Recently, I ran across a book that touched my heart. Laura Corbeth wrote about the bullying and psychological abuse she suffered growing up. She has just released her book of her experiences called, My Courage To Tell.
This was a pageturner for me. When I started to read it, I could not put it down. Laura did an excellent job of telling her story and giving hope to those who have gone through bullying and psychological abuse.
So, without further delay, here’s the interview with Laura Corbeth.
DS: Tell us about the bullying you experienced as a child.
LC: Before I start answering any questions Don, I want to tell you my heart goes out to you. I had a hard time reading your story. It went right into my heart, and all I could do is cry. I am so proud of you to get through all that you did, and now you are helping people. You are amazing.
So, yes, absolutely. As a child, can you imagine trying to go to sleep next to a bomb? And then being threatened to not tell or you would be killed? That’s what happened to me. It was a beautiful Christmas present I was given when I was a young child. A perfume bottle that looked like a bottle of hair mousse. My brother who was three years older than me shook it violently and then placed it very gently and carefully at the bottom of my bed. He told me not to move, or it would blow up. I didn’t sleep well that night.
I was bullied. Relentlessly. By my brother. No cuts and No bruises and No scratches.
One imagines a bully as a person that punches. Someone who would physically hurt you. My bully was a psychological abuser. The invisible wounds went deep. My brother was sly, constraining me to spit in my face, lick me or perform tickle torture. He took pleasure in dominating me and playing on my fears – relishing his control over me, his younger sister. His lies and manipulations terrified me. Witnessing my brother torture animals, left no doubt in my mind that my tormentor would follow through on his threat that he would kill me if I told.
DS: How did others in your life enable the trauma and bullying you experienced?
LC: Well, I point to my parents. Rather than investigating my deteriorating situation, they believed my brother’s continuous lies as he denied his abuse of me. When they did catch glimpses of my brother’s cruelty, they put it down to sibling rivalry. But it was not sibling rivalry. It was ruthless, relentless, psychological and physical abuse. And, by not dealing with it, my parents were complicit. Unheard, unprotected, I was completely on my own.
It wasn’t until I was nine years old that a teacher, a friend of the family realized I had serious mental health problems. I was shutting down at that time I got help.
DS: What happens when a child doesn’t get the needed love and bonding?
LC: It’s great that you ask that. We are now learning about Adverse Childhood Experiences. I had researched so much when I started to really look into my past and the abuse and neglect that I received as a child. I learned a lot!
Anyone who has experienced childhood abuse and neglect might want to know how it can effect them later on in life. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study2 was one of the largest examinations on child abuse and neglect. It focused on the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect on a person’s health and well-being when they are adults. I have talked about it in my book My Courage to Tell, and think that this important for people to know. I am grateful that the @7030Campaign has supported me and have posted My Courage to Tell on their Web site. They have illustrated ACES quite beautifully. Anyone who wants to see a graphic should have a look at it.
Attachment Theory And Bullying
We should also start to think about the Attachment Theory. I also researched this. Most psychologists would agree that the quality of love, from at least one primary caregiver, for a child up to three-years-old, will have a tremendous impact on that youngster.
In 1969, psychologist John Bowlby developed the term the “Attachment Theory.” The theory emphasizes that a strong emotional and physical attachment is critical to a child’s growth in early years. The attachment gives the child security and a solid foundation. Without those attachments, children will become fearful. Children will be less likely to seek and learn new experiences, and there is a high risk for low empathy.
And now we are starting to research brain development and how our early years are so important.
These are important issues that I really want to talk about. I really believe it’s important.
DS: In what ways did physical somatic symptoms show up from the bullying?
LC: Oh Lord! My blood pressure was high. I had this extreme anxiety in my body. Paralyzing fear. Almost out of control feeling. I felt shaky. My hands would shake. I couldn’t believe the body was telling me something was very wrong.
It really surprised me when I started to feel these intense feelings. But, I now realize, you can’t bury trauma. It will not go away with prayer or mindfulness.
I read a book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. I learned that we hold that trauma in our mind, body and brain. It doesn’t just go away. It needs to be dealt with.
So, that’s what I eventually needed to do.
DS: How did you get to the point where you could talk about what you went through, and ultimately be able to write this book?
LC: It was a process and I started to see a psychologist. Someone who had a lot of knowledge and experience with psychological disorders and psychological trauma and bullying. It was then that I felt safe enough to start dealing with the trauma from bulllying. I started to talk about my childhood, and I started to deal the extreme shock and devastation from the other toxic family members. It was very hard on me as I was dealing with emotional abuse.
At the same time I was seeing my psychologist, I started to journal. I started to write it all down. It was very telling for me. And I suggested to my psychologist a technique I read about that I thought would be an amazing way to meet my little hidden, scared inner child. She, Little Laura, had been quiet for so long… the little girl hiding in her closet. So my psychologist said she thought my technique would be amazing. I won’t reveal what that was. I’m hoping people read the book and see what I did. But I can tell you, it was amazing for me. I started to finally hear my little girl’s voice. For the first time in my life, I started to listen to her. And she is grateful for it!
DS: What was your goal in writing the book on bullying?
LC: I want people to start talking about the effects of psychological abuse and bullying! I was told that sticks and stones won’t break my bones, but words would never hurt me. It was an outright lie! My abuse was considered so inconsequential. And I think that thought continues to this day.
Now, I refuse to believe that lie. I am now realizing that there was a reason for that trauma in my body and I am not ever going to ignore that ever again.
I learned by all the research I did that children who experience psychological maltreatment are dealing with the same, or perhaps even worse, mental health problems than those children that had experienced physical and sexual abuse including bullying.
This comes from the American Psychological Association (APA) who revisited a study that was published in the Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy publication in 2014.
In that APA paper was titled: Unseen Wounds: The Contribution of Psychological Maltreatment to Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Risk Outcomes.
This study also found that children who experienced psychological abuse experienced post-traumatic stress disorder just as often as children experiencing other forms of maltreatment and abuse. The paper concluded that there was a need for greater attention on psychological maltreatment.
DS: What have you learned that you could share with others about dealing with trauma, both in the mind and the body?
LC: Please get help. It can be worked out. I really recommend people seeking out a professional who has a lot of experience with trauma and psychological abuse. Do your research and find the right fit. I have heard a few times from others, that they have been taken advantage of by their therapist. Don’t be afraid to see a few people. I contacted a few people before I made my decision and I can’t stress enough to people to get the education details. Make sure that your therapist has been to a great university!
And one thing Don, I think I’d like to just talk a bit about psychological abuse and emotional abuse.
Bullying Is More Than Screaming and Name Calling
There is an assumption in society that yelling, screaming, name-calling criticisms, put-downs would be what psychological abuse is. It may be true in some cases. But I think this type of abuse is more that a person will exert control over another person using very planned and specific means. These people are very smart. The abuse is very covert and sneaky. These people will have patterns of intimidating others, a lack of empathy, lack of remorse or guilt. They lie incessantly and they will gaslight (which is a very sophisticated form of emotional abuse). They will threaten. Sometimes it’s a blatant threat, and sometimes not. There is sometimes isolation and financial abuse.
But the most concerning is that people who psychologically abuse have two sides to their character. These people have an ability to “charm” and can lie and speak in half-truths.
They blame victims for any problems, and they minimize concerns of a victim if the victim says anything. When caught in lies, they simply reinvent a “new truth” to absolve themselves and further abuse the victim. That is part of the illness and the really concerning thing is THEY BELIEVE THEIR OWN LIES.
Emotional abusers are different. They are what is called “flying monkeys.” They will work on behalf of the psychological abuser. These abusers are just as damaging to a victim as the psychological abuser. But they don’t intend to harm you, but they still do harm you.
DS: What makes you resilient?
LC: I really don’t know Don but I can only tell you that I have a few things that I believe have made a difference to me.
Since I was a child, I have been praying and meditating. I believe there is a bigger picture somehow. I have no idea what that is, but I really believe there is more to life that what we see.
I’ve read hundreds of books. You and I have talked about angels and I love that you call on your angels. I talk about it a little in my book too.
My Humor Has Helped Heal The Bullying I Experienced
And I think my sense of humor has helped. I always like to laugh. I seem to see the ridiculous in everything. It is so bad that it’s funny. So, I am continually laughing. Why not? Someone once said to me, “Cry, and you cry alone, laugh and everyone laughs with you.”
I sang for many years. I would stand on stage and sing, and I felt a tremendous sense of peace.
And I think the final thing is, I have been helping others. It started in Grade 6 when I started to get help. I remember one little boy in our class. He used to write, and his letters were all jaggedy. He was an outcast, and no one really liked him. But I felt sorry for him and so I would go over and hold his hand while he was writing and tell him to just start writing without so much grip on his hand. I had recognized that tight grip because I use to do the same thing and I still have a bump on my middle finger. I will never get chosen for hand modeling! Lol
So, I’ve recognized that while helping others, we heal ourselves. I have been rescuing animals for many years, and I think it helps us. We have a wonderful bond with the rescues. They appreciate every meal and every walk.
And last, but not least, I have a wonderful husband and son who support me. I have a “new” family. They are honest and beautiful people.
DS: How difficult was it to walk away from your family?
LC: It was very difficult to set boundaries. But for the first time in my life, I’ve put Little Laura where she belongs — first. She deserves love. She deserves protection. I am giving her that. And I’m giving her a voice. She is now wanting to “tell.” Day-by-day she is feeling more confident with this new voice.
We need to love our inner child when we get older. When we do that, wonderful things happen. Also, we can find peace.
DS: In conclusion, thank you so much for sitting down and sharing your story of bullying and psychological abuse with us. I’m so inspired by your courage to tell your story. I know how difficult it is to speak up and say what you have said, but it is a story that many need to read. Finally, I cannot stress enough that this book was one that really touched my life and I hope anyone reading this will go check it out. I hope as a result of this interview that others will come to know they are not alone.
Laura’s Website: MyCourageToTell.com
Also, Follow Laura on Twitter: @Laura_Corbeth
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Laura is now one of our Contributors