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

Bullyinglte is 7 Years Old, So Why Do I Continue

In May this website, which began my crusade and passion to help try to solve the damage that bullying can do, began on a normal day in 2007. As I look back and think about all that has occurred in that short time in my life, I realize one major thing. See, bullying started for me on a regular basis when I was seven years old.

Seven years. What does it all mean and why do I continue?

I found something interesting as I looked back at those early posts I put up. A lot of the links to others that posted about bullying no longer are valid. I guess those people gave up. But the other interesting thing is that a lot of people didn’t give up. In fact in the past seven years, the issue of bullying has grown to be national news and most people are now learning of the long-term damage it can do. A new term called C-PTSD is becoming a diagnosis that will validate this damage and the long-term effects that I started writing about 7 years ago. I think I’ve been very honest with you, the reader, here on this website, but when I look back over the years, I find that so much has changed in my life, just as those 7 years of bullying changed me as well. I thought it interesting to look back over this time and give some perspective to what I originally talked about…the long-term effects. I also think it interesting to look at it backwards, from where I am today to what I thought at the beginning. Something different that I hope you will get something out of when reading it this way.

YEAR 7 – 2013-2014:
I learned first-hand that I hadn’t truly recovered from what happened to me. It was a slow burn to this point, where I was crippled with fear, anxiety, and phobia. What caused this, to this day I don’t know. But I do know that I knew something was wrong, and instead of turning to alcohol or drugs that I think are wrong, I looked to professional help. I read tons of books about worry, anxiety, fear, and read many websites and blogs on the subject. I learned that there is no way to work around your problems. You must work through them. ~“Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain. I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days” (“Story of my life” – One Direction)

 YEAR 6 – 2012-2013:
What happened to me? I lost myself somewhere along the way. Call it a mid-life crisis or a breakdown, but I had hit my point where I needed to take care of myself. Things I had been writing about for six years, the long-term effects, were now happening to me. I tried to pretend like it wasn’t happening, but it was. It’s the concept of “physician heal thyself”. I realized to help anyone and to work well, I had to help myself. I decided to turn my life 180 degrees around. Start eating well, start taking care of myself both physically and mentally. I wasn’t prepared for the time it would take to heal. Well over a year. I think I am lucky in that I recognized what happened to me due to my work on this site and so I knew to seek help and made an immediate decision to ask for help. So many don’t and the results of not asking for help can ruin many lives. I feel for my family as they witness a person that was not the one they knew, but was always the one hiding behind the wall I had built around myself…to protect myself. ~ (Ho!) So show me family (Hey!) All the blood that I would bleed (Ho!) I don’t know where I belong (Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong.” (“Hey Ho” – The Lumineers)

YEAR 5 – 2011-2012:
What a big year. I had lots of speaking engagements on bullying and started a large movement within my community. I reconnected with a friend I had written about that found my site and stories. The most interesting part was that at the High School reunion in Lexington, MA, where I write about, they were talking about me, the guy who writes about all the bullies we dealt with in Lexington. There were many who were reading and relating to my writing. I had no idea. At the same time, I was so scared to find this person who read my story. I remember being up all night and deciding to look him up and call him. I was scared. Because the story was the one story about me being a bully instead of being bullied. I was in great pain, but talking to him made it all better. He is great and even visited me last year. I never expected people to read my site, but they were and I found they were relating to what I was saying. ~ “A penny for my thoughts, oh, no, I’ll sell ’em for a dollar. They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner. And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’. Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin.” (“If I Die Young” – The Band Perry)

YEAR 4 (2010-2011)
This is a big year of change in my life and in what I’m seeing about bullying. So much of the news has caught on about it now and there’s a new story on the news all the time. Researchers are now doing research on the bullied brain and looking at the long-term effects of bullying as I have been writing about already for three years. People share many stories with me about their parents who bullied them at home. There are sides to bullying even I don’t understand. But of this, I am more sure, there are long-term effects. I feel lucky that I have dealt with them by writing my stories on this site. But wait, what’s that slightly panicky feeling I have. Oh well, it will go away. I do get a little short-tempered some time, but got a new job and enjoy some of the change. I have more freedom now to work on this subject. I worked with my old high school and wrote a play with the drama group that they put on. Tears flowed from my eyes as I watched them perform my words. Have I found my calling? ~”It’s a quarter after one, I’m all alone and I need you now. Said I wouldn’t call but I’ve lost all control and I need you now. And I don’t know how I can do without. I just need you now.” (“Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum)

YEAR 3 (2009-2010)
My world crashed around me. Why can’t I handle these things better? My good friends that I spent the last 9 years building a company with and giving my full life to me just fired me. Yes, business was falling, but I truly thought my relationship with them was deeper than a drive to the middle of a parking lot to have someone who I thought of as a friend and brother tell me it’s over. I got a new job right away, but I had dreamed of staying with my old company forever. Best buddies working together and now I have to pick up the pieces and start again. Felt pings of depression and loss. Ah forget those feelings, I told myself. I’m stronger than that, aren’t I? I’ll keep writing and share stories. I’ll keep telling myself everything is fine. I’ll put my EGO to the front, put up a strong front.  I won’t talk about the hurt I feel in my soul and I won’t do anything to not protect my family, myself, my life. Wasn’t crazy about the new job much, but it paid and I can do it. I am strong…I think I’m strong…I don’t feel so strong. Smile and don’t show it to anyone. It will get better, becomes the new mantra from the bullying movement. I hope so. ~ “Lost and insecure. You found me, you found me. Lyin’ on the floor. Surrounded, surrounded. Where were you? Where were you? Just a little late.You found me, you found me.” (“You Found Me” – The Fray)

YEAR 2 (2008-2009)
Can this year get any better? I have a great job, and I have good friends surrounding me.  I’ve been awarded and promoted at work. There is truly nothing like working for friends and helping create a company that can be successful. Yes, it’s hard to be a manager, but I try to develop a thicker skin. But, I am still so affected when someone doesn’t like me or at least I think they don’t. I’ve done several radio interviews and even a newspaper interview for my website. It’s exciting to be doing something I am so passionate about. Many of the stories that I get bring tears to my eyes. I really had no idea how many people suffer with the effects of bullying and stay quiet. I get a letter from a grandma that shares a big story with me and even a boy who was raped regularly in a locker room. These stories get picked up and shared. Even WordPress featured me on their front site. I had no idea last year when I started this that it would be for anyone other than me. Videos on the subject of bullying are appearing on YouTube all the time. There is a groundswell movement around the Pink Shirt story from Canada. I love the idea of helping people through issues with bullying. It truly matters to me. And now that I’m over it, I can help others…at least I think I can. I think I’ll create a presentation and start speaking to groups about the bullying that happened to me and the need for more empathy. ~ “Just because I’m hurting. Doesn’t mean I’m hurt. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved. No better and no worse. I just got lost. Every river that I tried to cross. Every door I ever tried was locked. Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off.” (“Lost” – Coldplay)

YEAR 1 (2007-2008)
“You don’t understand mom/wife, what I went through when I was young. That bullying affected me and I think it still does to this day.” I said that for 20 something years to my mom, my wife, and try to excuse how I felt and my actions. Then it happened. A shooter walked in to a building at my Alma Matter College, Virginia Tech, and killed many students and professors, including a professor that was a Holocaust survivor. It touched me deeply emotionally. Why would this shooter do that? Why does anyone do that. I started my research. He was bullied in High School kept coming up. Then I started seeing all the articles on bullycide. On these youth who were dying all the time with notes speaking of how they couldn’t take the bullying at school anymore. Boy, could I relate. I often think that if we hadn’t moved away when I was 13 from where I was bullied, what would have become of me. But a fresh start for me stopped the 7 years of bullying I experienced. As a communication specialist, I felt that I could do something to stop my hurt and help others who were suffering from the long-term effects of bullying. I’m going to start a website and write all the stories I can remember about how I was bullied as a youth. Maybe if youth or even adults read from an adult who admits to being bullied and how it affected him, they will be brave enough to do the same. I can’t be alone in what happened to me. I know I’m not. I want to make a difference. It’s time to start. I feel brave…I feel strong…I have a good life now. It’s time to help others. After all I like helping others and maybe, just maybe, I can help myself get past this gnawing issue I feel is in my head. I’ll get it on the web and I’ll feel better. After all life is good for me and I can get over it…right? ~ “I was blown away, what could I say? It all seemed to make sense. You’re taking away everything. And I can’t do without. I try to see the good in life. But good things in life are hard to find. We’re blowing away, blowing away. Can we make this something good?” (“It’s Not Over” – Daughtry)

I guess I’m still discovering myself and what this “long-term effect of bullying” is really all about. Can I do more with it? Can I make a bigger impact? I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep trying if you keep reading. If I help one person, even myself, then I will keep writing. Oh, and just for fun, see if you know why I picked the song lyrics I did and how they correspond to the story section. I think that the lyrics of the music we listen to tell us so much when we read them and hear them. Music is my comfort and always has been. I am still on my journey of discovery on the subject of bullying and how we are affected. It’s been a very bumpy ride, but I’ll hang on tight if you will as well.

Shane Koyczan: To This Day Project

Haven’t heard of Shane Koyczan? I think you will hear more from this amazing person. He is a slam poet that has created one of the most beautiful and honest portrayals of  the life of a bullying victim and how it affected him. He does it with the grace and beautiful words that only a modern day poet can do.

I think he is brilliant at conveying the message through his slam poetry. If you don’t know him, I give you Shane Koyczan’s To This Day project.

STRAIN (Anti-bullying Film)

There are few times (as most of you know) when I have few words to add to either a post or video. This is one of those times. All I ask now is that you watch this short film, STRAIN,  made by Leli Melo Productions. It is both professional and so relevant. It shows what today’s world of bullying and cyber-bullying look like. That’s it, please watch, see, listen, absorb, learn, help.

Using Fiction for Bully-Prevention Programs

Susan Coryell has been a good friend of my website and efforts for many years now. She had, a few years ago, written a wonderful novel on bullying called Eaglebait. Recently, Susan contacted me again and asked if she could share a blog on this site. I am honored to have her do so below. Ms. Coryell has a deep understanding of the complexity of the issue of bullying and the new diagnosis of C-PTSD that is now being defined by Psychiatric experts as what people who suffer for years afterward from the effects of bullying go through. ~Alan Eisenberg

EaglebaitBullying is universal, affecting every age group, ethnicity, and workplace, and the emotional damage can last, I believe, forever. Since the publication of my anti-bullying young adult novel Eaglebait, I have listened to hundreds of stories of bully victims.

As I prepared to host a panel discussion on bullying at a local library, I received a phone call from an elderly lady whom I will call Sylvia. “I’m bed-ridden and can’t attend your discussion tonight,” she told me in a shaky voice, “but I wanted to let you know my experience with bullying.” I listened as Sylvia hailed back to her school days where she was bullied from first grade until graduation because of her short stature and poverty. “We was poor but we was clean,” she stated. Many years later Sylvia attended a wedding. At the reception she spied one of her former bullies from grade school. “He tried to make nice and talk with me, but I turned my shoulder and refused. That’s how bad he hurt me. I still remembered the humiliation over fifty years later.”

Part of me wanted to suggest Sylvia try to forgive and forget, but my experience told me that was not going to happen. For some, the devastation of victimization never, ever goes away. While I find that sad, I am not surprised. It is possible Sylvia suffers from C-PTSD—complex PTSD, which occurs from chronic, repetitive stress.

When I shared my publication of Eaglebait with my writers’ group, I was swamped with my colleagues’ stories. Now, these are all retired folks. True, some of their talk involved their children and grandchildren who had experienced bullying. But many of their stories concerned themselves— who bullied them—how and when. As to where, most involved school. The sixty-somethings had not forgotten, though some had figured out and accepted causative factors in their bullies’ motives. I was inspired to write Eaglebait while teaching middle school. Psychology tells us that bullying involves an imbalance of power; middle school provides the perfect storm: three years’ worth of adolescents maturing at different rates physically, emotionally, and educationally, roaming common halls every hour between classes and lumped together in cafeteria, gym and other common areas.

As a teacher, I found that some students managed to rise above the bullying and move on positively; others never seemed to escape the heavy weight of devastation. Is there a way, I wondered, to help teens and tweens manage their way around bullying? I concluded that it boils down to building and maintaining self-esteem. But how to do that? I decided to write a novel to give kids some insight. Eaglebait’s 14-year-old protagonist , Wardy Spinks, is gifted, especially in the sciences, but he has no friends and does not know how to connect with his peers. His troubling home life and anti-social tendencies do not help matters and he is ruthlessly bullied by a group of jocks who entice others to participate through Facebook and texting. Wardy does three things most bully victims can also do:

He tells a responsible adult about the bullying (his grandmother), he finds a science teacher mentor, and, perhaps most importantly, he uses his interest in science to build a laser in his basement, which eventually helps him find other students who are serious about science.

Most school kids have an interest they want to explore or are already good at doing. It can be anything—computers, music, art, math, movies, mechanics, kite-flying. I tell them: Work at what you know and love best to gather a like-minded group of friends. Do tell a responsible adult about the bullying and, if possible, search out a mentor. There is hardly a teacher alive who would reject a student’s request for mentoring, especially in the teacher’s subject area. I cannot count the number of students I mentored as budding writers.

I remember a middle school student whom I did not teach. Tall, awkward and nerdy, the kid was bullied relentlessly in 7th grade. But he was a genius with electronics. He built a big board with buzzers, like College Bowl, went to his teachers for contest questions, and solicited students to compete in an academic contest at a school assembly. The student body could not help but be impressed, and the boy who had been the goat of the school in 7th grade became the hero in the 8th. I’m thinking, this individual has relegated his bullying trauma to the trash pile.

Bullying is a serious situation which can cause lasting consequences. I hope all who touch the lives of youngsters will recognize the importance of self-esteem as an antidote to the poison of bullying and encourage positive steps to raise and maintain that awareness in kids. It might save a lifetime of misery and self-doubt. I encourage you to take a look at Young Adult anti-bullying literature like Eaglebait and consider using it for any type of discussion or study group on bullying. Wardy’s misery will resonate with bullied youngsters and give them some hope for their own recovery.

by Susan Coryell

To order Eaglebait, click the link here: Eaglebait: Can a smart kid survive school bullies?

About the Author

As a free-lance writer, Susan has written for magazines, newspapers, chambers of commerce and professional journals. She also writes for several organizations at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, where she and her husband live. She is a member of Authors Guild, Virginia Writers and Smith Mountain Lake Writers.

A career educator, Susan has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She has a BA degree from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University.  She is listed in several volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching. One of her favorite activities is to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops.

She is the author of the award-winning, anti-bullying, young adult novel Eaglebait.

Susan has long been interested in Southern concerns about culture and society, as hard-felt, long-held feelings battle with modern ideas. She was able to explore these ideas in her cozy mystery/Southern Gothic A Red, Red Rose, whose fictional setting is based on Smith Mountain Lake in Southern Virginia.

When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband love to travel, especially when grandchildren are involved.

Everyone Can Be An Ally (A Personal Story)

Amy Kaufman Burk contacted me through our twitter accounts as mutual fellow anti-bullying advocates. Dr. Burk has a Doctorate of Mental Health from the University of California and has vast experience as a Psychotherapist and is also an author. Her first book is “Hollywood High: Achieve the Honorable“. I am truly thankful to share her inspirational story below and her site with you. ~Alan Eisenberg

I was born in 1958, to heterosexual parents.  I grew up in a home where gay and straight folks sat side by side at dinner parties.  Friendships formed around personal and intellectual connections.  There was no Great Divide between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I never gave it a thought, until third grade.

In a kickball game, a girl I’ll call “Susannah” crushed the ball and drove in three runs.  “Cory,” admired even by the fifth graders for his spectacular use of profanity, shouted a new insult.  I asked my mother what it meant; “It’s a rude, ignorant word for a gay man.”  I looked up, puzzled; “What’s gay?”  My parents never categorized people by sexuality, but that day, my vocabulary expanded to include “gay,” “straight,” “lesbian,” “homosexual” and “heterosexual.”

High school was an eye-opener.  The atmosphere radiated an edgy tension, with gang violence always ready to erupt.  The gay boys were targeted continuously.  One day, a girl nudged me as a tall, thin boy walked by, frothy blond hair down his back.  “The jocks beat him up last week,” she whispered.  “He was in the hospital for three days.”  She skipped off to class.  A month later, she again took my elbow.  “Remember the blond guy?  I heard he died.  Beaten to death.  The jocks.”  She smiled sweetly, and shrugged.  “Who cares, one less—“ and she used the word I learned in third grade.

I cried that night.  I had no words to explain my tears for a boy I never knew, the possible victim of a piece of gossip that might not be true.  I promised myself that some day, I would write a book about that boy.  I would not allow my readers to be indifferent.  I would name the book after my high school, and its motto.

Years later, my husband and I were raising our children in Mill Valley, CA, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and I began to write.  I created gay and lesbian characters.  I surrounded them with supporters who rallied for them, shoulder to shoulder, triumphing over a judgmental world.

I completed the final edits in 2008, and prepared to publish.

A few months later, I voted on the losing sHollywood High Achieve The Honorableide of Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. My reaction to the election was odd: I stopped publication of my book.  Something was wrong, and I was still figuring it out three years later, when my family moved to Chapel Hill, NC.  I was pleased to live in a beautiful area, with such respect for education.  Then with a nauseating sense of déjà vu, I found myself voting on the losing side of Amendment 1, which prohibited gay marriages and civil unions.

The next morning, I knew how to fix my novel.  I had portrayed the road to full acceptance for the LGBTQ characters as much too smooth.  I rewrote the story, rebuilt the road, offered avenues for people of differing mindsets to become Allies.  As I promised myself back in 1973, I wrote about that blond boy, whose name I never knew.  I called my novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable.

I hope my book will be read by people who feel ready to question their own beliefs, who want to become more accepting but don’t know how.  There’s a path for everyone to become an Ally.

All you have to do is take the first step. You’ll find me waiting for you.

~Amy Kaufman Burk

“Everyone Can Be An Ally” was first published in September, 2013, by the Chapel Hill News. Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, a novel by Amy Kaufman Burk Follow Amy on her website at http://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/ and her twitter feed at 

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?”


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