RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you forgive your bullies October 17, 2016

“Forgive and Forget:” we’ve all heard this idiomatic phrase. Perhaps we’ve even uttered it to ourselves when faced with someone who has wronged us, or offered it as a polite consolation to others. But can one truly forgive AND forget? And do we even want to forgive and forget? I was faced with this very question during Daniel’s—my pastor–sermon this weekend.

 

In Isaiah 43:25, it is written, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Many people take this as the basis for “Forgive and Forget.” After all, if the Lord of all creation, says He wipes out our sins and forgets they ever happened, who are we to hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us? Only here’s the thing, such a simplistic approach that verse completely disregard’s God’s omnipotence—He knows all that has happened, is happening, and will happen…with that knowledge, how would He be able to just “forget” sin? When it states, “remembers your sins no more,” that doesn’t mean He’s choosing to forgive and forget—He’s choosing to forgive us of our sins as a means to restore our relationship with Him; choosing not to hold our sin against us anymore. He wants to separate us from our sins so that they can no longer ensnare us—keeping us from a relationship with him. Furthermore, He wants us to extend His level of forgiveness to those we encounter. When we think about forgiveness, we must no longer think of forgetting, but of restoration.

 

With that in mind, I revisited a prompt I learned when training for the Body Project at the NEDA conference last month: “Please write a letter to someone in your life who pressured you to conform to the appearance ideal. Please tell them how this affected you and indicate how you would respond now, in light of what you have learned.” I knew immediately who I needed to forgive and restore; my bullies. I hold an inordinate amount of resentment towards these individuals—many of whom I haven’t seen in at least ten years, and none of whom deserve to have control over me anymore. This summer, many people asked me if I would be attending my ten-year high school reunion. My answer was always the same, “No one at Lakota liked me when I was there. Why would they like me ten years later?” Clearly I’m a master at forgive and restore. I had neither forgiven nor restored. In fact, any time my school’s name is mentioned, a feeling of intense sadness and indignation invades my heart. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed that that is my reaction. In an effort to forgive and restore, I’ve written an open letter of forgiveness to my former bullies.

 

Dear Bullies,

I forgive you. That’s right; I forgive you. Right now you’re probably wondering why I am forgiving you all for being horrible people, for giving me ingenious nicknames like “cow” and “whale,” for making a party game out of calling my house, for making me eat lunch alone for all those years, and for the myriad other malfeasances you committed—not just against me—but to so many others. You may be pondering why “Rumpke Recycling” or “Dairy Queen” is forgiving you and is grateful for the abuse you inflicted. While many of you are likely still questioning who I even am; as you’ve likely forgotten—or chose to ignore—your past transgressions. Your past behavior—as malicious as it was, and may, very well, still be—actually made me stronger. Though your treatment of me plunged me into a seemingly inescapable pit of depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders…it allowed me to seek and develop the very tools I needed to escape.

 

After being subjected to your harangue and torment, I grew to believe that I deserved to be treated in an unfavorably and destructive manner. I learned to hurt myself before others could seize the opportunity. I believed—albeit falsely—that hurting myself before others inevitably would, would make the pain more tolerable. However, the only result of that attempt at self-preservation was self-destruction in the form of twenty years of eating disordered hell, self-harm, and isolation. In gong through that hell, however, I learned of the inherent worth given to me by God and used your torment as the very foundation upon which I built my life and career.

 

In seeking refuge from the effects of your degradation, I grain invaluable knowledge and tools. If it weren’t for your wrongdoings, I may never have learned how strong, determined, and loved I could be. I’ve discovered that I’m imperfect and that what makes me worthy of love—because everyone is imperfect and we’re all deserving of love. I have come to disregard the negative, hurtful comments of others, while not continuing my negative attitude towards myself either. Asking for help, I’ve learned, is a necessary aspect of a healthy life—not a sign of weakness. Gone are the days of hurting myself before you could hurt me. Instead, I’ve constructed a support network of individuals who genuinely care for me and reinforce my commitment to recovery.

 

As a result of my efforts in recovery, I’ve acquired a job I adore and which also makes great use of my life experiences, education, and empathy. Everyday I have the privilege of engaging with teenage patients in treatment for eating disorders and share what I’ve learned from your many injustices. Likewise, these incredible souls teach me. Together we are overcoming and learning to love our authentic, raw, vulnerable selves.

 

So while you may have attempted to subjugate my life and though I may have missed twenty years of my life to an eating disorder, I stand here today as living proof. Proof that self-care is essential—regardless the opinions of others. Proof that one can rise from their past—from your tragedy, I have triumphed. Although it was painful at the time and was painful to remember, your bullying set me up to be the person I am today. And today, today I am improving. Know that you are forgiven.

 

  Gratefully,

Rhea

jenni-and-rachel

When you gain recovery, you get to meet people who have impacted your life from afar, and who helped you through their books, speeches, and living their own recovery. I was so incredibly humbled to meet Jenni Schaefer a few weeks ago! My goal is to shine as bright a light as she has. 

 

Colossians 3:12-15

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Advertisements
 

When it is National Bullying Awareness Month… October 22, 2013

            In recognition of National Bullying Prevention month (October, here in the states), I would like to share some information on bullying that I gained by attending an “Evening with the Experts” presentation held by the Lindner Center of Hope (LCOH). The LCOH is “is a nonprofit, mental health center staffed by a diverse team, united in the philosophy that by working together, we can best offer hope for people living with mental illness. The patient and family are at the center of our treatment, education and research. Lindner Center of HOPE provides patient-centered, scientifically-advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of: Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Addictive Disorders, and Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorders” (as taken from their mission statement).

 

            A study performed by the Bully Project discovered that EVERY day approximately 160,000 students skip school for fear of encountering their bully; that’s 21% of the child population in the United States. However, many well-meaning adults do not understand the various forms bullying can take in today’s society.

 

            Another study, performed by the Youth Voice Project, stated many reasons for which students were bullied: 55% were bullied because of their looks, 37% were bullied due to their body shape, 16% were bullied for their race, 14% were targeted due to his or her sexual orientation, 13% were bullied because of their family’s income, 12% were targeted due to religion and 8% were bullied due to a real or perceived disability.

 

            As presented by Dr. Tracy Cummings, staff psychiatrist at the LCOH, there are five distinct types of bullying:

 

1)      Verbal- takes the form of: name calling, demeaning nicknames, teasing, taunting, sexual comments, hate speech, mocking, note writing/texting, and prank phone calls. Targets of bullying often internalize these verbal messages from bullying and come to believe them as truth.

2)      Physical- takes the form of: pinching, hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, spitting, posturing (intimidation), taking/breaking possessions, sexual intimidation and intruding upon personal space. Fortunately, if there is a fortunately in this situation, physical bullying can very easily travel through the legal system as assault.

3)      Social/Relational- takes the form of: exclusion of self/others, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing someone in public, whispering about others, and imitating. Rather than being an assault on the body—as with physical bullying—social bullying is an assault on a target’s character and is, therefore, harder to see outwardly.

4)      Extortion- is the use of force or threats to get something from the target; either a physical object, an action (such as doing homework or stealing for the bully) or to make any other gain by the bully.

5)      Cyberbullying- takes the form of: email, texts, instant messages, cell phones, chat room, online journals/blogs, websites, digital photos and social media. These forms of bullying can either be attacks on a certain target or exclusion of a target. A study from the CyberbullyingResearchCenter shows that 50% of school-age children have experienced some form of cyberbullying; with 10-20% of those students experiencing the bullying on a regular basis.

 

Dr. Cummings also presented warning signs to look for in students (and even adults) who you may suspect to be the target of bullying:

            Obvious signs of bullying

                        1) physical marks on the target of bullying such as scratches, bruises or other indications of violence

                        2) the target of bullying is missing items

                        3) the target of bullying discloses the bullying (this happens VERY rarely)

            Subtle signs of bullying

                          1)      the target of bullying asks questions about bullying or asks for advice on how to handle situations with bullies

                          2)      the target has somatic complaints (physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or other pains that have no obvious                                            medical cause are often brought on by the stress and emotional toll put on the target by the bully)

                          3)      the target makes self-degrading comments—often the same ones they hear about themselves from the bully/bullies

                          4)      the target refuses to attend school

 

The effects, according to Dr. Cummings, of bullying include the following:

            -fear

            -depression

            -anxiety

            -school refusal

            -maladaptive social interactions

            -compromised educational/job opportunities

            -dysfunctional relationships (targets will not allow positive relationships to form for fear it may develop into bullying)

            -substance abuse/dependency

            -criminality

            -change in sleeping patters (either too much or too little)

            -variance in eating patters (either too much or too little)

            -death (homicide and/or suicide)

 

 

Dr. Cummings also offered many strategies for appropriate interventions.

 

            How to intervene as an adult:

            1)      Listen

            2)      Assess safety

            3)      Demand action 

                   a. Review the school’s bullying policy, bring up concerns with the principal, take legal action if necessary

                   b. Document all instances of bullying

            4)      Stay (or get) involved in ending the bullying

            5)      Build a social network to end the bullying and support the target’s wellbeing

            6)      Maintain a follow-up to ensure the bullying is ending

 

              How to intervene as a child:

              1)      Be empowered- leave a potentially dangerous situation, befriend the target, do not join the bullying, report bullying to an adult

              2)      Act safely

              3)      Act positively

 How to empower targets of bullying: 

             1) let them know you are listening

              2) let them know they do not deserve to be treated the way the bully treats them

              3) Let them know they have the right to leave the situation

              4) Let them know that you are there for support and encouragement 

 

On a personal note, as a target of bullying myself, I know the damaging effects it can have both in the moment the bullying takes places and continuing on into the target’s adult life. These experiences with bullying are one of the many reasons why I started this blog. 

 

Below are some links not noted above that are very valuable toward ending bullying:

1) stopbullying.gov

2) dosomething.org has a “Bully Text” campaign on their website which offers information and an informative, text-based simulation

3) Embrace Civility, a program offered for parents and schools

4) Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center

 

Psalm 94:16-19

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”