How Did You Recover from Bullying?

“How did you recover from the bullying you experienced as a youth?” she asked me.

What a great and difficult question this is for me to answer. I am 46 years old now. Bullying, for me, ended when I was 14. It is now 32 years later and I still am in recovery. When will I get better? That is a question that I can’t answer at this time, because the truth is, I don’t know. To understand what I mean, you have to understand that what is done cannot be undone. In fact there is a great teaching method to teach children about bullying called ‘The Crumpled Piece of Paper’ that makes this point very clear.

Bullying CloudI was bullied daily from age 7 to 13 and then just a little more when I was 14. I was lucky, because we moved when I was 13 and, for the most part, I left the bullies behind me. I could start anew. But the damage of what we call our growing years, from 5-18, was done. It would still take me a while to learn this though. By the time I was 13, bullying had made me angry, depressed, and my self-esteem was nearly gone. I hung out with the wrong crowd and am not proud of many of the things I did during this time so that this group of people would be ‘my friends’. But it wasn’t all bad in that I had a good family life and teachers that cared and mentored me.

When I finally moved away, I made a conscious decision at 14 to stay low and not make any waves at school or to ‘be myself’ with people. I was hardened by my experience. But luckily for me, I found a new teacher/mentor and group of friends in the High School Drama Department. By the time I graduated from High School, I thought that I had put those bullying years behind me. I had a great time in High School and then in College. These were great years and I had great friends and learned to be myself again.

But being myself had a price. Much like the crumpled piece of paper I mentioned earlier, there were repressed scars that were still there. The first time it manifested itself was at the end of college during one of my final exams. As I started to take it, I grew sweaty, my heart started racing, and my eyes wouldn’t focus. I was having a panic attack and I knew the feeling. It was the same feeling I had when the bullies would surround me. The fight or flight feeling that comes with feeling threatened. I didn’t know it at the time, but I ran from the room to the bathroom. It finally went away and the professor let me finish the test.

For the next several years I suffered from unexpected and unexplained panic attacks and anxiety at times of stress. I didn’t know at the time the major correlation between youth bullying and adult anxiety and depression issues like these. But I would soon learn more than I wanted to. I must admit that there was a string of very good years where my self-esteem was high and I had a wife and children to care for. During this time, I suffered little from anxiety and panic. But I did have some strange habits, like not liking crowded places, needing to sit on the aisle in theaters, and just some discomfort. I didn’t realize the claustrophobia that was closing in with depression as well. Then, seven years ago, I realized as a web writer that I wanted to make a difference and share my youth bullying stories with others on the web to try to help people realize they weren’t alone. I created a website called ‘Bullying Stories: Dealing with the Long-Term Effects of Bullying’.

I shared my stories and had other people share theirs as well. I did research and became an anti-bullying activist. I certainly don’t want to say this triggered something in me to start to relive my bullying years, but at a point in time a few years after I started the website, my panic attacks came back and my anxiety was through the roof. This put me in a tailspin that ended with me in a depression and I didn’t understand why. At the time, I didn’t understand ‘the crumpled piece of paper’ or the C-PTSD that I would soon learn can happen from childhood trauma. I was lucky, though, that I knew medical professionals from working as an anti-bullying activist. They helped me help myself. I read tons of books, articles, and learned all I could about my situation. I learned that, for me, there will be good periods of time and bad periods of time and that I could learn how to deal with the bad periods of time. I learned to change my life for the better by:

  • Eating a healthier diet that would feed both my body and brain better
  • Working out at a gym to de-stress and release energy that was building up in me
  • Journaling about my feelings and the way I was thinking to learn to turn negatives into positives
  • Talking to people about what I went through as a child and what I was going through now
  • Doing Yoga and Meditation to learn to be mindful and relax my brain
  • Reading positive affirmations to help my mind think more positively

I could go on, but we are all different and what works for one doesn’t always work for others. Some people choose medication and therapy. Some do not. It takes all my strength to motivate myself some days to keep doing the work I know helps me feel better. My new motto is to ‘never quit’ and that it does and will get better. But there will be peaks and valleys in my life and I always need to be conscious of the valleys and know I can climb back up.

I keep a reminder at my desk now to try to remember what I have learned. It is a framed saying attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.” I always like to add at the end that is why today is called the Present. Because it is a present given to me. You can’t change the past and can’t predict the future, so why not just live for today.

So, she asked me, “How did you recover from the bullying you experienced as a youth?”

My answer is, I’ll let you know when I figure it out myself. But for now I know that life is what you make it and I am trying to make mine the best it can be. Every day is a new day and a good day to be alive…and that is how I have learned to cope, not necessarily recover from bullying.

~Alan Eisenberg

Bethany Mota Bully Story from Dancing With The Stars

Bethany Mota, a Nickelodion and YouTube celebrity, recently did a stirring performance on Dancing With The Stars and told her story of being bullied. It is not only an amazing performance, but is extremely honest about how bullying can damage you and what coping mechanisms she choose to overcome bullying, including this amazing performance.

Time for Three

There is a group of musicians making a difference in the anti-bullying community. Time For Three, a group of three classical musicians has recently released “Stronger”, a video and song about the power of music education to help those that have been bullied recover. This is becoming prevalent in the music community and I know that music helped me so much during my time dealing with bullies. Although I could never play an instrument well, I always listed to music and found the lyrics so helpful and the music able to change my way of thinking. So, without further ado, here is Time For Three and “Stronger”.

Finding the Positives in a Tough Situation

Things to RememberThe internet brings many things to the victim of bullying. Many will say it has several negative parts, such as cyberbullying and online harassment. But there is a side that has been a saving grace to a victim of bullying.

I am referring to the Positive Affirmation sites that are out there. Besides the two biggest things you can do to yourself if you are feeling bad due to bullying, which is to exercise (due to the release of both stress and endorphinens) and eating a good balanced diet (your brain is fed as well as your body), working to change the negatives in your mind to find peace and positivity is a strong helper as well.

Personally, I find that sites like Tiny Buddha and Lessons Learned In Life as well as the app you can get for meditation called “CALM” are all extremely helpful for me. Let me be clear that none of those sites or apps pay me. I just found that they help me so much. For example, here was an excellent quote on Lessons Learned in Life.

One of the most courageous decisions you will ever make is to finally let go of whatever is hurting your heart and soul.

~Brigitte Nicole

Another one I like from there is:

Understand your absolute importance. Press that send button. Say how you feel. If you don’t say it now, you never will. Do not sneer at happiness or roll your eyes at sadness. Be aware that apathy is not healthy. That pit in your stomach when they don’t call or text you back, it shouldn’t be there. No one should be able to control you like that. It will get better, but it will never be perfect. The trick is to learn to live through the small moments of happiness. When they disappear, remember they will resurface. Please, please, take care of yourself. You are everything to somebody. You are everything to yourself. That alone is enough. That alone is everything!

These are just two. You can subscribe and have them send messages each day to help you. The CALM app has 2, 5, and 10 minute meditations that help your mind think positively. I share because it works for me and the CALM app was actually featured on the TODAY show the other week. Sometimes it just takes the effort of finding some time for positive thinking. We all have peaks and valley’s in life and it’s when we are in our valleys that we need some positive thinking to help us climb back up.

I hope that you find things that help comfort you and help you think more positively through the hard times. If you do have other places you visit on the web or other apps to share, please do in your comments to this post. I would love to hear what others use to find comfort at the hard times.

A great perspective we need to keep in mind

Originally posted on Megan Meier Foundation:

A great perspective we need to keep in mind when we start thinking that “life isn’t fair” http://ow.ly/i/6Zevm

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Music Lyrics #19 – If I Die Young (The Band Perry)

I find so much importance for me in music, as I have explained in the past. Many people hear the music and like a song, but miss the lyrics. When I first heard The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”, I was immediately struck by how many different levels it spoke to.

At first listen, I thought it a sad song about someone who died early and what was missed for them in their life. According to the lead singer, Kimberly Perry, in an interview in The Boot, the song has many meanings for them:

“That song works on so many levels and means different things to different people. It was just one of those songs that you felt like was meant to be on planet earth. We were just real humble to have the pen and paper in hand when it was ready to come, and for us it is a statement of contentment. We finished that song and just looked at each other and said, ‘How cool is this that we were able to put feet to our dreams?’ So many people work so hard for so long and for whatever reason are not able, or don’t have the opportunity to access their dreams. So for us it was a statement of you know what, if it all ends at this moment for whatever reason even at our young ages, we’ve gotten to live and love so well and so completely. And that’s what it means to us.”

But as we know, art is subjective. I would believe most of the idea of song is just a person leaving early until, to me, the most meaningful lyric of the song, when she sings “funny when your dead, how people start listenin'”. To me, it spoke of an unheard voice and the only way this young person would be heard is through their death. I find this same thing in those that commit bullycide. Many don’t believe they are heard or believed until the drastic day they take their own life. That is a tragedy that cannot be reversed, but is heard by everyone after they are gone.

So I share now with you, the song “If I Die Young” and the lyrics that speak to me of the importance of listening to our youth and not waiting until a tragic young death to hear what is being said.

“If I Die Young”

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in a river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Uh oh, uh oh
Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh,
And life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain’t even grey, but she buries her babyThe sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time

And I’ll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom
I’m as green as the ring on my little cold finger,
I’ve never known the lovin’ of a man
But it sure felt nice when he was holdin’ my hand,
There’s a boy here in town, says he’ll love me forever,
Who would have thought forever could be severed by…

…the sharp knife of a short life, oh well?
I’ve had just enough time

So put on your best, boys, and I’ll wear my pearls
What I never did is done

A penny for my thoughts, oh, no, I’ll sell ‘em for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Uh oh (uh, oh)
The ballad of a dove (uh, oh)
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep ‘em in your pocket
Save ‘em for a time when you’re really gonna need ‘em, oh

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I’ve had just enough time

So put on your best, boys, and I’ll wear my pearls.

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