I’ve never been one to let things go emotionally. Whether it’s a snide remark or the sadness of watching a video of people dying in another country. I suppose it’s partially hurt pride/jealousy/insecurity (the remark) and the other may be empathy (watching the news). Either way, I find myself harboring my feelings into a stew of irrational emotional precipices. Some last for years, some boil up when triggered.
I was bullied quite a bit (though in my day bullying was quite different than it is today, thank goodness,) when I was a child. I took it because I assumed I must have been doing something to warrant it. And the more I was bullied, the more I thought I deserved it. I was at a dinner the other week and an old teacher from third grade was there. (Random, indeed.) I told him how I had to leave one of the schools I attended because the bullying was so bad and I mentioned the ring leader that started and led the abuse. He told me he had just run into her and she was just the sweetest woman ever. I know that I’m 34. I know this was 2nd grade. But inside I still didn’t want to believe she could be good. In fact, deep down I believe I was angry that others saw her as a great person. I still held a grudge for her behavior and how it tormented me and began my process of self-hate – 25 years later.
It’s not rational. And I do believe that bullying is about peer pressure and insecurity and often balloons way out of proportion. I know I am not the same person I was when I was 9 either, but I also know I have never excluded or banned a person from a group – when I was 8, 15, 22, or 34.
Redemption plays a large role in letting go of grudges and begs the question: can people change? Should they be forgiven for their transgressions? When? Why? How do they prove when it’s enough and how do you create a construct of reasonable forgiveness based on the severity of the action?
Now she didn’t deserve to go to jail, but it rankled me that she got to have a good life. As he spoke about her, I still felt something deep inside – an anger for all the nights I spent crying in my room, wondering why I had to be me – someone people did not want.
When I left college, I moved into an apartment with a woman who was one of my closest friends. At the time, I was in the throws of multiple depressive episodes. I tried not to impact her – staying in my room as much as possible, smiling politely and telling her I was fine but just needed to be alone. And then one day, she brought me out to the living room couch and told me that my depression had become too much of a burden on her life. She needed to live and do things that made her happy and coming home to a house with someone who was so depressed was untenable. She didn’t apologize, she didn’t recommend I needed more help, and she couldn’t provide it – in fact, she turned the responsibility of her inconvenience on me – the bearer of her burden.
We both moved out and I stopped speaking with her. It’s been a decade since that occurred. I have seen her a handful of times since that incident and we have been cordial. For the first few years, if I heard that things were going well in her life, I would get so angry. Why should someone who did something bad, get something good? Her word “burden” had scarred me and I spent years hiding my self-harm and ignoring phone calls, canceling meetings, fearing I was a burden to all my friends and loved ones.
I know now that she was scared. I can understand also the feeling of responsibility she may have felt while also trying to deal with her own life. I don’t think she handled it well, and at times I still wish she had apologized, but my behavior after I moved out has nothing to do with her. She hurt me, but I do not believe it was malicious. I still wish sometimes I could sit her down and explain why calling someone who is having a depressive episode a burden is incredibly mean, unhelpful, and has severe ramifications. I am not angry anymore and I do wish her a good life, but I will never forgive or trust her as a person again.
I suppose it’s the same with the girls who bullied me. I just want to understand why. And I also want them to understand their role and what they have done. And perhaps that is why I have such a hard time letting go. I know that the constant bullying led to a permanent character and attitude change in my behavior towards people. I withdrew, held people afar, and always insulted myself before anyone else could. I still have a tendency to do this – or at least try. As I mentioned above, being called a burden crushed me and intensified my intent to hole up and cut off all help and love.
And yet, recently, in speaking to one of the people that participated in some of the bullying, she told me she can’t remember why I was chosen. And so one of the pivotal moments that led me to years of emotional distance is something that she can’t remember. It’s hard to let it go when you don’t have the answers and it was so insignificant, that the ones that did it don’t even remember why.
But the thing I hold the grudge against the most is my disease. It’s the only one I can’t forgive or forget. I can’t let bygones be bygones. It’s past pride, fairness, or reason. My life’s potential was ruined. It ripped my memories apart, tore through my body and soul, pushed me to self-violence and made me plead for death. It held me back from love, growth, opportunity and happiness. And it is evil and its’ action are with malcontent with hopes of damaging me as much as possible.
Until the scientists actually figure out what the fuck is actually happening in my brain and how to fix it for the long-term, I feel hatred, anger, and wrath towards my depression. Every time I have a good day I just want to yell out “Fuck you, depression! Who’s the one in the corner crying today? Looks like you’re the loser this time! I’m smiling and you can’t do shit. Fucker.” But then I get scared, ready for it to lash out against me – waiting for a vulnerable moment to bully me again. To tell me I am a burden, a waste, a fat pig that no one will ever want.
I can’t trust people, and I certainly can’t trust my emotional stability. My grudge becomes a protective barrier against pain, though it’s a shitty one and my hurt constantly seeps through. Grudges are the frustrations and pain I hold because I still don’t know why. Why was I the one to be bullied? Why did bipolar II have to infect my life?
I am slowly trying to break down my grudge barriers. I realize how much energy I spend on things that I cannot change. It’s in the past and “it is what it is.” Or at least that’s what I try to tell myself. I try to understand the impact of past actions, and accept the inability for answers or time machine creation.
I suppose it’s never too late to find peace with others and more importantly, with yourself. I’ve come to peace with some – never forgetting but finding a way to accept it as part of who I am. But I haven’t quite figured out how to let go of the grudge I hold against myself, my depression, and my loss of potential. I’m still angry, hurt, and frustrated by my life – both past, present and future. And while I know kicking and screaming won’t help, and that I really am so lucky in so many ways, I just can’t seem to let go and trust in myself and my strength of self. I can’t let down the barrier of self-inflicted pain that protects me from further pain. I fear if I do I will get side-swiped again, played a fool, shattered of innocence which really may be ignorance.
I know I will eventually have to let go because barriers go both ways; they may protect things from getting in, but they also hold things from getting out. And so to grow, to love, to trust, and to live, I have to find a peace within myself and let go of the pain of the past, and fear of pain in the future, even while knowing it is inevitable. What a terrifying endeavor to face and yet one I know I must make.
Scarred and scared, I’m going to try and give it a go.