I was severely bullied for my last four years of elementary school. Ever since then, I've suffered from low self-esteem, loneliness, and unhappiness. I feel like an outsider, even today. I've made friends, but never any solid, long-lasting friendships. For a long time I pretended like it never happened and as a result, I started to binge drink and I let men take advantage of me. I think I loved the attention guys gave me. I've since stopped that self-destructive behavior, but I still can't seem to move on and get my life started. All I want is to put the past behind me but how can I do that?
— Stuck in the Past Patty
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Dear Stuck in the Past Patty,
I'm sorry to hear that you're still feeling the residual effects of your childhood bullying, that can't be light baggage to carry through adulthood. Your childhood is the most vulnerable time of your life so have you ever spoken to a therapist, or confided in a family member or close friend about how your past is still affecting you? Pretending like it never happened won't make it go away, so I highly advise you to face your past head on. Are you by chance still in contact with any of these bullies? If not, would you feel comfortable contacting them and telling them how their actions affected you? It could be a great way to gain the closure you so clearly need.
We all know that making new friends is hard, but think about how many people are trying to do exactly the same thing. Put yourself out there, volunteer at your local community center, join a gym or a book club, or hang out at a local coffee shop. If you make yourself approachable, it's just a matter of time before you meet nice and welcoming new people to befriend. I'm glad to hear you've put an end to your destructive behavior, it means that you are making progress. In due time and with a lot of work, you'll be able to put your past behind you and move on with your life but remember, pushing your feelings under the rug won't make them go away so lean on those that love and care about you for support during this difficult time. Good luck.