How to Deal with Bullying

I am happy to have author and speaker Stephen Scoggins, who has his own blog website, and his book called “The Journey Principles”, share his thoughts and story here as he has on his site. Certainly, his tips on ways to deal with a bully help us realize there are things we are empowered to do to deal with this form of abuse. A big thank you goes out to Stephen for this post and his efforts to help deal with our bullies. ~Alan Eisenberg


Cowering girl with bullyWhen I think of the word bully, a mean kid from my elementary school pops into my head. In my childhood memory, he stood head and shoulders above the whole class and rumor had it he’d started shaving before 5th grade. We often associate the word bully with childhood, but bullies can exist in all walks of life. Adult bullies are usually more skilled at masking their behavior, but their actions can affect both our personal and professional lives. When someone treats us poorly, it can be difficult to see things from their perspective. However, we can change our approach to dealing with bullies by understanding their motives and sometimes we can have a positive effect on their lives.

The first thing to remember about bullying is that as much as it may be directed toward you, bullying is not actually about you. At its heart, bullying is a reaction to a force. What makes bullying so confusing is that it seems unprovoked, but the force that inspired it is still there. If this force comes from inner turmoil, the bully may seek to control or dominate to feel more secure. As mentioned in my book The Journey Principles, a bully/victim relationship is inherently a Giver/Taker relationship. If you are being targeted, it’s because you have something the bully wants. It may be an inner peace or giving spirit; whatever the reason, your bully’s aggression is an attempt to self-soothe.

5 Ways to Deal with a Bully:

Identification: Try to find the root of your bully’s insecurity. Does the insecurity stem from a difficult environment or something lacking in the person’s life?

Affirmation: Remind your bully that his or her words have a unique ability to change lives for better or for worse.

Discouragement: Do not reward your bully’s actions with the behavior her or she wants from you. This will only make the problem worse.

Physical and Mental Outlet: Encourage your bully to focus on a subject/activity he or she enjoys as a way to redirect energy in a positive way.

Outside Help: Seek the advice of someone outside of the situation. This person can add valuable perspective and keep you from suffering in silence.

When you seek to understand your bully, you might see an amazing transformation. Sadly, you might also see a repeat of damaging behavior. Remember that you can’t make people change, but you can deter them from treating you poorly. When you encounter bullies in your life, try to think of the motivation behind their actions. Everyone wants to feel valued, and when you sympathize with bullies, you’re giving them that gift. Your kindness may not fix your bully, but when you put yourself in another person’s shoes, you are ensuring you don’t become a bully yourself.

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”
(Matthew 5:5, NLT)

In your service,
Stephen Scoggins

Tried and Tested Anti-Bullying Techniques for Teachers

Bullying CloudBullying in schools can take many forms and result in physical or emotional harm. The consequences of bullying can be detrimental to the victim or victims involved, so schools take this issue very seriously. In fact, by law, it is a requirement for all schools to have measures in place to prevent and tackle all forms of bullying.
There are lots of different anti-bullying methods and procedures that a school can adopt, and each school needs to decide how best to handle different situations that affect its pupils. There is no one single anti-bullying solution that will suit all schools, so a multi-faceted approach is often taken.

A successful school that tackles bullying will have clear policies in place to deal with instances of bullying. They will also look at preventing bullying from occurring in the first place.

Bullying is a really complex issue, and the motivations behind why a child might bully another child in the first place are often wide-ranging. Sitting down with pupils and involving them in discussions about bullying can have a really positive impact. Educating children about differences between pupils and embracing those differences, whether they are based on religion, ethnicity, disability or appearance, for instance, can help to foster an inclusive environment where every child is accepted and feels safe and secure. It can be useful for a school to promote anti-bullying by getting children involved with designing posters and taking part in role plays that emphasize that the school does not tolerate behavior that is hurtful or upsetting to others.

For young children, the differences between right and wrong need to be taught, so using positive-reinforcement approaches when good behaviour has occurred is just as important as recognizing when bad behavior takes place. Positive reinforcement can take many forms, including rewards such as extra playtime or stickers. Generally, it is something that a child will find of value to him or her. Working with expert organisations such as Brainwaves, who can provide different rewards for improving children’s behavior and motivation, can be a positive step to promote anti-bullying. Making use of specialist resources or organisations that have a proven track record in tackling bullying can be hugely beneficial to a school.

Successful schools should also make it easy for pupils to feel that they can report instances when bullying has occurred without any repercussions from the perpetrator. Policies should be in place to stop the behaviour from occurring again and disciplinary sanctions implemented. Schools should also involve parents and caregivers as part of this procedure.

A school also needs to regularly update and review its anti-bullying policies to ensure that they are current and take into account developments of new forms of bullying. Cyber bullying, for instance, has grown enormously in recent years with the advent of the internet, smartphones and social media. Pupils need to be educated about bullying online and what this might constitute.

A successful school will also ensure staff are fully trained to deal with bullying issues, as well as how to engage with the wider community to tackle issues. As bullying can also take place away from the school premises, a school needs to work with organisations such as the police and children’s services to crack down on any off-site bullying offences.

~Sally

How to Prevent Bullying Through the Martial Arts

Boy Martial ArtsFor children who may experience bullying, participating in martial arts is a positive way to build both coping methods and ways to deal with bullies on the spot. The effects of learning martial arts such as karate, kickboxing, or jiu-jitsu, are long-term, and changes can take effect immediately in some children.

The martial arts improve both physical and mental health. The obvious benefit of physical health improvement through exercise can give children and adults alike a feeling of well-being. But Martial arts also allow children to build confidence and self-esteem through goal setting, learning self-defense tactics, and making like-minded friends. For instance, if a child’s quest is to earn a black belt, he or she must take steps along the way and set individual, smaller goals to reach the final result. With each achievement, that child will feel more powerful and resilient.

Children who understand self-defense poses, stances, and maneuvers because of martial arts often have a sense of preparedness when faced with bullies. They are more likely to be able to defuse a bully without having to resort to violence. Role-playing responses on how to deal with a bully can often be helpful, and the martial arts teach just that. In addition, the confidence this preparedness and sense of worth provided by martial arts training may even ward off bullies altogether.

Why, though, do children bully? Commonly, bullying is a cycle: bullies may be bullied at home or have been bullied in the past. Oftentimes bullies haven’t learned the social or problem-solving skills they need to get along with children and in their day-to-day lives. Bullying becomes an aggressive, hateful response to being insecure, socially awkward, or even just bored – all of which are situations where these bullies may feel powerless. Bullying gives them a feeling of power. Regardless of the reason children bully, it is never okay.

Martial arts can provide skills for not only combating bullies, but for helping children not to be bullies. They can help stop the cycle of bullying by providing accountability and structure for children. If a child doesn’t experience discipline at home or at school, then he or she has the opportunity to do so through the martial arts. It takes a particular kind of rigor and focus to be successful, and martial arts instructors do not allow for goofing off during class.

The confidence that the martial arts instill in children can also benefit those who may be at risk for being bullies. The same way role-playing benefits those who have to deal with bullies, it will help children be prepared in case they feel like being angry or mean. The martial arts also teach being calm, as well as breathing in a calm manner to maintain composure.

Lastly, the martial arts teach children the importance of respect: respect for the teachers, for other students, and for themselves. Learning how to respect all kinds of people may help reduce bullying behavior.

For children on the East Coast, Tiger Schulmann’s MMA offers a bully prevention program every year. The program teaches children the definition of a bully, the different forms in which bullying may manifest, and how to stop a bullying situation without getting physical. All of these lessons teach the basic martial arts principles of discipline, respect, role-playing, and confidence to help children to better handle themselves in any situation.

~Tiger Schulmann’s MMA

The Elite Cyber-bullies (A Personal Story)

Sometimes, when I read a story, it is hard for me to connect with the writer, because their world of bullying is so much different from my experiences. Such is the case with this story and the world of elite hackers cyberbullying that is going on. It is hard to distinguish the pain that comes with what people post on the computer screens of the world, as is the case here. ~Alan


CyberbullyingCyber bullying for me started a few years ago when I was a member of a forum called elitehackers.info which now no longer exists. Yeah, this saga has lasted a while and these cyber bullies that are after me refuse to leave me alone. Back then I wanted to learn about computer security, infosec,…but I was not doing any thing bad on-line and had no bad intentions but some one got a different idea when I changed my nick to, “cy83r7r0n.”

At that point I was contacted by this low life called, “Nacky.” I guess it appeared like I was too hungry and really eager to get into black hat sort of stuff but she was wrong so when requested to crack into some ICQ e-mails I refused eventually out right and instead posted the entire conversation that took place on that forum to my site (that was hosted on a free account and removed by just one e-mail to the admin by Nacky) and later on my blog (was removed just as well with all the comments that the victim of the ICQ e-mail made) and that is where the abuse started because I refused to be silenced and continued posting that conversation and later on even the e-mails she sent to me on myspace and other bloging platforms.

Now I refer to her as a non-entity. Not just because I am pissed at her but that is how she referred to her self in one of the e-mails that she sent me over the years trying to confuse me and get me to believe that she was some outside observer and here is a typical e-mail from her,

“You may remember me, you had me confused with someone named Naky. I had contacted you some time ago trying to warn you about a Shawn person. I had gotten to the bottom of some things but not all re: elitehackers. Something about this Shawn guy and the admin there. I could resend the info I came into if you wish.”
I believe that she has mental issues as all e-mails that I have received from her show that she has an enormous problem writing any thing with a head and a tail and no clear idea is expressed and it always comes in rambling sentences with grammatical errors. Besides that I believe she is an individual who has been coerced into the abusive world of these cyber bullies who are using her as a proxy to as they are involved in various cyber crimes such as cracking into peoples e-mail accounts, harassment and they even put peoples personal information on the doxbin site that is hosted on the tor network and once there it can not be taken down (last year three Finish teens were arrested in relation to that:

http://occupypeace.blogspot.com/2013/10/scoop-doxbin-arrested.html),…

So when the initial phase was over two hate blogs were on line and are still on line to date:
http://lyecdevf-is-lame.blogspot.com/, (I would like to ask for help to get these two blogs removed), http://failtrolls.blogspot.com/2014/02/gregor-aka-lyecdevf-aka-cyber-cunt.html, (For now they can only attack my on line personality but they are determined to figure out who I am in real life), two abuse reports were made to Google, and I received a whole bunch of e-mails full of confusion and statements that angered me. So if any one is wondering why I am writing this it has in part to do with Nacky as well who writes to me in a way that equates me with some low life and I can not accept this type of attitude.

She was trying to shut me up her self for a while but she could not get Google to delete my account but then others steeped in. Who ever was behind all this wanted to shut me up. These cyber bullies do not want to see me post on line the conversation where I was asked over and over again to crack into an account by Nakcy because that is illegal as it is a solicitation to commit a hacker crime but it goes beyond that. They do not want to hear any one talk about there techniques, e-mails,…in fact they try to censor all posts including this one. So I would ask the admin already at this point in time to take note of that as this page is going to experience a lot of heat and I do not blame any admin who feels the need to remove this post.

Nevertheless as I am going to continue my campaign to shed light on these cyber bullies in spite of being aware that they are going to try and censor me and fill my e-mail in box with abrasive messages. I believe that some one needs to do some thing as they keep a very low profile so to try and keep undetected while they are just going go around hurting people unhampered. They are an organized group who may use proxies to log in to there stolen e-mails and stay in general clear of social media sites. Such behavior is not typical of cyber bullies and they may leave me alone on twitter but Shawn would e-mail me there comments about what I wrote on line in his poisoned demeanor.

Shawn is another non-entity who after Nakcy tried to shut me up and to intimidate me even further by threatening me in an e-mail where a picture of a dead snake and a picture of who he believes is me were included. His e-mail account he was using ended in “ucide.” It was all so clear to me and in my abuse report to google regarding the threatening e-mail I wrote that he may want me to commit suicide. Google seemed to respond quickly but after he received the message directly from the abuse department he wrote from the same e-mail account again to me the following, “I am cheering for you to commit suicide.” Apparently what ever google abuse department had to say to him did stop him from continuing sending the abusive e-mails to me. That is why in part I need to take things into my own hands as this non-entity has proven beyond doubt that he is the lowest scum who has anger management issues and the only thing out of his mouth is disdain and rage.
Many times I have received e-mails from these non-entities who seem to believe that they can trick me some how to stop exposing them down to outright threatening me. All this time they acted like I was the bad party and called me every thing from spamer, trol, creep,…They even forwarded to me an e-mail with a generic answer from the police abuse department when they made a general type complaint about an abusive person because they are trying to turn the tables and make it appear that I am the offensive party when it is the exact opposite.
The attitude is really some thing from some middle schoolers and that is one of the many things that angers me. They invest enormous amount of time and energy to silence me and for the last few years I let them get away with it but now I have had it. After I received another e-mail from Nacky after half a year of complete silence I decided to take this to a new step. I want to spread the word all over the net because for one I know they are going to try and censor this stuff from all the blogs but also because I would like to get advice on how to effectively deal with this issue appart from just sitting there quiet and never mentioning any thing. I do not believe that silence helps.

P.S: I have written this to post on blogs to inform people of what has been taking place during various intervals during the past several years. I would be willing to edit this if you were willing to post this on your site.


“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse. If you go to Bosnia or Somalia or Peru or much of the third-world then it appears that the apocalypse has already arrived.”

~Terence

The Ghosts of Bullies Past

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Scrooge UnhappyI have seen and Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” in all its forms. I read the book, I saw most versions of the movie (including the musical, which is my personal favorite), and have even seen modern stage plays of it. But there was something in it, until this holiday season, I had never figured out. Maybe it is because I didn’t want to see through the obvious story to the heart of what Charles Dickens was saying, but I now realize that many of us are our own “Scrooges”.

As most of us familiar with the story “A Christmas Carol” know, at its heart is the story of a mean and crotchety old man who has no friends and no interest in family. The only thing he cares about is his accounting business and money. He has lost his soul for life’s love and feels resentment for what life handed him. He harbors old grudges and is a workaholic.

But wait…

I didn’t see it before, but Scrooge is depressed. He was mistreated in his early life. He lost the love of his life. He worked for people that bullied him and even though it is not shown, we can imagine what his parents were like and did to him. He let himself give up and hide away in his work and become a workaholic, which is a common side effect of depression. He was not treated well in his early life, so Dickens is really telling us what happens to anyone, Scrooge or another person, who is mistreated and develops a belief that life and the world is depressing.

Dickens must have known that psychologically, Scrooge is not right. That he sees everything bad and has lost the ability to see happiness and good. Again, this is a common problem in depression and bullied youth that are left untreated. Now Scrooge has grown up and he is not necessarily a bully as much as a lonely and unhappy person. It is almost as if he took his Oliver character and grew him up to be bitter like Scrooge.

It is interesting that many of the traits that Scrooge has as you read his story show this psychological issue to be there and that abuse in one form or another has molded him to be this aged man who really is just waiting to die. Dickens even shows us that as Scrooge sees both what his life is, what it was, what it can be, and finally what will happen if he doesn’t come out of his current state…a lonely death.

Then it struck me that I started this site to have my ghosts lead me down my path. I had harbored my past and let it control my future in both happiness, life satisfaction, and finally in anxiety and depression. My ghosts of my life past was my excuse for how I behaved as an adult. Because of what I went through as a child with my bullies, I was a negative adult with low self-esteem who always thought I had something to prove. Nothing was ever good enough and nothing I did, no matter if I was commended or not, met with my satisfaction. I wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t good enough. There was always an excuse to be negative.

Sound familiar?

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I was haunted by the ghosts of my bullies past and I let them be my reason for being the person I was. I didn’t let my past go and I didn’t think I could change. Now I watched “A Christmas Carol” probably more than 20 times, but I missed the real heart of the message that Dickens was telling me…telling us…it’s never too late and you are never too old to let go of the past and change. To let the windows open, the sunlight in, and be happy, as Scrooge is at the end of Dickens story.

Dickens lets us assume that the change is permanent and that he will no longer die a man alone with no family or friends. It’s never too late to let go of what you were, so that you can become what you should have been all along.

I love it! Dickens was a psychologist and I wonder if he even knew it. He shows us through ghosts of what we can and have to do to change. He allows, in this case, Christmas, to be the joy for Scrooge and the beginning of his new life. What a treat it is for me to have this realization that he is speaking to all who have been abused, neglected, and left bitter. It’s never too late to change who you are. To listen to the positive ghosts that show you what your life can be if you let go of the past and don’t allow it to haunt you any longer, just as Scrooge lets go of Jacob Marley and moves toward the positive side of what his life can be.

Scrooge HappyHow many of us hold grudges? How many of us don’t talk to our family anymore? How many of us don’t think that life has any happiness and that we just exist? Don’t just exist, but live your life, no matter your age. This may have been Scrooges last opportunity to change and when he does, so does everyone around him. Don’t you think you can do the same? I did make my change about six months ago, and I haven’t looked back since. The ghosts of my bullies past are gone. It was a long time ago and I have a right to have a happy life and not be haunted by my past. I think each of us can make that choice, the same choice that Scrooge makes.

So, at this time of year, as Dickens concludes, “God Bless us, everyone”! And for us other faiths, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Bodhi Day, or whatever you celebrate I wish you to be happy this year. Turn that corner and make that change. I believe we all have the power that Scrooge had, to do that and make the world a better place.

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Creating Hate

Creating HateI recently received the opportunity to interview the author of the new book “Creating Hate: How It Is Done. How to Destroy It. A Practical Handbook”, which takes a deep look at the root of how hate is created and perpetrated by others. Much like many things in bullying, hatred and resentment are feelings that both the victim and the bully can have. These issues can work themselves into the psyche of the person and then continue for their life. Author Nancy Omeara takes readers on a journey to the origins of hate and how we might better deal with it in the future. I learned much from my interview with her as I hope you will reading it.

Q: Why do you think there is so much apathy today in the world? Do you believe we are more apathetic today or empathetic?

Ms. Omera: It might be because today people can see bad things happening “live” from anywhere in the world, so think they can’t do anything about it themselves.  This isn’t true.  Just by looking around – including at websites like yours – one can see that individuals make a difference every day.  Even small changes, collectively, make a big difference.

Q.: Why do you think people struggle with race relations so much? What do you believe is the cause of hatred among different races?

Ms. Omera: In my experience it is mostly ignorance reinforced by lies or information that is partly true, but is slanted to lower the opinion of another race.  Truths – like the facts that DNA, blood tests, brain scans, x-rays, IQ tests, driving exams, etc. don’t show any difference in races – are not pushed. Truthfully “race” is about skin pigmentation – with northern races needing less pigment because the sun’s rays are weaker.

I once read about a white boy living in Africa whose local friends felt sorry for him because of his lack of color – thus easily sunburned skin.

Q:  You talk of the use of Generalities as a hate issue? This has been going on for centuries, whether race or religion. Why do you believe this still continues today and how can it be stopped? Even today, people use terms such as “they tried to jew me down” to talk about someone negotiating. Do you think people even know what they are saying anymore? Are they really hateful or ignorant?

Ms. Omera: People haven’t been taught that hurtful generalities can breed hate and ill-will. Words like they, them, everyone, all can be used as destructive propaganda. As can, of course, words that put a whole class of people in a negative light.

We have to look at individuals – how they behave, how they treat others, what they do in life.  Where they came from, their parentage they had no control over.

Q: Do you believe that, as in your book, leaders perpetrate lies in order to create hate? It seems true more in the 20th and 21st centuries. Why has this become part of accepted culture?

Ms. Omera: Yes, leaders of groups like the KKK, anti-gay organizations, some political group organizations, and even some religious leaders push the faults of what they oppose, rather than promoting better ideas from their own group. Maybe it’s accepted because we want to believe it.

I don’t think most people really believe everything they hear from their leaders.  Too many have been proven wrong in hindsight.   I think the average person is a lot more discerning than their leaders realize.  (Which might be why leaders change so often in so many groups.)

Q: You talk in your book about religious intolerance or religious hatred. Why do you think it is so easy to use religion as a way to create hate? How can this be stopped?

Ms. Omera: Most of us really know very little about other religions.  It is not studied in public school (separation of Church and State), nor usually in religious-based schools (like Catholic schools).  So unless we actually meet, talk to in-depth, delve, and ask deeper questions, we might know the surface differences between religions.

In fact, it doesn’t take much digging to learn that most religions (in their actual writings, maybe not some interpretations) teach about caring for one’s fellow man, respecting all people, the importance of family.  Universal similarities at the most basic level.

Q: How guilty do you believe the mainstream media is today in helping continue the spread of hate? For example, why do you think the media focuses more on negative stories than helping promote more positive items the world, to include political rhetoric?

Mainstream media has an agenda – they run stories based on harm, sex, big money, big names and controversy. A story is considered “sexy” the more of these items it contains.  You can prove this to yourself by looking up the information on who wins Nobel Prizes – for immensely important contributions to science and culture.  Nobel Prize Winners might get a 2-inch square on a front page in complete opposition to the contribution their work has for the future of mankind.

I’ve spoken to many media people and have rarely found them deeply interested in the truth.  Instead they want a “story” – with as much controversy as possible.

Q: The book talks of trying to push non-violence, a feeling I also share. How do you think the world can start to think more in that manner? Is it a matter of education or continued ignorance on the part of parts of the world?

Non-violence requires education and rational heads.  When violence breaks out everyone and anyone who can make their voice heard needs to do so.  We can’t just leave it to the police. Ministers, school principals, teachers, Scout leaders, parent groups have to take action. History is filled with the excellent results of people standing strong for peaceful, non-violent change and for redress of wrongs in a non-violent way. I don’t know that these examples are given enough importance in our study of history.

Q: Finally, my website deals with the long-term effects of bullying. How do you think bullying fits in with early learning of hatred and how can we change the thinking of that younger bully to learn to be more non-violent? On that note, do you think hate is a natural trait or a taught trait?

Children have to be taught to respect others.  It should be done by parents but we know that doesn’t always happen. So it has to be taught in school.

Children are actually greatly affected by those around them.  If children won’t let other children bully, it can be stopped. Children can be taught to stand up, not violently, but by telling a bully to stop, telling them it’s not OK.  Kids can be quite strong. They can stand up against bullying and that can stop the minority of children who do bully.

I was rarely bullied myself as I could use the threat of my two older brothers to scare off other children. So in my experience bullies are cowards.  They attack from a position of weakness. I’d like to see the “good kids” ganging up, speaking out against and stopping bullying.

One final comment is that a better measure of any person, rather than religion, race, sexual preference, is whether they are living a productive, contributive life.  I.e. Are they adding to the world – from web-designers to fireman, teachers to counselors – people whether a person is giving or taking (as in criminals, in jail, using your hard-earned money to live on) should be the measure.  Schools seem to teach facts and figures.  Parents, siblings, groups like Scouts and 4H, Church groups, these seem to teach values.  The more values and the more ability to think for oneself – the better.

You can get Nancy Omeara’s new book “Creating Hate: How It Is Done. How to Destroy It. A Practical Handbook” at bookstores and on Amazon.com to learn more about this subject and about how Ms. Omeara approaches stopping hate.


Biography
NANCY OMEARA volunteered on a national religious tolerance hotline for over five years , personally answering more than 5,000 calls and helping people resolve all kinds of situations involving deep belief differences. Nancy has lived in seven different countries, and visited a dozen others, interacting with people of diverse religions, backgrounds and values. The concepts in this book stem from her personal experiences. (Biography courtesy of Amazon.com)

Creating Hate Book Jacket

The Grandmother I Never Knew

Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place. ~ Daniel H. Pink

There is a story inside me that I never really thought I’d share on this site about bullying, because it’s more about my family than it is about me. But I realized the other day that the story is a part of me and a part of what makes me, well, me. The more I thought about sharing it, the more I realized that sharing it here would be yet another way to open a conversation and let the story go, so that it can be discussed in the open. So here goes…

GrandmotherI had two grandmothers growing up. My mother’s mother lost her husband, my grandfather, when my mother was seven from cancer. They  were alone and poor most of their lives. But that grandma was always with us. She never lived far from us and we would visit her often. I recall spending at least a full week with her every summer, where later I would write several plays and we would share so many laughs. I was so fond of her Eastern European cooking skills and relished my time with her. She would share her stories of her family of 10 kids and being the first generation American. We laugh as a family when we share her stories. I was lucky to have her in my life.

But that isn’t the grandma I wanted to talk about here. I wanted to share about the grandma I didn’t know. She was my dad’s mother. She also usually didn’t live far from us, but we barely saw her. When we did see her, she really didn’t want anything to do with me. She hardly talked. Her husband, my grandfather, had left her and she was alone for the most part. I don’t ever recall her cooking and couldn’t wait to leave her apartment usually. I don’t recall a time where she visited us and I don’t even recall much about hearing from her when I was a kid.

She was the grandma that we didn’t talk about much. As a child, I certainly didn’t understand why. As I matured, someone, I can’t recall who anymore, shared with me that grandmother was a Manic Depressive.

At the time, I had little to no knowledge of what that was. I do know she was heavily sedated now when I used to see her. I also know that she spent a good amount of time in a mental institution, which was common practice in those days. That is why I didn’t see her much. Once I found out this news, I admit to living in fear that this would be passed down to me or my family members and I know that I didn’t want to see her. I was judging her for her illness and not living with empathy. This, of course, is common for a young teen in many cases.

So whether my family kept me from seeing her or it was her choice, I never got to know that Grandma. During my years of growing up, she was mainly out of the institution. But later in her life, she had to return as she had fallen into a deep depression, smeared her feces on the walls, and didn’t know who she was. I don’t share this because I want to, I am sharing this because I know that many of us have that relative that we keep in the closet or have mental illness that we keep in the closet. Here’s what I didn’t know about this grandma until I asked and someone shared with me.

Sylvia Eisenberg

My Grandmother Sylvia Eisenberg

She grew up as the first generation American from parents from Czechoslovakia. She had a brother we never saw, because he was anti-social with the family. When he died, we became very close with his wife, my aunt. They did not have a great amount of money, but they sent my grandmother to college. My grandmother was a very bright young woman. In fact, she was so intelligent, that she was the first woman to go to a prestigious law school that was all men and her. She wanted to be a lawyer. But this is where her story veers off. When she got to law school, her professors were bullies to her and told her no matter what she did, they would fail her, because she was a woman and didn’t belong in law school. In those days, this kind of behavior could happen. They did and she was forced out of law school due to that bullying and the beginning of her decent into depression.

I don’t know if this is where her depression started, but she was forced out of law school and my family does not speak of another job that she had. Her dreams had been crushed and depression entered her life. She had some good years, I guess, getting married, having her first daughter and a son (my dad). By the time, though, she had her third daughter, it wasn’t but a few years later, she would be institutionalized and would live in and out of the mental institution, while doctors put her on early antidepressants and performed electric shock therapy on her that, I’m sure, made her more of a zombie, just living and thus my early years of not knowing her.

I didn’t discover all of these things until much later. I lived and still worry that her mental illness is hereditary and could be passed to me. How silly I feel to worry about this, but it is part of my reality. Would I have had empathy for her as a child, if I had known all of her illness. It’s doubtful, because I would not have had the capacity to understand as I do now. I truly don’t know what a difference it would have made, but I did resent that I didn’t know and that I didn’t know here better…the grandma I never really knew.

When she passed on several years ago, I didn’t feel the sadness I wish I had. I just never knew her. My dad speaks little of her and I wish I could have known and could have talked to her more about this. I wish I could have spent more time with her, hearing family stories and learning first hand about her life. It is true, though, that we rarely know what troubles someone is going through, unless they share it with you.

And that is why I am sharing this. We all have a relative, a friend maybe, with mental illness. It is usually kept deep in our family closets. But her illness is just that, an illness. In today’s world, I’d like to think she would have been treated differently and, due to more modern thinking and treatment, I could be writing about the grandmother I did know. Unfortunately that just wasn’t the case. The key is not to judge people, because you don’t know the pain they go through. I let go of my past as I have no way to change it. But I share here about the grandmother I never knew in the hopes that we can shine a brighter light on mental illness as part of a bigger problem. I’ll never know if my life would have been better talking more with the grandma I never knew…but I let go and find the love for her memory as best I can.