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
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
When 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.
There are so many people who dream of a better life than the one left after years of trauma from bullying. The shame is that life didn’t have to go this way. But for many, it has. It is an unconscious pain and fear that most of us don’t know where it comes from years later, as Maria share’s in her story below. No one is ever alone in any of this and that is the most important aspect to remember. Try to take the daydream about how you want your life to be and make it the reality you want. Let your past go and live in the now, with great plans for the future. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Well as most know it isn’t and you have to face your fears head on to conquer them. Don’t let them conquer you and make your life what you don’t want it to be. ~Alan Eisenberg
I’m 28 years old and recently started seeing a counselor while at grad school. I felt I could no longer deal with my paranoia, anxieties and low self-esteem alone. My last therapy session was the most intense since I started. We’d been making connections between my feelings of anger to feeling ignored and frustrated as a teenager.
However, I hadn’t experienced a session that felt quite as terrifying and overwhelming as the last one. I can’t quite remember how this came up but we began to talk about my school bully, Eleni. I couldn’t say her name at the time and I didn’t want to. Dredging up all those memories, as painful as it was suddenly put my life into perspective. My experience with her was the root cause for many of my worries, reactions and anxieties. It may sound like I’m blaming her but allow me to explain the connection.
She was present in my public school life and my private family life. She would bully and intimidate me in front of both groups for almost five years, from year 4 to year 9/10 (she stopped attending school in the latter years). Yes she did bully me and embarrass me until I felt I had no dignity but, and this is the embarrassing part, I still wanted her approval and I wanted to be her friend. Or at least I was too scared not to be her friend. She was nasty to my few friends and I was too scared to defend them. I became isolated from everyone else. She said nasty things about my family, everything about her life was better than mine. She would pick on everything I said, everything I wrote, the way that I looked. My presence just seemed to annoy her. My presence began to annoy myself in fact.
It felt that she picked me out to treat me the worst, like I deserved it on some innate and untouchable level of my being. I can say with definitive certainty that this led me to remove myself from many situations by daydreaming. In the car, at school, at home, and later at university and in social situations. I had a secret imaginary world where I was funny, social, people were attracted to my presence and I had the attention I lacked in the real world. Attention that I protected myself from and attention that I also desperately craved. In the real world, once I had the attention I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do with it and became anxious. In high school I worked in chaotic, frontline jobs that concreted my fear into assuming that people would always react to me in a hostile and unfriendly way.
This to me explains so much about myself that I find it frightening, that something that happened so long ago had remained with me on a purely unconscious level. The danger was gone but the feelings remained. My paranoid feelings that no one likes me, my body is horrific, that I’m so hairy and unable to keep friends. Desperately wanting more human contact but feeling irritated when I had it, afraid that I might say something to ruin it, to make them see just how boring I am.
Since primary school I was living with the fear of talking, of having opinions that might piss someone off or led myself to feel ashamed. I wanted people to treat me well on their own so I wouldn’t have to point it out and embarrass myself. Sometime I felt I was living in a world of unfriendly eyes, looking at me and seeing only the negative and I wanted its approval. I think that is the most frustrating thing about it.
In the counselling session I felt weak and felt I lacked control. How could such a big thing escape me? My negative thoughts begin with seeing the negative in everyone else and then they shift onto myself. Of course it comes from my time with Eleni, I see that now. But what happens now? I feel relieved that there really isn’t an innate and untouchable reason in my being that I really can’t understand. Although its painful to face the root of my fears, I also feel calmer by understanding this. Rather than dismissing it as something embarrassing, I have to admit to myself that it really was traumatic.
I haven’t put up a music lyrics post in a while, so please either forgive or indulge me. By now, you know I have an affinity for Coldplay music and lyrics, particularly their early music. Coldplay has recently released an album far different from the last few. Pretty much the whole album are songs of pain from Chris Martin’s dissolved marriage to Gweneth Paltrow.
This is nothing new, as the Fleetwood Mac album “Rumors” is almost exclusively songs about the breakup of the relationship between band members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. In fact even the title, Rumors, was named so to stop the spread of rumors about the breakup as they had not announced it.
According to Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer, he said about the entire Ghost Stories album and songs:
“The idea of Ghost Stories, for me, was “how do you let the things that happen to you in the past – your ghosts – how do you let them affect your present and your future?” Because there was a time when I was feeling like they were going to drag me down and ruin my life, and the lives of those around me. I was very lucky to meet a very good sufi teacher who started to introduce the idea of “if you sit with your experiences and the things you’ve been through, they alchemize.” At the time he said that, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I trusted that it would work, and the more that I was learning about that, the more music just started flowing through.”
To me, this is very much akin to the long-term effects, or in this case, “ghosts” of bullies past and how they do affect your present and future. You can either let them drag you down and ruin your and other’s life or work through it, as Mr. Martin says above.
Recently, I had a friend commit suicide from the depression brought on by his divorce and crumbling business. He needed an outlet, like music or a teacher/mentor/therapist, but didn’t have one. We all have hard times, some of us more than others. But, as has been said many times, it does get better. It is only when you are at the bottom of a hole that you can start to climb back up, because there is nowhere else to go but up. But the light is dim at the bottom of the hole and only gets brighter as you climb back up.
This song, Midnight, on the new Coldplay album, Ghost Stories, is about exactly that. When the pain is deep and you are at the bottom, Coldplay asks that you leave a light on so that it can guide you home, where you belong. Simple lyrics that can mean many things to many people…and I personally like the music as well.
In the darkness before the dawn
In the swirling of this storm
Rolling round, and with apologies
And hope is gone
Leave a light, a light on
Millions of miles from home
In the swirling, swimming on
When I’m rolling with the thunder
But bleed from thorns
Leave a light, a light on
Leave a light, a light on
Leave a light, a light on
Leave a light, a light on
In the darkness before the dawn
In the darkness before the dawn
Leave a light, a light on
Leave a light, a light on
To those that doubt that bullying can be overcome, this football team, the Olivete Eagles, proves differently.
Watch this amazing video and find out how a group of boys learn a valuable lesson on Empathy while doing a completely unselfish act.
If you have the power, maybe learn from this story and do the same for someone in your school or community.
Nick’s story so parallels my own battle with the long-term effects of bullying. The “get over it” syndrome has got to end. It is not so easy and for some, as I have written recently, “getting over it” is suicide or bullycide if you prefer. It has to stop…we have to find ways to make it stop. As adults, that pain does haunt our thoughts and we have to work so hard to recover. Some aren’t willing and I certainly hope Nick’s words help him lead to further recovery. ~Alan Eisenberg
My name is Nick. I recently read this story on the National Public Radio (NPR) website, “Mental And Physical Toll Of Bullying Persists For Decades”. I can verify that everything in the story is very true since I was a victim of bullying. I am now 55 years old and the effects of it are still with me. Like Angela I suffer from a constant state of fear, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
My bullying experience is different from the usual scenario of being bullied at school only. My bully was my next store neighbor, supposedly my best friend. He was about the same age as me around six months older. He started abusing me at around six years old and it continued until I joined the military at 18. The abuse was physical and mental, no sexual abuse occurred. I was very afraid of him and he knew it. He knew he had power over me and that gave him satisfaction. I had to endure abuse during school and after school. I remember summer breaks as being a time of terror, since he always came by and I was too sacred to do anything. My mother who was a homemaker was oblivious to what was going on. She knew he was hurting me but kept calling me when he knocked on the door. I don’t know how she couldn’t sense the fear I was in. If she seen me getting beat up by him she would call me to the house and beat me again, yelling at me, calling me a fool, weak and others things. She never talked to me about anything, so I was never able to tell her or anyone else what was going on. My father was always at work, he would leave the house at 6:00 am and not return until around 7:00 pm or later. Then while at home he rarely spoke to me or my brother or even my mother. My brother two years younger than me stayed to himself and we hardly spoke or did anything together. He knew I was being abused and I believe he sided with my mother that I was weak and a fool. To this day we are not close and do not speak much.
The abuse consisted of him finding a reason to get mad at me and then having to “punish” me. Sometimes he would grab me by my hair and drag me in his backyard to a shed where he would punch and slap me. I would be crying asking what I did wrong and to leave me alone. Other times he would blow up in front of other kids and punch me and humiliate me in front of them. If I tried to make friends with other kids he would harass them until they didn’t come around anymore. One time when I was around 10 years old I made a friend in school. After school we were going to go to his house. While walking from school the bully comes flying up in a rage and starts punching me in the face. He punched the books out of my hand that I was using to shield myself. All this with other kids and my new friend looking on and of course doing nothing. Then he just walks away. We continued to walk to my friend’s house. On the way he asks me why I didn’t fight back, and all I could say was I didn’t know. I was so humiliated and embarrassed. This new friend didn’t last long. He came to my house one day and the bully comes flying out of nowhere and starts attacking him. He left and never returned. The bully succeeded in isolating me from others. I felt like I was trapped. He was always after me so I would be stuck in my house most of the time, anxious and alone. I couldn’t walk to school like the other kids. I had to cut through backyards, jumping fences hoping he wouldn’t catch me. After school I would stay around the back school yard waiting for the kids and him to clear out while I made a run for it to my house, again cutting through yards and jumping fences. During school I would be so worried I would go to the nurses office complaining of chest pains hoping they would send me home, which they always did. My mother would come and pick me up, and no one questioned why I was having these pains. I was so nervous and worried that I developed severe tics, shaking my head and blinking my eyes. I would get severe migraine headaches that sometimes caused me to vomit. I also had skin problems on my hands and feet where the skin would break out with an ooze and become very itchy and I would scratch it raw. My mother took me to a couple of doctors who gave me creams and ointments which did no good. Years later I would realize these conditions were from the stress I was dealing with. The tics have stayed with me but not as bad.
The abuse continued into my teenage years. The bully would humiliate and assault me in front of others and I was too frightened to do anything. I had no friends and was always trying to get away from him but he was always there looking for me. He got me to start smoking, drinking and doing drugs which made matters worse. People in the neighborhood would not speak to me looking at me like they knew I was being abused but didn’t want to get involved. My parents continued seeing the abuse and did nothing. So I had no help whatsoever, I suffered alone.
Why my Mother could never figure out how much pain I was in baffles me. I have been angry with her ever since, up until she passed away last year. There was never any closure to this. She knew what was going on but refused to act, instead she blamed me. In a phone call around six or seven years ago she said that “he ruined you”. I didn’t respond since she was up in age and I would have gotten very emotional. The rage I have built up in me would have exploded and I would have said among other things, “no you ruined me by not doing anything”. I should have told her and my father that years ago but I decided to let it be then.
Now at 55 years of age I have suffered with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, over eating with excessive weight gain, social isolation and PTSD. I’m married and have no children and I have begun to worry who will help me as I age. I have never told my wife or anyone else about this because I feel they would not understand. This letter is the first time I’m getting this out. I’m a subscriber to the Bullying Stories web site, and I have seen stories like mine, especially from people my age. They make me feel like I’m not so alone and I feel justified in how I’m feeling so many years later. I won’t have to hear I should have gotten over it.
In May this website, which began my crusade and passion to help try to solve the damage that bullying can do, began on a normal day in 2007. As I look back and think about all that has occurred in that short time in my life, I realize one major thing. See, bullying started for me on a regular basis when I was seven years old.
Seven years. What does it all mean and why do I continue?
I found something interesting as I looked back at those early posts I put up. A lot of the links to others that posted about bullying no longer are valid. I guess those people gave up. But the other interesting thing is that a lot of people didn’t give up. In fact in the past seven years, the issue of bullying has grown to be national news and most people are now learning of the long-term damage it can do. A new term called C-PTSD is becoming a diagnosis that will validate this damage and the long-term effects that I started writing about 7 years ago. I think I’ve been very honest with you, the reader, here on this website, but when I look back over the years, I find that so much has changed in my life, just as those 7 years of bullying changed me as well. I thought it interesting to look back over this time and give some perspective to what I originally talked about…the long-term effects. I also think it interesting to look at it backwards, from where I am today to what I thought at the beginning. Something different that I hope you will get something out of when reading it this way.
YEAR 7 – 2013-2014:
I learned first-hand that I hadn’t truly recovered from what happened to me. It was a slow burn to this point, where I was crippled with fear, anxiety, and phobia. What caused this, to this day I don’t know. But I do know that I knew something was wrong, and instead of turning to alcohol or drugs that I think are wrong, I looked to professional help. I read tons of books about worry, anxiety, fear, and read many websites and blogs on the subject. I learned that there is no way to work around your problems. You must work through them. ~“Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain. I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days” (“Story of my life” – One Direction)
YEAR 6 – 2012-2013:
What happened to me? I lost myself somewhere along the way. Call it a mid-life crisis or a breakdown, but I had hit my point where I needed to take care of myself. Things I had been writing about for six years, the long-term effects, were now happening to me. I tried to pretend like it wasn’t happening, but it was. It’s the concept of “physician heal thyself”. I realized to help anyone and to work well, I had to help myself. I decided to turn my life 180 degrees around. Start eating well, start taking care of myself both physically and mentally. I wasn’t prepared for the time it would take to heal. Well over a year. I think I am lucky in that I recognized what happened to me due to my work on this site and so I knew to seek help and made an immediate decision to ask for help. So many don’t and the results of not asking for help can ruin many lives. I feel for my family as they witness a person that was not the one they knew, but was always the one hiding behind the wall I had built around myself…to protect myself. ~ (Ho!) So show me family (Hey!) All the blood that I would bleed (Ho!) I don’t know where I belong (Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong.” (“Hey Ho” – The Lumineers)
YEAR 5 – 2011-2012:
What a big year. I had lots of speaking engagements on bullying and started a large movement within my community. I reconnected with a friend I had written about that found my site and stories. The most interesting part was that at the High School reunion in Lexington, MA, where I write about, they were talking about me, the guy who writes about all the bullies we dealt with in Lexington. There were many who were reading and relating to my writing. I had no idea. At the same time, I was so scared to find this person who read my story. I remember being up all night and deciding to look him up and call him. I was scared. Because the story was the one story about me being a bully instead of being bullied. I was in great pain, but talking to him made it all better. He is great and even visited me last year. I never expected people to read my site, but they were and I found they were relating to what I was saying. ~ “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” – The Band Perry)
YEAR 4 (2010-2011)
This is a big year of change in my life and in what I’m seeing about bullying. So much of the news has caught on about it now and there’s a new story on the news all the time. Researchers are now doing research on the bullied brain and looking at the long-term effects of bullying as I have been writing about already for three years. People share many stories with me about their parents who bullied them at home. There are sides to bullying even I don’t understand. But of this, I am more sure, there are long-term effects. I feel lucky that I have dealt with them by writing my stories on this site. But wait, what’s that slightly panicky feeling I have. Oh well, it will go away. I do get a little short-tempered some time, but got a new job and enjoy some of the change. I have more freedom now to work on this subject. I worked with my old high school and wrote a play with the drama group that they put on. Tears flowed from my eyes as I watched them perform my words. Have I found my calling? ~”It’s a quarter after one, I’m all alone and I need you now. Said I wouldn’t call but I’ve lost all control and I need you now. And I don’t know how I can do without. I just need you now.” (“Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum)
YEAR 3 (2009-2010)
My world crashed around me. Why can’t I handle these things better? My good friends that I spent the last 9 years building a company with and giving my full life to me just fired me. Yes, business was falling, but I truly thought my relationship with them was deeper than a drive to the middle of a parking lot to have someone who I thought of as a friend and brother tell me it’s over. I got a new job right away, but I had dreamed of staying with my old company forever. Best buddies working together and now I have to pick up the pieces and start again. Felt pings of depression and loss. Ah forget those feelings, I told myself. I’m stronger than that, aren’t I? I’ll keep writing and share stories. I’ll keep telling myself everything is fine. I’ll put my EGO to the front, put up a strong front. I won’t talk about the hurt I feel in my soul and I won’t do anything to not protect my family, myself, my life. Wasn’t crazy about the new job much, but it paid and I can do it. I am strong…I think I’m strong…I don’t feel so strong. Smile and don’t show it to anyone. It will get better, becomes the new mantra from the bullying movement. I hope so. ~ “Lost and insecure. You found me, you found me. Lyin’ on the floor. Surrounded, surrounded. Where were you? Where were you? Just a little late.You found me, you found me.” (“You Found Me” – The Fray)
YEAR 2 (2008-2009)
Can this year get any better? I have a great job, and I have good friends surrounding me. I’ve been awarded and promoted at work. There is truly nothing like working for friends and helping create a company that can be successful. Yes, it’s hard to be a manager, but I try to develop a thicker skin. But, I am still so affected when someone doesn’t like me or at least I think they don’t. I’ve done several radio interviews and even a newspaper interview for my website. It’s exciting to be doing something I am so passionate about. Many of the stories that I get bring tears to my eyes. I really had no idea how many people suffer with the effects of bullying and stay quiet. I get a letter from a grandma that shares a big story with me and even a boy who was raped regularly in a locker room. These stories get picked up and shared. Even WordPress featured me on their front site. I had no idea last year when I started this that it would be for anyone other than me. Videos on the subject of bullying are appearing on YouTube all the time. There is a groundswell movement around the Pink Shirt story from Canada. I love the idea of helping people through issues with bullying. It truly matters to me. And now that I’m over it, I can help others…at least I think I can. I think I’ll create a presentation and start speaking to groups about the bullying that happened to me and the need for more empathy. ~ “Just because I’m hurting. Doesn’t mean I’m hurt. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved. No better and no worse. I just got lost. Every river that I tried to cross. Every door I ever tried was locked. Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off.” (“Lost” – Coldplay)
YEAR 1 (2007-2008)
“You don’t understand mom/wife, what I went through when I was young. That bullying affected me and I think it still does to this day.” I said that for 20 something years to my mom, my wife, and try to excuse how I felt and my actions. Then it happened. A shooter walked in to a building at my Alma Matter College, Virginia Tech, and killed many students and professors, including a professor that was a Holocaust survivor. It touched me deeply emotionally. Why would this shooter do that? Why does anyone do that. I started my research. He was bullied in High School kept coming up. Then I started seeing all the articles on bullycide. On these youth who were dying all the time with notes speaking of how they couldn’t take the bullying at school anymore. Boy, could I relate. I often think that if we hadn’t moved away when I was 13 from where I was bullied, what would have become of me. But a fresh start for me stopped the 7 years of bullying I experienced. As a communication specialist, I felt that I could do something to stop my hurt and help others who were suffering from the long-term effects of bullying. I’m going to start a website and write all the stories I can remember about how I was bullied as a youth. Maybe if youth or even adults read from an adult who admits to being bullied and how it affected him, they will be brave enough to do the same. I can’t be alone in what happened to me. I know I’m not. I want to make a difference. It’s time to start. I feel brave…I feel strong…I have a good life now. It’s time to help others. After all I like helping others and maybe, just maybe, I can help myself get past this gnawing issue I feel is in my head. I’ll get it on the web and I’ll feel better. After all life is good for me and I can get over it…right? ~ “I was blown away, what could I say? It all seemed to make sense. You’re taking away everything. And I can’t do without. I try to see the good in life. But good things in life are hard to find. We’re blowing away, blowing away. Can we make this something good?” (“It’s Not Over” – Daughtry)
I guess I’m still discovering myself and what this “long-term effect of bullying” is really all about. Can I do more with it? Can I make a bigger impact? I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep trying if you keep reading. If I help one person, even myself, then I will keep writing. Oh, and just for fun, see if you know why I picked the song lyrics I did and how they correspond to the story section. I think that the lyrics of the music we listen to tell us so much when we read them and hear them. Music is my comfort and always has been. I am still on my journey of discovery on the subject of bullying and how we are affected. It’s been a very bumpy ride, but I’ll hang on tight if you will as well.