me and my character would respond in the way I wish I could. That was my way of coping.
Being bullied is one of the worst things that can happen to you because you are the witness to your life story. You not only see everything happening to you in real-time like a movie, but you feel it all as well. It’s a very really fact that bullying causes depression. It leaves you feeling completely humiliated about who you are – right to the core.
You look into the mirror for comfort and all you see in the reflection is self-hatred for being in that situation – and the words and flashbacks repeat on you. The high level of anxiety when you’re venturing into any territory where you may have further confrontation with the bullies is indescribable. You may suffer panic attacks and other aches and pains that are associated with the emotional trauma you are experiencing.
In my experience I was exhausted – day in and day out. All I wanted to do was sleep. When I would sleep, I would nightmare. When I would wake, I’d be physically sick. I was so emotionally disturbed from what was happening to me. My grades at school started to slip because of my poor concentration and intermittently-functioning memory. The constant pressure and strain certainly takes its toll and subsequently the dropping grades gave me another reason not to like myself. I started to become one of the bullies. I couldn’t give myself a break. And so the cycle got worse, the more they hated me, the more I hated myself.
Any time alone I would spend crying – sometimes I thought I’d drown in my own tears. When I would finally leave my house to go shopping or out with friends, I was constantly on edge. I almost felt paranoid, constantly watching my back.
I started to withdraw from social circles, isolating myself from any possibility of further pain, upset or humiliation – just for being me. My process for self-preservation was, and still is, avoidance from all bullies. I took days off school and work to avoid my bullies. Eventually I left the school and I resigned from the job.
The emotional damage bullies cause reaches straight into our soul and forces us not to want to go forward with life. Every day feels the same. You know that saying “When you’re going through hell – keep going”? Well that doesn’t apply, because when you are being bullied you feel as though there’s no way out and this is how it will always be. Depending how bad it is, the bullies seem to multiply and spread even when you try to get away – and this is exactly what happened to the gorgeous Amanda Todd and how she would have felt. It’s also what happens in the case of cyber bullying – and this is what Charlotte Dawson would have experienced. When you’re being bullied it just feels like the more of them there are, the less of you there is and the less fight power you have, not only to defend yourself but to keep going as they continue to encroach on your boundaries and values while you’re week.
Human beings by nature are fight or flight creatures. In my experience with bullying, this is where I discovered what kind of creature I was. It’s not a bad thing to know how you respond to situations like this for your own self-awareness. It turns out – not surprisingly from my description – that I’m flight. I internalise. I try to escape. I hide. I do almost whatever it takes to avoid going through any scenario where I’m bullied.
Looking back on my experiences with bullying it has made me self-aware. It made me realise that your response is a choice – I’m a survivor not a victim.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone is also entitled to security, safety, happiness, freedom and wellbeing. When someone experiences bullying and feels under constant attack, it’s easy to swap your rose-coloured glasses for ones tainted with self-doubt and paranoia. You start looking for hidden messages in what people are saying to you: “Did they mean that in a good way or a bad way?”
Now you know what it feels like to be bullied … will you think twice before you hurt someone?
If you are being bullied and need support, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14.
Position Statement: Happiness Weekly supports the introduction of anti-bullying laws, along with other laws enforced to protect people from bullying, violence and harassment. However, these laws need to be absolutely fool-proof, with procedures to follow rather than boxes to be ticked, so the right people are protected and it can’t be used as another tactic for further harassment.
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