Post Therapy Thoughts // How To Handle Bullies

It’s been a rough two weeks for me, but therapy always manages to make me feel validated and stronger than ever. Today was triggering for a number of reasons and the minute I sat down on that couch, I let it all out.

Several situations occurred today and over the weekend that led to a deeper discussion with my therapist on bullying. Emotional bullies are toxic – they want to hurt. 

When I got into more detail on the situation, my therapist began to describe the defining characteristics of what a bully normally looks like. Realizing that we can never actually win with a bully, she validated my hurt feelings and told me this:

“A bully has this blaring dynamic that whatever they do, they project onto others.”

Simply meaning, their own issues are unleashed onto others in the form of shame, anger, and guilt. Remember – hurt people hurt people. Here are a few other qualities to spot in a bully:

They insult character, not behavior 

This took a little explaining, but my therapist gave me an example. If someone insults your behavior, they would say something along the lines of, “You leave your clothes everywhere, it’s so annoying.” When someone insults your character, they would say, “You’re such a slob.” Spot the difference. 

They live for a reaction 

I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but bullies are fueled by a reaction. No matter the emotion – guilt, shame, fear, anger. They live for something, anything that results from the constant poking and engaging others.

My therapist went on to tell me that a bully is a lot like spaghetti – hang in there, it’ll make sense. They are messy – not unlike the pasta dish – and with each noodle they feed you, you must pick it up, see it, and simply put it back down. This can be equated to darts as well. They throw darts at you, but you must stop, see it, and not let it pierce you. Do not engage. 

Before we went into the tools on healthy ways to handle a bully, my therapist – once again – perfectly worded my own situation, and exactly the definition of someone with bullying tendencies:

“They try to get as many people as angry as they are so they can release that volatile anger in a justifiable way.”

Ding, ding ding! These words were like an alarm ringing so loudly in my mind. Not only did it validate my own feelings, I began to see things as they really were. I was a target. 

I happened to be a target, and when I no longer engaged, the bully found others to latch onto. Bullies don’t just invade your space. They invade your thoughts, your self worth, and your energy. We must not allow this. 

Stressing this section of the session as the highest importance, my therapist taught me a few tips on how to stick up to a bully, and keep your mental health a priority.

Disengage 

Disengaging is a healthy boundary for a bully. Like I previously stated, they live for a reaction, it fuels their fire. While most people might say it’s better to stick up for yourself or confront the bully, that’s not always the healthy decision.

It’s not cowardly to disengage or meant to be seen as shrinking – you are choosing not to give into the poking and there is a power in that. 

Establish boundaries

Having healthy boundaries is an essential part of so many relationships. Disengaging is a healthy boundary, as well as standing in your own truth. My therapist made up a mantra for me when I’m feeling the guilt and shame that can come with creating these boundaries:

I’m choosing not to be around you because you’re mean. 

While it might seem a little simple, that is my personal mantra based on my own experience. Modified, it can be helpful for any kind of situation you may find yourself in with a bully. Don’t beat yourself up for building boundaries – protect your heart.

Clarify your truth 

Bullies like to create stories. Big, grand stories that sometimes can be triggering for the person who actually experienced the truth. When we are confronted with exaggeration in a bully, it’s crucial to clarify our intentions and move on. Because in the end, we can only control our own reactions, not anyone else’s. Stand tall in your truth and you won’t need to react. 

Don’t believe the bully 

Wanna know how bullies thrive? By picking away at your self esteem. Something that you already view as a negative, or a flaw in yourself – they will find it and use that. Those unhealthy triggers linked to self worth, guilt, and confidence are waiting to be chipped and chipped until all that’s left is I’m not good enough. And when you reach that thought, they’ve won.

Please, please. Don’t give into that thought process and let a bully beat you down. Know your worth, and realize they are not living in reality. 

 

My therapist ended our session today by telling me that I deserve a trophy for effectively handling all the triggers that have come my way in the past few weeks. I won’t lie, I almost want to have that trophy made for myself. Jokes aside, I truly am proud of myself for how I’ve been handling these situations. Triggers are never easy, but with therapy and finding the right tools to navigate through them, I’ve been able to sit with my emotions and tell my anxiety to take a backseat.

I feel empowered. Right now, at this stage in my life I’m truly beginning to make decisions for me. My mental health. My heart. My emotions. My life. 

If you find yourself having to handle a bully – battle them with your truth. You are worth more than the words of someone weaker. 

 

 

Have you dealt with a bully before? Share your story in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Elliott

Suffering from multiple, severe mental illnesses since the age of 16, Elliott’s life has been a constant cycle of instability, chaos, and breakdowns. Locked up in a ward four times, it was only when he hit rock bottom that he made the decision to start attending DBT therapy.

Applying the skills he’s learned from DBT therapy to his everyday life, Elliott fights to have a fulfilling life – despite his mental illness.

 

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Name: Elliott Smith

Age: 47


Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

July 17th of this year is my 47th birthday. The first time I remember being diagnosed was 1986 – I was 16. I was suffering from depression with suicidal ideology. I came home from school one day and decided life was to painful to live. So, I wrote my mom a note, got some rope and went in search of a farm grain silo to hang myself in. A woman from my step dad’s church (he was the pastor) saw me and called my mother who came and found me and talked me into getting help. I then spent two and a half months in a locked ward where I was diagnosed with depression.

That was the first diagnosis of many. My time of service in The US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division left me with PTSD. Then the anxiety, bipolar diagnosis and Borderline Personality Disorder. Because I have so many – I feel – accurate diagnoses, I refer to the group as just mental illness. I don’t know where one illness ends and the other begins. This mix of diagnosis have so many symptoms. The depression, anxiety, mania, aggression, anger, horror and fear in the form of flashbacks. I have always, as long as I remember, felt like something wasn’t right. My life was a cycle. Stability. Then instability. Chaos, then breakdown. Then the cycle would start again.



What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I have attempted or planned suicide four times – all four times I have been institutionalized. But still, my life didn’t change. My illness and my symptoms pulled me around like a dog on a leash. I had little pockets of happiness in an ocean of fear, pain, darkness, and agony. For this period, I didn’t really have uninterrupted medical or mental health care coverage. So, I would try to get help but for years could not afford to stay in therapy. In 2010, after finding out about the VA compensation process I put in for PTSD competition. I received disability status from the VA. This allowed me uninterrupted medical and mental health covered for the last seven years. This was the point my mental illness turned a corner.

Around this time, I had a very horrible episode where I ended up hurting someone then I tried to hang myself. I was again at rock bottom. Somewhere in the process of getting back on my feet again, I decided to figure out how to change the life I was leading. I decided to work to learn how to live a quality life. It was not a bolt out of the blue or “ah-ha” moment – it was a slow realization. I was finally aware that I needed to help myself before I was going to be able to get proper help. I was going to have to work my fucking ass off to ever have a quality life.



How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?


Well for me it is everyday life. It’s been 30 years (diagnosed) of mental illness. I don’t remember anything else – it is apart of everything. This very reason is why the skills I have learned are so important.


In 2011, I attended Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT. The skills I learned there became the life-changing foundation of not just how I’ve learned to cope, but I learned to really thrive and found a way to maintain and live a quality life. The skills I learned from DBT were practical actions and strategies I could apply in specific or general ways to my everyday life.

  • Mindfulness. Focusing on what it is I am doing and saying. Focusing on my thoughts without letting them run away with my actions.
  • Wise mind. Because I lived in my emotional mind or my rational mind I would go back and forth between chaos and shame. Trying to maintain wise mind (both emotion mind and rational mind at the same time in balance) keeps me able to make decisions that help me maintain a quality life.
  • Distress tolerance. Knowing that life is probably going to get a little dicey and having the skills to tolerate the distress that is going to be apart of my life is crucial.
  • Checking the facts. This skill I learned allows me to challenge my symptoms and thoughts and hold them up to the light to see if they are real or the lies my symptoms tell me.
  • Radical acceptance. This allows me to accept the big unpleasant truths without giving up or giving in.
  • Acceptance. Accepting my reality was a life-changing experience. When I accepted that I have multiple mental illnesses and I will continue to have these issues  – I was set free. This acceptance for me also mentioned being completely transparent with my self and others in my life that mental illness was part of who I am. I would no longer try to hide how my life was to anyone ever again. My mental illnesses are always something you get to know as you learn more about me.

The list of skills go on and on and I talk about them a lot in both my @myrhoughtsracing Instagram and my blog.



How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?


Mental illness literally has only given me symptoms. I get what you’re asking, but I don’t see it as a gift or a benefit. With that said, I have learned by living through my symptoms that people – all of us – are amazing! That life is hard but worth it. That life is precious and fragile. I learned these gifts not because of my mental illness but in spite of it.



What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

My thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings. I don’t have to indulge them. They are not in charge of my life.

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you could be featured on the blog! 

New Month, New Goals // Hello August

I almost didn’t write this post. Today, I had quite possibly one of the worst days in awhile. I was strong – I survived through it, but it took \a lot out of me both emotionally and physically. A day filled with crying, anxious breakdowns and stress.

Through all of that chaos, I realized that it might be therapeutic to write up some goals. Think of the future, and how I can control me. My actions, my thoughts, and my life.

Old and new, I have a lot of things I want to do this month. Whether it’s revisiting old tools of my anxiety or learning new lessons, here are my goals for August:

 

Keep up with mindfulness 

In the past month or so, mindfulness has taken a backseat. I so miss my go-to meditations on Simple Habit. They truly eased my thoughts, and helped to build my self worth, confidence, and positive self talk.

Whether it’s listening to a daily meditation on my drive to work in the morning, or getting back into yoga each week, I want to make moves in my mindfulness. I’m much stronger than I used to be with my own thoughts, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. I’m only as strong as my good habits. 

 

Take more chances on myself 

Lately, I’m beginning to realize that I’m capable of so much. I’ve gone from a dorm room, to having my very own studio and being able to afford that rent. I’ve started as an intern at a company and now I’m currently a copywriter at a PR firm. I can do great things. I need to be taking chances on my skills, my talent, and my worth.

It’s time to bet on bigger things.

 

Speak up 

More recently, I’ve been learning this lesson firsthand. With situations at work, I am learning that it’s crucial for me to raise my voice when something is not right. My voice matters. Yes, we must all learn to pick our battles but when we find something to speak up against – follow through. Own your words. 

 

Learn something new 

I have a desire, a passion to learn something new. To explore uncharted territory – educate myself on things I don’t understand. I have a goal to research different slam poetry sessions going on around my area and attend at least one this month. Or be part of an open mic night at a cafe – I need to share my words. 

I used to share my writing all the time in college. As a Creative Writing major, you learn with experience and time to build up a tolerance for sharing your work. At first, it’s terrifying. Stepping up to the plate, ripping out your heart and showing it to a crowd just to hear the expected snaps or claps. But once you do it a few times, it’s addicting. It’s intoxicating to connect with others. To feel them resonate with your words. While I love and appreciate how much my words on this blog resonate with others, I want more. I want to get up in front of people and bare my heart. I want to show everyone how much I love, feel, and care. 

 

Well, those are my goals for August. I truly think that I can accomplish these. While I tend to over reach with my goals, I always have a way of teaching myself new things through them. I have a feeling that a lot of new, exciting things are headed my way. I’m stoked for what’s in store. 

 

Do you have any August goals? Share them in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Amanda Rose

Losing her father at the young age of eight, Amanda Rose was used to protecting herself from pain. Feeling worthless and like a burden to everyone, she was in a dark place.

It was after two suicide attempts, time spent in mental health clinics, and leaving her job to focus on her mental illness that she realized there are valuable lessons to learn from being at rock bottom.

With a powerful message to reach out and talk about how you feel, meet Amanda Rose.

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Name: Amanda Rose

Age: 31

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder when I was 23, however I was living with it for many years prior to this.

I don’t have many memories from when I was young and I think that is my body’s way of protecting itself from the pain. I lost my father to cancer when I was eight years old and I don’t think that is something you ever really recover from. I just remember crying all the time. I was always sad and never experienced true joy. Even though I was smiling on the outside – I felt dead inside.

Before I was diagnosed with depression, I was working full time in payroll and I was always exhausted. At night, the only way I could sleep was by self-medicating with alcohol and other substances. I got to a point where I felt completely worthless. I felt like a burden to everyone in my life. Nothing made me happy and I felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore.

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

Looking back, I wish that I had reached out for help earlier but unfortunately, I didn’t. After a suicide attempt I ended up in the emergency room in hospital and they admitted me to a mental health clinic. Before learning about depression in the clinic, I didn’t even know what it was. And even after learning about it I didn’t want to believe that I had it. I left the clinic after two weeks. I took the anti-depressants they gave me but I didn’t change anything else in my life.

A year later, after another suicide attempt, I spent a month in the mental health clinic. I admitted to myself that I had depression and I actively participated in the activities to assist in my recovery. I learned valuable lessons there that saved my life and I am grateful that these places exist.

After I left the clinic, I was taking my medication and going to therapy but I still hated living. However, I persevered for my friends and family because I will never forget how upset they were when I was hospitalized. I know a lot of people think that suicide is selfish, but when you are that ill you truly believe you are doing the world a favor, and that your friends and family will be better off without you. Obviously, now I know that isn’t true at all. I encourage anyone who is feeling this way to reach out and talk to someone, because you do matter.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

For the last couple of years, I’ve also suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I think this affects my life more now than depression. I stopped working seven months ago, because I was working in accounts and the deadlines were causing me too much stress. I was not coping with life and everything was overwhelming. I was very anxious all the time and kept having panic attacks. I live with my boyfriend – we have been together for three years – and he offered to support me while I take some time out to look after myself. I am currently studying Human Resources part time and even though it does cause some anxiety, I am managing to keep up with it. 

Not being able to work at the moment is stressful. I often feel frustrated that I can’t support myself financially, and feel guilty that I am placing pressure on my boyfriend. But, I always remind myself that this is temporary and that I will feel capable of working again soon. I am growing stronger and I am proud that I am allowing myself time to focus on healing.

Since I have stopped working I have made so many changes to my life; I feel like a brand-new person. And even though I still have a way to go, I am proud of my progress. I no longer smoke, I don’t drink as much, I exercise, I have completely changed my diet, I take lots of supplements, I journal, I practice gratitude and I meditate. Exercise has helped me the most. Nothing too intense just walking in nature or dancing at home. Being in nature and appreciating everything you see is a great way to calm down when you are feeling anxious; it works wonders for me. I prioritize self-care in my daily routine because I cannot support others or contribute to the world if I am exhausted and empty inside.

Positive quotes have helped me in my mental health journey. They give me hope which helps me through tough days. My two favorites are: tomorrow is a new day and brighter days are on their way. Our thoughts really do create our reality so if you can try and change your thoughts you can survive any bad day.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

It has definitely made me stronger. I now know that no matter how low I feel, that I can and will survive.  It has also made me appreciate life more. Every day I write down something I am grateful for; it is a great way to help you appreciate your life.

Living with a mental illness requires a lot of self-reflection. It has helped me to realize what my strengths, weaknesses and values are. You need to know these things about yourself to establish healthy boundaries in all areas of your life.

It has also given me a purpose. I want to help others that are experiencing mental illness or going through anything difficult. I want to encourage them to reach out and ask for help, and I don’t want anyone to feel alone like I once did. That is why I started my Instagram account and Facebook page earlier this year, both are called lovelifedear, and I am starting a blog soon. I believe that together we can end the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

It is important to know that it is totally okay to not be okay. You need to feel your emotions to be able to work through them and to grow. If you want help working through them then reach out. Talk about how you are feeling with a therapist or someone close to you. You are not alone and you should not suffer alone.

And please remember that you are loved, you are enough and you deserve to live a full and happy life.

Amanda xx

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog!