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

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.

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.

 

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

Somewhere

Tom from The Broken Toy Project and Closer Look Films shared this video he created about the issue of childhood bullying called “Somewhere”. He has shared this video with all on YouTube and you can view it below.

Embarrassing Is The Wrong Word for Traumatic

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


pressure worry anxietyI’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.

~Maria

Music Lyrics #18 – Midnight (Coldplay)

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.

 

MIDNIGHT

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