My story of being bullied

I want to open up about my experience of being bullied. It began small in middle school, with the feeling that some of the other kids looked down on me. What I said would be ridiculed or ignored. I started to notice how there was a scale of being liked, and I was at the bottom. In the neighbourhood I was sometimes ridiculed for the way I dressed and got beaten up by an older boy. I would fight him back, but he was older and I always lost. It felt unfair and the other kids would look and not help. Going into highschool I learned that talking or fighting back was useless, since I would lose anyway. My christian background also made me feel guilty about fighting or talking back, because you were supposed to ‘turn the other cheek’. So I gave up and became silent, letting all the comments come in after that.

In high school the real bullying started. I was an easy target. Very insecure, naive and funny looking.  Growing up in a christian bubble, I had no idea of the ‘real’ world. I had issues with presenting and dressing myself and had no idea who I was. First some older boys picked on me. They would stand around in a group around my locker and not let me get my things. Or when I opened it they would keep kicking it so it closed. They would walk behind me and make funny faces or comments about my appearance. One time they put a dirty cheese sandwich in the hood of my sweater and filmed it. I felt so incredibly ashamed, ugly and small. I would cry a lot and retreated more and more into myself. I don’t think I talked about this with anyone, and for about 2 years I dealt with it alone.

At some point the kids in my own class also started to make fun of me. Not all of them and not as frequently, but it hurt almost more. Some girls would make cruel comments, point and laugh. When I walked on the street, teenagers would laugh at me and shout things. They would shout that I looked weird, that I was ugly or asked in a funny way ‘what I was’.

There was one situation that I remember very clearly. We were in class and talking about beauty and what makes someone beautiful. The teacher made the mistake of asking a boy in the class who he thought was the most beautiful girl. He said my name as a joke and the whole class laughed. I kept it together then, but cried so much about it later.

Another time was when I had to do cleaning with a group of my class. Every class had to do mandatory cleaning for a week in the school year, where you would clean up the cantine and such. I had forgotten about it one day. The next day we were cleaning together when all the other kids dropped their things and said that because I had missed the previous day, I had to clean everything on my own. They went to class and left me behind with a dirty hallway. I burst into tears and the janitor came to talk to me. He said: “Don’t cry, the other kids will make fun of you.” So I hid in the bathroom until I got the courage to go back to class.

There was also another kid who absolutely hate me. Everytime he would see me, he would roll his eyes and look at me with disgust. When he would see me, he would say: “Oh god not HER”.

These experiences in high school made me feel like I was the most disgusting, weird and ugly thing possible. Nothing burns you to your soul as other people your age looking at you with utter disgust. And there were many more incidents that I cannot describe. Things said and not said to me, looks and ways of making me feel small, being left out. The first years of high school I spend with an incredible amount of anxiety. Always looking around to see if it was safe, if I wasn’t being followed. Hiding, avoiding certain places in the school, listening to hear if they were talking about me.

After these first 3 years of high school, it got a little better as I made some friends. But the bullying had left its mark. The last years of high school I often acted out, behaved in a strange way and even made some bad comments about others so I wouldn’t be the lowest one. I had internalized the disgust and hatred, but it became so big and painful that I would sometimes direct that disgust and hatred towards others. I would start to feel the same about them. And I still struggle with this sometimes.

These experiences have marked my life for so long. I have lived a life of isolation and being on my own. I have had such severe social anxiety and depression that for a year after high school I was almost unable to leave the house. I always felt watched and was afraid I was being followed. It has affected me physically, causing slumped shoulders, a crooked back, the inability to stand up straight and a nervous system that is always active and on guard. It is only now, through having a lot of positive experiences, that I am slowly able to let go of it. But I still have massive social anxiety and in groups I freeze. I still unconsciously expect others to make fun of me. In groups of people my age, I am afraid that they together will play a joke on me and leave me behind. But I am getting stronger and standing a little straighter every day. I have left behind religion, discovered my bi-sexuality, traveled and had so many good life experiences. I am ready for new adventures and leaving behind all hatred, disgust, fear and insecurity that is still left in my system.

From 2011 where I was 16 years old (left) to 2020 (right). I have no pictures of the time where I was bullied the most. I didn’t want to take pictures then and destroyed the ones that were taken. Also, it seems the shorter the hair, the happier 😉

Als een glazen muur

Paarse lucht is overdreven. Grijs is ie, heftig en bedrukkend. Het beschutte gevoel van vroeger geeft het nu niet meer. Ten minste, bijna.
Bijna kan ik erbij. 
Bijna hoor ik de bladeren knisperen onder mijn schoenen.  

Bijna is het hier. 

Bergen in de lucht, veilig op de grond. Beschut en toch zo open. Het is er echt, maar dáár, niet hier. 

Bijna laat ik me raken.

Bijna kan ik weer genieten.

Maar bijna is niet hier. 

Bomen kalend, en grijnzend om me heen. Oranje, rood, geel bruin en groen, een palet aan kleuren en aan leven. 

Bijna kan ik het weer voelen. 

Bijna is het weer van mij. 

Maar bijna is opnieuw gegaan, van hier naar jaren terug. 

Is er dan iets mis met mij? Heb ik iets verloren? Of ben ik slechts verjaard geraakt, gewend aan alles om mij heen? Maar het was zo puur, zo heerlijk, zo dichtbij. Het was zo veilig en zo groots, zo avontuurlijk en zo … 

Zelfs de woorden zijn nu bijna weg. Beschrijven lukt niet meer. Is het dan het ouder worden, of zal ik ooit weer voelen? 


I Am Not Ready

This weekend I went to London to go to the event ‘The Miracle of Healing’ by Matt Kahn. I was excited at first, but it turned out to be quite a heavy experience. A lot of painful stuff came up, and there was no space or lightness in me. Matt talked about the happiness of just being alive, of having a close, tantric relationship with your breath, and each breath reminding you of how good it is to be alive. For me, each breath felt more like torture and a reminder how much it can hurt to just breathe. How the breath can barely reach into the body, how every inhale feels like being out of breath, and how little aliveness and energy is able to come in through breathing. It was a reminder of how traumatized my system is. How unsafe even just breathing feels. I could feel all the pain, disorientation, sadness and anger within me, boiling in one big pot of confusion. I left that day feeling heavy and shaken up.

Now I am back home and processing all that happened in London. Some memories came up from when I was 18 years old, being in one of the darkest periods of my life. I suddenly saw the depths to which I went back then. I could see myself being in an incredibly vulnerable and painful place. A dark pit, with no ground to stand on, no light, no hope, no help. Waves of anxiety that went much deeper than I can now even imagine. It went to the core of my being. Something in me was so open and vulnerable back then.

I can see how desperately I’m trying to keep myself out of this pit now. How closed off I am most of the time, hardened and protected. I also see that this open and vulnerable part of me is still in that pit, waiting for my help and ability to go back into the depth and be there for myself. And at the same time I can see that I am not yet able to do this. I need more tools, experience and help to go back and bring light into the darkness of that time. For now, all I can do is be gentle with the patterns I use to not fall back into that darkness. To let the ice slowly melt.

At the same time I feel anger about this. Why is nobody talking about this experience? This experience of seeing pain or trauma in yourself, but not being ready to face it. Feeling an emotion arising, but not being in a space where it feels safe enough to actually feel the emotion fully. I hear so many beautiful stories of people finally being able to face a difficult emotion or dive into an old trauma. But what about the times where you can see it, but not do anything about it? What about being stuck in a place where you are so painfully aware of all the shit that goes on inside of you, but it is still too overwhelming to truly face any of it? The space where you eat, drink, smoke, judge, project onto others, hate and hurt to get away from the pain. The space where you are stuck in your patterns and you keep repeating old and painful behavior. Why can’t you see me and love me in THIS place? Why can’t you be gentle, be with me in this place, instead of judging me? I hear so many stories of people about what they used to do. How they used alcohol, sleep, food, drugs and whatever to not feel. And so many times it comes with an attitude of now being in a better place, now being able to face those things bravely. Why can’t there be more attention and gentleness for this earlier stage? For this part of humanness? Can you even see how painful this state is? In how much isolation this part is, because it is so hated? Can you see how the idea of it being better to face your emotions hurts the part that is not able to yet? What about this part? What about me? Do you even see and honor me? Have you ever thanked me for all the protection I gave? For how I got you to the place where you are now?

I can just see how this part would be able to melt into light and love as soon as it is completely seen and honoured for what it does. I am in that process now. Seeing and honouring the part that runs away and isn’t ready to feel and take responsibiliity. And doing it from that space. But it is hard, because I feel so much hate and shame about it. There is a feeling of doing something terribly wrong, because as a ‘spiritual’ person, you should face your emotions and pain. And I feel the need to be recognized for what I am doing here and what I’m going through. So many people I follow and am friends with seem to be one step ahead of me. They are already in a place where they have done much inner work, and are able to dive into emotions while being able to stay present. And I am not. I am ashamed of that. I feel small. Young. Tiny. Stuck in a place that is so hated. I feel alone in this place.

The Red or the Blue Car

Today I feel confused. It is as if two ropes have been attached to my arms, the ropes are connected to a car, and each car is driving in the opposite direction. Do you get the image? Both cars want me to move into a certain direction, but in the end I’m stuck in the place I was standing. It’s something like this:

Pulled apart by two cars

So what is the blue car and what is the red car? I’m still struggling to give words to it, but I will try (and for the sake of the analogy, I may exaggerate a little).

The red car is all about Illusion. The driver of the Illusion car knows the world is an illusion. Thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, it’s all just a dream. We are not the body, not the mind, we are that which observes all of it. When dealing with a problem, the red-car-driver will say: “Take a step back. See that all of it is a belief, a thought. You are not that, observe it.” If you have pain in the body, observe it. If you feel lonely, observe it. If you have intrusive or anxious thoughts, observe them without attaching any meaning to it. The red-car-driver likes to look at whatever happens from a distance. His/her favorite mantra is: “Drop it.”

The blue-car-driver loves Healing. This driver tends to focus on the personal story. Who is your family, what happened in your youth, what heaviness do you carry on your shoulders? When dealing with a problem, the blue-car-driver will ask: “What are you feeling in your body? Feel it, be with it. Are there any memories coming up? When was the first time you felt this emotion?” This driver loves emotions and would like to dive into the depths of them every second of every day. His/her mantra is: “Feel it deeply.”

Now here comes my confusion and uncomfortableness: I would love to follow the red car, but I’m not feeling it. All the cool people are following the red car. All the awakened people that are being looked up to are following this car. The red car is like the fast one. The cool one. The blue car is… kind of lame. It’s being made fun of all the time, like: “Aww you are still stuck in your story, trying to heal your traumas and believing this illusion. Cute.” Yet here I am, more interested in the blue car than the red one at this point in my life. And I’m scared of admitting that, because it feels like a ‘lower’ perspective. But you know what? I want to do emotional healing. I want to know my traumas, my past lives, my subconscious thougths and beliefs, I want to analyse and categorize thoughts and sensations, I want to understand it all. It excites me to try to understand how it all works! How does shame work, and guilt, and sadness, and anxious thoughts? How do they come to exist, and what helps the body and mind relax? How do I get out of behavioral patterns? How does addiction work? Why can’t I stop eating sometimes? What happens if I talk about something shameful? What happens when I feel I’m stuck? What is depression? How does it all work? I love this shit. I LOVE IT.

The only reason I try to follow the red car is because I want people to look up to me and see me as this awakened, wise, ‘high vibe’ person. I want admiration and validation of the cool red-car-people. But you know what?

I’m Petra and at this point in my life, I am a blue-car-person.

And while I’m admitting stuff: I’m super identified with this person, I’m constantly running away from my feelings through food and distraction, I judge others harshly, I sometimes feel hate and disgust towards people, I’m always looking for validation from others, and I’m scared shitless almost always. I also have many beliefs that I want to hold onto, like that I can’t just drop a belief, that I can’t change, that I’m a victim. I love rolling around in the victim role and feeling sorry for myself. Oh and I hate meditating. It’s so boring. I’m just pretending and most of the time I’m stuck in thoughts that go everywhere.

Which car do you follow? Or are you in a completely different car? Let me know 🙂

I Love Hate You

Roughly four years ago I made this painting. I still know every word that is on it. This painting has been with me to every house that I moved to.

I Love Hate You

Beginning in Leeuwarden in 2013, the canvas was still empty. I may have done some experimental painting on it, but I made the first real painting after a strange experience. That year I was struggling with myself more than ever. So many dark thoughts and feelings came up, that I often had to go outside to walk and breathe. One winter night I decided to walk into the dark meadows, to a small path away from the city and near some farms. It was pitch-black when all of a sudden I saw a white figure running towards me. It jumped up at me and I realised it was a beautiful, huge white dog. I kept walking and the dog walked next to me. I walked until I reached two girls walking their small dog. I told them I didn’t know who’s dog this was. They took him with them to find his owner. They had never seen this dog before in this area, and knew he was not from the farm nearby. This was such a special experience, it was mystical, peaceful and strange at the same time. Back then I was very much into Christianity, so it felt like Jesus was walking with me that night in the form of a white dog. Inspired by this experience I made my first painting. It was a black painting with stars in the sky and a white figure.

After that, I may have painted several times over it. But the second big painting, and also the last, was the I Love Hate You – painting. Being back home with my parents in 2014 sturred a lot of feelings inside of me. Wanting to express my feelings in a creative way, I decided to put my hand in red paint and slam it on the canvas. Then, I wrote ‘I love you’ in red painting. But I hated those words, I could not say them to myself. So I crossed it out and wrote ‘Hate’ instead. Over the next several days I kept adding things to the painting. A few drawings, but mostly words that had been said to me, words that I had said to myself and words that I believed about myself. Releasing these words onto canvas was scary and and the same time a huge relief.

After that, I didn’t want to paint over it anymore. I took this painting to every house I moved to for the next four years, always hiding it a little bit for most people, while some would see it and others I showed it to. And now it is here with me, while all my other stuff is gone. I have my backpack and will leave today. But the painting is still here, and I don’t know what to do with it. I love looking at it. I love the words, the pain, the journey, the place I come from. It no longer scares me to show it to others. I was afraid that people would feel sorry for me, look down on me and see me as less. Now I don’t care. The words do not define me, even though sometimes I feel like they are true.

I do not want to destroy it, because I want everything on it to be allowed to be there. But, I do not yet know where it will go.

The Uncomfortableness of Depression

Today is the day that I am leaving my house. I do not really have a fear of where I will sleep tonight. I have a different fear. I feel a really strong, uncomfortable feeling of lazyness and judgement towards myself.

“You are not doing anything. You are so fucking lazy.”

“You should be doing stuff. Work, study, bettering yourself. Anything.”

“You can’t live this way. Are you insane? Everyone has to work for a living, you have to do things you don’t like to survive in this world.”

I almost believe these thoughts. I feel uncomfortable asking someone for a place to sleep, because I feel I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t I be working on myself? Shouldn’t I be creating something awesome for this planet? And what am I doing? Nothing. Feeling depressed and down and with little energy to do anything. These thoughts and feelings that arise are old ones. They come from the period of my life where I was so deeply depressed and anxious I couldn’t do anything but sleep, eat and hide in my bed. There was a lot of judgement from the outside (“Just go exercise, you will feel better”, “Why are you not doing this or that”). I felt like I should do something, and that I chose this state of depression by not doing anything. I felt like a horrible person.

And now I see: I did choose that state of depression. And it was perfect. It shouldn’t have been another way. I needed that depression, even though I can’t fully see yet what it has given me and will give me in the future. The judgement from outside (and inside) came from fear: fear of not being enough by just being. Fear of having to be worthy by working, by exercising, by being happy and doing things. If you are depressed, you are stripped of everything you are, being of no use to the outside world. The challenge is to feel worthy even in your depression. Especially in your depression, because it is you naked. It is you bare, having nothing to offer, just being. And why should this being in a state of depression be any less than being in a state of happiness? After all, it is just something that IS, something that happens that we observe, like any other state. And we hate it, because it’s so vulnerable. I think no state is more vulnerable than depression.

You are worthy in your depression. It is not something you should solve. It is another experience that you can be aware of. It doesn’t define you, but it is a state of vulnerability. Experiencing it is okay, it is not wrong. It might even be of worth to the world, showing that you don’t have to be happy, that you don’t have to be productive, that you don’t have to be kind, that you don’t have to do anything or be anyone else than you are right now.

You are worthy and loved, not despite your depression, but most of all IN your depression.