Surviving and Thriving After Bullying

Bullying almost destroyed me.

It started in first grade, then continued in eighth grade and high school, when a few girls tormented me.

These girls would TP and egg my house, throw spit wads in my hair, block my car so I couldn’t drive, punch me in the stomach, let the air out of my tires, and spread horrible rumors about me.

What made it worse is that adults knew this was happening, but no one did anything.

I had no one telling me I was a good person. And I didn’t have it in me to realize that on my own.

The bullying turned into shame. I reasoned that if these kids were bullying me and no one was stopping them, something must be terribly wrong with me.

So began my lifelong battle with self-esteem.

When I was 13, I began living a double life: I earned straight A’s, was a cheerleader, and was in a professional ballet company. I also started drinking, and for 13 years, I used alcohol to boost my social confidence and escape my feelings. I saw alcohol as the solution to all my problems.

I was also depressed but hid it well. I focused on trying to please everyone to avoid rejection, so I never had a strong sense of who I was. I contemplated suicide five times. In the middle of all this, I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology.

I hit rock bottom at 26. I literally woke up one morning and realized I was an alcoholic (I’d attacked my boyfriend the night before in a blackout). I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I wanted to die.

I’d known I needed help for a long time. But this day was different. I was done pretending I wasn’t drinking every night, that I wasn’t depressed, and that I didn’t live in daily fear.

I was done with my double life.

I surrendered.

It’s a cliché, but I was ready—and the teacher appeared.

Without thinking, I opened the phone book and called a crisis center called Turning Point. I stayed there for eight days.

I was both terrified and excited to live life sober. I started therapy. I got into a 12-step group, and it changed my entire life. I came to believe in a higher power and made spirituality my priority.

I returned to school and got my doctorate in psychology. I’ve been a psychologist for almost 20 years.
But that’s not the end of my story…

When you decide to work on yourself and be in the helping profession, you have to face all your dark places. Just because I was in recovery didn’t mean life’s ups and downs stopped happening, I immediately got rid of my limiting beliefs, and I developed excellent coping skills.

In the past ten years, I divorced an alcoholic husband, survived thyroid cancer (I still have daily low energy), lost my life savings after I got cancer at a time I had no health insurance, and lost my home (and job) after the economy tanked in 2008.

But once again, I got back on my feet.

Then the universe decided it was time for even more healing…I’d decided to try to love again and met a wonderful man. But shame issues ran deep, and my fear of rejection was hurting my relationship.

I knew I needed help, so I returned to therapy, found a different 12-step group, got a sponsor, and worked the steps. It completely enhanced my life again.

What helped me the most on my healing journey was women on the same path that I was on. They were strong, wise, and generous, and they listened and supported me like no one else. They shared their struggles and successes with me. They taught me how they got out from under shame, and how to go through life’s challenges with grace. I never could have come this far without them.

I became a life coach to support and guide women who are letting self-doubt hold them back from achieving their dreams. Now I’m the person for others that I needed when I was alone and bullied.

I paid a lot for the lessons I’ve learned. Living life daily without escaping my feelings is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But now I know that not only can I survive anything—I can also thrive. The bullying made me the resilient, confident, and compassionate woman I am today.

And when I’m able to use what I’ve been through to give other women hope, encouragement, and strength, it’s totally worth it.

I want you to know that you can get over your past pain, your limiting beliefs, and your fears—and you can absolutely become the strong, confident, and giving person you’ve always wanted to be.

About the Author | Tristan Sophia

Dr. Tristan Sophia was a clinical and forensic psychologist for 20 years before becoming a Board Certified life coach for women. Her transformational journey of surviving bullying, alcoholism, and depression created her passion to inspire women to stop wasting time in self-doubt and get into courageous action to achieve their soul’s desires. She lives in Montana with her husband and 3 rescue pups.

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13 comments to "Surviving and Thriving After Bullying"

  • Daniel Milton

    Very inspirational story! Way to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go again! Congratulations Dr Sophia, I wish you the best in your quest to help others!!

  • Bree

    What an amazing story! I think anyone who reads this will feel hope that no matter where they are at…things can and will get better. Dr. Tristan is a true beacon of inspiration for women!

    • Tristan Sophia

      thank you Bree! I’m thrilled my message of imparting hope to everyone in all circumstances was received, xoxo

  • Lucy Newton

    I feel so related to this wonderful article. Bullying is something that not only hurts at the moment but is a deep wound that continues to hurt our emotions and self-esteem for a long time, even for a lifetime. It is also a stigma, a secret we carry, we rarely dare to talk about it because it shows vulnerability, but I think it is an act of bravery. Something we need to address so we can work with the next generations, and take action, building our kids defense mechanisms, and I do not mean fighting, but showing them ways to stand for themselves, to feel good about who they are, that they are loved and can achieve their dreams, no matter what others say. We have a lot to do, but I applaud Dr, Sophia for being so open and vulnerable to this hard to talk topic, since it is the first step to instill the change we are looking for. Thanks!

    • Tristan Sophia

      Lucy, I appreciate your insightful comments! We do need to speak out about things that happened to us, as well as work to show others how to attain healthy self-esteem (both perpetrators and victims need help). It’s been amazing to finally share about the bullying I experienced because people have reached out to me to say they also had similar experiences. Speaking out vulnerably has definitely been healing for me. Thank you for sharing your wise thoughts.

  • Wanda Milton

    Wonderful article! It takes real courage to go public about your struggles and own your triumphs.
    Keep on keepin’ on!!

  • Wanda Milton

    Wonderful article! It takes a lot of courage to go public with your personal struggles. Your strength in helping others is your strength in helping yourself!
    Keep on keepin’on!

  • Julie Le Carrer

    I am so inspired by this story and I am so grateful to you for sharing it Tristan! You’re a powerful exemple of what we women are capable of but often forget or don’t know because we’ve learned we’re weak, unworthy. So the more women like you share their amazing stories the more women can heal and reclaim their power, their truth and their freedom! Much love to you!

    • Tristan Sophia

      That is exactly my intention, even though being vulnerable is not always the easiest thing to do. I deeply appreciate your comment!

  • Tracey

    I am in absolute awe of you. You are a true inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing such a raw vulnerable part of you.