I received a very personal story from this woman about the bullying she experienced in her childhood. It is disturbing in that her parents are part of the bullying problem. I never thought to talk of parents as the bullies, but in this case it can happen and even be worse. This is a tough story of a tough childhood and experiences that go beyond just bullying. I will leave it at that and just share with you her story. ~Alan Eisenberg
My Parents, The Bullies
I’m not shy about sharing my opinion, but my experience is that most people will deny to their dying breath that their parents hurt them in any way. Acknowledging the truth freed me. I have been asked if I forgive my parents, but that’s not the point. I know they did the best they could considering their own terrible childhood experiences; I also know that because I was so damaged, I hurt my own children badly. I watch them struggle with their lives but know I can do nothing to help them besides apologizing for being unable to love them as they deserved. I feel sad about my childhood and sad about my parents’ and my childrens’ childhood, but too often “forgive” means it doesn’t matter, that I should forget or ignore my childhood or my children’s childhood reality. My parents were the sun, the moon and the stars to me, as I was to my own children, yet I came close to being destroyed The best I can do is try to understand them and their actions and try to live a full and life.
I went to a Catholic elementary school, grades 1-8, then to an all girl Catholic High School. I was bullied verbally, physically, emotionally, the very worst period being grades 6-8. In high school, I was mostly ignored until a few great friendships developed in 10th grade and I had friends most of the time after that. Also, I was quite smart and musically talented, which gave me positive feedback from adults and that helped. I finally found a good therapist in my early forties while I had 4 teenagers. I had had sporadic drinking problems and was vastly overweight for years and would have considered suicide had I not known what that would do to my children.
Over a period of 6 years in therapy, I learned that I had been sexually abused by my father and rejected by my mother in favor of my younger sister because of my strange behavior and avoidance of affection. And NO, at no point in my therapy did a therapist suggest that I had been sexually abused. I came to this through dreams, plus information from my younger sister who told me our father had sexually abused her. In fact, when I suggested the possibility of sexual abuse to my therapist, she reacted mildly, allowing me to pursue my thoughts and vague memories in my own time. Not until years later did she tell me that she had suspected that I’d probably had that terrible experience from when we first met, yet she never in any way indicated this to me.
There’s more. I speak of the sexual abuse as if it were the worst part of my childhood, but it was my mother’s failure to protect me from my father’s abuse plus her emotional abandonment of me when my sister was born when I was 1 year old that split me in two. A psychiatrist I once consulted for a med check was amazed that I hadn’t developed a split personality. I WAS split, but into a false self whose true self was so deeply buried in order for me to survive that I had no idea it was there until I met the therapist who accompanied me on my painful journey to access my true self. Now, at age 72, I hardly recall the person I was before age 42. She is a stranger for whom I feel great sadness.
My point: I was an attractive child, always clean and decently dressed, with no physical attribute that “brought on” the abuse that began in first grade. Rather, I realize now, I was so cut off from myself and so from others, that I made a perfect target for angry, unhappy children, the ones who need a target for their rage. I was a very strange child, but with top grades and and strong musical talents. Somehow my peers found ways to make fun of me for even the few good things I had in my life. Still, I understand how vulnerable and defenseless I must have seemed to them.
So why is it not mentioned that many children who are bullied came from homes in which they were terrorized in various ways? I believe that the bullied and bullies are often more alike than different. Once, while in eighth grade, I saw the mother of the most vicious girl in my class ( the instigator of abuses I can hardly bear to remember) come tearing into the Catholic school to scream at a nun for something she imagined had been done to her daughter . I don’t recall how that ended, but I do recall the terror on that girl’s face as her mother raged almost incoherently and I realized why that fearful girl was so cruel to me. (That didn’t help me at the time, but later it contributed to my understanding.)
I don’t know enough psychology to state that every bullied child has been badly hurt in some way in his or her own home, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect that it’s more frequent than anyone wants to believe. It’s easier to believe that you were the victim of peer bullying than the victim of your own parents. Without a good therapy experience, I would never have understood the destructive impact my parents (who were themselves abused as children) had on my life. No question, the result of years of peer bullying is PTSD, but I suggest that the bullying might not have occurred, or might have been less severe had the bullied child not been psychologically weakened by parental abandonment, addiction, and/or physical, sexual, or verbal abuse.
Twenty-five years ago I wrote a book about my journey through therapy but gave up trying to sell it when so many editors liked it but found it unpublishable because I was not a professional. Also, it was pretty intense. My husband had some therapy and we are together and happy for 52 years now.