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! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Recognizing A Narcissist

When I got into therapy on Tuesday, it was a regular session. We discussed smaller triggers I had experienced throughout the two weeks, such as the fight about money with my father and even former hook-ups of mine starting to message me again, and not really being ready for that kind of male attention.

However, it wasn’t until I began to discuss a certain person in my life (who I am choosing not to name due to sensitivity) that the real discussion started. We’ll call her Sally. I had been in several fights with this person over the last month, and for me – it’s always difficult to handle.

I needed space, and Sally just hasn’t been able to respect that. Calling and texting me every single day, I would grow more and more anxious and angry at even the thought of picking up the phone. Writing a new blog post on money anxiety, Sally texted me with her opinion of what she read, and it was borderline emotionally abusive – according to my therapist. I was shamed for even having money troubles to begin with. Rather than seeing how much vulnerability it took to write the post, she focused on tearing me down. The relationship can be described as my therapist states,

“They pull you in with charm, only to slap you then kiss you.”

This is a narcissist.

Whether it’s a friend, partner, or even family member, narcissists can have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships. We tend not to see narcissists in our lives until confronted with the cold, hard facts about their personalities. Sometimes, we are just too close to see, but once you do – it all becomes very clear. You stop feeling the shame and guilt, and start seeing that this is their problem, not yours.

After the session, my therapist emailed me a handout that helped me to better understand narcissistic behavior, and validated my experience all these years. The information below is loosely based off that handout by Elisabeth Caetano.

 

They’re likable, at first glance. 

Narcissists tend to be well versed in first impressions, coming across as personable and charismatic. In the beginning, all you see is the positive, but over the long term more and more negativity seeps through.

They always manage to make it about themselves.

While they engage initially, they always eventually turn the conversation around to talk about themselves, their accomplishments and achievements and typically don’t ask about you and your life or interests.

Not all stories are victorious ones. 

Narcissists often tell stories about themselves – sometimes even repeating the same story over and over again – and many times, the story will be surrounding an instance of personal heroism or an exploit. But, even when the story is something negative, it will never be the narcissist’s fault. There’s an air of entitlement in the victory story and victimization in the failure.

The key is seeing through the facade, as they never take responsibility for anything negative.

Appearance is everything. 

While they aren’t necessarily more attractive than other people, they do take care of their appearance and place an importance on looking good. This doesn’t just apply to physical, the emotional has to seem perfect all the time as well.

Making sure everyone knows how hard they work, how much they make money-wise, how much they have, and how deserving they are of it is essential.

They are hyper sensitive to criticism.

Fragility of the ego is paramount in narcissistic behavior. They simply cannot be wrong, or responsible, therefore – you cannot give them even constructive criticism without it turning into an argument.

With no ability to see themselves as less than, or flawed, they are almost delusional in their “truth” of who they are. It’s not your fault if you can’t help them see.

They love to make excuses. 

Tending to externalize blame, pinning the blame on everyone but themselves, narcissists are skilled at making excuses and not taking credit for mistakes.

They even tend to get extremely defensive and then go on the attack – sometimes in an aggressive manner – to prove it’s not their fault. This usually involves tearing others down to make their “point.”

They do not honor boundaries. 

This one I have experienced all too well. While this is more of an informational post helping others to understand when a narcissist might be in their lives – I still think back to my own situation. I have someone very close to me who fits the bill in most of these traits. While I love her, it’s incredibly hard to handle. She has always been problematic with this specific behavior.

Narcissists do not honor boundaries because they simply don’t believe it applies to them. That’s where the sense of entitlement comes back into play. Healthy emotional boundaries are essential for any relationship – especially for people suffering with mental illness. To disrespect that is toxic, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous for another person.

It’s likely they have no clue they are a narcissist. 

With no real insight or ability to see themselves at that level, it’s likely they will never understand how their behavior effects the people around them.

Because they feel so superior and may even have some success, they’re unlikely to seek treatment. In itself, this issue is a double whammy because the things they see in themselves prevent them from seeing they have real problems that need to be dealt with.

Flattery maintains the peace.

Have you found yourself resorting to flattery to maintain the peace in a relationship? You’re dealing with a narcissist. While it’s the best way to avoid conflict, it can cause you to doubt yourself – your feelings, perceptions.

 

Did any of these situations above feel all too real? If so, it might be time to make some changes. If you don’t feel emotionally safe with someone, cut the cord.

While it can feel like being in a relationship with a narcissist is necessary for survival, your mental health is worth more.

It’s a long process to recover yourself after being in any type of relationship, but it can be done. You can rebuild your life, emotional health, and come back from being lost in the toxic world of a narcissist.

 

Have you dealt with a narcissist in your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Setting Healthy Boundaries

Going into today’s therapy session, I was really excited. Because of the long holiday weekend of 4th of July, it’s been roughly three weeks since I’ve had a session. While I handled my anger well during that time, I was itching to sit down and discuss all the different situations that had occurred since the last time we met.

I’ll be honest – I was a like a middle schooler handing in my well thought out essay in therapy. I was so proud of myself for the way I’ve set clear boundaries and removed triggers the past few weeks that I deserved a little praise.

When I told my therapist of all the things I experienced over the past few weeks and how I handled them on my own, she was more than proud – she was moved by my newfound ability to see a potential trigger and remove it before it became an issue for me.

Here’s a few examples:

A week or so ago, I found out that my ex-boyfriend has posted on social media for the first time since we broke up. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but I’ll explain it again. My close friend called me to give me a heads up that he had posted, so I was very grateful I didn’t scroll through my feed on Instagram and have it pop up – instant trigger.

Turns out it was a photo of him settled into his new apartment. This triggered my anger – I was hurt. Hurt that he was “moving on” and doing exciting, fun things without me when in reality, that’s life. It moves on. He will have endless experiences in that new apartment that I will never be part of, because we aren’t in each others lives anymore. And that’s where I needed to rework my focus – shift the focus from him, and onto myself. What new experiences will I have? How do I feel? 

Because honestly, he doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about him – it’s about me and how I react, how I handle my anxiety.

So, from this event I made the decision to unfollow him on all social media. I set a very clear boundary for myself. No more temptation to go “keep tabs” on what he’s doing, no more potential triggers when he posts something and I randomly see it. No more.

This is how I will move on, and stay there.

Another example of setting a healthy boundary for myself was about a week or so after my breakup. It was a random Saturday night and I was spending it alone at home. I got a text message from an old hookup – I say that because we never actually dated, just had fun – just saying hi. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, so I knew what his intentions were. I was so not in that place to have sex with no strings attached, and honestly I felt uncomfortable even talking to him about it, so I spoke up. I was upfront and direct with him – I appreciated the gesture but I’m not ready to be in that place. Being the very nice guy that he is, he was completely understanding and civil, but it’s so important to set these boundaries when we feel overwhelmed or that uncomfortableness sets in.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Just a year ago, I would never have had the ability to send a text like that, it would have sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m proud to know what I deserve and know my emotional boundaries. Could I have accepted his invitation that night? Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wasn’t ready – and that’s okay. 

In response to all this, my therapist said something that truly resonated with me:

“It’s okay to make mistakes, but we need not repeat negative patterns.”

Creating healthy boundaries is the key to managing my mental health, and keeping up with my triggers.

In addition to discussing my emotional boundaries, I also read my therapist a second letter that I wrote to my ex. This time, it was based in anger. While I have no intention to sending it to him, it’s important to put pen to paper for me when I’m overwhelmed with an emotion. It helps me to process that feeling, and move on from it in a healthy manner.

While I read the letter to my therapist, she noticed that I was starting to cry. She told me I could get angry and yell while reading it, but my knee jerk reaction was to be hurt. I still have trouble expressing anger publicly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through the entire letter. My therapist told me that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed because for me, this is new. It’s a new emotion to be expressing and it’s not always going to go my way. She also said:

“Don’t be afraid of your anger – it’s appropriate.”

She’s 100% right. I’m afraid since I haven’t been in this place of anger for as long as I have, that it will never fade. That’s my anxiety speaking – I will move on from this emotion. As long as I sit with it and acknowledge the lessons that come from the pain and the anger, I will move to the next stage.

 

 

Have you set some great emotional boundaries for yourself lately? Share them in the comments below! 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Settling onto the couch, I felt myself breath a sigh of relief. Every two weeks, I get roughly an hour of this safe space. A net to fall into, a shoulder to cry on, and a sanctuary to study my every mental health movement.

This week, I went in with newly found motivation and happiness that I didn’t think I would have this early on from a breakup. From our talk, my therapist discussed two different, equally crucial, topics: finding your anger and recognizing your worth, purpose. 

Finding My Anger

We came upon this subject when I told my therapist a story about a bad day I had last week. More like the worst day. I had some issues at work where I felt disrespected, and that triggered me. Once the work day was over, I did the exact thing I need to learn to break. Instead of listening to myself, I sought validation and advice from others.

This can be a toxic activity, especially for anxiety. Already pissed off, my anxiety would be more triggered by whatever the person said. Normally, people have differing opinions and life views, so they don’t ever really say what you want them to. I knew the answer, yet I didn’t consult myself.

I got into fight after fight with my mom, then dad and it resulted in a full fledged anxiety attack – which I caused. To this event, my therapist gave me a new solution: write it down. Before I pick up the phone and call anyone, write the reality down. After that, I may not need anyone’s advice because I have my own.

Although it may not seem like a quick fix because I’m not used to knowing what to say to myself, this is how I practice.

Along with this, I learned that my anger is triggered by feeling disrespected. I found that it was more intense because of feelings associated with my breakup. I felt disrespected. With some distance from the emotion of the actual breakup, I realized that I saw more of the reality of the relationship and guess what? I’m kinda pissed. And that’s okay. 

Growing up, and even before I started therapy, I never had much of a voice. I let others speak for me and didn’t stand my ground. Little by little, I’ve become more connected with my voice and with that comes anger. It’s a learning experience, but I’m on my way to expressing anger in a healthy way.

Recognizing My Worth, Purpose 

The second part of my session was me explaining to my therapist how overwhelming it has been to have such amazing people reach out to me – whether through this blog or my Instagram account – and tell me that my words have had a serious positive, emotional affect on them. I heal myself, while healing others. 

It was then that I started to cry and my therapist said the most touching thing:

“Breathe it in.”

Almost like a yoga chant it was so calming, she taught me right then and there that while this is emotional, it’s all part of my path. She continued to say:

“We’re all here for reasons. Sometimes the darkest pain is felt so we can be encouragers.”

We feel so deeply in order to encourage others to confront that same emotion. I’ve come so far, and I’m beginning to realize that I’m finding my new purpose and passion in this blog. I love doing it and I appreciate everyone that reads, supports, or reaches out.

My therapist ended with a new mantra that I will be repeating to myself:

I deserve to be loved and respected. 

Whenever you’re feeling unworthy, or that you aren’t good enough, say that to yourself. You are worthy – always.

 

 

Has therapy helped you? Share your story in the comments below! 

 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Going into therapy after work today – I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and safety. It’s been an emotional, draining weekend and I was looking forward to getting those intense feelings off my chest. Since I had cried myself silly the past few days, I really thought I was finished with the waterworks, but that wasn’t the case. And that’s okay. 

Since I’ve been through heartbreak before, I know this feeling and lately I’ve been preventing myself from feeling fully sad because it’s a hard emotion to constantly feel, but I have to. When I got into therapy and felt comfortable, I told my therapist what happened and it wasn’t until I read her the letter I ended up writing and sending to my ex boyfriend that I started to cry.

It was through talking it out with my therapist that I realized just how proud of myself I should be. Throughout the rough weekend I experienced, my anxiety did not raise its voice. Yes, I cried so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe and it felt like someone was consistently punching me in the stomach but guess what? I knew it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t personalize and I’m proud of myself. Just a year ago, my anxiety could easily have latched onto a highly stressful and triggering event like this and told my mind that everything was my fault, but through my own personal growth and self-awareness, that anxiety never roared. It will likely spike down the line, but I’m ready for it – I have the tools to handle whatever is thrown my way.

From listening to me talk about my anxiety and feelings for the past week or so, my therapist discussed the possibility that I have intuitional anxiety, which means I have a sense of what is to come before it actually occurs, but I label those feelings as anxiety, rather than embrace them as reality. I’ve done this with almost every relationship I’ve been in and it’s about time that I view this as a gift for myself. When I’m feeling worried or insecure in a relationship, that’s a red, flashing NEON sign that I should be paying closer attention to. Lesson learned. 

The last thing my therapist had me do was an exercise where I generate a list of what I’ve learned about qualities I look for in the right match. Here’s the list I’ve come up with:

What I’ve learned about the right qualities for me in a partner: 

  • Respectful of my time
  • Ability to compromise
  • Healthy work-life balance
  • Emotional communicator & insight

As I continue to think about it, I will learn more from this entire experience and have a better handle on what the right match looks like for me in the future.

For now, it’s all about self-love. I need to allow myself to feel whatever I need to. It’s never easy saying goodbye to something or someone – there’s no deadline for moving on or “bouncing back.” It’s okay to not be okay. 

I don’t regret one minute of my relationship. I learned important lessons from it and will hold some very special memories with a person I still truly believe is a wonderful human being. It’s like I said in my letter to him:

We all slip and fall, sometimes we just need a new plan for getting back up.

Here’s to more personal growth and finding even more of myself in these next few months. I welcome it.

 

Have you gone through a breakup recently? How are you handling the anxiety associated with it? 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Every two weeks, I go to therapy for about an hour. Whenever that Tuesday or Wednesday comes along, I find myself with a sense of calm and security. Whatever happens that day, I know I have a safe space to talk about it by the end of the day. Making the decision to go to therapy is never an easy one, but once you are there, it becomes something you never knew you could live without. A welcome presence of knowledge and self-awareness.

I’ve wanted to do this series for awhile now. Post therapy thoughts. My therapist is incredibly real and chalk full of advice that really goes a long way for me, so I thought I would routinely share my thoughts and what I’ve learned after each therapy session I attend.

For today’s session, the main topic of discussion was learning how to have more fluidity in my life. With my anxiety, I tend to make everything very black and white. Relationships, work, family, etc. But all of those things are not so concrete. Because I grew up in a family system that operated in such black and white, closed ways, I’ve lost out on the ability to let go.

Due to the fact that I was so held to my word and life was so planned out growing up, I’ve always had anxiety with plans changing or being cancelled. In reality, it’s okay when people run late. It’s okay if I say no to plans. As my therapist says,

As people, our thoughts and emotions are constantly changing – we should be able to change our plans as well.

Another thing we talked about was a new journaling exercise for when I get hypersensitive or into one of my ruminating spirals caused by my anxiety. We found that a lot of my high anxiety is caused by my fear of the unknown. My therapist focused on this phrase she heard me say,

“I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Since this a trigger for my high anxiety, she suggested an activity where I try to pause and write down potential solutions. This way, I can have active solutions in my head to minimize the fear, and to bring reality into the constant irrational cloud that is my anxiety. She then told me after I’ve written these solutions down, to search for the reality based ones. The closer I can get to reality, the better.

Anxiety is a challenging thing to live with. Not only do you have to deal with your current state, sometimes there’s a residual effect. What you’ve experienced in the past can dictate your future actions. This is something we have to continuously fight. My therapist also reminded me that I am separate from my anxiety disorder. She said,

Your anxiety disorder has issues with plans being changed, not Erica.

Your anxiety disorder is confused and insecure, not Erica.

It’s a much-needed reminder to be directly told that you are not your anxiety.

 

I am secure in my relationships.

I am capable of being more fluid. 

I am worthy of happiness.

I am enough. 

 

 

 

What do you think of Post Therapy Thoughts? How has your latest therapy session helped you manage your anxiety?