Bully Incident #7: The Friend and The Counselor

A few years ago, when the movie “Bully” came out, I saw a scene almost exactly like this story. That certainly alarmed me, because now I knew that 30+ years later, little had changed. In the movie, the administrator thinks that just having the two boys shake hands would solve the issue. It was obvious that the bullying victim did not want to, but the administrator forced them to. It was a scary moment to me in the film and I still think about that as I share this story with you again. ~Alan Eisenberg

Bullying Stories

If Bob was the first person to directly bully me, the next one I can remember is Luke. Luke was my friend for two years in school. I went to his house or he came to my house to play. Now, I know it is not untypical to have friends stop being friends for a period of time, but if memory serves me correctly, this happened on a dime.

Boy's FightingI’m not sure what I did or what triggered it, other than my belief that, when your friend realizes you are very unpopular, they can quickly think they can be popular by picking on you too. Luke. turned on me quickly and started the tripping in the halls, punching in the gut type bullying on me. I recall not seeing that one coming. I liked Luke and often questioned why this was happening.

At about this time, good ole’ Franklin Elementary…

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Bully Incident: – The Sewer (1974)

This is the second in my repeats of stories past as I have been writing my novel. I think many kids feared sewers, particularly after Stephen King released “IT”, certainly a book that tied to the fear of sewers. Since writing this story many years ago, I realize that things like feeling trapped or claustrophobic are common place feelings for people with C-PTSD damage from bullying or abuse. It is the idea of not being able to escape. To help confront this, I would force myself to sit in the middle at movie theaters, go to the barber and try not to panic in the barber chair and go to crowded places. Even though I wanted to run away at the height of my anxiety, I forced myself to stay through the panic attack and eventually, I stopped having them. There is only one way to go with anxiety, and that is confront it head on and go through it. Just as the kids who become adults do in Stephen King’s novel, IT. ~Alan Eisenberg

I have mentioned before how our brains have a tendency to put certain memories in the far backs of our heads. They are forgotten there, until sometimes a trigger can bring them forward.

Pretty much all of my stories I have told on this blog are from my days in Lexington, MA. But, something triggered me to remember the earliest incident I can recall the other day. I’ll call this the Sewer Incident. It’s more of a minor story, but still was an early bullying in my life. I don’t know why I had forgotten it, because when I recalled it, I realized how scary it was when I was only 6 years old in 1974.

We were living in Bowie, MD at the time. I was in 1st grade and took a long bus ride to school. I recall only fleeting memories of what happened, but my older sister was with me to help me recall more.

ITThe bus stop was at a sewer. I was a pretty small kid and, of course, there were kindergarten to 6th grade kids at the bus. One of the older kids had taken the sewer cap off the sewer. Of course these were very heavy metal things.

For some reason they chose me that day. They put me down in the sewer. I can’t recall if it was a bet or just a forced concept, but they made me climb down there. Then they put the lid back on it.

It was dark. I yelled for them to let me up. Instead they sat on it and taunted me from below. I recall just crying and being quite scared. Years later, the author Stephen King made me realize I was not alone in my fears of the dark sewer in his book “IT”.

My sister was yelling for them to stop and let me up. When they didn’t, she started running home and told them she was going to get my parents to come down. Once they heard that, they changed their minds and let me out.

OK, not the worst story and probably more of a joke to them than true bullying, but still something that scared a small 6 year old. I recall years later being offered the chance to go down the sewers at my college for what was billed as a fun night of sewer running by my college friends. I respectfully declined the invitation.

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Bullying Incident: The Dunes (1973)

As I work on my book and given that it has been seven+ years, since these were originally published here, I am going to republish my personal bullying stories, this time in the chronological order they happened. I hope for new readers, this will give you a glimpse of why I started this site and shared my stories. Here is my first story in 1973, when I was five years old and the first time I recall bullying intimidation. I also want to add a lesson that I have now learned. One of the important aspects that I have learned since originally sharing my stories years ago is the importance of letting go of the past and learning from it to move on.

What I learned from this incident is that, in your life, you will meet wonderful people who are the majority of us and that do care about us. But you will also meet people who will use intimidation and just plain cruelty as well. The important lesson is this:

Always keep the wonderful people as close to you in your life and learn to let go and walk away from those that don’t make you feel good. You don’t need them in your life and they will only bring you down. ~ Alan Eisenberg

Bullying Stories

There was really a point where I thought that I was done telling the personal bullying stories from my youth. Memory is a very funny thing and how memories return to you that are stuck in the recesses of the brain still fascinates me.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if memories get lost over time, only to be found at a trigger moment. The other thing it makes me wonder is if these lost memories are always true memories at all. This one came back to me recently. I think it stayed back in the lost area of my mind, because it wasn’t as dramatic or have the full affect on me as the kids bullying me in school did. This was quite a different situation, where an adult was the one bullying and I was a very young child, no more than five.

The Dunes

I was living in Bowie, Maryland…

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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

The Victim of the Bullied Strikes Back (A Personal Story)

For the regular readers of this site, this is a first and has been building up for the last several months. Some years ago, I wrote a story called “Me As The Bully”. When I wrote that, I would have no idea that the child I referred to 30 years prior to would grow up and read his story here and then that would facilitate an opportunity for us to reconnect, close the gap of years and close the door on the incident referred to in my story. But it’s more than that. This was the first time I could ask and hopefully have a second opinion about my story and how that time affected a life other than my own. I am lucky and happy to now have the story, which is quite different than I could ever have imagined, be written by the other person in my old story. He has added his story below and his feelings and opinions about how these years have affected his life. I am forever grateful to have others that “get me” as well and are willing to share their thoughts and feelings as well. Thank you, David. ~Alan Eisenberg

Juneteenth is coming up and my family and I plan on spending it in South Carolina. A couple of years ago, my extended family and I, with myself in charge, attended a Juneteenth celebration in Newport News, Virginia. As a Hebrew (and Passover fanatic), I identify strongly with African-Americans and their identification through their path of freedom from bondage.

I have been the recipient of a lot of “understanding” from people of all backgrounds and economic levels (pale and not , foreign and not). I have been very lucky to have met so many people who just seem to get me. I have parlayed this in many ways and have followed paths that others have not.

Well this Juneteenth I will be celebrating another special milestone in my life, the launch of my new business. This was a 2 year path that ended with a crescendo in my discovery of a forgotten, yet presently applicable, part of my past. An instinct to fight, to hold others off, and to defend.

I kind of matured slowly.

I had blanked out the incident that I’m a part of that Alan tells the story of in his post called “Bully Incident#24: Me as the Bully (1979)” and I understand why a bit more now after reconnecting with Alan. It was the very beginning of the days I dealt with bullying in 1979, just as Alan was getting ready to move away. I always remembered Alan (but not the specifics of our interaction or the bullying incident at our Hebrew school) and felt like he was dangerous and maybe someone I didn’t want to know too well. It seemed to me that he was in his state of weakness at the time due to the bullying he endured.

It was only 30 years later at the culmination of my high school reunion where I found out Alan was publishing stories on the web about bullying in Lexington, MA. I then looked it up and there I was in his one story of a time in Hebrew school where I was the victim. Interestingly, when I found and read the story the first time, felt exhilarated. No embarrassment but not a great recollection of the incident. While I didn’t remember the tacks in the chair action exactly at that time, I have a vague thought that in the state I was at that time in my life that it did affect me and that I might be more aware of it than I realize even today. my What I do recall of that time, though, is that the realization that there was no safe social place for me, including religious school.

Within less than a year of this time when you and the other kids put the tacks on my chair, my life kinda sucked. I did deal with bullying as well by the kids in Lexington, MA. But also, what happened was every so often i would meet an outsider who would protect me socially. Over the next 6 years I became much stronger. Yet that time in my life taught me some strange survival skills that I incorporated into my professional life as fixer of sorts. In the end, I would help companies that have operational or financial distress.

So I hardly ever felt like a victim. More a participant in a moral battle. My question that I asked Alan in his story (“Why Did You Do This?”) was surely designed to make him and the other kids that did it stronger so that he wouldn’t look at me as a victim.

My finding out about Alan and this story he wrote, along with his whole website also coincided with my helping to heal my one of my best friends from his long-term suffering from bullying, and also a series of interactions within my work life in general, that brought me to think hard about Alan’s mission and good work. I also thought about how Alan put himself out there on this site and his personal exposure along with all the risks that go along with doing that. That has helped me come to terms with my own decision of leaving big law and the dysfunctional situations that I am quite good at surviving now due to my rationalized flight and fight instinct that I developed through my experiences with bullies in my past.

So now I have chosen my own path (which by the way I was very reluctant to choose) and now can focus all my energy on my own path. Bottom line is that throughout my life and especially during 6-8 grade in Lexington, MA, when Alan was there, I realized that I had some “mark” that those with wisdom saw in me. Adults who are smart and anyone who understands how to view things from the outside saw that mark and “got me”. They always got me and have always helped me, especially an African-American judge and Vietnam Vet that gave me a chance, where others would have not. They “got” me! It has made me live a life that seems so easy and lucky. Now this brings us to the present. This Juneetenth I continue on my Journey of Freedom with a view from the outside to help those on the outside get inside (but never myself getting too close).


(Read the original “Me As The Bully” Story Here)

A Pacifist’s Anger

Author and fellow anti-bullying contributor Karen Mueller Coombs asked me to guest blog on her website. She just posted my blog/story called “A Pacifist’s Anger”, in which I share some insights into my stories and more depth about my feelings of what happened to me.

If you would like to read my guest, blog titled “A Pacifist’s Anger, you can see it on her “Bully at Ambush Corner website at: http://bullyatambushcorner.com/2012/02/20/a-pacifists-anger/

Six Degrees of Separation No More

Being a child of the 70’s, sometimes I fall back on my old thinking, that there were six degrees of separation between us all and therefore, none of us are that easily found. I remember in the early 90’s, there was even a fun game we used to play called “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, because the actor Kevin Bacon had been in so many movies in the 80’s and 90’s that you could pick any other actor and get to a Kevin Bacon movie in less than 6. Anyway, I digress. I am finding out more and more that there are only about 2 or maybe 3 degrees of separation between us, because the internet now, instead of others, makes it easy to find someone.

I bring this up because, once again, I was shocked to find that one of the people I wrote about in my blog found it and found their story. I have said many times that I never intended this little blog site to be read that widely and it was never there as a means to be found or for those who shared my experiences to read them. I guess I naively thought that it would always be anonymous and just a place to share my stories, the stories of others, and information on bullying.

So, it was quite shocking the other week for me to see one certain story I wrote start to get a lot of views and then comments started popping up on the story. The comments were from people who knew the other person in the story. Some of the comments were nice and others were more directed at me and a question of why did I feel the need to share these things. I fully admit to being in a bit of shock at that moment and then also spending a night contemplating the comments and the fact that the person I wrote about in the story must have found it and shared it. Out of all my personal stories, this was probably the one I didn’t want to have to revisit. Because this was my story of me as the bully.

If you have read the story, then you know that it is one about when I went to religious school, they didn’t know about the bullying that I experienced outside of there, so they treated me well. I, in turn, did not treat one boy well when we were 12 when I was there. I shared this experience to show that bullying isn’t always black and white and also that it could be that, when you are bullied, you may take it out on others, like in a cycle of violence. It was a minor story, but one I wanted to share to show both sides and as a cathartic release. With that done, I promptly put it behind me and moved on.

…Until the story was found by the other person the other week. Ironically, I later learned that they learned about my website at the 25th year High School Reunion in my childhood town. It seems my little site and me are known by some of the kids that I grew up with. Some had found it and told others at the High School reunion that I had a blog on and write about bullying that took place in Lexington, MA. Someone even referred to me as a bullying expert. I take that as a compliment, although my expertise is only in my own experience and the collective experience of others. Of course, the person who knew me and was in the story was told about this and became curious about what I wrote about.

See, it seems I was not alone in what happened to me in Lexington, MA. There are others that experienced heavy bullying there as well. So, this person went to my site, recalled when we knew each other, found their story and themselves in it, and then promptly put it up on their Facebook site, telling their friends they were the bullied of the kids that were bullied themselves.  Then their friends started commenting on my blog about knowing this person. And then I found out and I must admit that my first reaction was one of sadness again, for what I had done when I was 12 years old and for knowing this person also read about it and relived it again. Even though it was 31 years ago, I knew I needed to reach out and try to apologize.

I admit that I slept little that night. The next day I emailed the people who commented on the site and asked them how they found out and tried to get information on a way to contact the other person in the story. One of the people told me about Facebook and also gave me the information needed to contact the person in my story. I was very nervous about talking to him. It had been a long time and you never know what reaction you’ll get. My childhood confidence fears were all back. But this was an opportunity to have closure, maybe for both of us. So finally, the next day, I called him at his office. He picked up the phone, his name is David.

I said hi and told him who I was. I’m not sure if he was expecting the call, but my first reaction was that he was glad I called. When I first heard his voice again I could recognize it immediately. He and I had shared many  years together in religious school, so I remember him well. Memories flooded back to me in waves as he started to talk. He was immediately warm and positive. It set the mood for the rest of the conversation. Before I could get many words in, he told me about how he found out about the story. He told me about others from Lexington who also suffer from the long-term effects of bullying and that I was not alone. He told me about all that happened to him as well and how he dealt with it. While he didn’t recall my story as a major issue, he did also deal with cruel kids.

Finally, I got to say something as well. What I wanted to say was that I was sorry. Not just for the story shared, but in some way for his finding the story and having to read about the incident all over again. I don’t know if that’s strange, but for me, I just never expected to have it read and then to have to deal with the ramifications of that happening. But in the end, the closure, I hope, is good for all, including me. So I apologized, which he said wasn’t necessary and then we talked some more, and some more. We moved on and then, through this phone call started to rebuild a relationship. It’s hard right now to say where that will go, but we want to meet up at some point soon and continue the conversation.

He also allowed me to friend him in Facebook and see his original posts. I would say that took some courage on his part as well. Since he linked only to the story of me as the bully on my site and not the ones of me being bullied, it was interesting to see what his friends had to say, some about me. I was OK with all of it because, if I was one of David’s friends, I would have also been angry to find out about a time he was bullied. I would have defended my friends as well (as we all should). I consider his adding me to his Facebook the beginning of adding me back into his life and possibly moving time closer together to become friends again. While we live states apart, we can now talk again as if we were both in Lexington.

I made one final request of David before we hung up the phone. I asked him, since this story was about me as the bully, if he would share his perspective of the story from the other side. He agreed that he would like to do that. I think it would be great if he would and that shared experience was documented. Even though I didn’t expect it, his finding the story has led to some closure and hopefully a positive ending. I think, for me, the most fascinating part of this experience was to find out that I was discussed at the 25th High School Reunion and that bullying was a subject of discussion. It tells me that, maybe bullying was much bigger than me in Lexington (at least in the 70’s and 80’s) and that there are people who read this. Maybe even those who were the bullies that bullied me. Wouldn’t it be interesting if my phone rang one day and they called me to tell me they found the site and read the story about them…and that they were sorry too.