It’s the third grade. I go out for a break and come back to my bag upside down and lunch stolen. This was just the beginning of a never-ending cycle. The next six months of my life became pure torture. I, who loved going to school, started to beg my mother to let me stay home. I did change schools eventually but the trauma of bullying stayed with me and still affects me to date.
People deal with bullying in different ways; there is no one way to overcome the feeling of helplessness that comes from being attacked by another person. Some people ignore or fight back while others continue to suffer in silence. This way of coping does not make them weak but it can have an awful, long-lasting effect on their mental health. As a teenager, one may not want to involve adults in the situation, I know I did not but at one point, it became crucial.
According to an article on stopbulling.gov, social anxiety is in the top three effects of bullying that bystanders may face in their lives. Some people think social anxiety refers to being shy when approaching new people or having a fear of public speaking. However, it runs way deeper than that. Social anxiety could be feeling nervous or scared in a situation one has faced a million times before or over analysing every little detail in a conversation with a good friend.
Some significant psychological outcomes of bullying that I still face today include not being able to make long term friends. This is usually one of two reasons; the fear of annoying them by texting too much or wondering if they really want to hang out with me out of school. I tend to cancel plans a day or sometimes even a few hours before going by overthinking hypothetical situations that never happen. This includes plans I was genuinely excited for whether it be a friend’s birthday or just going for coffee. However, when the sudden fear of being overbearing hits me, this leads me to canceling the plan. A major setback I suffer from every single day is having to attend school. For me, except for the actual virus of course, COVID was a blessing in disguise. I could sit at home and take my classes in the comfort of my room. That is, until the teachers began to pick on students to answer questions over Zoom. This would always end with me disconnecting the Wi-Fi right after I get called on. My psychological symptoms definitely outweigh my physical symptoms. The only few physical symptoms I sometimes suffer from include sudden increased heart rate, trembling hands or legs and difficulty speaking.
It was obviously not easy growing up with a mental health problem but I tried my best to not let it stop me from living my life. After learning about social anxiety by reading up on it and talking to professionals (objectively), I decided to start by giving myself space and not beating myself up every time I cancelled a plan or mumbled in front of a new person. Secondly, I began to focus on positive things in my interactions with people instead of continually overthinking a bad joke I might have cracked. However, what may have worked for me might not work for others. Therefore, my advice is to a therapist if you feel like you suffer from a similar situation. Another individual’s triggers may be different than mine since bullying is not the only cause.
Social anxiety is not black and white- there is no right way to overcome it and suffering from it does not make one weak. It can be overwhelming at times and make one feel like something is wrong with them. At times, an individual may have the realization that their fear is irrational but despite knowing, they may not be able to control their thoughts and actions during the situation. Just always remember, there is nothing wrong with having social anxiety and seeking help when you need it.