A friend of mine recently received an apology from a guy who bullied her in middle school about 16 years ago. She never forgot his hurtful words and the pain that they caused her, and apparently neither had he.
I’ve received an apology from a girl who bullied me in middle school too and it brought closure to the experience for me and for her. Unfortunately, receiving an apology about something that happened during childhood, over a decade ago, is rare.
Life goes on and you learn to live with the pain—but it changes you in ways that you don’t even realize until years later when it all comes crashing down and you find yourself in therapy, sobbing about something that little Jimmy said to you when you were twelve.
Words have that kind of impact.
I have always felt unwanted, like I’m a nuisance to everyone I know and everyone is just putting up with me because they have to. I am skeptical of anyone who tries to get to know me better and I always assume that they have cruel intentions. I’ve destroyed friendships this way without even knowing what I was doing.
A while back, my therapist and I were discussing why I felt like everyone was constantly judging me. It’s hard to find the answers and maybe we don’t always have to know the answers—just as long as we realize that what we believe as a result of the cruel words of others isn’t necessarily true.
But I did figure out why I feel the way that I do, the way that I am successfully working on changing. There were a few different instances throughout my childhood, but one stands out in particular.
I specifically remember a time as a child when someone said to me, “Alissa, you know that nobody likes you, right? We all just put up with you because we have to.”
That statement shattered my heart. I remember it so clearly. I remember where I was, what the room looked like, what the other child looked like, how I had been so happy and excited until those words were said and it all came crashing down, and I also remember receiving a forced apology at the insistence of an adult.
I’ve been living with that for years—subconsciously believing that everyone around me has been just putting up with me. That nobody really likes me, that the moment I feel comfortable in any relationship, the other person will drop a bomb and tell me none of it is real.
And that did happen a time or two, so is life. But I believe this has been a pattern that I have played out for years and years.
I don’t have any of the friendships from childhood because I believed my friends had ulterior motives and so I shoved them all away to protect myself. I still have trouble making friends because I don’t trust the motives of pretty much anyone.
Somehow, by some miracle, I met, trusted, and married my husband. I am comfortable in our relationship and I love him more than ever, but I even questioned his love for me.
In another therapy session, we discussed how I feel like my husband and baby girl deserve someone so much better than me. Since hubby went with me to the first few sessions when I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, the therapist has seen the two of us together and hubby even talked in the therapy sessions when asked to, otherwise he was just there at my request for support.
My therapist asked me, “Don’t you see how much he loves you? It’s written all over his face. He simply adores you. You just have to believe it. Love like that is hard to find.”
It didn’t happen immediately, but after a while I could finally believe. He simply loves me for me. There are no ulterior motives. He doesn’t have to put up with me. He chose, and chooses, to spend the rest of his life with me.
When I think back to the cruel words from childhood, I’m still seeing the situation through the eyes of my child self. But now I have the wisdom to know differently, so I have to take another look at the experience with the wisdom of an adult—and that changes things.
I don’t know how long it will take to undo all the damage that was caused by the cruel words of another child, and I’m sure it won’t be over night. But at least now I’m cognizant of this “belief” that I’ve held for so long and when I find myself trying to sabotage another relationship in my life, I can stop myself before it’s too late.