I have spoken before on the topic of brain-gremlins. Brain gremlins are those thoughts in your head that tell you that you’re useless, or ugly, or that nobody likes you. I have a lot of brain gremlins. The strongest of them revolve around the idea that people don’t want me to be around, are talking about me behind my back, or are actively trying to exclude me. It’s a hard idea to shift, even when I know that I have amazing friends who care about me and enjoy my company. I’ve never been quite sure where it came from. It’s just something I have to deal with.
Last weekend I went to an event with friends which involved a 12hr journey back whith increasing sleep deprivation and grouchiness all around. At one point I got on a train and saved a table, only for everyone to go and sit at the far end of the carriage. Tears followed, and I would have sat there eaten up by brain gremlins had one of my friends not stated bluntly “You know, you can join them. And you will be welcome.” (Thank you again for that, by the way, it’s just the kind of simple reminder that I need when I’m in that state!) So I went to join them… and I was welcome… and I got over the brain gremlins… just like so many brain-gremliny moments in the past, and so many more that I will face in the future.
This was a little moment like so many other little moments in my depression-laden life. Except that this time as I went to sit and had my standard fear that they’d make excuses to keep me out I had a flash of an image of other people throughout my life. I had movie-like flashbacks of people turning their backs, of empty chairs being hurriedly filled with bags as I walked into the lunchroom, of excuses being made for why I shouldn’t be on teams, of people running ahead to leave me behind, or simply ignoring me when I was there. It led to a bizzarre realisation that for a lot of my life I was bullied. Not the blatant violent bullying, but the surreptitious social bullying. And it has affected me a lot.
The reason I call it a bizzarre realisation is that, until that moment on the train, I never believed I’d been bullied. It was just the way things were. No big deal. It was just that, well… people didn’t want me around, and were happier when I wasn’t there. Which made it so much easier to believe the brain gremlins. After all, if it was true in primary school, and true in secondary school, then why wouldn’t it be true now? Why wouldn’t it always be true?
At my school re-union some former classmates approached me to apologise for how they had treated me. I smiled and shrugged it off and said we’d all been young, and we’d all been learning how to be good people, and everyone has done things in youth that they wouldn’t do now (only I don’t think I put it so eloquently then 😛 ) and I put it to the back of my mind. After all, even if they *had* been unfair to me, what did it matter now? That was all in the past.
Now that I’ve thought about it, though, I’ve realised why it matters. It doesn’t matter because they owe me anything, or because I needed to know they were sorry, or even because it would somehow fix the past. It matters because back then, when I was excluded, it wasn’t because something was wrong with me. It wasn’t just the way things were, and are, and always will be. It was because there were a load of kids who didn’t know how to act or how they affected others, and people got hurt. And now I’ve learned how to be confident and entertaining in a group, and they’ve learned how to notice when they’re upsetting others, or how to interact with people with different interests, and we’ve all learned how to find friends who are compatible with us without having to exclude those who aren’t, and those brain gremlins that were once so true aren’t relevant any more.
Do you hear that brain gremlins?
You aren’t relevant any more.
I know that now, because I’ve figured out where you came from, and where you came from is nothing like where I am now.
So that’s why it’s important to look at your past and learn from it, not just to sweep it under the rug and pretend it wasn’t sometimes shit.
Because things from your past can still affect you in your present if you let them, and to stop them you need to know where they started and confront their lies from the very base. Lies need to hide to thrive, and being honest with yourself can be the light you need to root them out. And without lies, the brain-gremlins will have nothing left. Because you’re not ugly. And you’re not a failure. And you *do* have friends.