Surviving Bullies, Even When You’re A Grown-Up

Many articles coming across my feeds are about children or teenagers dealing with bullying. A psychologist in my friends circle shared an article lately about how bullying follows people throughout their lives and does nearly irreparable harm. I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I know my personal experiences. My worst bullying came in pieces, whenever I was going through major life changes at 5, 9, 12, and then 22, 24, and 31.

I remember relentless ostracizing when I was a child from people at my elementary school and from at least one of the kids at Church. I prayed about whether my Church was right, and stuck with it. The bullying there stopped when I ignored it, and my testimony allowed me to see that bullying for its inanity. At school I simply stayed away from the people who hated me as much as I could. As I got older, bullying morphed and changed. I seemed to get reprieves in high school and undergrad.

In the middle of my college years (there were many of them), I served a full-time mission for my Church and some of my early companions and I did not see eye to eye. However, by the end of the experience in our training center, we could work together. While it occurred, however, I remember wondering if I was crazy because my thoughts were so different from those of the people around me. However, I was lucky to remember that I had had friends and family who loved me, my Church was/is true, and while my friends and family and I joked about our sanity levels in commonplace humor, I was reminded that not everything that was “bad” was about me. I needed more patience, and that was the start of learning a LOT about patience, and keeping under control when we all had thoughtless moments.

The most intense bullying following that time was recent. I’m grateful for the new vocabulary given by the recent articles on the topic. The vocabulary gave me tools to process what happens when people hate you, actively persecute you, and while they should, could, and ought to be your friends, the only things that you have in common are required meetings (Church) and a residential living space. Both the meetings and living space could be changed while still keeping the same Church. I did not see that initially.

I couldn’t “go home” to be away and have a breather because the people who bullied me were roommates at this point in life. I went home and couldn’t get away even in my room since one of he bullies was a room roommate. When it started, it did not help that I had moved to a cultural clash, had a hard enough time fitting in to a basic support group that unfortunately partially had to include the roommates due to Church commitments, and then started grad school and new jobs on top of it.  I learned shortly that the roommates had talked about me for months before they ever met me because I tried to plan in advance about the living situation. I was scared what was or was not said since these women were not kind behind other’s backs, either. Although I eventually removed myself from the situation, the nine-month horror story left me with degrees of PTSD for the next two years including nightmares and severe anger. Luckily, I almost have zero contact whatsoever with those bullies since I moved. I also married a man who is against all forms of bullying, and has taught me a lot about controlling responses to issues: letting stings cool down for a while before replying if a reply is necessary.

Believing in the principle of forgiveness, I did what I could think of to rid myself of my parts in the matter. All that I could think of for a while was paying the last part of my section of utilities when I was already moved out. The one bully said that she forgave me over Facebook when she received that payment. Her condescension toward me never ended in her eyes. I was never her equal in her eyes, and felt the brunt of that clearly.

For the most part I am able to leave the hurt alone excepting for posts like this. So many of the bullying articles deal with children’s conditions. No, bullying should never happen to children, and especially not in the extreme manners in which it does. Bullying is something that all adults also should chose never to do, especially when someone isn’t doing as well as others. The bullies reminded me a lot of the song, “The Pink of Perfection” from Summer Magic. They were a cliquey cohort and were masters of verbal and emotional manipulation. It felt like I was dealing with a grown up version of an after-school special, but it wasn’t fiction. Unfortunately, there was no Hailey Mills bonding moment for us. I always had to watch my back, and when I moved to a slum later that year, I was simply grateful to get away from the situation. I didn’t need the granite counter tops and dishwasher of a luxury apartment. I needed kindness, a stop to backbiting gossip, and love.

My friends from before I moved to the pretty, emotionally acidic apartment were more relieved than I was when I moved to the slum. No matter where I went would be better than where I was. I am grateful for the experience in that it’s helped me to mentor others who deal with horrid roommates since then. The situation wasn’t even in the same ballpark as tolerable treatment, and I’ve learned more survival skills and to stand up for my personal wellness. The Church support base came as I found my own friends, and as I proved a hard and consistent worker. When I moved to the slum, I inherited a new ward family who saved my life and helped me find a better atmosphere away from stings of vipers.

Bullying is a form of abuse. Abused is not tolerated. Anyone who likes being mean needs therapy. I don’t think that bullying as a topic will completely stop, but I recommend cognitive behavior therapy to those who do it. As it is, I’ve worked hard to keep living and not to drown in those awful memories. Whether or not the hero’s story line is an old one, I recognized a need and became the heroine of my story.