The Bully and Me – A Reunion

Sleep Sleep tonight
And may your dreams Be realized
If the thunder cloud Passes rain
So let it rain
Rain down on him
Mmm, mmm, mmm
So let it be
Mmm, mmm, mmm
So let it be

“MLK” – lyrics and song by U2

My life has moved in many ways I never predicted since I decided seven years ago to start writing and dedicate my free time to try to help solve the problem of bullying in our country and now (as I find who reads this and where they are from) around the world. If you have been along for the ride with me for these years, know that I am much appreciative. If you are new, welcome and I hope you find help in the stories and writings on this site.

I have shared quite freely on the site what it has taken for me to get past the long-term effects that youth bullying had on me. In fact I was never more surprised than I have been over the last year to discover the anxiety, phobias, and of course depression that comes as part of the PTSD process or now as I have discovered C-PTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder) that is the new term for those that deal with the psychological injury from social and/or interpersonal trauma.

I like that the word injury is part of the definition, because as we come to realize that these are injuries of the mind, much like injuries that are more obvious, like a broken bone, then we can focus on how to mend and fix these so life can return to normal. In the seven years since I started this site, the bullying issue has exploded to front page news every single day. It is now an issue that we all want to solve and that is great. The recovery from the injury of bullying and other mental illness needs to be the next item to fix. That is my new dedication that I am calling “Bully Recovery”. More on that later. But studies have already started and psychologists and social workers are both working toward solutions.

Having recently decided last year that, even with my awareness, I needed the mending help of professionals, I can honestly say that, from my vantage point, you can’t go it alone. Just like a broken bone needs to be set by a professional doctor, so does a broken mind. We can’t ignore this issue.

Boys FightingBut that is not what I am writing about today. Today is yet another day to share a new story of my bullying life with you. Although, I must say that it is not an unhappy story, but one of continued recovery and that is why I shared that in the first part. A few months ago, as part of my own recovery, I decided to look up and contact Bob, the first bully I had so many years ago that haunted my mind. If you read my stories on my site here, he plays a prominent role in three of them. He was easy to find on Facebook, the magic tool to find everyone now. I sent him a message, but did not reveal why I wanted to call him, and he wrote back. I asked for his phone number and he gave it to me. Now the hard part. Pick up the phone and tell him why I wanted to talk to him. He was still the scary monster from my youth who was so cruel in my mind, so I thought maybe he would be that scary monster. But I want to get better, face my demons and defeat them, so now would be the time. And that monster is now from 36 years ago. Talk about C-PTSD!

I called the number.

“Hello This Is Bob”, my old bully replied. I recognized the voice with the heavy Massachusetts accent right away.

“Hi Bob, this is Alan. Do you remember me from our days at Franklin Elementary?” I said, shaking and trying to figure out how to say what needed to be said.

Bob replied, “You know I don’t have much memory of my youth, but your name is familiar. I just don’t remember that much from when I was young. But it’s good to reconnect.”

“This is why I wanted to call you.” I said. Now was the time to reveal why I wanted to call him. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. “I am calling you and wanted to talk to you, because you were my bully.”

A moment of silence and then Bob just said the words as I find many I confront later do.

“Oh, I am so sorry. Oh G-d, I am sorry about that. I don’t remember it, but I am sorry.”

It is amazing when those words release after so many years. Why can’t we say them when we are young. Because we don’t understand yet, that’s why. He was just flowing with remorse. I stopped him somewhere along the way and explained that I just wanted to contact him for me to release the memory of him I had when I was a youth. Then, the other thing that often happens in these re-connections, Bob started sharing with me the why from his end.

The Bob I was talking to now was remorseful, honest, and dealing with his own set of demons that he had in his life. We shared about ourselves openly and honestly. He came from an abusive home. His young life was not easy either and he dealt with his own self-esteem issues. It was a textbook case of what makes someone a youth bully. I listened, learning more than I expected as he shared more with me.

He shared that he has been dealing with his own demons in life and that he is working to overcome the ones he had. Drinking, drugs, tough teen and adult years, and finally that he also looks to find the positives in life now to overcome what he has been through. We were kindred spirits from different sides of the bully spectrum. The studies are right, the bully and victim are more similar than different.

Bob and I talked for probably an hour that day. I told him about my work on trying to solve the bullying issue. He was so supportive and also said that he councils prisoners at a jail to help them and help himself. He has not had the “easy” life as much as I have and has had to deal with many things that I could tell he tries to still suppress in his mind to this day. I could tell as the conversation continued that he was getting his ability to release his demons to me as well. It was truly amazing to me to have this closure with the person I had demonized all these years. Bob is an adult, with adult struggles and now an understanding of where he comes from and why that is. We are both working toward recovery of the same things.

After about an hour of pouring our hearts out to each other (remember that we hadn’t even seen each other in 33 years or so), we had to end the conversation. Bob closed out his end by shocking me again. He said, “I can’t wait to share this conversation with the men at the prison that I meet with. This has been something I needed and am so glad we talked. Can I call you again tomorrow?”

WHAT!!!

Bob needed me more than I needed him. I am now not the victim, not the bully, but the helper and listener. I can’t begin to explain how that made me feel.

“Of course,” I replied. “You can call me anytime and let’s friend each other on Facebook if you want”.

He did and now I had a bigger view of his life and he mine. He posts lots of positive thoughts on FB as I do. We always put a like on those for each other. We’ve talked many times on the phone as well and he has offered to do anything to help with my cause. I have asked him to write his own article here from his perspective. I hope and believe he will, because he gets it. He gets that we all feel alone, but no one is alone. He gets that the demons we have to live with within our mind can be undone through help and sharing like this. He has suffered as I have, and we are both looking to help ourselves by taking action, like my calling him.

Bob had no recollectiofriendship therapyn of the bullying that he did to me in the end. But he was going home and dealing with the demons he had in his home life. Bob is slowly sharing more and more with me, but I get the feeling that there is a darkness in his past that he still hasn’t told me about. He may never share that. Or one day, he may decide to pick up the phone and release his demons to me as I did to him.

For now, the damage of the Bob demon is repaired for me and I now move on. It can get better. It’s never too late to decide to stop fighting and put your demons in your mind behind you. I never thought that so many years later, I would be. But I am feeling 100%, no make that 1000% better these days. Something must be working and I think it’s my decision to stop running or hiding from my demons, but confronting them and letting them go. I have been blessed with the ability and strength to continue to fight these long-term effects. I now sleep better at night with dreams of the future instead of nightmares about the past (had to tie to the song lyrics somehow, right)? We can all do the same.

In many cases, help is but a phone call away and you will find that sometimes…just sometimes, the demon is an angel in disguise.

~Alan Eisenberg

The Victim of the Bullied Strikes Back (A Personal Story)

For the regular readers of this site, this is a first and has been building up for the last several months. Some years ago, I wrote a story called “Me As The Bully”. When I wrote that, I would have no idea that the child I referred to 30 years prior to would grow up and read his story here and then that would facilitate an opportunity for us to reconnect, close the gap of years and close the door on the incident referred to in my story. But it’s more than that. This was the first time I could ask and hopefully have a second opinion about my story and how that time affected a life other than my own. I am lucky and happy to now have the story, which is quite different than I could ever have imagined, be written by the other person in my old story. He has added his story below and his feelings and opinions about how these years have affected his life. I am forever grateful to have others that “get me” as well and are willing to share their thoughts and feelings as well. Thank you, David. ~Alan Eisenberg


Juneteenth is coming up and my family and I plan on spending it in South Carolina. A couple of years ago, my extended family and I, with myself in charge, attended a Juneteenth celebration in Newport News, Virginia. As a Hebrew (and Passover fanatic), I identify strongly with African-Americans and their identification through their path of freedom from bondage.

I have been the recipient of a lot of “understanding” from people of all backgrounds and economic levels (pale and not , foreign and not). I have been very lucky to have met so many people who just seem to get me. I have parlayed this in many ways and have followed paths that others have not.

Well this Juneteenth I will be celebrating another special milestone in my life, the launch of my new business. This was a 2 year path that ended with a crescendo in my discovery of a forgotten, yet presently applicable, part of my past. An instinct to fight, to hold others off, and to defend.

I kind of matured slowly.

I had blanked out the incident that I’m a part of that Alan tells the story of in his post called “Bully Incident#24: Me as the Bully (1979)” and I understand why a bit more now after reconnecting with Alan. It was the very beginning of the days I dealt with bullying in 1979, just as Alan was getting ready to move away. I always remembered Alan (but not the specifics of our interaction or the bullying incident at our Hebrew school) and felt like he was dangerous and maybe someone I didn’t want to know too well. It seemed to me that he was in his state of weakness at the time due to the bullying he endured.

It was only 30 years later at the culmination of my high school reunion where I found out Alan was publishing stories on the web about bullying in Lexington, MA. I then looked it up and there I was in his one story of a time in Hebrew school where I was the victim. Interestingly, when I found and read the story the first time, felt exhilarated. No embarrassment but not a great recollection of the incident. While I didn’t remember the tacks in the chair action exactly at that time, I have a vague thought that in the state I was at that time in my life that it did affect me and that I might be more aware of it than I realize even today. my What I do recall of that time, though, is that the realization that there was no safe social place for me, including religious school.

Within less than a year of this time when you and the other kids put the tacks on my chair, my life kinda sucked. I did deal with bullying as well by the kids in Lexington, MA. But also, what happened was every so often i would meet an outsider who would protect me socially. Over the next 6 years I became much stronger. Yet that time in my life taught me some strange survival skills that I incorporated into my professional life as fixer of sorts. In the end, I would help companies that have operational or financial distress.

So I hardly ever felt like a victim. More a participant in a moral battle. My question that I asked Alan in his story (“Why Did You Do This?”) was surely designed to make him and the other kids that did it stronger so that he wouldn’t look at me as a victim.

My finding out about Alan and this story he wrote, along with his whole website also coincided with my helping to heal my one of my best friends from his long-term suffering from bullying, and also a series of interactions within my work life in general, that brought me to think hard about Alan’s mission and good work. I also thought about how Alan put himself out there on this site and his personal exposure along with all the risks that go along with doing that. That has helped me come to terms with my own decision of leaving big law and the dysfunctional situations that I am quite good at surviving now due to my rationalized flight and fight instinct that I developed through my experiences with bullies in my past.

So now I have chosen my own path (which by the way I was very reluctant to choose) and now can focus all my energy on my own path. Bottom line is that throughout my life and especially during 6-8 grade in Lexington, MA, when Alan was there, I realized that I had some “mark” that those with wisdom saw in me. Adults who are smart and anyone who understands how to view things from the outside saw that mark and “got me”. They always got me and have always helped me, especially an African-American judge and Vietnam Vet that gave me a chance, where others would have not. They “got” me! It has made me live a life that seems so easy and lucky. Now this brings us to the present. This Juneetenth I continue on my Journey of Freedom with a view from the outside to help those on the outside get inside (but never myself getting too close).

~David

(Read the original “Me As The Bully” Story Here)

A Pacifist’s Anger

Author and fellow anti-bullying contributor Karen Mueller Coombs asked me to guest blog on her website. She just posted my blog/story called “A Pacifist’s Anger”, in which I share some insights into my stories and more depth about my feelings of what happened to me.

If you would like to read my guest, blog titled “A Pacifist’s Anger, you can see it on her “Bully at Ambush Corner website at: http://bullyatambushcorner.com/2012/02/20/a-pacifists-anger/

Six Degrees of Separation No More

Being a child of the 70’s, sometimes I fall back on my old thinking, that there were six degrees of separation between us all and therefore, none of us are that easily found. I remember in the early 90’s, there was even a fun game we used to play called “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, because the actor Kevin Bacon had been in so many movies in the 80’s and 90’s that you could pick any other actor and get to a Kevin Bacon movie in less than 6. Anyway, I digress. I am finding out more and more that there are only about 2 or maybe 3 degrees of separation between us, because the internet now, instead of others, makes it easy to find someone.

I bring this up because, once again, I was shocked to find that one of the people I wrote about in my blog found it and found their story. I have said many times that I never intended this little blog site to be read that widely and it was never there as a means to be found or for those who shared my experiences to read them. I guess I naively thought that it would always be anonymous and just a place to share my stories, the stories of others, and information on bullying.

So, it was quite shocking the other week for me to see one certain story I wrote start to get a lot of views and then comments started popping up on the story. The comments were from people who knew the other person in the story. Some of the comments were nice and others were more directed at me and a question of why did I feel the need to share these things. I fully admit to being in a bit of shock at that moment and then also spending a night contemplating the comments and the fact that the person I wrote about in the story must have found it and shared it. Out of all my personal stories, this was probably the one I didn’t want to have to revisit. Because this was my story of me as the bully.

If you have read the story, then you know that it is one about when I went to religious school, they didn’t know about the bullying that I experienced outside of there, so they treated me well. I, in turn, did not treat one boy well when we were 12 when I was there. I shared this experience to show that bullying isn’t always black and white and also that it could be that, when you are bullied, you may take it out on others, like in a cycle of violence. It was a minor story, but one I wanted to share to show both sides and as a cathartic release. With that done, I promptly put it behind me and moved on.

…Until the story was found by the other person the other week. Ironically, I later learned that they learned about my website at the 25th year High School Reunion in my childhood town. It seems my little site and me are known by some of the kids that I grew up with. Some had found it and told others at the High School reunion that I had a blog on and write about bullying that took place in Lexington, MA. Someone even referred to me as a bullying expert. I take that as a compliment, although my expertise is only in my own experience and the collective experience of others. Of course, the person who knew me and was in the story was told about this and became curious about what I wrote about.

See, it seems I was not alone in what happened to me in Lexington, MA. There are others that experienced heavy bullying there as well. So, this person went to my site, recalled when we knew each other, found their story and themselves in it, and then promptly put it up on their Facebook site, telling their friends they were the bullied of the kids that were bullied themselves.  Then their friends started commenting on my blog about knowing this person. And then I found out and I must admit that my first reaction was one of sadness again, for what I had done when I was 12 years old and for knowing this person also read about it and relived it again. Even though it was 31 years ago, I knew I needed to reach out and try to apologize.

I admit that I slept little that night. The next day I emailed the people who commented on the site and asked them how they found out and tried to get information on a way to contact the other person in the story. One of the people told me about Facebook and also gave me the information needed to contact the person in my story. I was very nervous about talking to him. It had been a long time and you never know what reaction you’ll get. My childhood confidence fears were all back. But this was an opportunity to have closure, maybe for both of us. So finally, the next day, I called him at his office. He picked up the phone, his name is David.

I said hi and told him who I was. I’m not sure if he was expecting the call, but my first reaction was that he was glad I called. When I first heard his voice again I could recognize it immediately. He and I had shared many  years together in religious school, so I remember him well. Memories flooded back to me in waves as he started to talk. He was immediately warm and positive. It set the mood for the rest of the conversation. Before I could get many words in, he told me about how he found out about the story. He told me about others from Lexington who also suffer from the long-term effects of bullying and that I was not alone. He told me about all that happened to him as well and how he dealt with it. While he didn’t recall my story as a major issue, he did also deal with cruel kids.

Finally, I got to say something as well. What I wanted to say was that I was sorry. Not just for the story shared, but in some way for his finding the story and having to read about the incident all over again. I don’t know if that’s strange, but for me, I just never expected to have it read and then to have to deal with the ramifications of that happening. But in the end, the closure, I hope, is good for all, including me. So I apologized, which he said wasn’t necessary and then we talked some more, and some more. We moved on and then, through this phone call started to rebuild a relationship. It’s hard right now to say where that will go, but we want to meet up at some point soon and continue the conversation.

He also allowed me to friend him in Facebook and see his original posts. I would say that took some courage on his part as well. Since he linked only to the story of me as the bully on my site and not the ones of me being bullied, it was interesting to see what his friends had to say, some about me. I was OK with all of it because, if I was one of David’s friends, I would have also been angry to find out about a time he was bullied. I would have defended my friends as well (as we all should). I consider his adding me to his Facebook the beginning of adding me back into his life and possibly moving time closer together to become friends again. While we live states apart, we can now talk again as if we were both in Lexington.

I made one final request of David before we hung up the phone. I asked him, since this story was about me as the bully, if he would share his perspective of the story from the other side. He agreed that he would like to do that. I think it would be great if he would and that shared experience was documented. Even though I didn’t expect it, his finding the story has led to some closure and hopefully a positive ending. I think, for me, the most fascinating part of this experience was to find out that I was discussed at the 25th High School Reunion and that bullying was a subject of discussion. It tells me that, maybe bullying was much bigger than me in Lexington (at least in the 70’s and 80’s) and that there are people who read this. Maybe even those who were the bullies that bullied me. Wouldn’t it be interesting if my phone rang one day and they called me to tell me they found the site and read the story about them…and that they were sorry too.

The Drowning of Stephan Jones

Bette Greene, Author of the classic “Summer of My German Soldier” has written a book on bullying titled “The Drowning of Stephan Jones”. First released in 1999, Ms. Greene has re-released it recently as an ebook and it is a very powerful story indeed. Based on true events, this story has been consistently challenged or banned by people who, as Bette says, “think in little boxes.” In other words, by bullies. In addition to writing, Bette’s lifelong passion has been the fight against bullying. Her books’ subject matter and her life’s work teach people to stand up, fight back, and not accept bullying.

The story of Stephan Jones is one based in hate and prejudice. As described on Publishers Weekly, the story synopsis is:

“Greene tackles the subject of prejudice in a small Southern town as she explores the sentiments of a social outcast who dares to stand up for her beliefs. This book, however, is set in present times and features an older heroine, 16-year-old Carla Wayland. The daughter of a liberal-minded librarian, Carla is disturbed when her all-American boyfriend begins harassing two homosexual men who have recently moved to her community. Blinded by love and fearful of losing Andy’s respect, Carla hides her compassion for the victims until Andy’s bigotry leads to murder. It is only during the aftermath of tragedy that Carla finds the strength to speak her mind and fight for justice.”

The new ebook, which is distributed by “Open Road Integrated Media“, offers a new way to gain access to this story. You can learn more about this story and Bette Green by at this link. Below is a video about Ms. Greene and her reason for sharing this story.

Bully Incident #25: The Lost Fight (1981)

 

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.
Jesus, does anyone?
(Stephen King quote from the book “The Body” & movie “Stand By Me”)

It’s funny how I honestly thought that I had remembered everything about the bully years I experienced during my youth from 1975-1981 in Lexington, MA. For some reason recently, I decided that I would look for some of the people who were actually my friends in Lexington those 28+ years ago. As I was looking through my old Junior High yearbook, I came across, a boy I recalled being a friend, but just couldn’t place moments in time with him. I found old pictures that he was in with me and I even found him to be prominent in the pictures from my Bar Mitzvah.

The one thing I knew was that I met him only in the last year before I moved, 7th grade. 7th grade was a dark period for me where the bullying over the last many years had pretty much wore me down and I was now a quiet and scared adolescent. I had a great distrust of kids around me and found comfort in being alone with my music and television. My old friend is probably a victim of me just not wanting to remember those last years, but I did recall him. So I reached out to let him know that I had posted a picture of  us.

Not a few hours later, he had added me as a friend and sent me a message. He said:

I must say that you moving away was one of the saddest events to me. We became such good buddies so fast. I have an unbelievable amount of memories hanging out together, doing sleepovers, and just being generally mischievous…

This shocked me as I remembered many of these moments, but just couldn’t recall directly his involvement. His saying it was one of the saddest events of his life when I moved away made me feel special in his life. I remember his friendship, just not the direct memories. This really bothered me. It’s important for me to note that I did not share with him my experiences with bullying or the website you are reading this on. He continued to send me some messages with even more details about the fun times we had together. This really upset me, because there was so much I did remember from those days in Lexington and not to remember a friend and the good times…well, it was hard to understand why for me. But then he shed some more light as to why this might be in the next thing he wrote to me:

I remember being incredibly sad when you moved away. I got over it of course, but there’s always been something about it in the back of my mind that’s bothered me. Specifically, what happened at the end of 7th grade when we had a fist fight at school. As far as fistfights went, it wasn’t unusual. Even for friends, because usually they can move on and endure that kind of stuff. But what’s bothered me since then (and I was just thinking about it only a couple of weeks ago before you contacted me) was how that injured our friendship, and then you moved away before we could really set it completely right. That was a mean day for me, and one which I really wish I could have back.

And since a window of opportunity doesn’t always open for long, I have to use our reconnection to tell you now how incredibly sorry I still am for what I did to make that fight happen (it was probably very stupid and blown out of proportion), for every blow struck against you, and for whatever mean (and I mean in the low-class, uncaring, dirty, and despicable sense) action or words that were used by me, before or after. Whether or not there was mutual responsibility, I don’t remember. But I’ve always known that my part in that event was a sin, and one which I still hold onto. I have never forgotten about it.

…Even writing this now, I have trouble knowing what to say. His saying this time that he was sad, because of a fight and because we ended no longer friends. The shock in my heart and mind and the fact that my memory would not hold on to his friendship and what happened was telling me something. He and this fight were the last straw for me for Lexington, for the pain that I had from the bullying years, and for wanting to forget. I was moving only weeks later, far away, and all I can figure out was that my mind let go of this friend, let go of the friendship we had, and let go that it ended in yet another time when I had to fight, when I lost a friend I had made. As a 42-year-old man, as I read his words, I again felt sad and alone and wondered how it was that something I just wanted to be good…this friendship with him…was destined to be another incident in these dark years in Lexington, MA.

Then I read the words again and started to feel for him The guilt that he writes about and his long-term effects from this incident. The fact that not only did he hold the good times, but that he could never forget and had trouble forgiving himself for this. He wanted to mend things, he needed to mend things. If he had never written about it, I would not have recalled anything but the nice guy that I remembered he was. He even said that a couple of weeks prior to me contacting him he was thinking about this. It doesn’t go away. We can forgive, but not always forget and I don’t know how this has affected his life. So I did the one thing that I could do, given his honesty and heartfelt approach.

I forgave him!

I forgave him in writing and I told him it was long gone and he could let it go. I asked for his forgiveness as well. I did all I could do. I thought sympathetically about how he must be feeling and how he felt when he first saw me contact him. I thought of the courage that it must have taken him to write these words to me 28 years later, thinking a few days before that he would never have to do that or that he would never have the opportunity.

We are both middle-aged adults now and it still amazes me how the things that happen to us when we are in those forming youth years stay with us and the long-term effects are real. We may keep things in the back of our subconscious for long periods of time, but when we bring them forward, the emotions we felt all those years ago come back with the memories. I sent him an email with my forgiveness and told him about this website and my anti-bullying cause. After I sent him my follow-up and forgiveness, he wrote back to me again:

Thank  for your understanding and forgiveness. It was a significant event to me. I remember feeling badly about it, since we never completely got it out-of-the-way before you moved.

He wrote more, of course, but some friendships need to have privacy as well. On that note, he and I are now quickly reforming our friendship. Even though we are miles away, through social networking and active communication, I think we are finding that the qualities that made us friends in the first place are the qualities that we share today again. He is an empathetic and caring individual and also someone who finds humor and can communicate it as well as vividly recall life and our times together. I am looking forward to seeing him face-to-face soon. He shared more stories with me and I did get his approval to share this one. He happily said yes, since he now understands my anti-bullying cause.

So for me, this story tells me that I have not yet told all my stories. There may still be some hiding in the back of my subconscious that I don’t want to recall, because maybe they are too painful. I am still sad that I can’t fully recall my friend and our good times together for that brief year in 7th grade. But I certainly will look forward to creating a new friendship and new memories with him now that we reconnected.

As I shared in the beginning quote in this post from Stephen King, I never had friends again like the ones I had when I was twelve. And like Stephen King wrote, this quote doesn’t necessarily mean that this is either good or bad. Just that it is. And life is what we make it and does get better if you let it.

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More Personal Stories

Bully Incident#24: Me As The Bully (1979)

NOTE: As you prepare to read this story an interesting thing has occurred. The other person in this story discovered it and discovered themselves within the story. When I created this site and wrote my stories I never thought they would reach out that far. I thought it was only for me to be able to tell them here for an anonymous audience. It always surprises me how the web and social network we live in now has made it so that we are no longer separated by 6 degrees of separation, but now only 2 or 3. David, the other person in this story discovered it and we talked about it. He understood what I was doing here and we even discussed and wrote his take on this time that you can read here. So a part II for this from him is now available. ~Alan Eisenberg (Dec. 1, 2011)

This is a very tough story to write for me. I actually debated on sharing this one with you, because I have spent three years writing about my victimization from bullies. But the world isn’t black and white, no matter how much we want it to be. The world is full of grays and questions that are debated endlessly, with answers that feel like they change with the blowing of the wind. So this story’s theme offers me as the bully in a situation I often ponder. I think about it, because I question whether the bullying abuse I took made me act as a bully in a certain situation or was it a feeling I wanted to share as well.

So with that in mind, I want to share with you my story of when I was 12 and realized that, in certain situations, I could be the bully. While at my public school, I spent most of the day in fear, waiting for the bullies to get me. But twice a week, I went to another school where I didn’t worry about that. Where I was one of the popular kids and well liked. Twice a week, on Sundays and Monday evenings, I went to religious school and there, I was the one that didn’t have to worry.

In looking back, I’m not sure what was different. Most all of the kids at my religious school did not go to my elementary school, so they didn’t know what was happening to me there. In many ways I felt like I had two personalities, the dark boy who hid from others for fear of being bullied, and the outgoing religious school boy who joked and cut-up with his friends. When I was 12, there was so much going on in my life. My best friend had turned on me to become my worst bully. I found a group of kids to hang with, but they were not the best choices. To boot, I was starting to become a teen, with all the emotional baggage change that goes with that.

So, enter my chance to be the popular kid, at least for a few hours at religion school. I recall how we would play indoor Dodgeball for about 1/2 hour prior to class starting. Then it was off to class, where I would spend time with my friends mainly drawing pictures in class. We were the class clowns, constantly being reprimanded for giggling and not paying attention. It was so vastly different from what I was experiencing at regular school. I really enjoyed the feeling that came with being with the more popular kids. These were my friends away from the ones who knew me as the one being bullied at regular school. So, being young and insecure, I found myself wanting to be popular. As someone recently pointed out to me though, they could see through me that I was a wannabe, but not really comfortable playing this role.

Of course, there had to be a kid who was the one picked on here and his name was David. I can’t really say why he was the one. Maybe he was a little bigger than us. Maybe he was the one who always raised his hand to answer the question or he was smarter than us. To be honest, it wasn’t like he was bullied every time we did religion school. For the most part we all got along and we had spent many years growing up together in religious school. But I know that he was the butt of many jokes and looking back, I can see how unfair it was. I can’t really recall how it came about anymore, but one day we chose to put a bunch of tacks on David’s chair. It wasn’t just a few, it was probably about 10. I recall totally believing he would see them long before he chose to sit down.

But for some reason he was distracted talking to someone and didn’t see them. I can still see David sitting his full weight onto the tacks. I remember him sitting there, his face turning red, but he made sure not to cry in front of us. He didn’t want to. This I recall clearly. To this day, I still get chills thinking about how he didn’t jump up, he didn’t react. It was like he was defeated. The teacher noticed him turning red and tears welling up. He stood up and walked out of the room, all the tacks sticking in him.

There were snickers of laughter in the room as he left. At least it didn’t happen to me was all I thought. Then the teacher spoke up. He said he didn’t want to know who did it, but they should go help David.

Me and a few other boys who were involved went out to help him. At this point, I realized what I had done and was not at all thinking it was funny. We went into the bathroom and there was David, tears running down his face.

“Why did you do this?” was all he kept repeating to us while trying not to cry. Me and the other boys said nothing as I recall. I think we all felt the same. We pulled the tacks out as best we could, knowing we were hurting him again. No one spoke. It was not funny, it was not nice. I was the bully this time.

Once all the tacks were out, we went back to the room. David never came back in that day. That was the last time we picked on him like that I recall. I hope in my recollection, it’s the last time I could think that I was the bully. I think about David and how he must have felt. I often think that he had it worse, because he was probably bullied both at school and then at religion school. He got no break. It hurts me now as I write this to think that might have been the case. I have no idea now, 31 years later, what happened to David (actually I do, because after I wrote this I talked to David recently. More on that later). I certainly hope that he has had a good life (actually now I know he has had a good and interesting life. More on that later).

I thought it would be hard to write the stories of when I was bullied, but it’s actually much harder to write this one. This is not in defense of bullies, but when you are picked on relentlessly in school, when you are 12 years old, for a moment it made me feel good to be the popular kid somewhere. To be the one that didn’t have to look behind my shoulder for where the bully was. Maybe, in the end, that’s the scariest part of this story and why it hurts so much to share it.

I don’t feel brave sharing this story. I don’t feel redeemed sharing this story. I just feel guilty. Of course I can’t go back and these incidents help teach me and hopefully others lessons. That’s the biggest reason I wanted to share this with you.

(Read David’s Response to this story here)