I believe that I have found a kindred spirit in Mike, who sent me this chapter from his forthcoming book. Mike wrote to me to tell me he found my site and that sharing stories is something he believes is important as well. Mike is a 52-year-old educator who went through bullying during his middle and high school years. As Mike said in his own words to me:
“For several years I struggled with poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety, panic attacks. It took me many years and countless hours to come to grips that my personal battles were directly tied to being a survivor of Bullying.
I have decided to write a book for the following reasons. At a deep personal level, it has made me feel more calm and in control the more that I write. I also want to share my story and experiences with students, parents and teachers. Hopefully, my interactions with the kids will facilitate a better understanding of how to deal with Bullying and who are the key people that they can go to for help.”
He is presenting his story to school kids and wanted to share a chapter from his book here. I am happy to share it with you. I wish Mike good luck with the book and hope he continues to talk and make a change to help stop bullying. ~Alan Eisenberg
Freshman Year: Daydreams and Nightmares
The daily routine from hell was back in session. It was mid-March, as I glanced at the clock and prepared myself for another journey through panic, fear and anxiety. I worked really hard, as I did every day, to look positive until we got through lunch. My smile had worked well that morning and my practiced masculine “How ya doing”? elicited three responses before lunch. After that, it was about preparation and survival. The last period of the day always dragged as my mind waffled between absorbing the teacher’s information and designing the strategic stealth plan. I was up on the second floor, a good distance from my locker. I knew that I would have to think quick, move smart and keep my head down as usual.
In one swooping motion, the hands of the clock hit 2:20, the teacher’s voice trailed with assignment reminders as I rocketed from the chair. I hit the door quick beating out the majority of the freshmen and made a clean turn to the right dodging the onslaught of my peers. My eyes focused, the legs fired, and I cleared the stairs without a hint of stumbling. The lobby and main staircase at Bishop Guertin High School resounded with historical perspective, philosophy and the ornate points of view of the Catholic faith. There was no time to embrace these spectacles now as I darted down the stairs towards the locker room. My goal had to be achieved; getting to the bus before anyone else.
As I approached the bottom of the main staircase, I turned sharply to the left and faced the most challenging piece of my daily flight. Ahead lay the narrow, sharply descending stairs cluttered with bodies of numerous pubescent boys. Not all were faced with my dilemma. Many of the guys were relaxed, laughing and taking their sweet time rambling down the stairs. Today was more stagnant than normal from both a kinetic and aromatic perspective. I wanted to scream, “Get out of my way, let me breathe and allow me some peace”. Finally when it seemed like the bottleneck would not cease, I spilled out into the cafeteria framed by khaki green cement blocks.
Seconds were cerebrally interpreted as minutes as I sprinted towards the left back corner of the café. Woven within the cement blocks, 700 lockers lay in waiting. In one deliberate motion, the right hand hit the combination lock as my left arm hurdled out of my corduroy sport coat. Three muscle memory turns, and the locker creaked open as my right arm cleared the confines of my coat. The nylon blue paisley tie, absurdly wide in width, was removed in a fraction of a moment and tossed on the hook. It shared time with the brown and yellow striper and the mega-sectional red, white and blue edition. I grabbed my so seventies winter jacket, brown with the fox fur collar, leather gloves and psychedelic stocking hat and booked it for the exit.
The intensity of attaining my immediate objective had to maintain balance with the long-range goal of looking cool and calm at all times. I caught myself as I passed through the doors leading to the parking lot and shifted into a calculated and brutally contained cantor. I was struggling to breathe and could feel my heart pounding. Ahead of me, spread out over a large parking lot was a cornucopia of transport vehicles. Standing tall and gleaming brightly among the sedans, (SUV’s and minivans waited twenty years in the future) the yellow chariot called my name. Picking up speed, I galloped towards the bus and hit the stairs hard and fast.
I swept around the corner and slid heavily into the first seat on the right. Finally, I gave myself a chance to take a breath of air and experience a second of relaxation. Phase one of the afternoon obstacle course was complete. Several seconds passed before the next student jumped on the bus. This gave the bus driver, John, a moment to say hello. John always called me John because he said that I looked like John Lennon. As the kids pushed and stumbled onto the bus, I prepared myself for the fifty minute phase two of the journey. The tension again built up in my shoulders and stomach as I placed myself in the position. It was a tremendous struggle every day to become invisible. As the bus began to traverse forward I opened my book, focused all cerebral neurons on my hearing, and deadened my eyes.
In a corner of my brain I held on to the hope that after three months out of site, the focus on terror would have ceased. The possibilities swirled. Would it include being pulled to the back and getting beaten up, igniting my books on fire, having cigarette ashes dumped on my head, or having my personal belongings destroyed? Therefore, you can see why every trip was a dangerous and panic laden trek for me. As I deadened my eyes my saving grace, daydreaming, took hold. On this day, my dream carried me to my dentist’s office. I was sitting in the chair enjoying a conversation with the dental hygienist, Doreen.
We traveled without incident along our route from southern New Hampshire through several northeastern Massachusetts towns. At each stop another bully would prepare to exit. Maintaining my place in dream world, my breathing would come to a halt. As the antagonist meandered down the stairs, a sigh of relief would be accompanied by the thought that one less idea of torture existed on this particular ride. The return home was going as well as could be expected, until the rumbling began. I came out of my dream state when I heard the meshing of words that included “Big Bird”, “faggot”, “runt” and, “spit”. Eventually the words blended into the sentence, “Let’s spit on Big Bird when he gets off the bus”. Anxiety, anger, embarrassment, assessment and preparation all became entangled in my thought process. My stop was approaching and now it was clear what the plan was. There were ten kids still on the bus. Two were leading the charge, three others followed without blinking, two jumped aboard to protect their reputations and three sat and looked away. John, the bus driver heard everything and did nothing.
John enjoyed stopping the bus on a dime and we were jolted forward by the quick pump of the brakes. I grabbed my bag, barely able to breathe as I initiated my launch to safety. I figured that if I jumped from the bottom step of the bus I could take two quick leaps and be out of spittoon range. Unfortunately, it had been raining and the snow banks were slushy and soft. My first jump landed me in a foot of water causing me to slip and bend backwards. I pushed forward hoping to hit the top of the bank and roll to the other side. As I hit the crest of the bank, I could hear the interfacing of gears as the bus moved forward. I also heard the taunting and the laughing as the cruel action took place. When my foot impacted the wet snow, I sunk to my knee in slush. My momentum carried me over the wet mound of snow and I rolled into a bitterly cold puddle on the other side.
I stood, slowly, as my ears and nose still captured soft laughter and diesel fuel dancing on waves of sound and smell. I felt numb, not from the frigid environment but from the internal humiliation. I knew that I had been hit and I also knew there was nothing I could do about it. I checked and found that one lugee had caught me in the back and the other was disgustingly seeping into the cotton fibers of my hat. Picking up my soaked school bag, I turned to walk home with a sad grin protruding from my face. I quickly headed into my house, dumped my wet clothes, went into my room, and traveled back to my safe haven. My day-dream continued until mom and dad got home. Small talk ensued, but I expressed nothing to suggest that bullying was part of my daily life.
~Mike S. (Author of Bullied)