There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about school bullying and the devastating impact this can have on people well into adulthood. One very important group of people that the media has overlooked is gay and lesbians who are constantly abused more than almost any other group. Many people who are gay, as adults are coming to terms with the enormous impact from these physical and emotionally violent experiences from when they were at school.
Childhood school abuse can result in an adult having many difficulties including relationship problems, anxiety, depression, social phobias, low self-esteem, and low confidence. Often gay and lesbian kids feel a deep sense of shame, not only about what they have been taught about what it is to be homosexual but also feel shame about the abuse itself and end up not telling anyone. The years of silence trap the impact of the experiences and the person ends up carrying around a lot of these feeling that doesn’t disappear in time.
Childhood is a time where we all learn about ourselves, other people and the world around us. We are very impressionable, vulnerable and sensitive. This means that the abusive words and physical violence can deeply affect the beliefs we have about everything and tear at our hearts causing a lot of long-term emotional damage.
If this happened to you, does this mean that you are left with a legacy of emotional distress that will never go away? Fortunately, you can recover from the effects of childhood abuse with time and effort. A first step in the right direction can be to become more aware of why you might respond with extreme emotions at times when it is not warranted, and ask yourself the vital question, “what does this experience remind me of?” For example, if your boss at work criticises your work and this sends you into a major slump for days, ask yourself if there is a possible connection to what it was like to constantly tease and harassed at school. (Keep in mind, however, that other nasty childhood experiences may also have had an impact).
The main thing then is to start to remember the difficult times vividly and write about how you felt then and now, or perhaps talk it through with someone you trust. The more you can talk about it, write about it, and feel the emotions of it, the better. If this feels like it is becoming a bit overwhelming, it may be of benefit to see a professionally trained counsellor or psychologist who can work through the issues with you. Breaking the years of silence can be quite a painful, and yet liberating experience.
Clinical Psychologist Annabelle Young has extensive experience in working with people with depression, anxiety (including panic), adjustment difficulties, stress, trauma, PTSD, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem, grief and loss, interpersonal difficulties, as well as alcohol and drug use issues.