The Mighty Logo

How My Psychiatrist Helped Me Understand I Was Actually Being Bullied

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I didn’t know what bullying looked like when I was young. I thought it had to be the big guy stealing your lunch or the person who publicly humiliates you.

What I’ve found out, though, is that it often happens in subtler ways. I’ve been working with my psychiatrist to recall my childhood experiences and reflect on them. After working through layers of denial, I realized I was being bullied by my own friends and teachers. It wasn’t the mean boy stealing my lunch; it was my best friend kicking me when I was down, it was her yelling at me when I cried. Being bullied was friends daring me to do things they knew I would get in trouble for. It was when they called me a “crybaby” and a “prude.”

My bullies were the teachers who told me I wasn’t good enough. It was the teachers who sent me to my desk for talking during reading time. She told me to put my head down and then yelled at me for crying. What she didn’t know is that I was telling my best friend to stop punching me.

Before I reached high school, each of those instances contributed to the way I saw myself. It became the norm. I accepted the role of the victim, without knowing it. For over a decade, I simmered in fear, distrust, paranoia and a harsh understanding of myself. Those things are still part of my everyday life because it was how I learned my place in the world around me. It created how I believed my “self” to be. And now, at 23, I am finally beginning to break that identity down.

Bullying isn’t always the big, mean boy tripping you in the hallway or the popular girl making fun of your hair. Sometimes it is your best friends, your family, your teachers — the people who are supposed to protect and support you.

Photo by Aliaksei Lepik on Unsplash

Originally published: December 30, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home