• A nagging insecurity that makes you second-guess yourself to the point that it negatively affects your daily life
• A compulsive drive in your career or the opposite extreme of never living up to your full potential
• A susceptibility to abusive romantic relationships
• A tendency to overextend yourself to others for fear of abandonment, rejection, or exclusion
• A fear of bumping into former classmates or peers that can be so extreme you avoid necessary errands
• Negative voices from school keep replaying in your head, making you a hostage to self-doubt
It took me until the night of my 20-year high school reunion to realize there was never anything wrong with me back in school. I was simply an old soul who was misunderstood because of it. Before you can truly escape the hold your former classmates still have on your self-esteem, you need to reprogram your self-talk now rather than replay past voices.
Say to yourself, "There's nothing wrong with me. It was everything that was RIGHT about me that made me stand apart from the crowd. I was not excluded because I was beneath the crowd. I was excluded because I was misunderstood."
Years later, I would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of my years being bullied at school. Most of you probably associate PTSD with soldiers who have seen battle. The truth is that PTSD can affect anyone exposed to prolonged traumatic experiences.
My diagnosis saved my life. I encourage you to seek out a therapist or other mental health professional to help you overcome your own past as a victim of peer abuse. Make sure that whoever you choose understands PTSD and has experience treating PTSD patients.
I won't lie to you. I'm still working through my own healing. Sometimes, when I drive by my old high school, hear a certain song, or smell something that reminds me of the school cafeteria, it takes me right back to those painful years and I am gripped by an irrational panic.
The struggle to become whole again is a daily process, achieved through small but vital triumphs. I celebrate my courage every time I step foot inside a school gym. If I run into a former classmate in a restaurant and am comfortable making small talk, I smile inside, knowing that I'm getting better.
If you're an adult survivor of peer abuse, don't let anyone diminish the seriousness of your pain. Your struggle is valiant. Your wounds are real. And you can reclaim your life.