I just returned from an extraordinary “networking” trip with a friend and colleague. I’m grateful beyond words. One of the main reasons for “Trippin’ with Molly” was an anti-bullying event called the Upstander Legacy Celebration for the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Maulik Pancholy of 30 Rock hosted. Composer Lance Horne testified and performed a gut-wrenching tribute to Tyler. Mitchell Gold from Hickory, Tipper Gore and hundreds more were in attendance.
Molly Bass has gone to extraordinary lengths to start a conversation and build awareness of resources available for victims of bullying and mental illness in Hickory. Awareness is everything.
Merriam-Webster defines bullying as “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.” Etcetera is the worst.
Bullying can be incremental. It can stare you in the face. It can hide behind a screen or an institution. It feasts on inaction. It can hold you hostage. It can manifest as guilt. It can, it can, it can until we can’t.
Life’s been very good to me, yet I’m a suicide survivor. Severe depression is hard to acknowledge and difficult to treat. Managing it requires acceptance, self-determination, patience—and a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt. I’m living proof it can happen to anyone.
Bullying isn’t reserved for after-school specials. It happens to the best of us. I’ve been bullied by everyone from a friend’s insecurity to a musician’s ego to a pastor’s pride to an organization’s indifference—all at different stages in my life. Are those bullies solely responsible for my depression? No. Did they help? Certainly not. Did they “pull the trigger?” No. In that moment, you’re not thinking; you’re only feeling. You forget your only control is how you react. You forget everything that matters. You’re tired and meaningless. You just wanna close your eyes. You don’t wanna hurt anymore.
In counseling students and in my own case, the most common denominator is alienation; truly believing the world would be better off without you.
Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you and when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.from Dear Evan Hansen
Another common denominator is feeling forsaken. John Lennon penned, “Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.” Folks desert and resent you in your moment(s) of grief and despair, more often than not. “Tough shit.” “Get over it.” “That’s life.”
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, do you ever really crash or even make a sound?
It isn’t a question of “should” we expect support. Why wouldn’t we? The reality is, people fear what they don’t understand. Empathy requires sacrifice; out of self. Love. Jake Colsen suggests we give our affection only to those who serve our interests and withhold it from those who do not. Who’s interested in another’s pain? The answer is someone. It may not be the someone(s) you want or expect, but someone.
Ugh. As much as I want to and as hard as I try, it’s impossible to boil all of this down to a single thought. Philip Larkin wrote, “Man hands on misery to man… until someone breaks the cycle.”
Woe is me? Woe is you? Hell, no. Once you find your footing, forgive and continue moving forward. As much as you need it, accountability is unlikely, so don’t wait around for it. Break the cycle. Never give up. I’ll leave you with a rally cry from an unlikely source.
Anytime somebody bullies you, you should thank them every day. Right now, this bully is the only person in your life who’s giving you an actual challenge. Everybody else is anesthetizing you; hugging the power out of you; making you weak. You think the struggle of living in the world gets easier? People stop giving you a hard time? Learn to stand up for yourself now and give it right back to them. Otherwise, shut… up.“D” from Chance