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.
But 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 recollection 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.