Owning My Story

I've experienced my share of bullying from the time I was small. I let it define me often over the years.

Having made the decision to insulate myself from bullies, I've found myself developing my own sense of safety.

My mother was the most enduring of the bullies. Her latest effort occurred this past spring. My sister and I were trying to help mom unravel her financial mess. She hadn't filed taxes in eight years, had no money in reserve, and was being taken advantage of by many people in her life.

But she only knows what she knows and fear often convinces us to stay with what we know rather than venturing into the unknown. She suddenly decided to fight against our attempts to help her. As I have always been, I was her target.

Sitting at her house one afternoon, I was trying to explain the paperwork she'd received. She became enraged. She turned on me, spewing forth her vitriol like she always has.  She threatened to call Wright County and tell them I abused her physically and that I was drinking, both of which would violate my probation. For a brief time, I was locked into the misery of the inevitability of being drawn back into the darkness of her world.

Then I realized I did have some power. I called Wright County myself and asked them to come take a report. They did, and I felt safe from her threats for another day.

This week yet another family member attempted to bully me. The whole story is convoluted and nasty, and I'll finish telling it another day.

Briefly, my aunt and I went to court over a financial matter. When the judge told us to try to resolve it, my aunt slapped me. Though I reported it to deputies and the clerk, no one was willing to do anything. On the verge of a massive anxiety and panic attack, I opted to leave rather than stay and defend myself with my receipts proving I didn't owe the money. My journey to improved mental health, to a sense of safety, and to a sense of healthy autonomy mattered more to me than the money.

Once that judgement was entered, my cousin started calling me demanding payment. If I had the money I already spent on my aunt's home, I could sure do that. But I don't have it. He has suggested I am a horrible person, that I treat family poorly, that I am dishonorable, that my immortal soul is in jeopardy, and that I am a worthless piece of garbage. He has threatened to put a lien against my developing business and take out a full page ad in the Monticello Times so someone else can help him collect "his" debt.

And in all the horror of his hurtful accusations and words, I realized something. The work I'm doing in therapy is working. I didn't have the physiological response I would normally have had to his behavior. I used to experience all the heightened symptoms of anxiety and panic, a spike in my blood pressure, the sinking inevitability of judgment by others, and digestive issues. In this episode, I cried a lot, and I experienced severe shaking, but none of the other things happened. It didn't even result in that horrible sensation of doom that always made it impossible for me to sleep at night. I was able to recognize that it's not me that's horrible, unworthy, unlovable, or wrong, and I called those who love and support me, warts and all.

Yep, this is all bad. It's awful to deal with the notion that justice seems to be on my aunt's side and that public perception is that I've horribly treated her.  And the courts seem to agree as they've issued a judgment.

Even if all of that were true, I do not deserve my cousin's behavior.

And so, I'm taking back my power. I'm telling the truth in my own forum and with documentation.  I'm owning my own mistakes.  And, ultimately, I'm outing the bully.  Enough is quite literally enough.