Hello 2014…You have to be better than 2013

man in chair stressedHello dear reader. I know that people read this site and I only hope that I have held up my end of the bargain and have shared bullying stories and bullying information that helps you and/or others that need the help.

Of course, the irony for me is that I thought I had been strong enough to beat the things that happened to me when I was younger (for heaven’s sake, I’m 45 now) and that I could be here, release my childhood stories and get past what happened to me. But as was reported this year in a study bullying victims are more likely to have issues in life and mental disorders later in life as well. And even the bullies will suffer with life issues as well according to a study from Brown University.

I should have known it would not be that easy. I would say that 2013 might have been the worst year of my life. Early in 2013, I realized that the anxiety for me that would pop up once in a while in my life began to take over my life. At the extreme, which mine was for a while, it felt just as it did for Scott Stossel, who wrote a brilliant piece about his suffering in The Atlantic.

pressure worry anxietyFor me, it was a shock to the system that I have shared in previous articles. I have always been a confident and (I thought) capable social person. But a diagnosis of a stomach disorder for me in late 2012 changed everything. I let that issue get to my head and start to lead to all the decisions I made. I thought I would be sick in the stomach all the time. And when you think that, you can make it feel that way. So this anxiety that was always under the surface came full to the front of my life and overtook it. Even though I do what I do and want to share those experiences, this anxiety started to dictate my life, made me agoraphobic and pretty much as unhappy as I could be. Of course this affected greatly my life with my family and work. I was terrified I was ruining everything and it could never get better. I lost my faith. Was it due to the bullying earlier in life or purely on the diagnosis of my stomach, I’m not sure, but that’s what happened. And that makes a person depressed. That much I do know. I lost 20+ pounds in a month without even trying.

But fate always plays a big role in life. Due to my anti-bullying dedication, I had lots of friends in the mental health industry to help me think through the problem and talk to me to help lead me to make some better decisions. Today as I write this, I feel 100% better, but it took about a year and a lot of work. And this is only been a few weeks of feeling better. It can come and go and my job is to keep my stress low and fight my anxiety feelings as they come on. Everyone is different and all I can do is share with you the path I chose, with the help of caring people who helped guide me.

  1. Find professional mental health experts that can help you figure out a solution right for you. This may or may not involve medicine, but it should definitely involve talk therapy of some sort. You need a friend to talk to and professionals to share with. Talking helps so much. The funny part is as I shared this with my friends, they then shared with me that they also suffer. We do so in silence so much, because of the stigma we feel, but when you find out how many people suffer (20% at any time), you soon realize you  are not alone.
  2. Make a change. I made many  changes to my lifestyle. Here’s what I chose:
    1. Changed my diet to eat healthier and force myself to eat three good meals a day, even when I didn’t feel like it. One big change for me was to start drinking a Green Smoothie in the morning. It’s amazing how good it tastes and all the good things in it.
    2. Exercise – I can’t emphasize this enough! This may be the most important item. I try for daily 30 minutes. This is my free advice that any paid therapist will tell you. It is amazing for me what 30 minutes of cardio does for me and keeps me balanced mentally. Take a walk, join a gym, do Yoga, do what you like. Yes, I joined a gym. Yes, it’s not cheap. But it’s worth every penny if it helps me feel this way.
    3. Read lots and lots about what is going on for you and also try to read “happy” stories, instead of the ones that are negative.
    4. Stop or reduce watching the news – sorry news folks, but all that negativity in the news only adds to anxiety. It’s rare to hear good news on the news.
    5. Watch how much you use social media. If you use it, make sure that reading about other people’s life isn’t making your more depressed. New studies are coming out that are showing this might be the case.
    6. Face your worry and anxiety head on! Daily I say to mine to bring it on. Bring me your worst. Make my life miserable. And guess what, then it doesn’t.
    7. Look in the mirror and smile as big as you can and then tell yourself you can have a great day. You can, you have to let yourself. Believe it or not, smiling does help. OK, I know it sounds funny, but it works.
    8. Learn to breathe through anxiety. The techniques are in lots of books and websites, but here’s the trick. Use your diaphragm. Blow all the air out of your tight stomach. Then expand your stomach by breathing as much as you can through your nose. Hold for a second and the blow out your mouth. Do over and over until you feel better. Practice this, even when you are not anxious, so when anxiety comes you can do it without thinking. Do maybe ten reps of this every day maybe 10 times a day to get it to be a habit. You used to breathe like this when you were a baby, but we forget how as we get older. Learn again. They say you can’t have a panic attack if you breath through it like this. I find this to be truthful.
    9. Meditate – OK, so you think this is hard. We live in a society where running around is what we do. Take 20 – 30 minutes of your life to just sit quiet. I use an app called Calm.com and it works for me. There are so many apps to choose from, but I like this one. It has 2, 5, 10, 20 minute meditations. Just calming down and focusing on you is so helpful. I also like reading the Tiny Buddha site. It helps me stay focused.
    10. If necessary, get the professional mental health you need. I was lucky to find good people to share with. I won’t say anything about whether to take medicine or talk or what you choose. But there are professionals and they are waiting for you. Don’t trap yourself.
    11. Set future goals that you want. Maybe it’s a trip or to run a 5K or whatever it is. But have something to look forward to in the future and start planning. Not only will it help you keep your mind occupied, it will help you look forward to the future.
    12. Get out and do something. It’s the opposite of what you want to do, but keeping yourself busy keeps you from thinking about your issues and helps conquer the fears. Do things you want to do, but also be around others. It’s so important. You can get trapped in your bed and at home. It’s easy to do, so DON’T.

This is what I did and I’m only saying it worked for me. You will need to test everything. The only one I think is critical is exercise. But all of this is so important for your life and happiness. Sounds easy…NO! IT IS NOT EASY. It took me a year of trial and error to get this list of 12 things together. And this doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, bad weeks, and I still won’t. Right now, it’s great. I feel like myself. But I know on any given day, that can change. I have learned that. And then I need to remind myself about the above items again.

I wanted to share this new year with you and also for myself, to resolve to have a better 2014. I hope my work, my family, and my friends have understood the last year and will stick with me for the ride ahead. If I have one worry, it might be that. But now, I am ready to face the day and the next day and the next. Here’s to a better 2014. Once you come to the bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up. And I am looking forward to the daily adventure of learning to be better and better. I hope there’s something here to help you and please feel free to write to me and share. I am here to listen if you want to talk. That’s what this site is all about. Best wishes for you and those you care about.

Can Stress Kill You or Help You?

Part of the bullying problem is the stress and anxiety that goes along with it. I was so impressed with Kelly McGonigal and her TED Talk about stress and how you can change your thinking to make it work for you that I had to share it here. Can you make stress your friend and learn how to live better and longer with it? I think you will find it as helpful and learn so much by what she has to say here.

Bullying Effects Study on Adults Show Alarming Data

Psychology TodayIn an article in Psychology Today, written by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., he discusses a recent fully funded study of how childhood bullying effects adults later in life.

The results showed that the long-term negative effects of bullying are not only real, but have real consequences. The study showed that:

  1. Bullies and their victims had poorer adult health issues, with bully victims having worse health issues.
  2. Bullies and bully victims are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use and risky sex.
  3. Bullies, bully victims both had poor educational attainment and made less income than adults who had not been involved in bullying.

As the study explains in it’s conclusion:

Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up but throws a long shadow over affected children’s lives. Victims, in particular chronic victims and bully-victims, are at increased risk for adverse health, financial, and social outcomes in adulthood.

These effects prove that the long-term problems for both the bully and the bullied are real and why I feel that we must address them when these people are children with corrective psychological help so that these issues can be avoided as they enter adulthood.

I think it is so important that we address these issues, so that we can work to resolve the long-term impact that bullying has on our lives.

You can read the full article here and read the full study here.

Bullying and a New School Year 2013

Boy with backpack sadEvery time around this year, I think of all the children returning to school or getting ready to return. I also think about those dreading that time or that will dread it after suffering with bullies during the year. Certainly, 2013 has seen more and more press about bullying. Certainly, more awareness is around today and the community rules and laws are starting to change.

2013 also saw the release of the major documentary “Bully” in movie theaters and a movement toward a reaction of less acceptance of bullying behavior. These are all positive things, but as seen in the movie “Bully” and in the news about kids being bullied and bullycide due to bullying, there is still much to do.

Further to the issue is the one that is the theme of this site, the long-term effects of bullying. More studies are showing that adults suffer from the bullying they either received or did during their informative school years. Just today, NPR released an article called “Kids Involved in Bullying Grow Up To Be Poorer, Sicker Adults”.

In the article, the author, Nancy Shute, discusses the research done recently at Duke University that shows that kids that dealt with bullying have more health, financial, and job issues as they mature. The article quotes researcher William Copeland’s findings.

“These kids are continuing to have significant problems in their lives, years after the bullying has stopped,” says William Copeland, an associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine and a co-author of the study, which was published in Psychological Science. “It really is a significant public health concern.”

…Researchers tested the health of 1,273 children ages 9 to 13 in western North Carolina, starting back in 1993. Participants were assessed annually until age 16, and then at 19, 21, and 24 to 26 years old. Parents were also asked whether their child had been involved in bullying…

About one-quarter of the children said they had been bullied. Another 8 percent said they had bullied others. And 6 percent said they had been on both the sending and receiving end.

Victims of bullying were more likely to have problems as adults, and were more likely to smoke, use marijuana, or consider themselves to be in poor health.

Former bullies didn’t fare much better from the study data and as has already been discussed here. These long-term effects also include mental disorders as has been discussed in other studies as well. There is a fine line between physical and mental health and this problem works on both ends.

So, at the end of the day and as we enter to another school year, I hope that more notice will be taken to the children around us. Do you see and ignore it, because you still feel kids are being kids? Studies are showing that then kids become adults who then are suffering. As we start another year, I hope you will remember that these long-term effects are showing to be real and that we must work to resolve and recover the bullied and the bullies so that they can have a more productive adult life after the bullying ends.

This Emotional Life (Part II) – Asperger’s & Depression

This Emotional LifeA few posts ago, I mentioned the documentary “This Emotional Life”, which PBS aired in 2010. I missed it then and have only recently watched it. I regret not watching it before and sharing what it says in it here. I think it is a documentary not only about bullying, but in many cases about the kinds of people who get bullied and the long-term effects it can have.

There are two particular segments that come to mind along with the original one I posted about bullying a little while back. Those are the segment about Asperger’s Syndrome and the loneliness that comes with it and the segment on depression and the findings on that. I have included part of the Asperger’s segment below:

What makes this so powerful is that this 29 year old man is still working on finding himself and working past the loneliness of his youth. How did that affect him in the long-term? I have a friend who’s son has lived with Asperger’s syndrome his whole life and is very similar to the person in the story above. Few friends, very smart in certain areas, low social skills, and a want to be something they are not. They teeter on the edge of wanting a normal life and the danger of more severe autism. But they are human, like us.

It is hard to watch, at least for me, without feeling that somehow it was a very hard childhood. You can see and hear it in his brother’s words as well. There is another segment on depression, with a focus on teen depression and yet another segment on PTSD. What was interesting in the depression segment in particular is how it talked about how those that feel this way don’t want to feel this way and scientists are finding differences (physical) in the brain that may explain it. Could it be that, even as children, there are pre-dispositions that would lead them to be bullied and then lead to further depression.

I look to myself, the WORRIER, that then led to chronic anxiety, some panic (normal with anxiety) and then depression about it all. If my brain is scanned, would it have always been different from others? Is that why I would react when picked on while others would not and be left alone? I believe there are some answers here and have very much (enjoyed not being the right word) gotten a lot from watching this particular show. I do think these studies that this show explores and those that suffer with worry, anxiety, panic, and ultimately depression and PTSD should be looked at further during youth to see if there are predictors that could be picked up.

Since my own scare with anxiety and depression I have picked up reading a lot of books on the subject. There is much to be said for the fight that must be done to defeat panic and anxiety and ultimately depression. There is no short term cure and there is no magic trick to make the feelings inside those of us change. It is part of who we are. We seek love, comfort, to be liked, self-confidence, happiness, satisfaction. But the important word is seek. It is always a part of a journey and at some point it is a realization that it is the journey that matters. Once you reach the destination, what is left? Seek and then find and then seek again. I remember that empathy is the lesson when it comes to understanding others. You don’t have to be like them to understand them. Learn from videos like the one above and then understand this is how some feel and find empathy to help when needed. And remember, when you need help, reach out and ask. I’m sure someone will answer.

Sibling Bullying Research Shows Long-term Issues

Time recently reported that sibling bullying has as much long-term damage as regular school bullying. A study by the University of New Hampshire shows how the bullying that siblings do to each other can have lasting legacy effects.

In order to study any differences between the effects of sibling bullying and those of being threatened by an unrelated bully, the researchers compared the effects of aggressive behaviors, such as physical violence, breaking or taking toys or belongings, and abuse, like name-calling or taunting, originating from siblings with those coming from children’s unrelated peers. They concluded that as far as mental-health effects are concerned, the relationship that the victims had with their bullies didn’t seem to matter. The findings showed that sibling bullying had the same association with increased anxiety, depression and trauma as peer aggression.

Read more of this article at: http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/17/bullying-in-the-family/#ixzz2WhtICqvL.

You can also watch this segment from Good Morning America that covered the story as well.

It shows that the damage done is more about the action, then it is always about the people. It’s not just the corner bully, but maybe your brother or sister as well.

9 Signs of Workplace Bullying

According to the website onlinemba.com, there are nine signs that workplace bullying might be a problem at your office. According to a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries report, 47 million American workers or about 46% of them, say they have had to deal with bullying at work this year and about 15 million U.S. workers or about 13% of the workforce had it happen to them at least once during a week’s time.

These are staggering numbers, but is it surprising? I hear often from folks saying they deal with bullying at work. The nine signs as stated from the onlinemba.com website are:

  1. Nobody feels as if their accomplishments amount to much of anything
  2. You’re all sick
  3. Turnover rates and absences increase
  4. Withdrawal
  5. Retaliation
  6. It’s chronic
  7. Obsessiveness
  8. Criticism comes without evidence
  9. The overarching office culture rewards it

I won’t go through at the details of these, you can visit their site to see more information. They have more details on each and links to other information about workplace bullying.

It is important to remember that bullying doesn’t just happen at schools. It is a systemic problem that we need to address at all levels.