Bullying, Self-Attack & Panic Attacks
Savvy Sunday Salutations: Welcome to another week with guest blogger Patrick Tulley; last week he talked about Art and how it intertwines into our lives and society; this week Patrick talks about Panic attacks and some of their causes. Enjoy!
(As always there is a pdf document at the bottom of the post for those who may find this a difficult read.)
BULLYING, SELF-ATTACK & PANIC ATTACK
A lesser known affliction I had for some years, known only to a handful of close friends and trusted confidants, was that I suffered with panic attacks. At its worst I would get them monthly and at other times two years had passed without one. But off and on I have had these attacks since I was around 16/17 years old. I was extraordinarily adept at covering them up. I think it was only one time that I was so terrified that I actually shared the experience with someone; because I was so scared I actually thought I was going to die. Ironically she was my landlady during college, who herself suffered from agoraphobia, so she had some experience of what I was going through. She taught me breathing, sitting and standing exercises that you can do in order to alleviate the terror. Since then I played computers games into the early hours, desperate for sleep, but knowing that the moment I closed my eyes and hit the pillow I would get this crushing claustrophobia hitting my mind. This would wake me instantly and I would need to take a walk, regardless of the weather, as a means to shaking off this feeling. These were primarily management techniques, which gave me a rudimentary coping mechanism, whilst I was experiencing them. Of course they did nothing to stop them from happening altogether. However, you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t had an attack now for over 18 months and the attacks that did occur the two years prior were largely bearable. This was thanks to some awesome techniques and insights I developed and learned with a therapist at that time. I am quite sure they are behind me now, since rather than learning about management techniques I have come to understand their root cause. Which is why, I might add, I have no difficulty telling complete strangers about it now.
So what have panic attacks and bullying got to do with each other? Hmmn, good question. Well, this will require breaking down the experience from the event to that of its root cause. This is what I will attempt to do by the end of this post, albeit anecdotally from my own perspective. I do happen to believe that much of it is universal for many victims of panic attacks, but appreciate that some of the reasons are perhaps more complex and personal for each sufferer. Much has been said in the media about the ‘supposed’ recent bullying phenomena amongst children, whether by mobile phones (happy slapping) or with web applications such as Facebook, Yahoo, MSN, Youtube or Twitter etc. All these technologies are entirely about communicating with each other in new, easy and more manageable ways. So what is particular about these new tools, regarding bullying, that weren’t apparent before? No one as yet has been able to give me a rational explanation frankly. What is particularly novel about these new technologies is your ability to regulate who has access to them. In other words, within a few mouse clicks a bully can be removed, job done. Personally, I find these are often excuses from adults who I believe are experiencing ambivalence, as to the causes and personal experience of bullying itself. I think that when particularly children engage in bullying that this excuse displays an anxiety in the adults that proffer it. Apparently 19,000 children attempt suicide in the US alone according to the Cyber-Bullying Research Centre, who directly attribute these attempts to web technologies alone. This just doesn’t seem plausible, since as I said earlier, most bullies can be removed fairly quickly. Bullying has to be going on elsewhere, or they are just not being educated enough on how to use these tools properly by their own care givers. Bullying, as far as I know has been prevalent all my life, since I was conscious of the world around me. Not to mention there is significant evidence that suggest bullying of one sort or another has been around for a very long time and amongst children as well. School itself is often cited as the first place people experience it, but I wouldn’t suggest it’s the only place it happens and not always the first either. However, I think I can safely say we have all experienced bullying of one sort or another, but perhaps at different stages within our lives. We have all developed various strategies to deal with it, some good, some less so.
I certainly believed for a long time that my first experience of bullying was at school. There is certainly no question that bullying does go on in schools. Without going too deeply into the ramifications of school itself. Most children these days are forced to go to school, whether they like it or not. This can often foster a resentment amongst its pupils, which could be likened to a prison environment, where bullying is very much a part of that culture. Whilst I think some of this is true, it’s not the entire picture of course, at least for me. My first experience of being bullied was by my father. This was whilst being made to rehearse some bible passages that both my brother and I were to recite during a sermon my father would be giving at our local church. I was no more than say 5 at the time and I recall being quite bored with it. So my performance was probably more than lacklustre as a result. I remember my Father being enraged with me and sending me to my room with no dinner. He was terrifying and I remember having to really hold tight to my bladder in case I flooded the carpet. I was deeply upset by this and when my Mother came into my room she said as she comforted me: ‘sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to’. I recall experiencing two great injustices that day. Not only by my Father’s ridiculous anger over a small child’s monotonous reading of a passage from the bible, but by my Mother’s complicity with him. At the very least, if my behaviour was worthy of punishment, then what of my father’s irrational and terrifying rage with a 5 year old? Of course, as I have suggested in a previous post, Children – empathy or strategy, that as children we are prone to assimilating our parent’s needs, as a means of survival. There was little I could do about these injustices, since the perpetrators were my care givers. So it was, from that day forth that I would become accustomed to the irrational needs of adults. Whether they be parents, teachers or pastors I was less interested in meeting my own needs, moreover I was navigating ways in which I could avoid punishment of one sort or another. As for school I experienced a moderate amount of bullying in my primary and the earlier part of secondary school. When I complained about this with my parents, they would just tell me to: ‘poke fun back at them’, ‘don’t let them walk all over you’. Weren’t my parents meant to protect me, rather than give me methodologies that potentially encouraged further bullying? Not to mention, that I wasn’t allowed to do that to my father, when he railed at my hopeless recital of a bible passage. No, the net effect of this advice only served to humiliate me, as it appeared in my small mind to be my fault. That by actually admitting to being bullied, I found myself believing the situation was entirely self-made. In future I would learn to use humour and ‘coolness’ as a means to avoiding conflict with other children and although I never engaged in bullying myself, I often found the bullies enjoying my company. This would be a factor that would haunt me in later life.
Part of my therapy was to explore reasons ‘why’, an otherwise healthy, intelligent, and articulate chap such as myself, was experiencing panic attacks. It’s interesting to note that I was very secretive about them and rarely, (if ever) mentioned them to anyone. I was embarrassed by them and I entirely blamed myself for having them. I believed at the time I was afflicted by a weakness in my own personality that I desperately wanted to hide from people. The reasons why I felt this way would be an important factor as to why I was having these attacks, I discovered later. So what are panic attacks? Well generally they are feelings which you cannot control. It’s a state of conscious terror, not dissimilar to the fight or flight mechanism we all have when confronted by a life or death scenario. In the past it provided the necessary adrenalin for hunters to ward off wild creatures that attacked them. But in the case of panic attacks, there is no imminent danger, so on the surface there seems to be no rational explanation for them, so why do they occur? Well in my case, many of my attacks were led by some personal anxiety I was having, whether it be with work, study, money or a relationship. I would always invert the problem back to myself. Self-doubt would foster in my mind and a form of self-loathing would take precedence, wherein I would start blaming myself for the bad interaction or decision I had made. Now, it should be noted that I’m not absolving myself of any responsibility for these occurrences; they were very often of my own doing. However in my defence, as a child the experience of doing the right thing often led to attack, punishment or humiliation, so what is the relationship? Well, seeing as the right thing was the wrong thing as such. I was always in a constant state of ambivalence. Insofar as doing the right thing led to punishment in my past, it now as an adult led to reward. Doing the wrong thing became more pleasurable and secure for me in the short term, as like in the past, it led to a more liveable existence as a child. However, as an adult a panic attack was always precipitated by a crisis of conscience. However, rather than trying to amend the crisis or avert it, I would dissolve into self-attack and self-blame which would eventually lead me into a terrifying panic attack. The self-blame could be likened to my experience of telling my parents about being bullied and rather than protect me, they inferred that it was my own fault. That indeed I wasn’t doing enough to avert the bullying. This would then lead me to experiencing humiliation for admitting being bullied in the first place, since at that time there was little I could do about it. Hell, I should have known right? This unconscious pattern had been etched into my mind like a virus heaping ridicule upon ridicule on my own self-worth. I no longer needed the help of other peoples attacks, because I was doing it perfectly well myself as an adult.
In turn I became very aware of the friends I had chosen in adulthood and how so many of them resembled the bullies of my past. I recall when a house-mate had been threatened by a seriously violent guy at college to come by and smash his head in. Not long after, whilst alone when some guys actually did turn up, banging on the door and windows, I decided to not answer, but was terrified they might break in. After explaining to my then long term girlfriend on the phone what had happened, she told me to stop being ‘ridiculous’! Thus the humiliation and self-attack was reset again as I was made to feel ashamed for experiencing and sharing a vulnerability in myself. Somehow with our relationships we are drawn to our history like a moth to the flame, only to experience the flame, as a ‘silent’ pain, as normal and expected, comforting even. Since therapy I have had to make a lot of difficult decisions about many of the relationships in my life. Some of them were easier than others of course. It wasn’t like I thought all of them were bullies, people are more complex than that. It was more about what had become the norm between us as friends. So challenging those parts of our relationship either resolved it, or ended it. Now that I’m aware of the triggers that set out my choices for friends in the past, I am now more able to choose better ones.
Although I’m not going to suggest entirely that panic attacks are a result of bullying. What do I know? I am just one case of course. But since bullying is a way in which we can humiliate others, they can often be a trigger for panic attacks in future life. I have further thoughts about the origins and culture of bullying. I believe it is more prevalent than most of us care to think of, but for now dealing with our own ‘inner bully’ is probably the best first step. I also wanted to say that for anyone that is experiencing panic attacks now, you have my total sympathy and understanding. However, I would implore you to go and find help wherever you can. If that raises more anxiety in you, then perhaps you can explore some of it by yourself before you take that leap into therapy. I think one should always ask themselves: what are they ‘really’ experiencing as they go through them and then to seriously ask the question, ‘why am I experiencing this; what brought me to this point’? I believe in many ways, that panic attacks are a method our brains use for telling us we have a problem that needs some careful, but immediate rectifying. Some initial reading I would highly recommend, would be Alice Miller’s, Drama of a Gifted Child and Nathaniel Branden’s book, Six Pillars of Self Esteem. I may discuss these books in later posts, as they had a profoundly positive affect on my own perception. Anyway, I wish all the victims of panic attacks the very best of luck in their search for a remedy and hope that my experience and resolve has been of some help for you.
Copyright © Patrick Tulley 2011 – All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.
Pdf document: Bullying, Self-Attack & Panic Attacks
PATRICK TULLEY: PHILOSOPHER, AMATEUR WRITER
My name is Patrick Tulley. I am primarily a philosopher and an amateur writer but also have been a painter and sculptor in the past. My background has been quite varied, as I have lived abroad on and off during my 20’s, been in a number of different professions throughout my life. More recently, I have been working as a private consultant within the public sector.
Since philosophy is my preferred interest; it is always something I rigorously apply to all my thinking and writing. Whilst I am knowledgeable about abstract philosophy, I am not particularly interested in taking that route. Philosophy is about the search for truth, it was always meant to be understandable by everyday people -this does not mean dumbing down the ideas of course. It just means I do not allow myself to get sidetracked by too many inconsequential arguments, often referred to as lifeboat scenarios. I tend towards the more Aristotelian and Socratic methods of philosophy, but I also have interests in Hume, Nietzsche and Rand. Philosophy has been a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life; it’s often been a very misunderstood subject -which I hope to discuss in future posts. I also enjoy reviewing art, literature, music and passing comments on culture, news and personal experiences that I have found both interesting and enlightening. I do not have a particular interest in politics –however; I may discuss my reasons with you sporadically throughout this blog. Overall, this is hoped to be a journal about a philosophical life. I hope you will enjoy my outlook on things and look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts along the way. I would also like to thank Ozlem for giving me this opportunity to have a voice on her blog.
Disclaimer; whilst we (guest bloggers and I) do not set about to intentionally upset visitors to the site; I understand some of the topics discussed/raised may touch nerves. Please note I will do my utmost to screen these posts before I post them however; I do believe in freedom of speech and I would hate to limit someone because they think differently to me or have different values from mine. Therefore, I urge you to have some understanding and an open mind before jumping in and causing a scene without it being constructive. Like I said, Patrick and I do have difference of opinions and on most cases we agree to disagree but at the same time we also respect the others’ thoughts and views -after all we do live in a civilized world; with this in mind I hope we will have more cultivated and engaging discussions. One last note to all: Here on yikici I have aimed to keep posts and discussions clean; I am not a fan of words that are disrespectful and disparaging therefore, I will not condone its’ use here on yikici; I do hope you share my views on this –if not, at least can respect them.
Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.
Pdf document: Bullying, Self-Attack & Panic Attacks
~ by Patrick Tulley on July 4, 2011.
Posted in Health, Narrative, Psychology, Savvy Sunday Salutations, Words from yikici
Tags: Advice, bully, bullying, cyber-bullying, Edvard Munch, Life, panic attack, panic attacks, Relationships, self attack, therapy, Thoughts
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