I Know There Is Something Wrong

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I don’t want to sound… paranoid, but I know there is something wrong with me. I just can’t figure out what and I am trying really hard to not self diagnose with the things I have been reading. So I guess I will start at the beginning:

When I was young I was fairly mature for my age. I would hold perfectly logical conversations with adults about adult things; the only problem was I was incredibly shy. I would hide away for a half an hour or more before I finally got used to the people around me. Then I would come out and talk etc. (This trait hasn’t really gone away.)

When I was in elementry school I had very few friends and was picked on for being different. When I went to my teachers for help they simply said that it would go away if I ignored them and to deal with it by myself (which I carried straight through the rest of my schooling.) During this time of schooling I was chased through the park and hit with a stone to the back of my head, left by a ‘friend’ in an area I didn’t know, and almost beaten by another ‘friend’.

Not long after these events I moved to a new place a fair ways away. Again I was ostricized. I will admit that I am not a skinny person, but their teasing made no sense since this is not what they made fun of. For the most part the only thing that occured there was general teasing. It was… peaceful.

Middle school was when things changed and looking back, when things started making me question if something was wrong. I was the favorite target in school… it was easy to upset me. My grades started dropping. I went from A’s and B’s to C’s and D’s. This of course upset my family… but I will get to that later. To be honest I can’t remember specific events, but this is when my personality started to change.

I was a very sweet quiet child, but suddenly I was getting an attitude with everyone and would yell at those who made fun of me. I wanted a way of defending myself and they didn’t listen when I talked so I yelled. Often I would do this in front of teachers and they would just watch. To me, it was like they were saying it was okay for these people to treat me like that. When I did get into real arguements… well frankly I don’t know what I say during the arguement. It’s like I completely blank out. I know I was argueing and yelling but have no clue what I said.

High school was… well let’s just say it wasn’t a place I’d like to go back to. I was often made fun of due to my interests (which is musicals.) Every chance they got, it just didn’t let up. One instance, during gym class, one sat down beside me and put his arm over my shoulders, which freaked me out. I kept telling him to get away and threatened him but he didn’t. Finally, my brain kicked in and I got up to tell the teacher who pushed it aside since, ‘he didn’t see it.’ I was furious.

My family during all this… they didn’t know. I never told them anything that happened. They knew I was teased but not how bad. (I didn’t know how bad it was until I was talking with someone about high school and without thinking called it mental torture. I live with my mother and grandmother. Both are very supportive (my mother more so). My grandmother was the type to do back handed things like, “You would be so pretty if you did…” whatever her kick was at the time… usually do something with my hair or lose weight. She was also the one who would frequently say that I had no reason to feel stressed or be upset. My father is a jerk. I honestly don’t know why we deal with him since he doen’t care about us.

So back on track the signs that I feel I’m showing: obviously, the lack of memory of arguements, I get angry at things at the drop of a pin, if I don’t do something right the first time I get upset, but I get even more upset if someone offers help, I am pretty sure my self-esteem died long ago, (this one was pointed out to me in high school by a friend) there would be mornings I would come in so cheerful and full of energy that I was practically buzzing around the classroom, but by lunch several hours later I’d be tired or pissy. (I still do that one) I tend to avoid situations where I meet new people, but I don’t suppose that’s unusual. The only other thing is that on the rare occasion when I get so stressed that I don’t know what to do, I will scratch at my arm. I never draw blood or anything and it goes away in a few hours, but it helps me deal…yes I knew that isn’t healthy.

I think that’s everything… like I said: I don’t want there to be something wrong, but I just get the feeling that what’s going on isn’t normal.

Thank you.

A: You have presented a very, very eloquent story about the long-term effects of bullying. Sadly, your experience is shared by many young people. For some mysterious reason you became a target, adults weren’t helpful (even when you asked), and you didn’t even get peace at home since your grandmother is also critical. Like many teens, you kept the situation to yourself. Perhaps you thought there was something wrong with you that you couldn’t handle it. Perhaps you thought that your teacher’s advice to “ignore it” would work. Maybe you thought that reporting it more strongly would only get you into more trouble with the bullies. Please don’t blame yourself for being confused and troubled when it seemed that there was no way to stop it. Again, it’s sadly typical.

The current interest in the media about bullying and its effects may have some impact. Hopefully, there will be less of it; fellow students will step in to stop it; teachers will take more responsibility for protecting vulnerable kids. I’m relieved that the issue is finally getting the attention it should get.

But that doesn’t help you now. You weren’t taken seriously by so many people who should have helped. I hope you can take yourself seriously now. What I think would be helpful is getting into therapy with someone who specializes in trauma. The accumulated effect of years of torment has left you doubting yourself, shutting out memory, socially avoidant, and sometimes unable to manage your own feelings. These are common consequences of trauma. Fortunately, there is treatment that can help you rebuild your self-esteem and restore your ability to trust people who are trustworthy.

I hope you will do for yourself what the grownups should have done years ago. As a young adult, you finally have the ability to get yourself help.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Oct 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). I Know There Is Something Wrong. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/10/05/i-know-there-is-something-wrong/

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