Am I Useless?

Sophie, the person who wrote the article “Why Are We So Hurtful To Others” here a little while ago, shares another article about how we treat each other. This is an area I am fascinated by, particularly in light of recent terrorist cruelty that is unspeakable in the acts done. How can we, as a society, learn to treat each other with respect and understand what it means to hurt someone to the point that they react in a way that is not their character? Thank you, Sophie for continuing to share your thoughts on bullying here. It is much appreciated. ~Alan Eisenberg

Bullying. That word stands alone. Alone like how a victim of bullying feels. I will never understand why some people feel they can gain power by bullying others and why being cruel makes them feel at the top of the pyramid. Why is it their priority in life to make others feel awful? Why does having a tough persona mean others have to suffer? I don’t understand and I probably never will.

I can’t help but compare two words: bullying and depression. Bullies become so
consumed in their power that they are oblivious to the serious effects their actions can have on another person. So many people of different ages have committed suicide after being bullied. So many young lives have ended and were taken away. How is this ok? It’s true others haven’t decided to take their own life but they do become seriously depressed, which can lead to the dangers of hurting one’s self.

Some may disagree and think that the abuse and behavior of a single person cannot lead to someone taking his or her life. To those people I ask, have you yourself ever experienced bullying? If you have not experienced any form of bullying than you cannot understand what victims are going through. Put yourself in their shoes, would you be upset if someone called you names or told you that you were worthless? How would you react to someone telling you that you weren’t good for anything and were useless on this earth? I can only assume that you would feel terrible and question yourself and wonder “Am I really useless?” No one wants to feel that way. Everyone wants something worth living for, something that makes him or her want to take on life challenges and say, “You hear me God? I am a human being and I’m going to kick some ass!”

It’s important to understand the effects of bullying and to understand that it is not ok. Bullying has become a word that sickens me because of how often it happens, and that it happened to me, and how many blameless people lose their life because of someone tormenting them. IT NEEDS TO END NOW.


A View on Depression and Suicide

I am blessed and lucky to have a religious leader such as Rabbi Bruce Aft that is so in tune with the issue of bullying and the long-term effects, that we talk frequently about it. He is not only a mentor to me, but a trusted friend and he shared recently his thoughts on Robin Williams suicide and depression in an article to his congregation. I asked him if I could share his thoughts here, as I think them relevant to the whole view of the long-term effects of bullying. Of course, he said yes. So I hope you get as much from his thoughts below as I do. ~Alan Eisenberg

Robin WilliamsAs I contemplate how to respond to the suicide of Robin Williams, I want to share a personal discussion which my wife and I had after we watched the movie Dead Poets Society many years ago.  (I think the movie actually was released 25 years ago).

I hope that all of you will watch this movie and perhaps we can have an evening where we discuss it. In case you haven’t seen it, I will briefly share the subject of our discussion while trying not to give away the ending of the movie.

As I recall the movie, Robin Williams is a teacher who spends a lot of time encouraging one of his students to pursue his dreams. The student has a difficult relationship with his father as he and his father have different views on what the student should be doing.

As things evolve, the student relies on Robin Williams for guidance and inspiration. Our personal discussion revolved around the issue of how much a teacher is required to do in order to help a student. We disagreed (and probably still disagree) about the limits of our abilities to help. One of our positions was that the teacher had done all he could to help and that at some point there is a limit to what we can do to provide support to someone. The other position was that the teacher could have done more to help. I hope you see this movie and sometime in the fall, we can discuss this with those who have seen the movie so that we can be more specific. Stay tuned for details!

As we deal with depression in our society, how much are we expected to reach out to those who are depressed? As many of you know, one of my favorite parts of the rabbinate is teaching teenagers. As I watch the faces of the students, I often wonder what they are thinking and what struggles they are facing. I try my hardest to reach out to them if I suspect that they are facing a challenge and try to provide support. However, I am sure there are times when I just don’t pick up on cues and have not effectively helped them. How does one decide when one has done enough to help someone? And this is not just an issue which teenagers face as we have seen people of all ages can be fighting depression.

I hope that each of us will try to be more sensitive to the behavior of others and if we suspect that someone is dealing with depression, that we don’t just walk away or minimize it. I have heard individuals tell others who are dealing with depression that they should “just deal with it” or “snap out of it.” “It” is not just that easy to wish away. “It” is a very real illness and if we are honest, many people we know, and even some of us, are dealing with it.

Please know that if you are feeling depressed or know of someone who is, that you should not just let it go. In the same way you would treat heart disease or cancer or other physical illnesses, we need to be vigilant in recognizing and treating depression. There are people who can help you deal with powerful feelings that can seem overwhelming.

Some of us feel that if we acknowledge that we are depressed, we will be stigmatized and others will think less of us. Please try NOT to feel this way. SEEK help and don’t hesitate to contact me or another helping professional.

We are taught in Mishnah Sanhedrin, one of our sacred rabbinic teachings, that if one saves one life, one saves an entire world. Please do whatever it takes to seek or provide help for those in need (including ourselves) and recognize that a true community of friends reaches out and supports others in all kinds of situations.

~Rabbi Bruce D. Aft

What Is Cyberbullying Infographic

Sarah Bends shared a wonderful infographic about Cyberbullying with me to share with you. For those that have been following the infographic movement, it is such a great and creative way for communication artists to share information in a graphical setting. I hope you enjoy Sarah’s great infographic as much as I do. While it is a tough subject, her infographic makes the information easy to understand. To see Sarah’s site and the graphic on it directly, go to: Thanks, Sarah for sharing.

Cyber-bullying Infographic

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.



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

I Can’t Just Get Over It (A Personal Story)

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

man in chair stressedMy 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.

~ Nick

Depression: The Not So Silent Killer

DepressionDon’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.