Stan Lee Saved My Life

Spider-ManWell, maybe the title of this post is a little too dramatic, but it is time for me to share another part of my story about my bullying years. I haven’t shared a personal thought here in a while as I have had so many others who also want to express their feelings about the long-term effects of bullying.

While my bullying ended when I was 13, the long-term effects of those years cannot be denied. As I look back over the 33 years since the last time I was really bullied as a child, there is always one item that sticks in my mind. I moved when I was thirteen and met some new boys in the neighborhood. One of them was a comic collector and while I had read some comics before I was 13, I certainly didn’t find anything in them. Until I discovered what was really being said under the covers. In the early days, it was always Marvel heroes that meant the most to me and it was Stan Lee’s original heroes that I fell in love with.

Spider-Man, The Hulk, The X-Men, Daredevil, and Ghost Rider were all steady collections for me at that age. Then I noticed what they all had in common. They were all bullied and had alter egos that could fight the bullies. This is particularly true with Spider-Man and The Hulk, which were created by Stan Lee. Stan always had a knack for picking up on the fact that people were bullied and he used this knowledge to create characters that those of us could relate to and wish to be.

Oh how I wanted to be like Spider-Man, to go out and offer help away from the bullies. To be able to realize with great power comes great responsibility. Or The Hulk, a relentless monster that could rampage on the bullies, without the guilt of Bruce Banner, who was unaware of the issue for a long time. Stan Lee knew this was what he was writing about and in many ways, I think he knew that he could make a difference for bully victims through these heroes.

I continued to keep up with the lives of these heroes well into my thirties and some still in my forties. While Spider-Man, and there others are no longer on my reading list, I knew that, at least for 20 minutes, I could escape into these stories and had someone who understood the plight of the victim of bullying.

As I now watch the world catch up with these heroes through movies that bring their stories to an even larger audience, I think back to how Stan Lee’s heroes came along when I needed them and maybe helped save me from a life of further bitter disappointment. While its dramatic to say that Stan Lee saved my life, in some ways he certainly changed it and was one of the first to realize how much of an outsider that a bully victim felt. He could write to share this and make a difference. That is the one thing that people never fully understood about comics. While they were written with kids in mind, many of the subjects of comics took on issues to try to help make a difference for kids, not just schlock stories to throw away. That’s why my collection still exists and I do occasionally go back to visit my old friends Spider-Man, The Hulk, and others. They are always there for me to reflect back on.

Ironically, as I write this, I discovered that Marvel is going to do a month with anti-bullying covers on their comics.

The next time you read a comic or watch a comic movie, see if you see these things too. And if you are lucky enough to meet Stan Lee, thank him from me, will you. ‘Nuff said.

~Alan

The Rise of the Verbal Villian

The Rise of the Verbal VillanThere are so many talented people who are doing so much to help fight bullying and try to change perceptions of what bullying is. Lee has written a very special and moving book on the subject of bullying the scars that bullying leaves to the victims.

As lee describes his book:

Lee is sixteen and life is tough. A broken home and a hard time at high school with tears, jeers and fears seeming relentless and leaving him defenseless. Lee needs to stop this and fight back, but how? Is the answer in his ability to manipulate words? Can he battle back using rap? Is there a verbal villain waiting to be unleashed from its cage? Start reading about a timid and troubled teenager and end up supporting a word-slinging warrior of rhyme for our time.

Lee’s angle on his book is one that is a unique look at how the outlet of rap can comfort and help work through the troubles of bullies. You can read the first fifteen pages of Lee’s book at his website.

His book is also available at most bookstores and through AMAZON.

It is a unique and interesting perspective from an 18-year-old writer that still thinks about his years of bullying and how he came through the other side to help him work through the long-term effects.

As lee also explains, it is his own personal tale of how he battled back against his bullies using words as his weapons to be greater than his haters after being reborn from scorn. He wants to be an anti hero with his alter ego to the masses of teenagers and young adults who are getting troubled and tormented and disrespected and dejected.

 

Am I Useless?

Sophie, the person who wrote the article “Why Are We So Hurtful To Others” here a little while ago, shares another article about how we treat each other. This is an area I am fascinated by, particularly in light of recent terrorist cruelty that is unspeakable in the acts done. How can we, as a society, learn to treat each other with respect and understand what it means to hurt someone to the point that they react in a way that is not their character? Thank you, Sophie for continuing to share your thoughts on bullying here. It is much appreciated. ~Alan Eisenberg


Bullying. That word stands alone. Alone like how a victim of bullying feels. I will never understand why some people feel they can gain power by bullying others and why being cruel makes them feel at the top of the pyramid. Why is it their priority in life to make others feel awful? Why does having a tough persona mean others have to suffer? I don’t understand and I probably never will.

I can’t help but compare two words: bullying and depression. Bullies become so
consumed in their power that they are oblivious to the serious effects their actions can have on another person. So many people of different ages have committed suicide after being bullied. So many young lives have ended and were taken away. How is this ok? It’s true others haven’t decided to take their own life but they do become seriously depressed, which can lead to the dangers of hurting one’s self.

Some may disagree and think that the abuse and behavior of a single person cannot lead to someone taking his or her life. To those people I ask, have you yourself ever experienced bullying? If you have not experienced any form of bullying than you cannot understand what victims are going through. Put yourself in their shoes, would you be upset if someone called you names or told you that you were worthless? How would you react to someone telling you that you weren’t good for anything and were useless on this earth? I can only assume that you would feel terrible and question yourself and wonder “Am I really useless?” No one wants to feel that way. Everyone wants something worth living for, something that makes him or her want to take on life challenges and say, “You hear me God? I am a human being and I’m going to kick some ass!”

It’s important to understand the effects of bullying and to understand that it is not ok. Bullying has become a word that sickens me because of how often it happens, and that it happened to me, and how many blameless people lose their life because of someone tormenting them. IT NEEDS TO END NOW.

~Sophie

A View on Depression and Suicide

I am blessed and lucky to have a religious leader such as Rabbi Bruce Aft that is so in tune with the issue of bullying and the long-term effects, that we talk frequently about it. He is not only a mentor to me, but a trusted friend and he shared recently his thoughts on Robin Williams suicide and depression in an article to his congregation. I asked him if I could share his thoughts here, as I think them relevant to the whole view of the long-term effects of bullying. Of course, he said yes. So I hope you get as much from his thoughts below as I do. ~Alan Eisenberg


Robin WilliamsAs I contemplate how to respond to the suicide of Robin Williams, I want to share a personal discussion which my wife and I had after we watched the movie Dead Poets Society many years ago.  (I think the movie actually was released 25 years ago).

I hope that all of you will watch this movie and perhaps we can have an evening where we discuss it. In case you haven’t seen it, I will briefly share the subject of our discussion while trying not to give away the ending of the movie.

As I recall the movie, Robin Williams is a teacher who spends a lot of time encouraging one of his students to pursue his dreams. The student has a difficult relationship with his father as he and his father have different views on what the student should be doing.

As things evolve, the student relies on Robin Williams for guidance and inspiration. Our personal discussion revolved around the issue of how much a teacher is required to do in order to help a student. We disagreed (and probably still disagree) about the limits of our abilities to help. One of our positions was that the teacher had done all he could to help and that at some point there is a limit to what we can do to provide support to someone. The other position was that the teacher could have done more to help. I hope you see this movie and sometime in the fall, we can discuss this with those who have seen the movie so that we can be more specific. Stay tuned for details!

As we deal with depression in our society, how much are we expected to reach out to those who are depressed? As many of you know, one of my favorite parts of the rabbinate is teaching teenagers. As I watch the faces of the students, I often wonder what they are thinking and what struggles they are facing. I try my hardest to reach out to them if I suspect that they are facing a challenge and try to provide support. However, I am sure there are times when I just don’t pick up on cues and have not effectively helped them. How does one decide when one has done enough to help someone? And this is not just an issue which teenagers face as we have seen people of all ages can be fighting depression.

I hope that each of us will try to be more sensitive to the behavior of others and if we suspect that someone is dealing with depression, that we don’t just walk away or minimize it. I have heard individuals tell others who are dealing with depression that they should “just deal with it” or “snap out of it.” “It” is not just that easy to wish away. “It” is a very real illness and if we are honest, many people we know, and even some of us, are dealing with it.

Please know that if you are feeling depressed or know of someone who is, that you should not just let it go. In the same way you would treat heart disease or cancer or other physical illnesses, we need to be vigilant in recognizing and treating depression. There are people who can help you deal with powerful feelings that can seem overwhelming.

Some of us feel that if we acknowledge that we are depressed, we will be stigmatized and others will think less of us. Please try NOT to feel this way. SEEK help and don’t hesitate to contact me or another helping professional.

We are taught in Mishnah Sanhedrin, one of our sacred rabbinic teachings, that if one saves one life, one saves an entire world. Please do whatever it takes to seek or provide help for those in need (including ourselves) and recognize that a true community of friends reaches out and supports others in all kinds of situations.

~Rabbi Bruce D. Aft
http://rabbi.adatreyim.org/

My Journey Through Hell (A Personal Story)

I often hear myself saying that the stories sent to me are so much more tragic then the ones I shared here. But there is much commonality between them, such as the sensitivity of the victims of bullying and how that is exploited by the bullies. Last week’s news about the death of Robin Williams affected me deeply due to learning of his battle with depression. Now that the proof is coming to light that bullying leads to anxiety which can lead to depression and then what can be the end of that for some breaks my heart. For Lisa below to start by saying she doesn’t have the happily ever after story continues to show that we must share and connect through these stories. We are not alone and I, for one, understand what Lisa talks about here. As usual, thank you, Lisa, for sharing it here. ~Alan Eisenberg


My bullying story doesn’t end with a clichéd happily ever after. I drown in the depths of despair each and every day as a result of my experiences, and I share this story in the hope of schools stepping up to their call of duty and combating this pressing issue.
 
I was an intelligent child and started school a year earlier than everyone in my class. Although I was smarter than most of them, my emotional maturity was not at par with them and they picked up at this from my third year in school. Isolation was the first ingredient in, what was to be, the crucial cocktail that would shape my life forever. My whole class refused to speak to me for about a year. Coming from a country school with around 100 pupils in total, this meant that I spent each and every school day with no human interaction, maybe a few words with a teacher. To this day I have social anxiety as I never learned how to socialize properly and make friends.
 
Summer came and went, and it was back to mental anguish for me. This time they spoke to me, but maliciously. I was referred to as a “fat lesbian” and a “diseased creature”. The latter one certainly hurt more, as some of the girls made up rumors stating that I had a disease and that it was contagious. This illness made a person morbidly obese and hideous looking, transformed them into a depressed loaner and made them a general failure in life. At  eight years old these crude, low comments made me try to make myself sick on numerous occasions. Luckily I sucked at that and could never really get much up.  Nobody would sit with me in class. At lunch I was but a solitary enzyme, willing each painstaking millisecond to conclude. This year our PE class, for 10 weeks, were brought swimming. I loved it as it offered an escape and wasn’t exactly a team sport, I was no longer the last to be chosen for a team. I enjoyed the relief of the cool water and the release of negative energy that this sport offered.
Social Anxiety Chart
 
Towards the end of the term, a boy deliberately held my head under water with the cruel intention of drowning me. I spluttered, struggled and inhaled water. No lifeguard came to my rescue, no knight in shining armor saved me. Like I said, this is not a fairytale. Time no longer matters when one is in excruciating pain, but for arguments sake I was under water for a full minute. My consciousness began to slip, but somehow I mustered every joule of energy within my battered being and pushed him away. The sweet oxygen filled my lungs when I returned to the surface. This memory makes me appreciate life each day. I am so glad to still be alive.
 
Another incident that particularly opened my eyes to the beauty of life and living occurred a year later. The emotional bullying was still happening each and every day, and it was mixed with this facade of physical bullying; I was beaten up regularly, punched, stoned and kicked. Bruises painted my skin in splatters of terribly beautiful black and blue on a permanent basis. I still have my battle scars which decorate my knees and shins, earned in the warzone that the teachers named the playground. This was, admittedly, somewhat tolerable. I know this is an insane declaration but I had become somewhat accustomed to torture and the feelings linked with it.
 
However, the day two boys brought a ten inch butcher knife to school with the intention of using it on me was the day I knew change was required. And fast. I was standing against a wall, the two pathetic excuses of human beings directly in front of me, one holding the handle of the shimmering blade, the object that would shape my destiny. I ducked down low, he swiped, and I ran so quickly that those who watched were a blur. I told the teacher, and, you guessed it, all he did was confiscate the weapon that had the potential to conclude my existence. Neither a punishment nor a repercussion was mentioned. Those boys got away with their harrowing actions, as it was just as easy for the staff to conceal the incident and hope I’d forget about it.
I should probably mention that I informed many teachers of the torment that I faced each day. Nothing was ever done in an attempt to combat the actions of these cruel individuals. Infact, on numerous occasions, I was called a “stupid child” by the staff for reporting incidents.
 
The anxiety attacks didn’t stop by the time I got home, so I decided to tell my parents about the days events. They knew I was facing trouble in school, but they didn’t know the extent of my misery and just how much danger I was in. They decided to meet with the school principal, which shouldn’t have been a problem but our class had our annual school tour the very next day. I was keen on going so my mother arranged a meeting with the principal immediately after the school trip. Unsurprisingly, it was the outing from hell. The name calling got worse that day and I was left alone on the bus. One girl was asked to sit with me and she cried hysterically as she believed she would catch the disease I spoke not so fondly of earlier. Predictably enough, I spent the day alone. The principal and my teacher seemed to enjoy the fun of inflicting emotional damage on me, they watched and laughed as the days activities of humiliating me unfolded. I laughed and joked with them, because it was that or sit in silence. And that was far too awkward for my persona.
 
Tears wouldn’t caress my soft blushing cheeks as I had become so numb to life and it’s ups and downs. Nothing really mattered to me anymore. Broken heartstrings bled the blues to a dark tune that I had grown far too familiar with. I was no longer upset, I was destroyed.
 
The day ended and it was time for my mothers scheduled meeting. I departed the bus and stood beside my her. I no longer even possessed the ability to speak. I hadn’t found the power and bravery to enunciate one single syllable before we were approached by the third teacher who was on that wretched automobile. I couldn’t even look at her, she stopped nothing. She informed my mom that she had witnessed a horror unfold in front of her guilty eyes. She had heard stories before but seeing was truly believing. She apologized, and explained that she didn’t have the authority to intervene during the school tour as her boss, the principal, was present. She advised us to tell every single detail at the meeting and to sugar coat nothing. My life needed to be transformed, and she knew it.
 
The first thing the old witch said at our meeting was that there was no bullying in her school, and that I was lying. She tried her best to convince my mother that I was a lying child who craved nothing more than drama and attention. I recalled my version of events, the mental and physical torment of the years before this particular moment in time. I was still lying in her eyes. My mom left the room and came back with the teacher who was on our side of this battle. She agreed to act as a witness and backed up my statement. It was getting late and it was agreed that the talks would continue in the morning whilst I was at class.
 
Both parents attended this meeting, and another teacher decided that she was to give an account of what she saw over the past couple of agonizing years. Incidentally, her story also matched mine. The principal could no longer accuse me of lying and the truth was slowly to come to light. She told my parents that this would come to an end, not that she formulated a plan or anything. My parents then informed her that they knew about her efforts to hide a knife attack and various other serious incidents, and that they had the power to report her if nothing was done about my case. Both teachers nodded in agreement and in that second she was forced to put an end to my long and painful journey through the deepest pits of hell.
 
I repeated that particular year in school so as to escape the morally corrosive class. I made some good friends and I began to enjoy life. I still do lead quite an exciting and fulfilling life.  However, it’s not a completely happy ever after conclusion to this series of unfortunate events. I still have self image issues and question my worth to those around me. I’m a slight perfectionist in school and am unhappy with anything less than a B (sometimes that’s not enough) in my exams. The memories still linger deep in the tissues of my sometimes tormented psyche and manifest in nightmares late in the darkness of night. The only escape is writing. I believe in karma to some extent, most of them aren’t planning on going to university and don’t lead very productive lives. I’m going to be a biomedical scientist, and I fully intend on benefiting this world in a positive way and working in cancer research. Unlike some, my footprint will hopefully be a positive one that I stamp on this precious planet.
 
I’ve decided to share this story with the intention of giving hope to victims across the world. I’ve told nobody except my parents and the staff who ran the school about these incidents, so this is a huge step for me. Persevere, demand help consistently and stay strong. You will be rewarded, and life gets so much better.
 
~Lisa

An Inspirational Way to Find an Outlet From Bullying

This is an amazing video segment from Britain’s Got Talent. These two young kids who call themselves Bars & Melody find a way to take their experience with bullying and channel it into a positive way to deal with and hopefully defeat their demons.

Part of any recovery from bullying damage is to find a way to express how your feel and release the pain you hold in your heart and your head. For me it has been a journey of writing, speaking,  journaling, and presenting to others. I also dream of one day making the documentary film that I want to do on the subject.

These two boys surprise everyone on the Britan’s Got Talent show and even themselves as they use their talent to help both themselves and many others watching, I’m sure. Also, the positive reactions from the audience and judges had to boost their self-worth and self-esteem, the two areas most damaged by bullying. It is an amazing TV moment and I hope you agree that it speaks to the good in our souls, even during trying times.

In addition, they were invited to The Ellen Degeneres Show. Ellen has been a big anti-bullying proponent and has done great work in bringing anti-bullying messages to her show so a wide audience can see it. Here’s the clip from their appearance on her show.

I hope we continue to see more of this way to work through bullying and have the community support required for recovery. Find the outlet that works for you, as Ellen suggests as well. It is the most cathartic way to work through your past bullying damage.

Why Are We So Hurtful to Others (A Personal Story)

Sophie asks the question all victims of bullying ask. Why can’t we just be kinder to each other. Why can’t we all just get along. Only each individual can decide how to think and unfortunately, we can try to change how others think, but it is truly a philosophical question with no easy answer. I wish there was. ~Alan Eisenberg


girlbullyingWhen I was in preschool I remember getting teased on a regular basis by one specific girl. In her mind there was nothing wrong with pinching me over and over, making my arms red, and yelling at me. It was all fun and games for her and a nightmare for me. All I ever wanted was to make others happy and be friends with everyone. She made it impossible to come to school and not worry about whether I would be pinched or not. I would come home crying trying to figure out what it was that I had done to deserve getting pinched every day. Why did this girl not like me? Was I such a bad kid? What confused me even more was being pinched by someone who on some days would act like my friend, wanting to play together. Did she really think that she would gain a friendship by being mean? Years later since seeing this girl, I ran into her at a day camp and she continued pinching, each time telling an adult that she wasn’t pinching me.

Back in elementary school I got teased more. I wore glasses, usually had my hair in a braid, and was quiet, all of which meant that I was a target for teasing. Certain girls hated me and would tell me how they hated me. I would come home crying, not wanting to have to deal with them again. I wanted to be friends with people not a target for name-calling. I remember coming home after school one day and my mother calling up the parents of the girls who were making me cry and feel hurt. Interestingly, the parents denied their child ever doing anything to me and said that I had made up the whole story to my parents. When my mother got off the phone that night, I recall saying over and over “Mommy they DID tease me, they hurt my feelings!” and my mother would completely understand and know that I wouldn’t make up a story that was so hurtful to me.

As an adult looking back on these experiences, I can’t help but still wonder how people could be so hurtful to others and not see anything wrong with it. What do they really get out of hurting others and making others so upset? Why can’t everyone show kindness towards others? When I was 11 my grandpa passed away and left each of his grandchildren a letter of wisdom. What stuck with me the most, besides hearing the compassion of my grandpa through his words, was his choice to explain how important kindness is to the world: “Be friendly and polite to everybody. Never wait for people to say hello. You say hello to everybody, your friends, relatives, whoever you know.” This is how I have lived my life: with kindness. Treat people how you would like to be treated; don’t wait for others to show you kindness instead show them kindness.

~Sophie