A thank you to my bully

I think we’ve all had a bully in our lives at one point or another.  When I was in middle school, there were two girls, one of which had been my best friend in primary school, who bullied me and made me cry on the school bus.  We lived in the “country” so it was a long, one hour bus ride home. It lasted off and on for a year or so.  If I recall correctly, it was over a boy.  Some boy who apparently liked me, but the girl who had been my friend, liked him.  I couldn’t have cared less about this boy because back then I was planning to marry Paul Stanley from Kiss.  We would live on a ranch and Drew Barrymore would live next door and be my best friend.  Obviously, life had different plans for me. 

But I do have a bully now.  I’m learning this is more common in adulthood than people realize. And I want to take this opportunity to thank my bully.

What? Not what you expected? Me either. Let me take you down the path that led me to this.

This person entered my life nineteen years ago this week, as a matter of fact, and established themselves as my bully that very day.  It’s never been overt.  Over the years, I describe it as a thousand tiny cuts.  Passive aggressive behaviour and disrespect.  So, when you try to put it into words, it sounds small, almost petty.  But when I’ve spent the better part of the last nineteen years of my life walking on eggshells and having anxiety about what this person is going to do next to disrespect me, try to discredit me or just plain out be insufferably rude to me, I do believe that falls under the definition of harassment or bullying.  

It became apparent over the years that I was on my own to deal with this and my resulting anxiety.  I’m not formally diagnosed or anything but I know when I’m anxious.  It comes and goes, like a roller coaster ride. 

When I teach Stress Management workshops I go over the physical, emotional and mental signs of stress.  We are all different and react in different ways.  Here are mine.  My digestive system goes awry.  I have to force myself to eat when I’m upset, stressed or anxious. When I do eat, I find comfort in gooey, cheesy foods like gorgonzola gnocchi, fettuccini alfredo and Goldfish crackers.  Alright, Goldfish aren’t gooey but they are cheesy and delicious.  One summer after a bad break up, I had Goldfish crackers for dinner at least three nights a week.  Another sign is that my poop isn’t right.  Yes people, our poop tells us a lot about what’s going on in our lives so pay attention to that shit (pun intended)! And I get migraines; not the blow out, can’t leave bed, has to be dark, tip-toe around me type migraines, but a low level, deep, dull throbbing behind my eyes and in my temples that will last for days once established.  So, I know my tells.

Dealing with all of this led me down the path to learning how to take care of myself, which in turn has allowed me to share my knowledge and experiences so that I can help others.  I’ve taken a myriad of training to learn how to manage stress and have used myself as a guinea pig. I’ve been working to see how different things work and affect me, how my moods change, how my body changes, how a simple thing like starting to journal helped to sort out my feelings and do what I call a ‘brain dump’ so I’m not stewing about things so much.  

I’ve taken courses on learning how to deal with difficult people, how to assert myself, how to be a good leader, how to keep my emotions under control; I’ve read and done research on how to “people” as the cool kids say these days.  One of the best books I ever read was “The Asshole Survival Guide” by Robert I. Sutton.  The best advice I could have received, at exactly the right time, was “be kind”.  It’s really fucking hard to be kind to your bully when they are verbally attacking you, but I found that it really defuses the situation and keeps it on track.  

These last six years, in particular, have led me through some deep introspection.  I immersed myself in various trainings from yoga to coaching to stress resiliency to management skills. (Side note: the physical poses of yoga that we all think of when we hear the word “yoga” are only 1/8 of what makes up yoga philosophy). I went to India for a deeper dive into spiritual beliefs and practices. I have been working on my spiritual wellbeing, which has been a key part of my healing (still a work in progress) and helping to keep things in perspective. I truly believe there is a lesson in everything.  My best friend, Kelly and I debrief failed relationships or crappy situations so we can drill down on the lessons we’ve learned. This allows us to walk away from each situation knowing that something good came out of it.  

I know that conflict is inevitable.  Cleo Wade in the book “Heart Talk” says, “encountering conflict in our lives does not say anything about who we are, it is our behaviour in conflict that says everything about who we are”.  I refuse to let this person define me; I define myself through my own behaviour.  I also try my best to stay the course and use what I’ve learned, first and foremost to take care of me and secondly, to deal with this person.  I try so very hard to stay kind and compassionate. Everything is put in our path for a reason, so what I keep asking myself is, “What is my lesson here?” and “Why did the Universe put this person in my path?”.

If I didn’t have this bully in my life, I don’t think I would have gone down this particular path.  I want to help people to help themselves, like I did and continue to do. Without travelling this path, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  Do I still experience anxiety? Absolutely, on a regular basis. But I am able to handle it better than I would have had I not gone down this path.  

So, that’s what leads me to thanking my bully. Thank you for guiding me to journey down this path that I may have otherwise missed.  Thank you for guiding me to learn about these gifts that I can share with others in the hopes of helping ease just one other anxious soul.  Thank you for showing me the type of person I never want to be.  Thank you for pushing me to dig deep and realize that I am strong.

Thank you for showing me that I’m fierce and courageous.  That has been my motto these past few weeks as I go through an anxious period.  I am fierce and courageous motherf*ckers! So are you.