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
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.
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
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.
Don’t be hiding in sorrow, Or clinging to the past ,With your beauty so precious, And the season so fast, No matter how cold the horizon appear, Or how far the first night, When I held you near, You gotta rise from these ashes, Like a bird of flame, Step out of the shadow, We’ve gotta go where we can shine.
~David Gray “Shine”
A week ago, I received the news on Facebook, as has become the norm of how we pass news to one another. One of my friends and fraternity brothers from college had committed suicide due to depression. This is not the first time I have been faced with this news, it is not the second time, it is not the third time, it is the fourth time. How can this be?
This particular person who chose to take his life was kind, was never mean that I knew of, was in fact always happy when I saw him. He had recently, though, had his marriage to his college sweetheart dissolve and had his business that he tried to start fail. I’m sure to him, nothing seemed to be going right. He left a girlfriend, ex-wife, a 9 and 4-year-old child and a humongous load of fraternity and life friends who now clean up the pieces left from this action. For me, there was always going to be another day, tomorrow maybe, when we would see each other again. Now, the next time I will see him is when he is lowered into a six-foot hole in the ground.
My problem is that I know the darkness he felt surrounded him. The hole that you fall in and look up and don’t see any light to guide you back home. Your family and friends might be just down the street as are mine, but you feel so alone. There is no one to understand what you feel, you think. I am alone and I don’t see the way out, you hear yourself saying. Depression and mental illness are diseases and we have not yet fully understood how to diagnose and help those that have it. Is it the magic pill, therapy, time, or some other magic trick yet thought of? I wish I had the answer. I saw no scream of help from my friend before he made his terrible choice to take his life and leave all of those that cared about him.
But depression can rob you of thinking logically. We have to pay attention to those around us. Take our faces out of our tablets, phones, and distractions and get back to focusing on raising our community through interaction. I am truly as guilty as anyone for not paying attention to those around me and have my nose in my electronic toys of the day. But in my life I lost too many friends to suicide and depression or just a lack of care about themselves:
1. Chris McCandless – Yes, the one they wrote the book and movie “Into the Wild” about. The boy I grew up with from 13-18 years of age was not the person in that movie. I don’t know what happened to him during college or why he made the choices he did, but he obviously gave up on society. I don’t know what led him to do this. I can’t hardly read the book or watch the movie. That’s not the Chris I knew. It seems so unreal to me that the person I grew up with made the choices he made.
2. Mike Whalen – A High School and College friend who was struck by a train while walking on train tracks. I’ve walked on train tracks. I’ve felt them rumble as a train approaches. You don’t just get hit by a train while walking on train tracks. I don’t know what happened to him, but I know that in High School he was a preppy kid and then on the first day of college, I went to see him and he was in leathers with a mohawk. I’m not sure he was ever able to be comfortable in his own skin. I don’t know about his home life. I only know I can’t see him again. He is another friend that always had a smile and kind word for you.
3. “Krazy” Greg Milewski – When I graduated from college I started working as a director for a local cable access show starring “Krazy” Greg called “Krazy Greg’s TV Platter Party”. We had so much fun doing that show. Greg truly wanted to be a 50’s record host TV star like Dick Clark was. We made a show as best we could. I enjoyed the few years that we did this. Then one day out of the blue, the producer of the show called me to tell me that Greg shot himself in the head. He was dead. I had to go to his apartment and clean it out. I had to help clean the van that he committed suicide in. I can’t put into words what that was like and how much that hurt us, the ones who had to live with this as his last memory. Why did he do this? Depression not doubt played a part. He was also accused of a crime and he also had little to no money and a hard family life. All he has was in his mind was his show and reputation and that wasn’t enough for him. The note he left said the world would be better without him. It is not. It most certainly would be better with him in it and the happiness he brought through his love of the 50’s. But he can never know that now.
4. Rob Fitz – My friend and fraternity brother. I wish I could say I knew him better, but the times we did see each other were some special times. He always made me laugh and had a free spirit about him that made you want to hang out with him. I hadn’t seen him in some years, but my fraternity alumni are very active and we all keep up with each other. Of course he was a Facebook friend and I could spy on his life through that, so never felt like he was that far away. Now he is away permanently by taking his own life and leaving literally hundreds of people questioning why.
Suicide is a selfish act. Suicide due to depression is a lost soul, who will never know that when you hit the bottom of the hole, there is only one way to go from there, and that is up. It is so hard to see the light from the bottom of the hole though. That is why there is professional help and medication if needed. I needed to make many changes in my own life to realize how valuable I was to others…to myself. To find the rungs of the ladder and climb out of that dark and deep hole. No one promised any of us that life would be easy. Depression does not discriminate based on your status in life, your wealth, or your career, your family life, and your success. It is a disease, like getting the flu. You have to ask for help, show you need it, and decide which process you will take to get better. If you don’t seek or ask for help, you may decide that life is no longer worth living and no one around you could help you get what you needed.
I have talked to many people who have survived and learned to thrive past their depression, whether due to a past of abuse, bullying, or just the way their mind works. Of course, I know firsthand as well. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I am lucky to have a large family around and many friends who love me. It is unconditional and I had to live, if for no other reason, then because I couldn’t bear to hurt them. But during that time, I certainly did not think much of myself. I needed to want to get better. I can’t bring back any of my four friends I have told you about above. But I can share their spirit and keep them alive through sharing this story. If one of you reads this and realizes that life is always worth living and it will get better, than it was worth writing and sharing this personal pain. I will keep going, but I never forget those four friends and the choices they made. They robbed me from a life of positive memories that would come once they got past their depression, issues, or whatever led them to make their choice.
I hope that you read this. I hope that you understand that life is a large amount of peaks and valleys and we can only see how wonderful the peaks are if we fall into the valleys and look up. Then it is a hard climb back to the peak. But when you are back up there, with the fresh air and surrounded by your friends, family, and doctors that held out their hands to pull you to the top, and only when you are pulled back up, can you truly look back down at the valley and say, “Maybe one day I climb down again, but I know that I can get back up.”
I wish my four friends could have done that.
Please, if you are feeling alone and depressed, see these Depression Resources on the National Association of Mental Illness site and seek help.
You can make a difference. Join the Bystander Revolution.