Full time work and mental illness

This month marks three years since I began working full time.  The news that i had attained my first full-time job was clouded with trepidation.  I had never thought that I’d be able to manage full time work because of my mental illness.  I was sure that my depression and anxiety disorder would make it impossible for me to bear a full time workload.  But here I am, three years on and still doing the full time thing.

DSCF8391

Although I manage pretty well, there are some pretty serious bumps in the road.  I often struggle to cope, and at times have thought about pumping the brakes and going back to part time work.  Today I wanted to share some of the challenges and benefits to working full time when you have a mental illness.

 

Finding time for self care

For me, managing my depression consists of a carefully-structured routine that centres around self care.  Years of trial and error have led me to a series of self-care steps that generally manage to keep my mental health on an even keel. I know that in order to feel my best, I need to eat properly and get enough sleep.  My yoga practice keeps me fit and helps calm my monkey mind.  Journalling several times a week gets those anxious thoughts out of my head. All these steps are choreographed into a daily dance that helps keep my head above water.

When I was working part time, it was much easier to find the balance between working and self care.  Now, when eight-and-a-half hours of each day are spent at the office, that leaves another eight for sleeping and then a further eight for eating, household responsibilities and self care.  That doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for socialising or family time.  And I’m often jammed between choosing to spend time with friends at the detriment of my self-care regime.  If I spend too much time with my family, or my boyfriend, or my mates, then my mental health begins to slide because I’m not able to keep up with those vital self care activities.  But it’s not always easy to leave a family dinner early because you need to do your yoga or because you just need to be alone for a while.  It’s difficult for people to understand why you’re piking out early, or declining invitations.  And after a while, they stop inviting you altogether if you bail too often.

 

Working full time has made it a lot more challenging to fit in those ever-important self care rituals.  And sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration because it feels like all I do is go to work, come home and run through the motions of keeping myself sane.  It’s maddening when it feels like there isn’t time for anything else in the day, and when you feel like so much more is expected of you and you aren’t able to achieve it.

 

To tell, or not to tell?

I’ve grappled with the decision of whether or not to tell the people I work with that I have depression and anxiety.  I’ve had mixed responses in the past, and when I begin a new job I’m always a bit gun-shy about disclosing my illness.

There’s the risk that the people you work with will treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness.  There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and it can be hard to work when you feel like people are walking on eggshells around you.  There’s also the unpleasant feeling of knowing that a workmate is internally rolling their eyes at you and wondering why you can’t just toughen up and manage your life like everyone else does.

On the other hand, many employers and workmates will be exceedingly supportive if they find out that you have a mental illness.  So it’s always a delicate balancing act of deciding whether you should mention it, and if so, when you should disclose your illness.

 

The perils of an invisible illness in the workplace

I went through a period last year where I was going through a really bad patch with my depression.  I was struggling to get out of bed each morning, and I just felt despondent all the time.  But I felt as though I had to force myself through the motions of everyday life anyway.  One morning about three weeks into this hellish patch I woke up with a fever and a sore throat.  I nearly cried with relief.  Why on earth was I so pleased that I was sick?  Well, because I felt like now that I had outward physical symptoms, I could take a sick day. Even though I’d been terribly unwell for weeks, it was only when my illness became physical that I felt like I was justified in staying home.

 

Invisible illnesses come with tricky pitfalls.  There’s always the worry that people will think you’re faking it.  That you’re making it up to get out of work or to avoid responsibility.  When you have no physical symptoms to “prove” that you’re unwell, it’s difficult to justify taking time off.  This is particularly true when you’re depressed or anxious and you simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to assert your needs or argue with workmates who don’t understand that mental illness can be as debilitating as physical illnesses.  For me, I’ve never been brave enough to call in sick when I’ve needed a ‘mental health day”.  Even though I think it would be justified, I still haven’t ever been able to bring myself to do it.

 

The mental load of engaging with others

I am a self-confessed introvert.  I much prefer my own company to the company of others.  I find being around other people (with the exception of a few of my nearest and dearest) mentally taxing.  And when those interactions take place in a professional environment, that makes it just a little more difficult for me.  On my good days, I can manage the daily office banter perfectly well.  I can smile at staff meetings, make small talk at the copier and pick up my intercom without breaking into a cold sweat.  But when my anxiety is kicking in or I’m on the verge of a crash, managing those polite, simple interactions becomes a monumental task.  Just answering a question from a colleague about the stationery order can leave me on the verge of tears.  Each time my intercom buzzes I feel a sharp pang in my chest and my breath comes in bursts.  For me, the mere task of being around other people is taxing and takes a huge mental load.  It’s extremely difficult to keep my professional mask in place and do my job like I’m supposed to.

 

Financial security and the money buffer

One really positive thing that my full time job has brought to my life is the feeling of financial security.  When I was working part time, I was making enough to pay my bills and not much extra.  I would often fall into a panic about what would happen if I had a sudden emergency and needed extra cash.  I wasn’t in a position to cover unforeseen costs, and the idea that I might suddenly require hospital care or need to pay for repairs on my flat was terrifying to me.

 

Now I feel much more secure about my financial position.  I know that my bills are covered and I have enough to put food on the table.  I can switch the heater on or take an extra shower without panicking about the spike in my bills.  And I now have enough that I can save towards some financial goals and stuff a bit of cash away for the future.  For all the stress that full time work brings, that financial security and knowing that I’m looking after myself is really reassuring.

 

A reason and a purpose

Although I’ve mentioned a lot of the struggles I have with my depression and work, taking on a full time job has helped my depression and anxiety as well.  I’ve gained confidence as I’ve learned new skills and managed challenges at work.  I’ve come to see that I’m quite capable of dealing with difficult problems and working with other people in my office as a team. Additionally, there are days when it’s difficult to get up, to shower and to drag myself through the day.  But I do it because I have to.  Because I know I have a job and I can’t afford to lose it.  Because I care about the work I do and I don’t want to let my workmates down. While that could be a lot of pressure for some folks, for me it works well as a motivator and helps me to move forward.

 

Do you have a mental illness and a full time job?  How do you manage it?  What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve experienced?

 

Liptember: a word about mental health and work.

I missed out on doing a Liptember update last week because I was just too exhausted.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how having a mental illness affects my ability to work.

For a long time I was only able to work part-time jobs.  A couple of hours at work with a constant stream of customers was enough to leave me drained and exhausted.  By the end of my shift I would be too anxious to talk to anybody.  I’d be watching the seconds tick down until I could finish up and go home.  As I left the store, I would screw my headphones tightly into my ears so that I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.  I felt horrible for being anti social, but the truth is that interacting with people puts a huge strain on me.  I’m extremely sensitive to noise and conflict.  If I had a shift where a customer got angry or frustrated, I would feel agitated for ages afterwards.

This year I took on my first full-time job.  I’ve always felt extremely nervous about working full time because I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to handle it.  I was worried about getting tired and run-down, as my depression gets worse when I am burnt out.  I was also very concerned about the limits on my time, because I do a lot of self-care activities to help keep my mental health on an even keel.  I knew that with less time to spare, I wouldn’t be able to do those things that allow me to function on a day-to-day basis.

More than anything, I was concerned about whether I would actually be able to do my job well.  I’m a clever, well-organized person and I am a very hard worker.  But when I’m depressed, I find it hard to concentrate.  My memory suffers and I can get quite snappish with people.  I become very tired and jittery.  I find it difficult to cope when new tasks are thrown at me while I’m still working on old ones.  I don’t work well under time pressure.  I was concerned that my depression would mean that I wouldn’t be able to do my job well and that I’d be fired.

I do struggle working full time with my depression.  Lately I’ve slipped backwards because the demands at work have been high and it’s been eating into my spare time.  I had a melt-down at work a few months in when my boss kept piling more tasks into my inbox.  I feel frustrated with myself.  I worry that people think I’m lazy.  I can’t stress enough that depression has nothing to do with laziness.  I like working!  I’m a very hard-working person. It’s just that I get too tired and brain-fogged to do a lot of the work that I have to do.  It’s maddening.

But I plod on. I feel proud of the work I’m doing and the way that I’m performing at work. I try my best to make time for those things that keep me going, like my family and friends, my yoga practice, my blogging and crafting.  It’s hard, but I feel proud of myself for achieving what I have so far.

And so with that in mind, here are my liptember selfies for this week.

On Friday I wore pretty florals and Avon’s “Kiss of Pink” lipstick.

On Saturday I tried out Revlon’s “Ravish Me Red”.  It’s a lot more orange than the reds I usually go for, and I’m still not convinced that I like it.

On Sunday I didn’t take a selfie, because I spent the morning in bed and the afternoon bombed out on the couch watching The Walking Dead.  I was just too exhausted to do anything else.

On Monday I went for hot pink and my PacMan earrings to cheer me up.  It wasn’t entirely successful though.  After spending the day fielding work calls, I had a meltdown at my parents house and spent the evening in bed, crying with frustration.

I struggled to get dressed on Tuesday morning for work.  I ended up wearing a  much more casual outfit than usual and a slick of Rimmel’s Hot Fudge lipstick.

By Wednesday I was feeling  a lot better.  I’m wearing another Rimmel lipstick.  This one is Bright Spark.

Thursday was snakeprint and Chinatown Chase from Lipstick Queen.

On Friday I wore fire engine red and my Nana’s black pearls.

I celebrated my last work day of the week with pretty florals and Choccie lipstick from Rimmel.

On Sunday I wore no makeup, but I did manage a swipe of nude lippie.  This one is Glinda from Urban Decay.

And by Monday I felt recharged and refreshed and ready for a swipe of Liptember Red.

If you would like to donate to Liptember to help raise money for women’s mental health research, please visit my fundraising page.  All donations are greatly appreciated.  You could also buy something from my Etsy store, as 10% from each sale will be dontated to Liptember.

Do you have a mental illness?  How has it affected your ability to work?

Liptember, raising funds for mental health for women.

I’m feeling particularly excited today.  Not only is it the beginning of a new month, and the start of Spring, but Liptember commences today!

What’s Liptember?  Its an awesome fundraising initiative to help raise money for research into women’s mental health.  Participants commit to wearing lipstick every day for the month of September and find sponsors to donate to the cause. It’s a truly excellent idea and I am so excited to be taking part this year.

DSCF9061

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with a variety of mental health issues for most of my life.  I’ve had depression and a generalized anxiety disorder since I was a teenager.  This manifested as an eating disorder in my teens and emetophobia for a big chunk of my life.

In addition to my own struggles, I’ve watched some of the people closest to me battle their own mental health issues.  I’ve seen some of my favourite people suffer from depression and anxiety, addiction, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and so many and varied problems.  I’ve seen and felt the sting of the stigma that comes with having a mental illness.  I’ve felt the frustration at being unable to access the help I need, or watching a friend go through hell because the systems that are in place to assist those with mental illness are woefully inadequate.  I’ve lamented mates who have experienced crippling side effects from medications that will control their mental illness but create a minefield of physical ailments. I’ve studied psychology and marvelled at how little we know about something that affects so many people.  So you can see why I care so deeply about mental health.

Now, Liptember is quite special because it focuses on raising money for mental health research for women.  You might be wondering why it’s so important to look at women specifically, rather than raising money for mental health research for all.  There are a couple of reasons why I believe it’s vital to support this cause:

– Firstly, most research into mental health is carried out on white, adult males.  This research is brilliant, but it can’t be directly applied to women, who have a different biological chemistry to men.

– There are a range of mental health issues that only occur in women, such as postnatal depression.

– Many drugs which are currently used to treat common mental illnesses cannot be taken by women who are pregnant, and can lessen the effectiveness of some forms of contraceptives.  I believe that it’s important to find medical interventions which can be taken by women without impacting their reproductive health.

– Advances in research into mental health in women may provide important insights into the way we treat mental illness in all people.

DSCF8626

So I’ll be wearing lipstick every day in September, and taking a photo each day and posting them here on the blog.  I won’t be able to post each day, but I’m aiming to  have a weekly update with all the photos from the previous week.  I see lipstick as a profound personal statement for combating mental illness.  It seems simplistic, but when I’m feeling low, I like to put on a swipe of bright colour to cheer myself up.  For me getting dressed up is a form of creative expression, a way to take control and feel good about myself.  My lipstick is the war paint that helps me feel a bit more confident when I’m overwhelmed or down.

DSCF8283

So how can you get involved?  There are a couple of things that you can do…

– Firstly, you can donate to my Liptember page.  All donations over $2 are tax deductible and every dollar counts.  It doesn’t matter if you donate $1 or $100, I’ll appreciate every single donation.

– You can also purchase your official Liptember lipstick for just $4.99.  You can buy your lippy at any Chemist Warehouse store.  For the first time, Chemist Warehouse are now offering the Liptember lippies on their online store with international shipping available.  How exciting!

– If you’re really keen, you can sign up and start fundraising yourself.  It’s super easy to set up your fundraising page and begin raising funds for this awesome cause.

– I’ll be donating 10% of every sale from my etsy store to Liptember.  I’ve got all kinds of hand-crafted items and e-books available.  I’m also happy to create a custom-made to-order item just for you.

So what are you waiting for?  Click on over to my fundraising page to donate.  I truly appreciate each and every donation.  Thank you so much for supporting this awesome cause.

How yoga has helped with my depression.

I’ve mentioned before that yoga has played a huge part in helping me to manage my depression.  Since I began doing yoga on a regular basis, I’ve noticed that my moods have been much better in general.  I’m better at coping with stressful events and when I do hit the skids and have a depressive episode, it tends not to last for as long.

So how does a bit of stretching and deep breathing help me to manage a mental illness?  In lots of ways, actually.

DSCF7804It gives me a shot of endorphins

Exercise in general is great for depression.  Exercise produces endorphins, which are naturally-occurring happy chemicals in the body.  They act like anti-depressants, balancing the chemicals that are lacking in depressed individuals and improving mood, appetite and motivation.  My daily yoga practice gives me an endorphin boost which helps to keep my depression at bay.

 

It gives me a sense of accomplishment

When I’m feeling really depressed, I have this little voice in my head that feeds me all sorts of negative messages.  It tells me that I’m a failure, that I can’t do anything right and that I’m pretty much worthless.  Overcoming that loop of horrible self-talk can be really difficult.

 

When I practice yoga, I find myself improving little by little.  Some days I’ll be able to stretch  a little further than I did the day before.  Perhaps I’ll find that I’m able to hold a balance pose without wobbling.  Or maybe I’ll manage to pull off a pose that I’ve never done before.  It’s these little improvements that give me a sense of accomplishment.  It gives me the evidence to shake my head and prove that I CAN do plenty.   Those small victories are a huge deal when you’re battling depression, so doing an activity that gives you the opportunity to improve and grow is a great idea.

 

DSCF7026

 

I have a greater respect and appreciation for my body

A big part of my depression stems from a pretty dreadful relationship with my body.  For years I hated the way I looked and tortured myself to get to a point where I could be happy with my body.  The problem was, that point never came.  No matter how much weight I lost, I still hated my body and could always find some fault with it.

 

I’ve spent the last few years working to improve my relationship with my body.  And that means taking steps to take care of myself and finding ways to make peace with my body.  Yoga has been a huge help in this area.

 

Yoga is very introspective.  It isn’t a competitive sport and you don’t need to worry about doing every pose perfectly.  It’s largely about doing what you can do, appreciating your body’s abilities and respecting your limitations.

 

Through my yoga practice, I feel as though my view of my body has changed.  I’m more able to appreciate what my body can do, rather than focusing on how it looks.  I’ve begun to realise that if I treat my body well, it serves me so much better than if I starve and punish it.  I feel that yoga has given me a greater sense of respect for my body, and I feel more at peace than ever with my physical self.

 

It’s great for stress relief

I am a terribly anxious person, and I tend to stress out about the littlest things.   That constant anxiety can be debilitating.

 

Yoga forces you to slow down and take a few deep breaths.  It’s really about focusing on what’s happening in the here and now.  After a yoga session, I feel about a million times more relaxed than when I started. When I’ve had a rough day, I try to come home and spend 20 minutes on my mat rather than curling up into a ball and panicking.  Before, I used to get anxious about my stress, which would just stress me out more!  I’d work myself into a terrible state just trying to figure out a way to settle down.  It was very counter-productive.  Now, I have an activity that I know works to help me de-stress, which takes a lot of the tension out of my day.

 

DSCF7024

It gives me something to look forward to each day.

I used to get really worked up when I was having a bad day.  I remember standing at work, feeling the tension bubbling up after dealing with a difficult customer.  I’d be so upset because I was feeling so horrible but I had no idea what to do to pull myself out of that slump.  I felt so frustrated and worthless, and I would become convinced that my feelings of sadness and despair would go on forever.

 

Now, I can reassure myself that I’ve got my yoga practice to look forward to.  While it doesn’t work every time, most days that twenty minute practice is enough to lift my spirits and calm me down.  Knowing that I’ve got a plan that is usually effective is a huge relief and gives me something to look forward to at the end of a hard day.

 

Do you use yoga to manage a mental illness?  Do you have another method of managing a mental illness or stress that works for you?  I’d love to hear about it.

Mental health and self care link-up

Mental health and self-care are two topics that are very close to my heart.  I like writing about these topics for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, sometimes it’s cathartic to write about your own experiences.  It helps to bring clarity to your mind.  Secondly, I like helping people.  I like to be able to share my experiences and suggest ways that I’ve used to cope with difficult times.  Not only does this give practical advice to people in need, but it helps me to feel like I’m not alone.  When you’re suffering from mental illness, it can be easy to feel as though you’re the only person in the world who feels this way.  It can sometimes seem as though everyone else is swimming through life happily, while you’re struggling to even get out of bed in the morning.  Reading about other people’s experiences can shine a light in your heart and make you realise that you’re not alone.

DSCF8069I’ve been through plenty of tough times.  I’m currently struggling with depression, anxiety and emetophobia.  In the past, I’ve also dealt with an eating disorder and other rough things like breakups, death of family members and homesickness.  Although I write about these experiences (and you can read my own mental health posts here)  I don’t have the answers to everything. In fact, nobody does.  But sometimes other people put things more eloquently than I can.  Sometimes others offer amazing advice that I’d never thought of.  Sometimes other bloggers are able to share unique experiences that I don’t have.  So I’ve decided to compile a list of some of my favourite mental health and self-care posts.  I’ll add to it over time, so this will eventually become a collection of great posts and resources about mental health.

Miss Fairchild writes about depression and looking after yourself.  There are some great pieces of practical advice here as well as an awesome list of resources.

– Natalie of XL as Life did this post which talks very frankly about her history with mental illness and the difficulties with diagnosis.

-Jess of The Militant Baker works in the healthcare industry and talks about the misconceptions about mental illness.

-Another post from The Militant Baker.  This is all about putting together an emotional first aid kit. There is some excellent practical advice in here about self-care.

Kinds of Blue is an amazing collection of stories about depression told through comics.  If you or someone close to you is suffering from depression, this is a really great read.

This post from Hyperbole and a Half floored me the first time I read it.  I’ve never read a more accurate description of what it feels like to have depression (for me, anyway, everyone is different).

– If you’re dealing with loneliness, have just moved to a new city or are struggling to feel comfortable in your own company, this video, called How To Be Alone is brilliant.

-These tips for making your home a healthy, safe space are brilliant. There is a lot of information here, but if you’re struggling, you might find one or two practical changes you could make to your environment that will have a big impact.

So far, this is all that I’ve got, but I’d really like to grow this list of links.  If you’ve written or read a great post about mental illness or self care please leave me a link in the comments.

My anorexic brain.

Lately, I’ve been stressing out about my weight.  I realise how ridiculous that must sound, but it’s the truth.

Most of the time, I feel pretty confident about the way I look.  I’m fairly content with my shape and happy with my body.  I try my best to be kind to myself, particularly when it comes to matters of body image.

A few weeks ago, something happened that threw me off the body-confidence wagon.  I was putting on my favourite pair of jeans, and I had to really struggle to button them up.  Although I finally got them fastened, they were so tight that I felt as though my insides were being squeezed out.  I refused to admit defeat, and wore the jeans for an entire, very uncomfortable, afternoon.  I had to take them off at dinner time though, because there was no way that I was going to be able to eat while I was wearing them.  I had to face facts: my favourite jeans no longer fit me.

I feel ashamed to admit that this tiny event shot me into a spiral of self-hate and doubt.  I started internally berating myself for eating so much takeaway food, and for not exercising every day.  I found myself calculating the calorie-content of every thing that passed my lips, and I started to get a bit obsessed with choosing the ‘right’ foods .  Every time I passed a mirror, I scrutinized myself,  checking for new lumps and bumps and feeling disappointed with the figure staring mournfully back at me.

For the longest time, I didn’t even realise that I was doing this.  Perhaps that’s because I’d fallen back into an old, familiar way of behaving. You see, for the bulk of my teen years, I struggled with anorexia.  This pattern of self-hate and self-scrutiny was nothing new to me, because it was the way I lived my life every day between the ages of 13 and 17.

It’s hard for me to tell exactly when I got over my anorexia.  I started to feel more confident in myself when I was about eighteen, and my destructive behaviour slowly settled down.   In much the same way as my anorexia began, it left my life in a gradual fashion.

I went through many periods in my young adult life where my anorexic behaviours cropped up again.  Sometimes it was the result of extreme stress or depression.  Sometimes it was the result of comparing myself with others, and feeling as though I fell short. Sometimes I’d go through a rough patch, and I’d lose weight from sheer anxiety.   At the moment I realised that the weight had come off, there was always the temptation to go back to those old starve-and-scrutinize habits.  But I’ve always managed to convince myself that it wasn’t a good idea.  During each of these times, common sense and self-esteem won out, and I managed to get myself back on the right track.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling really terrible about my body.  I’ve been beating myself up for not being more vigilant about what I’ve been eating, for being too lazy to cook and relying on takeaway too often.  I’ve been mad at myself for not making the time to work out.  I’ve scrutinized my body to the point that I’m not even sure that I’m seeing it clearly any more.  And this has to stop.

There are lots of reasons why I’ve put on weight lately.  It’s perfectly normal for people to put on weight as they get older.  Your metabolism and lifestyle change as you age.  I’m 26 years old, and I can hardly expect my body to remain the way it was when I was 16.  Also, I’ve gone through a major life-shift in the last year, as I’ve started living with my boyfriend.  That has caused a major shake-up in the way I cook and shop.  I’ve got a lot more demands on my time as well, which makes it more difficult for me to find time to exercise or cook.  Finally, I’ve been battling with depression this year, and this has  left me feeling drained.  Often, I’ll find the task of cooking dinner far too daunting, so we’ll get takeaway.  Over the past few weeks though, I’ve been making a much bigger effort to take better care of myself, and simply giving up takeaway food and making time for movement has really helped with my state of mind.

I need to be kinder to myself.  I can’t keep beating myself up every time my body changes.  I can’t see every pound gained as a failure, or feel weak if I can no longer fit into clothes I owned as a teen.  I need to give myself a freakin’ break.

It does worry me though when I fall into these patterns.  I worry that no matter how well I get, that although my body is no longer anorexic, I’ll always have an anorexic brain.

So, why am I writing this?  There’s a few reasons:

1. To get some perspective.  In the past, when I was feeling shitty about my body, I’d keep it inside and never tell anyone.  I’d rely on myself to get over the bumps, which was totally unrealistic because I was in no state to provide sound advice to myself.  If I tell someone else how I’m feeling, it helps to put it into perspective.

2. To make myself accountable.  If I make a public statement to try to accept myself and to look after myself, then I’m a lot more likely to act on it.

3. To show you that just because someone seems confident and happy with their body, doesn’t mean that they always are.  I get so many emails and comments from people who are unhappy with the way that they look, who commend me on my body confidence.  In truth, although I am pretty confident about the way I look, I also go through periods of self-shattering doubt.  Loving yourself isn’t an easy thing, and you don’t achieve it all in the blink of an eye.  It’s O.K to fall down every now and again, as long as you pick yourself up and keep trying.

DSCF7024

So let’s all just give ourselves a freakin’ break, Mmm’kay?

The worst thing about being bullied.

October is Anti-Bullying month.  After reading a number of posts on other blogs about bullying, I did some serious thinking about my own bullying experience.

 I was viciously bullied for the first four years of high school.  From the time I was 12 years old until I was sixteen.  During this time, I was emotionally and physically abused.  I was hit, kicked, and punched.  I had a plethora of awful nicknames.  Boys would wave lit matches along the ends of my hair on the school bus, singeing it, while whispering in my ear that they wished I would burn to death.  One boy regularly threatened that he would come to my house and kill my pets.  I was spat on in the hallways at school.  P.E was my least favourite class, because it opened up a range of new torture options to my bullies.  On the sports field, it was easy to pass off a trip, a punch or a jab as an accident.  They could say whatever they wanted to me without the teacher hearing.  It got to the point where I was terrified to leave my own bedroom.  I was lonely and depressed.

The worst part of being bullied wasn’t the physical abuse.  It wasn’t the name calling or threats.  The worst part wasn’t having boys trying to put their hands up my skirt when I walked past, or having a girl grab my arm and bend it painfully behind me, boasting that she was going to break it.

The worst part of being bullied was constantly asking the question, “Why me?”

I spent years wondering what it was about me that attracted the bullies.  I wasted countless hours trying to understand why they hated me so much, and why they’d chosen me to pick on.  Television and movies had taught me that there are always bullies, and bullies need somebody to bully.  I just couldn’t understand why that person had to be me.

I asked myself this question over and over.  I figured that if I could identify that one offensive quality that made them despise me, then I could change it and they’d leave me alone.

Spending so much time actively looking for reasons why people didn’t like me took it’s toll.  Asking “Why me?”  forced me to focus on all the negative parts of myself.  All this critical thinking wreaked havoc on my self worth, and created a constant feeling of self loathing.

The worst part of being bullied was that question, “Why me?”  By forcing me to ask that question over and over, my bullies had inadvertently created a situation where I slowly dismantled my own self esteem from within. I actually helped them to break down my belief in myself, and to destroy every shred of self confidence I had.  I wasted so much time and energy looking for reasons why I wasn’t worthy of their acceptance, when I should have been spending that time celebrating all the reasons why the most important people in my life loved me.  That was the worst thing about being bullied.