Trust

11 01 2012

This journey is about trust. About learning or re-learning to trust other people. It’s a hard thing to regain or gain (if it was never there to begin with) and I’m still not there. It’s been such a long time since I’ve truly trusted others that I have trouble remembering what it’s even like. This isn’t a simple thing like trusting people with a secret or telling them something in confidence. It’s about the trust that they’ll not just disappear on my or turn on me and hurt me. Remember that trust exercise? The one where you fall back and count on the person behind you to catch you when you let yourself fall back? For years, since I was maybe 11-12 years old, the way I’ve felt about that – metaphorically speaking – is that there have been no one there to catch me when I fall.

That saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’… That one was always a huge lie to me. If anything, words are more harmful than physical harm, since you can point to a bruise and say “look, I’ve been hurt! Please help me.” In my case, I was bullied with words for a large part of my time in school (in Denmark, we go to the same school with the same kids in the same class for 9 or 10 years). It hardly ever escalated to violence, but was much more focused on exclusion, “teasing” and telling me that I was worthless. Every once in a while, some of the kids would pretend to be my friends and then turn on me once they had gained my trust and start the bullying all over again.

This was back in the ’80s and early ’90s and there wasn’t the greatest focus on bullying yet, so when I told the teachers, they would just tell the other kids not to tease Charlie, which of course, only made it worse, because now you were a snitch too. My parents might have been sympathetic, but they did nothing about it either, even when I asked to be moved to another school. My parents are a whole ‘nother story that I’m not going to cover in this post, but suffice to say that my parents weren’t always the most supportive parents in the world. So I was stuck at that school, with the kids who alternatively ignored me or bullied me whenever they were bored.

I coped by isolating myself. During recess, I’d go to the school library or hide in out of the way places on the school’s grounds (there was quite a lot of outdoor space at my school), meet with one of the two or three friends I had at the school (who weren’t in my class, but were kids I had come to know before even starting school). Those things got me through the day. My few true friends, the books and being able to just get away from my tormentors during those few minutes every day.

School was hell for me. No, let me rephrase that. I actually LOVED learning and I still do. But the people I spent my days with made it hell for me. But all that is in the past now. It took me a very long time to come to the conclusion that I can no longer let those people rule my life and dictate who I am. I won’t let those people from more than twenty years in the past continue to haunt me and keep me from trusting others. It’s time to change. Not going to happen overnight, I know that. And I will never be an extroverted, fun-loving girl. That’s not who I am. But I want to allow people into my life again. And I want to trust them to be there if I fall.

 

This post took me a good few days to write. It’s a difficult thing to admit just how much bullying has affected my life and my interaction with other people. I’ve told myself multiple times to just ‘get over it, already’, that bullying is just part of the school experience and many other victims of bullying have managed to move on. It’s taken me over twenty years to arrive at the point where I’m finally doing something about it. The reason is that I have the help I need now. And for that I am grateful.