How Bullying has Affected Me
One minister's personal account of the effects of bullying
Before being bullied by members of the congregation I served, I was a normal, happy, healthy person - lively and enthusiastic, and with a genuine love for ministry.
The change in me as the bullying began was gradual and at first almost imperceptible. I began to feel a little tired, a bit less enthusiastic about what I was doing and to find it just that bit harder to come up with ideas for things like sermons. These seemingly trivial symptoms gradually worsened and eventually ministry in general became more of a struggle. I began to find it hard to concentrate and to remember things properly. Then I started to get very irritable and find it difficult to sleep.
Life in general, not just ministry, became really hard work. Hobbies, gardening, housework, family, everything seemed to be getting on top of me. And I was beginning to lose my self-confidence, questioning my ability to cope with all sorts of things.
I became almost obsessed by the bullying. Most of my waking hours were spent worrying about how I could change what was happening to me, and it was hard to focus on anything else. I became more and more exhausted. Little tasks, which previously were finished within half an hour, seemed to take all day to achieve as I struggled to find the concentration and the physical energy to continue.
Dealing with people was another difficult area. I was becoming very withdrawn and wanted nothing more than to avoid people altogether. I was also becoming very jumpy, found it difficult to tolerate noise and almost impossible to relax.
Inevitably came the point at which I broke down under the sheer stress of it all and had to withdraw from ministry. I was completely exhausted and suffering from severe anxiety. I was terrified of people, terrified of going out and terrified of everything and anything to do with the church. My self-confidence and self-esteem were virtually non-existent. I began comfort-eating, and my increased weight made me feel even worse about myself. Many times I considered suicide, though I never actually attempted it.
Things have not improved that much since then. I remain exhausted and terrified, and I suffer from frequent flashbacks, nightmares and replays of the bullying. I have tried to put it all behind me, but the memories just won't go away. Everything in life is an effort; work is impossible, and essentials like cooking and shopping have become a complete nightmare. Often simple things like having a bath, or walking upstairs leave me exhausted.
I find it very hard to concentrate on things like reading, watching television and the hobbies I previously enjoyed. I forget things very easily, make mistakes I wouldn't have made before and seem to be forever walking into or tripping over things. Social contact is very difficult and even close friends and family easily exhaust me - I avoid people if at all possible, and have become lonely and isolated. Answering or making phone calls is usually very difficult.
Church is no longer a part of my life; it brings back too many memories and I am petrified of the bullying beginning again. Watching services on television - even if only as part of fictional broadcasts - is too traumatic, and I can no longer hear hymns without panicking. I don't believe I have lost my faith - it's still there deep inside me - but everything I once trusted and believed in has been thrown into complete disarray. Sadly, some Christians make this much worse by preaching at me and telling me the problems are all spiritual, and that I need to repent.
Instead of church, my life now seems dominated by appointments - with my doctor, with my psychiatrist, with counsellors etc etc. I remain determined to work through all this and to be a survivor, but I know there are no easy answers and no rapid cures. Being bullied has damaged me severely - before I lived, now I exist. No one can tell me for certain when, or even if, I will recover.
BALM Home Page
Introducing the Founders of BALM
How to Support a Bullied Minister
What Not to Say to a Bullied Minister
How Bullying has Affected Me
Bullying and Spirituality
Links to Other Websites and Organisations
Counselling with Care
Bullied in Ministry
Bullying in the Church
Bullying and Burnout
Submission on Clergy Stress
Additional Resources on Church Abuse