I’m so very sorry you were so mercilessly bullied. I’m furious that teachers didn’t take you seriously. You were right to ask for help. They were wrong and unprofessional in their response. It’s no wonder to me that you are concerned.
BUT — this is a big “but” — not all kids who go through traumatic experiences like yours become traumatized. In fact, studies show that two thirds of people who go through difficult times come through okay. This is usually because of a combination of resiliency factors: They know they are loved by people who care for them. They have people to talk to and who try to help. They are born with a more flexible temperament. They figure out ways to hold onto their positive self-esteem despite the bullying.
Not everyone is so lucky to have those resiliency factors going for them. These are the people who are traumatized by the trauma. They usually show a complex of the symptoms of PTSD that are outlined in detail in the DSM-5. Briefly, symptoms are in 4 categories:
- Intrusive memories or “flashbacks” or dreams about the events.
- Efforts to avoid the distressing thoughts, memories or feelings associated with the event.
- Negative alterations in cognitions or mood — like being unable to remember much about the event, feelings of detachment from others, persistent and exaggerated beliefs about self, others or the world.
- Marked alterations in arousal — like irritability, self-destructive behaviors, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle reflex
So the answer to your question is complicated. If you are one of the lucky ones who already had a lot of resiliency, you may have weathered the bullying, learned from the experience, and maybe even become stronger for it. If, however, you felt helpless to stop the bullying, there was no one to turn to, and you didn’t already have a fairly strong sense of self, you may have developed symptoms of PTSD.
If you think you did, please don’t diagnose yourself. Talk to a mental health professional to establish whether you have the disorder and whether you need some treatment. If so, the good news is that there is solid evidence-based treatment for PTSD. The bullying of middle school doesn’t have to shadow your life forever.
I wish you well.