Latent Effects of School Bullying
by Bill Rose
58 now, two college degrees and in the physical health of a teenager, due
to my years of discipline in diet and exercise. My IQ is approximately
115 and I am very well organized, neat, clean and passionate about my two
dogs. I am artistic, passionate about music, very attracted to the opposite
sex in the most positive way. Love sailing, collecting pictures of old
ships from the steam era, still run a few miles a day and lift weights.
I canít stand human or animal cruelty and have actually saved a few lives
by intervening in a crisis. I have recurring flashbacks of an experience
when I was about 2 years old, a friend and I found a frog in his back yard.
We squatted down to study it, and then my friend stood up and stomped on
it with his foot. Its entrails came out itís mouth. It still compresses
my tear ducts to this day. "Why did he do that?", I ask myself. I will
never be able to reconcile it. I still remember vividly, holding my motherís
hand and trying to comfort her when my stillborn baby sister was buried
at the cemetery as she cried. I was 3. My mother was a Sunday school teacher
and I served as her Master of Arms, keeping everyone quiet and focused.
I actually hauled a kid outside one Sunday morning because he kept disrupting
my momís class and shook him until he cried. I was 5. . Two years ago,
I volunteered for a year at the VA hospital and discovered a passion for
the infirm and downtrodden.
one of three children, each a year apart and we had the archetypal mid-western
small town family. Dad and his two brothers worked in Grandfather'í store
and Mom made sure we had everything we needed. We lived in a nice large
house with a large yard and huge trees with our dog, Skippy. I took piano
lessons, won the statewide spelling bee one year and got to ride on a train
in a parade. I was so far ahead of the other students in all subjects in
elementary school, I spent most of my days reading to other classes. Iíve
had numerous hobbies throughout my lifetime, from building models to pottery
to computers, to Bluegrass music (played in a band for years) to raising
houseplants. Very mechanically inclined, I used to take my cars apart and
put them back together, just to see if I could do it (took the rocker arms
off my dadís Buick one afternoon when I was about 12, and couldnít put
em back on. When I told him about it he made me stay out in the garage
all night until I figured out how to do itÖ..but I never did because you
needed a special tool).
now unemployed, having been terminated from at least 20 professional positions
over my career, on partial disability from the V.A., living on $824 per
month, receiving USDA Commodities, and housing assistance from the local
housing commission living the life I never understood and feared horribly.
I run out of food every month.
purchased a new home and lost it, failed at marriage and never tried again
because after 25 years I still love her, had and lost just about everything
anyone could want including flying on the corporate jet and my own 40 foot
sailboat. I had to file bankruptcy 3 years ago (something I had always
regarded as an unforgivable sin and only for deadbeats). All relationships
are gone. Most of the family has died, and those who are still living I
had arguments with and weíve never spoken again. Social Security has denied
my disability, and is so difficult to deal with, itís not worth the fight.
I have to be 62 to receive early retirement. I have, literally no self-image
at all, even though others regard me in high esteem. I thrive on novelty
and change and get bored easily. I toy frequently with canceling life early
and hoping for a better one next time. Like a spider in a porcelain sink,
climbing out of such a deep chasm is not likely.
first question my psychiatrist asked me was: "Did you commit a crime?".
The answer, of course is no. "Do you have a drug or alcohol problem". "No,
donít touch either one". I get extremely depressed, even on medication,
when I see college students going to prestigious colleges, nice homes in
the suburbs, families living together, people playing sports, and shopping
at stores. Especially, the wealthy, because I have the intelligence and
knowledge to be one of them. But I canít. My low self-esteem and inner
anger anchor me to a base plate which only allows me to go so far, before
Iím yanked back with drastic consequences.
Root Cause Analysis
Psychiatrist, Psychologist or best friend has found the root cause. The
reason is that I have never told anyone, because Iím still too embarrassed.
Until on the news one afternoon I saw a nice young 15-year old take a gun
to school one day and shoot some students. He was from another state and
probably considered square to the cool guys at school, and so they bullied
him until he could take no more. I felt so sorry for the boy, very nice
looking, even ivy-league in appearance, standing in the courtroom receiving
his life sentence, tried as an adult. "That kid is no criminal", I said
to myself over and over again. The true criminals are the kids that drove
him to it. Where are they now? Everyone is a criminal for letting him fall
into a crevasse without helping. I know this, because the same thing happened
to me in High School. I grieve for that boy all the time, and thank god
I stopped short of the same thing.
say our character is molded mostly in the first three to four years of
life. Mine was excellent. I believe his was too. But character can be altered
by external events beyond our control. This is not to say that the values
instilled in us in those early years can be lost or diluted over time.
But the ability to employ them can be mitigated by circumstances which
cause us to violate them without perceivable option. Lack of information
and/or lack of support are the primary causes. Of course, we are all victims
of our own ignorance. The degree is determined by these two primary factors.
Many who are oppressed for one reason or another feel at fault, experience
guilt and fear ridicule if they disclose their weaknesses. When one cannot
express their anger externally, obviously, it only has one way to go. This
type of anger does not dissolve in the recesses of the mind. It eats other
parts. Thus, anger takes on a new face in the form of depression and the
metamorphosis creates a great distance from the basic core values instilled
during early childhood.
are they treating me this way? Don't they know Iím a good person? They
donít even know me. Why donít they like me? Youíd think theyíd get to know
me first. They must be very ignorant or just plain mean. Either way, I
skills donít come naturally. They are learned from a variety of sources.
An oppressed individual, especially early in life, withdraws if not encouraged
to express their feelings an/or donít know how. For many, a full set of
social skills may never be developed. The predominant skill a bullied kid
learns is how to hate. Sarcasm, cynicism and revenge pervade the thoughts,
replacing education, sports, relationships, entertainment and other normal
interests. Containing that hate is a full time job. Hatred, unlike dirt,
doesnít wash off. Itís very tough to shake. No one else wants it, you canít
just throw it in the trash can, you canít convert it to food and you canít
exchange it for money. The demon doesnít really want to leave, either.
The demon thrives on weaknesses and feeds well on oppressed.
all remember our years growing up. We even remember specific events that
happened on a certain day 25 years ago, maybe even the time of day. Exact
words spoken, the color of the paint on the walls, who else was there,
what they were wearing.
great, if itís a positive memory. But when one can only remember the negative
memories, one becomes negative. The damage is done. This damage must be
prevented through intervention at the earliest stages. The fork in the
road is just ahead. One of the most difficult jobs a developing child has
is carving out his/her place in society and they canít do it along.
a teacher for the city schools, I worked in class rooms where kids were
either one step away from full confinement or already there. Violent, agitated,
rebellious youth of all ages with little to no self-control. For many,
maturity will probably neutralize some of the childish behavior. For a
lucky few, a role model may appear like magic and capture their attention.
To see these kids obtaining higher education, obtaining meaningful employment
and a family of their own is out of the question. Their medication keeps
them at bay. They are, sadly, just a drain on society.
are the result of a deadly combination of lack of support at home and lack
of support away from home. They get nothing but rejection from both sides.
Thereís nothing in between but aberrant behavior to try to get attention.
Unfortunately, they are usually rewarded for it. In remedial ways. Or they
shoot someone. I came to this point in High School.
in a middle-class, new community in a nice home, I had nice friends throughout
my school years. Four were especially close as they lived within a block
or two. When we didnít like the dinner menu at one home, we invited ourselves
to one or the otherís house, depending on what they were having. Especially
on liver and onion or salmon croquette night. The refrigerator was always
the first stop when entering a friendís home to take inventory. One was
killed in Vietnam, one became a dentist, another had a debilitating auto
accident and now lives with his parents in a trailer east of the city and
another became a housepainter, shunning the structured work environment.
All went directly to college from high school.
one night, they knocked on my window, waking me up. I went to the window
and on said, "Hey, weíve got Paulís dadís car. Letís go for a ride". They
had sneaked the new Pontiac Bonneville out of the garage and were going
joyriding. They were persistent, but in the end my declines worked. I went
back to bed with my dog Jacques.
days later, I came home one evening from a neighborís house to find my
parents and Paulís parents sitting in chairs in the middle of the room,
all facing an empty chair.
down!" ordered my Dad. He looked at me after I sat down and said, "We know
you know about the joyriding. Youíre going to sit here until you tell us
all the details". I balked. He slapped me. I tried to tell them I didnít
know much, just that someone came to the window. "Liar!" my Dad shouted
and slapped me again. We sat there for hours until I told them who took
the car and whom I thought was with them. My Dad was never satisfied with
the truth anyway, so it was a no win situation.
days later at school, Paul approaches me and says, "Hey, did you snitch
on us, because I got in a helluva lot of trouble". I denied it, but we
both knew that I was the only one who knew about it that didnít take part.
He never talked to me again. But a guy named Fritz, whom I didnít know
had been with them. He looked me up between classes, called me a"fink"
and the fists started swinging. Not mine, his. I came from a small town
in Kansas and didnít know anything about fist-fighting, nor did it make
any sense to me. For approximately two years, until the end of my senior
year, he would come out of nowhere, say nothing and knock me to the ground.
Sometimes several times. At school, in the neighborhood, at the library,
at the beach, walking down the sidewalk. Others tried to get him to stop,
but he made it a regular event to impress his friends.
got around school that I was a pansy and wouldnít fight back and eventually
I became a disease that nobody wanted. I spent the remainder of that year
completely isolated, with all self-esteem gone. I never went anywhere.
My Dad would shout at me, "Get off that couch and do something Ė Ya wanna
be a bum all your life?!!". The depression was overwhelming and lasted
decades. The attacks stopped one day, when walking across campus in an
isolated hallway, who should appear but Fritz. The obnoxious grin I had
come to know over the years because it preceded a fist in the face began
to develop as he approached me. I told him point blank that the next time
I saw him I would have a gun and I would kill him. That was the last time
he ever bothered me again. For several years after I contemplated killing
him, but common sense told me that if I did, he would have succeeded in
completely destroying me.
only time I wasnít depressed was when I was working, so I became a workaholic.
It was the only way I could mitigate the pain of self-hate. Eventually
the repressed melancholia manifested into stress and created ulcers. I
went home every night and held my stomach until I would fall into a fitful
sleep. The stomach pain was horrible. Lasting for hours. For years. I became
preoccupied with my stomach pain. Finally, Prilosec appeared on the scene
and I found relief. The major problems I have carried all my life are rejection
of authority, a high sensitivity to condemnation and criticism, a cynical
and sarcastic view of most everything, which all have been mitigated to
a large extent by a medication regimen and not working. Every time I try
to return to work, the first time I feel humiliated or under-appreciated,
taken advantage of or not respected, I respond angrily. My tolerance for
domination is near zero and my hostility still rears its ugly head at the
worst times. Nobody knows but me.
all these years, chance encounters with those who scoffed at me in high
school find them looking old, distressed and half-alive, while I am still
in great condition and light on my feet. "Wow!!", they say; "you look great!".
"Looks like lifeís been good to you"! But it means nothing to me. That
pain/anguish which pervaded my life for so many years will never go away.
To go through your entire life never establishing your identity or having
any self-respect is 24-hour, seven day a week, 365 day a year torture.
You try to make yourself happy with material things, constant image alterations,
new relationships, more educationÖÖÖall to no permanent avail.
The Bubble Bursts
plethora of drugs were everywhere when I was in my hippie college student
stage. Cocaine was the best because you could stay up 24 hours. I would
talk for 24 hours straight. But eventually, common sense told me it was
artificial and an escape from reality. I lost interest and never touched
it again. Alcohol was also everywhere in my military stint and I drank
myself into oblivion more than once at parties, but never alone. As I got
older, the hangovers got worse and my tolerance decreased. Finally, one
night at a party I got drunk, tried to start a fight with a group of guys,
got lost driving home ending up in a construction site, scared and sick,
finally finding my way home, only to be couch-ridden for the next 24 hours.
I never did like the taste of alcohol anyway, so that did it. That was
20 years ago and Iíve never touched alcohol again. Alcohol killed my parents
and both sisters became alcoholics, ruining their lives.
the pain and feelings of inferiority felt like a sack of cement tied to
my feet. No matter what I did, I could never feel good about myself. Then
the fragile bubble burst. My inability to control my anger peaked. A classic
case. Bought my daughter a car and skipped a house payment. Mortgage company
seized the opportunity to foreclose on my house by double-billing me (this
is a common predatory lending scheme). Anger over this situation caused
me to bark at the wrong person at work and I lost my $10k a month job.
I sued the mortgage company, was torn to pieces by the judge, ruling "Itís
your own damned fault" and judged against me for $75k, so I had to file
bankruptcy. Within a month, all funds were depleted and I was homeless,
living in a van. I froze in disbelief and was unable to function. For approximately
two years, I was catatonic. I saw nothing but paradoxes, hopelessness and
a silent rage. This was absurd. There was no concrete justification. Never,
in my entire life had homelessness crossed my mind. I always knew that
education, hard work and avoidance of foul habits were my ace in the hole.
the proper social skills and adequate temperance, none of the other forms
of development matter. I would wonder why I sometimes have no food, and
that guy across the street has his own business, a beautiful home, family,
new cars, a boat, takes vacations and more. And he never went to college.
Answer: Self-love that is coated in armor.
effect of school-age bullying is permanent to one degree or another. It
may manifest itself early in the life cycle or later. It may rear itís
head in a subtle form, such as inhibited development, or result in suicide
or murder. At the age of 58, I still wonder if I can find a way to get
even with Fritz. School-age people typically wonít report bullying for
fear it will only get worse. More often than not, it will worsen anyway.
The bully will learn to thrive on the misery of another, confusing it with
power. Awareness and new methods for identifying a crisis at itís embryonic
stage are essential.
problem of school bullying will never go away. The first step is for adults
to stop turning their heads, when they are aware of it and understand the
effects it produces. There are laws against assault and battery, and bullying
laws need to be established to suit this type of crippling crime, with
appropriate corrective actions.
for sexual abuse 30 years prior are now commonplace. I know of no legal
actions against former bullies. The boy who exploded at Santana High has
a strong case against those who abused him.
a schoolteacher, I found with great chagrin that a few bad kids drag the
good ones down and the good ones struggle twice as hard to achieve. This
serious imbalance is quite prevalent in public schools today. Domination
by the unprincipled is a war being fought not only in Iraq and Afghanistan,
but in the public school system as well.
Rose lives in San Diego, CA