I believe I have emphasized how important having strong parents and a strong sense of family helps both the victims of bullying and the bullies as well. I was lucky to have two loving parents that helped me through many tough and dark times. In many cases, strong parents come from the strength they derive from their own tough times. Resiliency is something that comes from surviving and learning from those moments when life is the toughest, not the easiest. As I currently work on my book, I shared some of it with my father for feedback, but triggered in him a memory that he then shared with me so eloquently. After he read it to me, I thought it important enough to share here. I doubt that I could be any prouder than right now as I introduce you to my father, Roy Eisenberg. He also went through many dark days in his childhood and that made him the resilient and, dare I say, hero to me that he is. How many of us suffer in silence, when there is support always around you? Ladies and gentlemen, it is truly my privilege to introduce you to my father and his story of dealing with his own demons of the past. ~Alan Eisenberg
When I was six years old I was stricken with post-measles encephalitis, a life-threatening condition which burned out the right side of my motor nervous system and left my left side disabled, as if I’d had a massive stroke. I was the lucky one.
…or so I thought
Of the other two children in the hospital with me, one died and the other ended up a vegetable for the rest of his life. Within three months, I had learned to walk again, but I walked with an ever decreasing limp until I was sixteen and I was not good at sports, which also frustrated me, since my father had been a two-letter athlete in college. Eventually, I got over the emotional trauma this caused me and lived a normal everyday life with little memory of the details of what I had been through.
…or so I thought
A rare photo of my dad and me from many years ago.
I got married to a wonderful woman who had had trauma in her childhood as well – the loss of her father to cancer when she was seven years old. We raised two wonderful children, including our son, Alan. When Alan was eighteen he worked one summer as counselor at a camp for disabled and terminally ill children, and we visited him there, little knowing the impact this visit would have on me later.
At the age of 69, three years ago, I was stricken with a chronic form of leukemia. I was in remission after four months of chemotherapy, and the oncology nurses nicknamed me “Superman” because they had never seen anyone who had tolerated the chemo as well as I had. Unfortunately, Superman got hit with a dose of “Kryptonite”, a delayed life-threatening auto-immune reaction to one of the chemo drugs that occurred four months after I had completed my treatment for cancer. I was started on massive doses of steroids among other treatments, to try to suppress my immune system. The steroids induced a bipolar condition, which caused me to alternate between Superman and the angry and frustrated little boy that I was at the age of six. My anger issues continued even after I had weaned from the steroids over a seven month period. Then Alan started his new book, and I asked if I could read it as he wrote for accuracy, and he gladly agreed.
In Alan’s book that he is writing, he talks about a child who had a severe brain injury as the result of an auto accident, and how he took his first steps while at the camp where Alan counseled. This description brought back memories of my own childhood. I don’t remember when I took my first steps, but this passage brought back memories of my father carrying me up and down the stairs, and these memories started me crying (We lived in a second story walk-up apartment.). It was the summer (measles season), and on nice days, my father would bring me down to our backyard under the shade of a large locust tree that I climbed later on, and then he would walk to the trolley car to go to work. I would sit in a chair in the back yard all day. My mother would bring me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and my father would carry me back up the stairs for dinner when he got home from work. My first memories of recovery were being able to drag myself up the stairs with my right arm and right leg, with my left arm dangling and my left leg dragging behind me. I couldn’t stand up to go down the stairs for fear of falling, but sat on the stairs and dragged my butt down one step at a time. It took me three months to walk and climb stairs normally again, which is a very long time in the mind of a six-year-old. Your concept of time is related to how long you’ve lived and three months to a six-year old is like three years to a 72-year-old.
I remember now
Later on, I would often climb up as high as I could into my beloved, twisted locust tree and sit there for hours, while the other kids played below. The tree was my haven away from reality and when my mother and father would call me to come down for dinner I would stubbornly refuse. When it started to get dark, I would climb down the tree and go upstairs for dinner. My mother would reheat dinner for me, and I would eat alone. Obviously, they realized what I was going through emotionally, and tolerated my bad behavior. I did this often, from second through fifth grade, when we moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, away from my beloved locust tree. I had a whole new set of friends, who never knew what I’d been through, and my life was changed forever.
…or so I thought, but I remember now
Dad and me in a recent Selfie
Alan – I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you for bringing back these memories. I have never shared them with anyone before. My anger issues are gone and I now know what caused them. When I was bipolar on steroids, I vacillated between feeling like Superman and that angry and frustrated little six-year-old boy again. I retained much of that anger and frustration after my recovery, and I guess I was not fully recovered and still may not be even now. (The doctor told me that the after-effects of heavy doses of steroids can last for over a year, and I guess my anger was one of them – and I still have edema in my ankles, caused by the steroids.) I never realized that both the physical and emotional effects of the steroids can last for more than a year, and I now realize that I have been suffering from C-PTSD for many years as well.
I now feel healed