My struggle with anxiety and depression caused by childhood bullying

My Struggle With Anxiety and Depression

I’m not exactly sure why I have it or what caused it, but I have a pretty good Idea.. I had a hard childhood. We were poor. My parents tried hard and I love them for it. But I did have a shitty childhood. I was teased and bullied in school horribly until 9 grade. I never felt good enough and was extremely shy. I couldn’t even order my own food at McDonalds. I thought everyone was judging me. I thought my teeth were too crooked, my hair too messy, my nose too big. Whatever flaws I had, I thought they were hideous and everyone saw them and judged me. That they were whispering and talking about me behind my back. I carried that self image of myself until I was well into my 20s. So, I think this is mostly to blame for my anxiety and depression.

As to when the anxiety actually started, this is the first encounter I ever had. I remember sitting in the chair with my first son. He was right around a year old at the time. I was alone with him a lot, as my husband at the time was a truck driver and was on the road a lot! I had no family in the area. My entire family lived in Florida and his (my husband’s) family could have cared less if I lived or died. I was alone in the small, backwards town in upstate New York, other than my son and husband.

We lived in a singlewide trailer on the edge of town with one neighbor close by. I tried to be friends with them, but they really weren’t interested. She, (the woman next door) would pretend to be my friend so I would buy her cigarettes and take her shopping as she had no vehicle and her husband was a lazy drunk. But, only later I found out from my husband that she told everyone in town she wished I would stay away as I was a pain in the ass. So, I stayed away. I’m not sure why she felt this way, as I was only trying to be her friend.

Yes, I was sad, I grew up in a small town about an hour away and all my friends lived there. I longed to go back but my husband refused. He would even get angry when I went there to visit. I’m not sure why I put up with that. Live and learn I guess. But, at the time I felt that I had no choice. As I stated, I was very shy and afraid of the world.

So, I guess I was probably already depressed and then post partum blues added to it. I’m not trying to play the martyr, I’m just telling you my story as I lived it.

Anyway, back to the chair with my son. I am not sure why, but this most horrific thought came into my head “what if I went crazy and put my son in the burn barrel”. I am disgusted with myself for ever even thinking that as I am writing this even almost 40 years later. But, that is exactly the thought I had. Well, I flew into a panic! (My first panic attack) I was horrified and sickened that I could even have a thought like that. I loved my son more than life itself and there is no way I could ever do anything like that, but it scared me so bad. I started to feel panicky and anxious about being alone with my son. I thought if I could have that thought, maybe I was capable of doing something awful. I had these irrational thoughts for years. It basically ruined my chance of being the mother I wanted to be because of my fears. I still feel immensely guilty about it to this day.

I did go to a counselor. He assured me that there was no way I would do anything like that and it was just an irrational thought. It didn’t matter though, the fear would just not go away. I lived with fear, anxiety and depression for years. It wasn’t the same back then. I didn’t have the internet to turn to. I had no forums or hotlines to call. My family and friends were far away. I lived with this by myself and kept it all inside for many years.

We moved a few times all within the same town. I did eventually start to feel better. When my son was around three, my little sister who was 15 at the time. Came up from Florida to spend the summer with me. We had a really nice summer. Then, when fall came and it was time for her to go back to Florida, she decided that she wanted to stay with me and go to school in my town. I was very excited about this. I was so happy to have someone there with me to talk to and keep me company. I called my Mother to see if it was okay.

Well, it was not okay. My Mother flew into a rage and started accusing me of trying to steal my sister away from her and a lot of other horrible things. Needless to say, my Mother came up two days later from Florida and took my sister away. The very next night, I had a horrible, maybe the worst ever panic attack of my life. And, they kept coming… I was almost worthless at doing anything. I was shaking constantly, couldn’t eat, couldn’t watch tv, couldn’t listen to music. I was like a zombie. I still had to take care of my son though and I did. Hard as it was.

I knew I had to do something to get myself out of the depression and panic, so I went to town and found a job. It did help a lot, getting out of the house and interacting with people. I was feeling the best I had in years to be honest. I still had anxiety and it caused constant worry about my health. I made numerous trips to the hospital with my heart feeling like it was going to pound out of my chest. I have aches and pains, I think I have rare diseases. You name it, all the classic symptoms. I still worry about my health and particularly my heart to this day. Now, I know this is all irrational and in my head but it doesn’t change a damn thing. I will go for months feeling great, then all of the sudden out of the blue it will hit me. I will see something on tv, smell a certain scent, anything that reminds me of being depressed and bam, I have an anxiety attack and then I’m in a funk for days or weeks. Strange thing is, I can feel perfectly happy and fine one day and be depressed and anxious the next and then fine the next. Like a yoyo.

I also have SAD. I’m not sure if it was caused by the shorter days or from a memory of bad days in the fall, but I get depressed for a few weeks every year. I usually get over it by Christmas though, so that’s a good thing.

My life has been tough. The two bright spots are my Sons. They are everything to me. My first husband has OCD very badly. It was hard to deal with for everyone including him. We divorced after 16 years of marriage. I met another man shortly after and married him. That was one of the worst mistakes of my life. He is a narcissist , pathological liar and a chronic cheater. He would tell everyone and I mean everyone, my family and friends included how horrible I was to him. How I wasn’t good enough. He would say anything really to get people to hate me and think I was a bad person.

He left me and moved in with other women and I took him back twice. I still cannot believe I took him back. This I’m sure goes back to me not feeling worthy and maybe this is all I deserved. He left me one final time and I tried desperately to get him back to no avail. I am now truly grateful that he didn’t come back. I see what I was doing. I know I deserve much better than that. I am aware of how I was letting myself be treated and thinking I didn’t deserve any better.

Bullying has long lasting effects. I am sure I would have had a totally different life if I had not been bullied and teased throughout my whole childhood. No child should ever have to go through being told or implied that they are not good enough. Everyone is the person they are meant to be. Crooked teeth, scars, or any other imperfections they may have. We really need to show our children what bullying can do to others and hopefully put an end to the torment.

I still have anxiety and get mildly depressed from time to time at 58 years old. I am sure I will for the rest of my life. Is it from bullying and torment from my peers when I was young? I guess we’ll never know.

Photo credit: Image provided by the storyteller.

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Mary Johnson

I am a single mother of two grown boys. I am 58 and I have struggled with anxiety and depression for over 30 years.