My Mom and Dad Bullied Me Too

When I was a kid, I was bullied at home and at school.

My mom and dad made me feel worthless. Mostly my dad ignored me. My mother, who had many of her own problems, used me as a verbal punching bag. She said I would never have any friends and that I was ruining the family. We moved all the time because my dad would constantly get fired or quit. I was always the new kid. I used to live near extended family. But with all the moves I lost touch with my favorite cousins and my grandparents.

While there were two or so people who bullied me, mostly I was ignored. No matter where I went, people either didn't like me or ignored me. It happened in place after place and summer camp after summer camp. I never knew why I was bullied and ignored, which made it worse. I knew there was something very different about me that made me a terrible person, but I didn't know how everybody else knew that.

Then my parents got divorced. It was just me and my brother. She yelled at me and he was doing drugs with his druggie friends. I only had my cat.

One day after my mother raged at me and tore down a poster from my room I took a bunch of pills and ended up in the hospital. They made me go to a therapist but I was afraid to talk because I didn't know how to talk without crying and I wasn't going to cry. It never occurred to tell anything to anyone. There wasn't anything to tell. I was worthless and everyone knew it. Why would I want to point this out? I spent the therapy time counting the tiles on the ceiling.

That's mostly what I did with the bad feelings. I numbed everything out. I did not pay attention to anything or anyone. My mind was never on where I was or what I was doing. I would be thinking about what it would be like to have a boy kiss me. I had a lot of fantasies like that. I read a ton of books and that is pretty much where I lived; inside of books. I didn't learn very much in school about math or science or geography. I still don't know how to divide except on a calculator.

I didn't know how I was feeling because there was just relentless misery. I know now that certain things made me happy, like a beautiful spring day. But I didn't know what "happy" meant. I didn't know anything about different feelings. After the divorce I would go on a bus to my dad's new home. He had a new family and although he never said I wasn't his real family anymore (he would deny that to his death) it was clear I was an outsider. He had more kids and he said they needed him more than me, so he didn't have time for me anymore. When I visited him I would get so unhappy I would steal things from a nearby store. That made me feel I was getting something I deserved. I got anorexia for a year and was teased in the shower for my ribs sticking out. Then I became a binge eater and doubled my weight. (I still struggle with that.)

Even after I grew up (getting a bit ahead of myself here) that continued. He and my stepmother stopped inviting me over for holidays because they said I was too depressed. My dad was unhappy that I wasn't meeting his needs for loving attention. Eventually he told me I was his extended relative because we didn't live together under the same roof. When I got a job he was mad that I didn't give him large sums of money because he said he needed it because he was constantly quitting or losing jobs.

My brother got out of drugs and into religion. He said that made him feel loved. I couldn't get into that.

Then (back now when I was younger) I graduated from high school and went into college. I started making friends and I had dates for the first time. I started making friends. I saw many therapists. I started figuring out what "happy" meant. I slept with many men just to feel desirable. I had always been pretty, but I had never known that. I thought my inner ugliness meant I was ugly all over. But suddenly men wanted me and I liked that feeling. I had to learn that just because they wanted me it didn't mean they wanted a relationship.

One day I was at home and I came down the stairs in the morning and I found my mother crying. She said, "I am so sorry that I treated you that way. I was so jealous. But I always loved you, I always always loved you." I hugged her but was so astounded by what she was saying that I didn't know how to react. (Later, she would deny we ever had that conversation.) But from that moment forward me healing intensified.

I would find out many MANY years later that before they got married, my mom and dad broke up for a brief time and my mother got pregnant. She was Catholic and alone in a big city. She called up my father and they got back together. This was before women in the US were allowed to have abortions. My father said he would marry her, but only if she gave up the baby for adoption. So she did. The baby looked just like me when I was a baby. She was never allowed to grieve that child and she put it in the back of her mind and never mentioned it to anyone again.

When she was six months pregnant with me, her beloved father died. By the time she had me, she had had two major losses, one of which she wasn't even allowed to grieve for. When I was a baby my dad loved the unconditional love I gave him and was a wonderful father. He loved surprising me with presents and playing with me. My mom had to watch him do that knowing she gave up her first child to be with him.

My dad's father--my grandfather--cheated on my grandmother and my grandmother's brothers ran him out of town.  My grandmother knew she had to get out of that small town and find a husband (that was all you could do as a woman back than) so she had my dad live with her parents, my great grandparents. My aunt (my father's sister) said he was treated terribly by his grandparents as he was growing up. Why? Because he looked like his unfaithful father. He never had anyone love him. By the time his mother came back with a husband when he was 14, he was too mad at her to come live with her. He just demanded money. To him, money was love, and other people were put on earth to meet his needs.

He had a very bad childhood, but instead of trying to get over it he spent all his time getting mad at other people for things long forgotten. He never tried to change his self-centered ways. [He died a poor, angry, resentful man. While I grieved for the "daddy" I had when I was little, I do not grieve the person he became.]

When I was a junior in college I met a man whom I lived with and dated for five years. He was the first person in the world who ever gave me unconditional love. He never yelled at me. He was always there for me. He loved me and I loved him. During that five years, I did a lot of healing. I made other friends. I found out I had a great wit, that I was fun to be around, that I was talented in many ways, and a lot of people liked being around me. But I didn't know how to be around them. I had never been around people so I didn't know how to act.

It took me a very long time to learn how to be appropriately social with people at home and work. I ended up losing many jobs because I just didn't know you shouldn't always be honest, like when people ask how they look in a certain dress, you're not supposed to say, "That's a terrible color on you." I was so focused on the work (which I was good at) that I didn't know how to play politics. I made many errors in being around people, some of which were so bad I was even able to laugh at them later. But I learned.

It took me many, many years to piece together what happened, why people never liked me. I am still putting parts of the puzzle together. What had I done or been that was so invisible to me that made people dislike, bully, or ignore me?

I was in my 30's when I discovered I was not bad. I had just been afraid of people--so afraid because having been around my mother I never knew when someone would start screaming at me. I could never trust anyone. When I was a kid I couldn't look people in the eyes. I moved slowly and sadly. I didn't say "hi" to anyone. I ignored them because I was afraid.

But they all thought I was being haughty and they assumed I felt I was better than everyone else. If someone ignores you, you ignore them. And of course some kids have their eye out for those who are scared, lack confidence, or are always alone. I still feel a lot of shame sometimes, unless I am careful to remind myself where that came from. I must remind myself that just because you feel something, that doesn't make it true.

Today I am friends with people who were probably very popular in school--for all I know. Once you graduate, the whole way of separating people into certain groups (popular, nerds, etc.) vanishes. It is gone. Something that is so influential when you are young and a young adult doesn't mean SQUAT once you get out of school. No one cares anymore. No one even KNOWs what you were in school, nor do they care. They only care what you are like now. I wish I could get young people to understand that. I could have died because no one told me the things that seemed so important back then were really totally unimportant.

I talked before about meeting a man and having a healing relationship. We parted after 5 years, but were still very very good friends until about three years after we both married other people. I still loved him as a friend (and always will) but his wife thought having a friendship with a former girlfriend was too strange. She was too threatened.

But I did have other relationships and married someone who loved me for me. We are still together after 20 years and we are best friends. He has issues from his childhood like me, and sometimes we don't mesh together. But most of the time we do.

Having the childhood that I had formed me in many ways that I am still trying to get over. I still fear people, but I can suppress it and make friends. I have found things I love to do and I found several careers that were just right for me. I even became very famous for my job, someone whose name you might even know if you ran in certain circles. That is because I turned around and used all this knowledge to help others.

I spent all this time writing this (I am glad if you are still with me!!) to tell you that things do get better, and no matter how bullied you can be at home or school you can live a very happy life and learn to love yourself (if you have trouble with that). Some of it will always stick with me; for example I am still trying to overcome binge eating and feeling comfortable in groups. It is much easier for me to be with people one on one. 

But I wouldn't be who I was today had it not all happened. And I would not have been able to help the many hundreds of thousands--perhaps even a million--other people whom I have been able to help. Sometimes I wish I could have lived a "normal" life. But helping others has given it meaning.

The people I am most thankful to have helped are children who live with parents like mine. I know when I do die that I was here for some kind of purpose, and that the suffering I did had some meaning to it.

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