Ode on bullying

Can I talk to you? Can I trust you. To be honest I just feel so scared. Everything scares me. The world, the knowledge that I have to be brave enough to go outside and face it, it scares me.

It is easier when I am anonymous. It has always felt safer for me to be anonymous. I like living in big, unrevealing block buildings. Thousands of other people like me. More weirdness. More others to judge. Nobody notices. People not knowing and noticing feels safe to me.

I like to run away when I notice a familiar face. I have taken parallel streets just to avoid facing familiar people. I have literally escaped. What is so scary about those that know me?

Maybe it is the expectations. Disappointing them. Knowing that they judge me. Knowing that they can see me. I am suddenly not part of cityscape anymore. I have been noticed, spotted out.

When you are anonymous, you have the invisibility coat. Nobody can hurt you because nobody cares. But suddenly you have become a person. They have noticed you and singled you out.

Thousands of eyes on you. Everybody agreeing that you deserve to be picked on. That you should be casted out. That you do not belong.

As long as you are invisible, then maybe you can still enjoy the warm feeling of being surrounded with people, imagining that you are not alone. But suddenly you are put on a spotlight and your aloneness becomes apparent not only for you, but also for those around you. It is like a signal – she will have nobody to protect her. It is safe to attack.

Bullying and feeling unsafe in the world

I am currently working on my feelings of unsafety and I am realizing how threatened I have felt my whole life.

I have been bullied, pretty much all through life. Even during my adulthood people have given me shitty treatment. I was constantly scared when going to parties and new social surroundings – what if I will be casted out and bullied again? In my mind I have always been this helpless four year old child.

My bullying started at the age of four when I moved together with my grandparents and had to move to small town. I was the new kid, easy to pick on because my mother had just moved away to another country and I found readjusting really complicated. From there on everything continued like a bad dream. I moved again, to the foreign country to live with my mother. Naturally I was again the new kid. Then I moved again and again. Altogether I moved four times and each time I had to deal with hostile kids. As if this was not enough, I also got a huge scar to my face which made me excellent laughing material even for strangers at the street.

By the age of fifteen I had seen it all. The bullying just continued and continued. I became so scared that it was obvious from my behavior and even strangers could pick it up. This how I also attracted several pedophiles who harassed me (luckily the worst it ever got was dry humping). In addition the whole situation at home with a mother who had moments of rage did not help either.

Needless to say that I have carried this fear with me for years.  For years I avoided passing my old school. Now I avoid going back home. Every time I go there I imagine someone meeting me and starting to bully me again. Even though I feel quite lonely in where I am right now, I am scared to return to my home country. Scared of those people who once bullied me telling me – I told you that you will never amount to anything. Scared of my friends giving me judgmental looks (I unfortunately chose multiple friends who were extremely judgmental of me).

Yes. I am scared of people. This is me in the beginning of solving this issue so I assume there will be more of such posts where I try to understand and reconfigure this fear.

Feeling unwanted as a distorting lens

My whole life I have felt unwanted. This feeling has been following me in life for so long that it has completely clouded my judgements about what is going around me. For instance I never entered to the relationship fully believing that these guys actually wanted to date me. I rather thought, well I could somehow trick them there, but wait until they find out who they are actually dating. Similarly, I felt major insecurity in social situations, where I would always assume that any moment now someone will ‘find out’ who I really am. That I am just pretending to be confident and having my life together.

This feeling of unwanted has also naturally motivated me to engage in series of relationships which were non-commitmental and long for guys who never had equal interest in me. The trouble is, I have real difficulty distinguishing when a guy is unavailable and when I am just based on my deep feeling of unwantedness over interpreting things. For instance I cannot to a date say if my ex boyfriend actually was serious about me and if he was only pushed away by my neediness and my beliefs that he does not love me or if he actually indeed did not love me. The same applies to a degree to my current relationship. I cannot understand if he is serious about me or not.

I have spent so long time believing that people do not care about me nor would choose me if they have a choice that well, all my life has basically been molded around this belief. The trouble is, this belief did not come from thin air. Naturally I spent years of hearing my mother telling me in various forms how I was unlovable and I spent years being bullied and casted out by my peers. These are painful memories which still seem so recent. Every time I feel somewhat left out of some social circle it feels way worse for me than for other people, because it just awakens all these old feelings again. Every time I suspect that my boyfriend never has had an intention to commit to me, it feels like I am not going to get out of this hole ever.

I am not sure how much of the healing has to come inside of me and how much of it has to actually come from changing the outside environment. I am starting to acknowledge that in fact several of the unavailable guys that I chased actually in fact did not want me. I am starting to acknowledge that my last visit to my boyfriend’s home was colored by his friends ‘testing me’ and being in general less than welcoming. I am also starting to acknowledge that many friends have forgotten me and many who I thought were friends cared very little for me to begin with. So everything feels somewhat a mix right now. I am trying to push through, but sometimes the pain is quite overwhelming.

Co-dependency from the perspective of dependant

I have thought about the topic of dependency quite a lot during the recent days, both in relation to my mother and my boyfriend. This post hence is somewhat a follow up to my previous post on martyrs.

I think it is fair to say that I and my boyfriend once formed a co-dependent relationship. He was the care-taker and I was the dependent. Today I am going to comment on the whole tango from my perspective.

See, I grew up with the knowledge that I was helpless. After all, my mother had built a solid ground for that in the hopes of keeping me dependent on her forever. In return for favors and occasional care-taking, she wanted the obedience and admiration.

I would say that very similar pattern existed between me and my boyfriend during the first years of our relationship (no there was no addiction there). He made it clear to me that he does not depend on me in any way and could leave at any point in time. This naturally pushed me towards more people-pleasing behaviors as I was desperately trying to keep him at my side. The knowledge that I am so dependent on him and he is so independent (at least so I thought) made me loath myself more. I knew I was dependent and I hated myself for this. He knew as well that I was dependent and that this gives him the freedom to dictate the terms of the relationship.

Not only was my boyfriend setting the terms of the relationship, he also had little respect for me. I was the needy one, the child, the dependent, who needed to be taken care of. This was a hassle, but had its benefits, because all kinds of problems in the relationship could be put on me. So I wallowed deeper in my dependency role thinking that with so many flaws and being so helpless, he was the only person who would ever going to want to be with me anyways.

If anybody has viewed a show named Californication then there we have a perfect example of co-dependent relationship. Many people might wonder why Karen keeps going back to Hank, but the answer is the same – she gets the sense of power from being the parent, being in control, being admired and dictating the terms. She takes pride in her role as a martyr. Hank and Karen are equally messed up, even though for the viewer, Hank might seem the dysfunctional one.

Why am I saying this – because there is a lot of empathy for co-dependents in our society. However, the dependents are seen as the seed of evil. Having been in this role myself, I would say that such an attitude sfurther reinforces the sense of shame which the dependent feels. From my own perspective, I can say that coming out of the role of dependent can be really difficult and often times your co-dependent partner is trying hard to keep you in this role through criticism, relentless offers of favors and by underlining their superior role.

Controlling through conditional love and problems in decision-making

I have a great fear of doing something wrong. I am literally mortified of making wrong decisions. In my mind there is always one right way to go and god forbid if I do not choose this one.

My fear of decision making or in general disappointing people in my life can be easily explained by the conditional caretaking that I received. Let me explain further. The goal of my life was not to disapprove my mother. As long as I conformed to her desires, I had some little emotional support. However, when my mother was disappointed, she would withdraw her love and support (threats to disown me, silent treatment etc). The knowledge that I was always just a step away from losing all the support made me people pleaser, but it also made me incapable of making my own decisions.

The worst thing that result in such a parenting was constant uncertainty. I could never be sure when I will disappoint my mother again. Furthermore, I could never be sure what the punishment will be. Sometimes my bad grades were just ignored (mother was in a good mood), sometimes they became the reason to kick me out on the street. The worst part about making mistakes was hence not the punishment but not knowing the consequences. Usually when I got a bad mark I was so stressed out the rest of the day that I could hardly focus on anything else. I had to call to my mother immediately once I got home, to just get rid of the feeling of approaching unknown danger.

So today, as well, I am most afraid of not knowing what comes. What if I make the wrong choice, what will it result in? I cannot handle insecurity at all. I am just constantly afraid that something bad is about to happen.

Now at least I can understand better as to why I am so mortally afraid of doing something wrong.

fear of enmeshment

I have been seeing nightmares lately. They are mostly the same – somebody is pushing themselves on me. I am realizing that it has become time to work on my enmeshment issues.

Many people that have had an abusive childhood suffer from both, abandonment fear and enmeshment. The only problem is that abandonment fear is much easier to notice, because well……it somehow makes more sense. It has taken me a while to understand why I cringe when my boyfriend suddenly touches me. Why I enjoy evenings on my own. It is all a consequence of having lived my whole life the way my mother wanted me to.

My childhood was all about meeting my mother’s needs. I did not have needs. Or well, if I did they were not important. In fact I did not have personality either because I was running all my decisions pass my mother. Any kind of act of not complying to her needs was met with either silent treatment, anger or rage. So I learned pretty fast to no take care of myself, but take care of my mother instead.

Unsurprisingly I have done the same in my relationships. I have tried to mold myself to a person my boyfriend wants me to be. Not to anger him. Interestingly, he has been complaining throughout the relationship that I am not in tune with his needs enough. That I am too ignorant of him.

This is probably true and untrue at the same time. I am escaping when his needs are starting to overwhelm me. On the other hand I have spent years trying to be what he wants me to be. So I have had two main strategies to deal with his needs. Unfortunately I have not had the most important strategy – saying no, instituting borders.

This is what I am currently doing and it is met……well, might I say not with the greatest excitement. I am finally becoming more independent and people in my life cannot hold me hostage anymore.

However, part of becoming independent is also working through my fear of anybody coming close. Right now every person who comes close to me is a potential abuser. I suspect that they want to dominate me and that they want to rob me of my own choices. They want to smother my personality and I would dissolve like I dissolved for 25 years with my mother.

My unconscious programming around love

My parents planted an idea in me that once you love somebody, this person will have the power to treat you like shit. Loving means being weak and letting yourself take advantage of you. This is why I never liked dogs. Part of me found it disgusting how these animals would run after their master and stay faithful even if the master was the worst asshole ever.

The message in my childhood was clear – if you love someone, they are going to hurt you. SO better not to love someone so fully. You do not want them to have all this power over you, because people…they cannot be trusted.

This message became even clearer in my therapy when I started enforcing borders. In the middle of the process I cut myself loose from my mother. Suddenly this woman who had treated me like a loyal dog my whole life showed me that she has the capacity to take me into account. The magical shift in my mother furthermore strengthened my idea that love is for weak people. I never made the connection that my mother perhaps was not fully capable of loving anyone and perhaps what made a shift in her behavior was not love but fear.

So I learned to keep my distance. Use push and pull to keep men hooked. Flirt and tease. Anything to not to let someone too close. My boyfriend saw me without borders in the beginning of our relationship. The loyal and the dedicated, doormat kind of love. The only one I knew. Long and behold, he also treated me like shit at this point. Once I finally started distancing myself from him, he began working on the relationship. So once again I took the wrong message home – there is no need to love anyone, they are just going to abuse you.

Missing your abusive parent?

I am working deeper with my abandonment fear and it has brought up quite a contradiction – namely you can think that someone is not particularly good and still be scared to death of losing them. I still harbor all the negative feelings towards my mother for putting me through emotional abuse and neglect, but I also have to acknowledge that I was constantly scared of losing her.

I was not only scared when she threatened to leave me, but also when she went for her work trips. I was scared when she came home really late. I had lost three other people – my dad, my grandfather and my grandmother. I spent my childhood worrying that I would also lose my mother.

This fear of loss is something which is extremely difficult for me to acknowledge. For the reasons I brought out earlier. How can you potentially miss and yearn for someone who is not treating you nicely? Does this make you a doormat? Are you still a valuable person or should you be ashamed of this feeling?

Surely, it is easy to answer to these questions when we are talking about a child. For a child loosing their parent is always scary. No matter how abusive this parent is. But what if you carry those feelings to adulthood? What if you are constantly scared of losing people who are not treating you particularly nicely?

Being an adult who is afraid of letting go is somewhat shameful. We have all these concepts like codependent or pushover etc. In my case, feeling like I was a pushover for my whole childhood and finally getting angry at my mother for what she had done, made it impossible for me to explore all the fear that was still related to losing her. Somehow I thought that acknowledging this part would make me weak. It would be the most shameful aspect of my growing-up. The part that I still missed and also loved my mother.

my experience with fearful-avoidant attachment

Fearful avoidant attachment pattern was the latest addition to the attachment theory and apparently describes only about 4% of people. I can quite confidently say that I have fearful avoidant attachment pattern. As I go deeper into my psyche, I am discovering more and more distortions from my childhood. My boyfriend often functions as a sounding board for that.

So the latest discovery for me was that I never believe that people can be consistently there for me. According to my boyfriend, my mother shows very little motherly instinct. Growing up with her, I got used to the fact that she can totally forget about my existence for weeks. When other parents go away for trips and miss their small children (we are talking about 4-5 year olds), then my mother does not. No, I am not exaggerating, she really does not or well, she has buried these feelings so deep that it does not even occur to her that she might. She avoided building emotional closeness with me so that she could have this freedom of not being tied to anyone else.

Avoiding this emotional closeness also meant that my mother could throw me out to the street and wait for my apology. She could go away from home and sleep somewhere else just to frighten me. So I got used to the fact that she could disappear any moment now. There was no warrantee. She did not have any strong ties with me which could not have been replaced by someone else. I was replacable as a child.

So, my habit of running after emotionally unavailable guys is completely understandable. They do avoid building this bond. These guys can disappear for months and for me this is all part of normality. This is how I imagine love. I never questioned that these unavailable guys must really love me, because questioning that would have also meant that perhaps my mother did not love me.

SO there it is, my idea of love is completely twisted.

Proud of myself

Most people around me these days have not had to fight the battles I have. They have no idea what it means to have their father yell at them for calling him father in front his colleague. They have no idea what it means to grow up with a mother who has anger issues and is neglectful.

Over last five years I have had to struggle a lot. When other people spent their money and time on exotic vacations, I was going through therapy and some pretty disturbing emotions. This is the route that the people around me will never understand. They will never understand how difficult it is to relive all of what happened in your dysfunctional childhood.

I am proud of myself exactly because I am not a drug user or being in a violent relationship. I am proud of myself because I am not on a regular basis feeling bad about myself and trying to compensate it with external validation. I am so incredibly proud over where I have come. The people around me and their healthy childhood just extenuate this fact. If I was still struggling with extremely low self-esteem and social phobia, I would never become friends or acquaintances with such people.

I know, I still have a way to go. I know I still have issues to tackle. But I can also see the immense progress I have made throughout the years. So, again, I am so proud of myself!