I used to think bullying is something that happens only in school, or only when you’re growing up. Turns out I was wrong. Adult bullying is nearly just as common but simply isn’t discussed as much. I didn’t realise this was the case until I was on the receiving end of it.
Initially, I didn’t even notice it. There were some sarcastic comments and some snide observations about my personality. Somehow I managed to ignore them, let them go, and not take notice. Perhaps they didn’t really get to me because they were spread out over a year or two. Then, all of a sudden, when I started to make life choices that they really didn’t agree with, the demeaning comments intensified, as did their disrespectful behaviour and spreading of rumours.
That’s when I started to realise things were getting worse. I wanted to stop it from getting even worse so I stood up for myself. I asked them to stop judging and being hurtful. I told them we should celebrate our differences because that’s what makes each one of us so beautifully unique. Most importantly, I simply said, please treat me with respect and kindness. This did not go down well.
They launched another attack on me. They spoke ill of me to others and tried to exclude me from groups. They tried to get others to turn on me. I offered, multiple times, to have a face-to-face conversation to talk this through and overcome it. They refused and continued to send hostile messages to me. That’s when I knew it had gone too far.
I started to feel anxious about checking my phone, email and social media. I got so many nasty messages I started to feel afraid that when I picked up my phone there would be another one there. I knew it was time to create some clear boundaries and I blocked them from being able to contact me.
I felt slightly better until I thought, “They know where I live. What if they show up at my door?”. Another day I picked up the post and got nervous about opening the envelopes. What if one of them contained another attack on who I am? These latter two things they hadn’t even done (at least not yet) so they weren’t even rational things to be worried about. But that’s the thing about fear. It gets inside your head.
You start to imagine all kinds of crazy scenarios because you’ve already experienced so many unexpected hurtful ones. What started with sarcasm turned into passive aggressiveness which then turned into direct attacks on my personality and my life choices. It just seemed to get worse and worse and I didn’t know where it would stop. That is why I felt afraid. Even more so after I offered to chat to resolve it and they just spat in my face. They simply wouldn’t listen and didn’t seem to care.
You play the things they’ve said, done and written in your head over and over again to the extent you start to feel like you are going crazy. You imagine all kinds of conversations in your head, from “I forgive you” to “Why are you doing this to me?”. You journal about it like mad trying to get everything out of your head so you can let it go. You talk to your friends and family about it so much that you start to feel guilty that you’re bringing such a dark cloud over your conversations. It’s awful.
But you have to keep going. You have to, somehow, find a way to not let it get to you. You can’t let them stop you from living your life and going after what you want. You can’t let them stop you from being happy. I know, easier said than done. But you have to try. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to do that.
Here are nine things that helped me to keep going.