Something came across my Twitter feed the other day that hit me in a raw spot.

@RochelleVeturis Tweeted this:

“The suicide rates for boys in America, are higher than any other country in the industrialized world.”

Granted I haven’t had time to verify the claim, nor am I going to. Because the veracity of the tweet is not what I’m on about. It’s the subject of the tweet. Therein lies something near and dear to me, that I’ve had a hard time reconciling in my life. It started a few years ago, when I happened across one of my junior high pictures. And I thought, “Wow…I was a pretty good looking kid.” Which was followed by, I wish I could go back in time and tell younger me that. Not that I would have believed older me. I was already brainwashed by that point. But, I digress. Onto the reason for this post.

Warning! About To Get Personal

I am known by many to march to the beat of my own drum. I don’t tend to stick with the status quo very much. It’s just too boring. So, you can imagine how hard it was for me growing up in a small ranch and oil community. Most everyone wore cowboy boots and we only had one foreign car in the entire town. (It belonged to a pediatrician who was at that point, new to the town.) So, here I show up sporting a mullet and parachute pants (Cut me some slack, yo. It was the 80’s.) Regardless, it went over like a fart in a diving bell. I was singled out almost immediately. There was not a single day for the first year I was there, that I was not bullied, picked on, or harassed for being different. Hell, I even got if from home sometimes.

The point being, I put up with it. I had no choice. I endured. And over time, I gained a small level of acceptance. The daily tormenting had largely stopped. What took its place was an almost constant barrage of “Dork!”. I remember thinking that I was ugly, stupid, idiotic and largely unlikable. One day, I snapped. It started after lunch. I was sitting alone and watching everyone laughing and talking and I thought to myself, “They wouldn’t miss me if I weren’t here. They wouldn’t even care.” The passing thought grew to epic proportions and within a couple of class periods, I was absolutely certain that no one would give shit one if I were to just disappear. By the time I got into my second to last class of the day, I was going to do it.

I remember typing away and feeling that it was so futile to try to learn to type if I was going to just kill myself. The tears spattered on the keyboard as I looked down silently sobbing. My nose began to bleed and I watched as tears and blood intermingled and slowly dripped down the keys. I got up and went to the restroom. I turned on the cold water and washed my face. It just diluted the blood all the more and soon the sink and my hands were covered. I looked into the mirror and wanted to die. So, I began trying to wrench the sink from the wall so I could shatter it on the floor. Surely, a piece of porcelain would work. As I worked on the sink, one of the varsity football players came into the restroom. He walked up and started in with the usual bullshit.

Rage…unbridled rage. I turned on him and told him to shut the fuck up or he’d be sorry. (You have to imagine, I was all of 5’11 and 140 lbs. This dude was packing enough muscle to tip in close to 200 lbs.) I remember his eyes got really wide and he apologized and slowly backed out of the restroom. Firing off a “fucking psycho” as his parting words. I punched the wall a few times and went back to the sink. My nosebleed was a full on two-nostril affair and it had started to soak my shirt collar by that point. I don’t remember when it happened, but a guy from my typing class, a guy I had only a few words with over my entire time there, walked in and pulled me from the sink.

He looked at me square in the eye, “Scotty, you don’t want to do this.” But I did. I had never wanted to die more than I did at that moment. All he asked was that I not do it at school. He asked if I would let him take me home first. I agreed. He got me some papertowels and I cleaned up. Once my nose stopped bleeding, we went for a ride. It was the first time I had ever skipped a class. He told me he had to run a couple of errands first and would take me home after that. I said, “Sure. Okay.”

We drove around for a couple of hours and talked. It was the first time that I was able to talk to anyone about how horrible things were. How bad my homelife had gotten, and how I had no way of making any of it better. He told me about some of the problems he was going through at his house. I was shocked. This guy was always a pretty easy-going guy. He had a pretty girlfriend, a car, nice clothes. No one knew that his dad had been an abusive alcoholic. No one knew that he had run out on his family and they were living off of food stamps just barely getting by. No one knew that he had tried to kill himself the year previous. By the time we got back to my house, I knew that someone would miss me if I were to kill myself. So I decided to hold off for a little bit. I’d give this whole ‘not killing myself’ thing a week. If I still hated life, then I’d do it.

As You Know, I Didn’t Do It.

The next day, word had been spreading about my meltdown and everyone tread lightly around me. Even the bullies. In my English class, I didn’t have my homework ready and the teacher asked jokingly if there’d been a death in the family. I told her, “about as close to one as possible.” Coupled with the rumors, several people figured out what I meant. Suddenly, people converged on me saying that they were sorry for being so mean to me for so long. And that they weren’t really trying to hurt me. The real bullies didn’t. They sat back and watched, though. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around was that people would willingly and knowingly pick on someone and yet not mean to hurt them. That didn’t make any sense to me. Little did I know…what was to come.

I Became What I Hated Most.

Sometime about a year later, I began the daily and systematic torture of other people. The locker room was alive with testosterone-fueled hazing. It was not uncommon to let gas rip on someone’s head, rub your jockstrap on someone’s face or administer painful wedgies. But it became focused on one person in particular. I made his life a living hell. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d been one of my tormentors from earlier in the year. No, he was one of the few people who DIDN’T. Why did I do it? What had possessed me to become that monster that I loathed?

Safety. As long as I was part of the attacking horde, I wasn’t the one being attacked. Because no one stood up to the bullies, they just spread their poison and made bullies of us all.

I Just Wanted To Apologize

For several years (twenty to be exact) I tried to track down the guy I had tormented. I just wanted to apologize for everything I did, and to try to explain my actions. About a year ago, I finally found him. I sent him a long rambling email about being sorry. Suddenly, the words from so many years before made more sense. I knowingly picked on this kid, and yet, I really didn’t want to hurt him. What I ultimately apologized for, was being too weak to stand up for him. Too big of a chicken shit to do what I knew to be right. Instead, I sold my soul for a bit of safety. The guilt haunted me for two decades. He was gracious, way more than I would have been I’m sure. And I was able to free an albatross that had been hanging around my neck for such a long time. Freedom, at last.

Okay, Now That’s Over Let’s Get To Some Meat Here.

There is a book called Influencer: The Power to Change Anything . In this book, they discuss all manner of ways to effect change. One thing that jumped out at me was the way that several small African villages dealt with spousal abuse. In their society, it wasn’t a cool thing to just call out your neighbor. “Hey, Mbala! I heard you wailing on the old lady last night. Stop being a douche.”

So, they started a television show and created a female character that everyone loved and they had her tv husband beat the snot out of her. There was actual public outrage about it. It started a conversation about it. Then, the characters in the show did something. They heard this woman’s husband laying it on heavy one night, so they all stood in the dude’s front yard banging on pans and raising a ruckus. Why? It was a very ingenious way of saying, “We know what you’re doing in there. And we don’t approve.”

Spousal abuse cases plummeted.

So, when we see bullies, why don’t we all gather our pans and let them know that what they are doing isn’t cool? And maybe they’ll stop spreading the poison that breeds future bullies. Hey, the French Revolution started with a handful of pissed off peasants willing to swing a shovel to make the abuse stop.

If there’s anyone out there reading this, that I bullied in that horrible time of my life, I’m so sorry. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I was too weak to stand up by myself and didn’t think anyone would join me.


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48 Responses

  1. Eric

    There are so many lessons in here, I don’t know where to start. My son isn’t a bully, but he’s less empathetic than I think he should be. I’ve been trying to find ways to help him see that our actions affect others in ways he might not understand. I’m going to read this post with him (he’s 10).

    Thanks for sharing this; I’m guessing it wasn’t easy, but I’m glad you did.

    Reply
  2. Suz

    Very well written. My husband had something very similar happen to him. He was bullied for years until he stood up to them and a few years later he was sucked into the bullying crowd. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  3. diaper_dad

    It was a very permanent solution to a temporary problem indeed!

    Someone told me that when they confronted their bully, they gave the person a concussion via a date with a brick wall. They were ashamed of their actions. And secretly, I was jealous that I couldn’t have done the same.

    Just goes to show that we are all different people and actions beget actions and the ripples in the pond grow outward and have bigger effects than we can imagine at the time.

    It’s just made me more cognizant of trying to be a nicer person overall. Never know who you’re affecting!

    Reply
  4. Deena

    Scottie, You are a good, courageous person! I had such a good childhood in Eldorado, but I was also so isolated from what was going on around me. We hung out with a few select families and went about our daily lives like no one else existed. Your post makes me wonder what all I missed being so isolated!

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      It’s weird. I lived in Eldorado up until third grade. When I moved away, I had a lot of friends and although there was teasing, it was the normal sort of thing. I moved back 4 years later, and it was as if I had never lived there at all. Old friends had little to do with me, and I was largely singled out as the “new kid” for ages. Overall, it was largely one person that was instrumental with the ritual abuse that happened. And when I confronted him about it a few months back, he blew it off like it was nothing. He was more pissed that I wouldn’t be his friend on facebook…when I listed all the crap he put me through, he tried to play it off like I was some weirdo who held a grudge over a broke toy.

      I tried to explain that it was much deeper than that, but I realized he was never going to ‘get it’. So, I just blocked him and went on with my wonderful life. My experience in Eldorado was largely positive, and would never have wanted to leave if it hadn’t been for that one toxic person, hellbent on dragging me down. Never could figure out why I was singled out… Story for the ages, I suppose. Life happens then we move on to bigger and better things!

      Reply
  5. Ruby Lee Woodward Valliant

    I too lived in Eldorado, Texas, a long time ago. We moved there during my first grade and finally moved away for good in the middle of my freshman year. I too lived a very isolated life. My Mother had to know where we children, all seven of us, were and what we were doing at all times. At least that is how she tried to raise us. As she got older and her children grew up she could not maintain that much control. Of course being 12 years older than the youngest, I married and moved away, while my siblings were young. My youngest sister claims “That I abandoned her when I married .” I was not allowed to “run around and get into mischief.” I met my husband two and a half years later, after we moved to San Angelo. I just realized the reason I do not know anyone on the “I lived in Eldorado” is because you all grew up in a different Eldorado, Texas than I did. Eldorado was not the Paradise people try to make it sound.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      It was strange. I got a glimpse of the “Good old Eldorado” before I moved away and came back. When I came back…it was drastically different. Like something got in the water or something. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  6. Sisterhood of the sensible moms

    This was a very honest, thoughtful piece. It was interesting to me that you were both a victim and a bully—I wonder how often that happens. It’s a part of the story that doesn’t get mentioned often. You made me want to go outside and bang my pot—a much better response to the problem than many I have heard. Nice piece, Erin

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      I truly believe if more people stood up for people being bullied, it would slow down. It’ll never stop. But we could stop losing people for no damn good reason. BANG THOSE POTS!

      Reply
  7. heidi

    Great, great post. I talk about bullying often with my kids – we talk about both sides like you did here. I love that you wrote a letter – we can all learn from this. Thank you for writing about this so passionately and eloquently.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      It took me years to realize how truly bad I felt about it. And he was WAY more gracious about it than I would have been. I was just so ashamed it took so long for me to get the courage to apologize to him.

      Reply
  8. Delilah

    This post was incredibly powerful for me. I was bullied and became a mean girl as a defense. My 11 year son is being bullied now at school and helping him handle it has been tough for me. I don’t want him to follow my path and become a bully but neither do I want him to be a doormat. It’s such a fine line. Luckily my husband has the perspective to offer advice that is not tainted by past experiences. Thanks for sharing this, it took guts to write this post!

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      When I first posted this, I was largely anonymous. I had two or three regular readers. (Family and Friends mostly.) So, it took some of the pressure off in regards to trying not to offend anyone. I just poured it all out. Then a month or so later, I noticed someone talking on the facebook page of the small town in this post about how they were bullied growing up. And how, they didn’t step in to help someone else who was bullied and that person committed suicide. So…I put it out there for the town to see. I expected to be ridiculed. I was wary but undaunted. I posted it and was absolutely amazed at the responses I got. I was gobsmacked at how many people shared similar experiences.

      Reply
  9. stephanie

    Such an honest post. Ought to be read in high schools across the land. If it helps only a handful of kids it would be well worth it. Glad you put it out there.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Thank you. I put it out there with the hope that it might help someone. If it keeps ONE person for killing themselves or turning into a bully themselves, then I count that as a success.

      Reply
  10. Andi Brown

    Wow, the honesty with which you wrote is big time. Raising a son myself I have begun wondering how to help him learn to be the kind of man who is ‘strong enough to stand up’ for the weak. Whether he learns to do it as a young man or an adult.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      My sons are both still really small. (Toddler and infant.) But I do plan on letting them know that you really should stick up for those that can’t stick up for themselves. So many times as a kid, I wished that one person would help out. It didn’t matter who…anyone.

      Reply
  11. Alison@Mama Wants This

    Bullying is such a difficult topic. There are sides to every story, from the bullied and the bully, as you so well articulated here. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Yeah, I waited for years for one of my bullies to own up to it…and he never has. Guess he’ll just be an asshole till he dies. Oh well. I got my albatross off my neck and that’s what counts, right? 😀

      Reply
  12. Ado

    This post gripped me. Thank you for writing it. It told the story of a victim and a bully all rolled into one – and then the happy part (thank goodness…!) where you grew up and got to make amends. What a relief!
    Horrible how those kids bullied you for being different. You in that bathroom with the bloody nose. Amazing to me how you finding your rage was the thing that turned them all around.
    This was such an incredibly powerful post.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Sad that it took something so drastic as that. Sad that I was considered damaged goods for awhile. But at least they left me alone. Sometimes being invisible is better than being noticed. The upside is that I have intimate knowledge of both sides of the equation. I feel at least SOMEWHAT better prepared to help my sons should the same problems arise.

      Reply
    • diaper_dad

      I’d love to hear the girls’ side of it. Having mostly sisters I’m familiar with a lot of it, but would still love a female perspective. Maybe you could write about it next week for YeahWrite?? 😀

      Reply
  13. Jamie

    I was a high school teacher for 9 years. In that time I had 6 students commit suicide. I’ll never get over wishing I had made enough of a difference that that didn’t have to happen :*( I’m glad your story ended differently, better. All we can do is learn and move on.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Wow. I mean, wow. I guess the takeaway is that we don’t really have any clue how much we are affecting the people around us sometimes. It’s all some very heavy food for thought.

      Reply
  14. KIm Pugliano

    Awesome. For both sides. I was bullied by two guys – actually 3 – in high school, one WAY worse than the other. He was a year older than me and one of those punk rocker guys. He grew up on my street. When Facebook came on the scene he sent me a message once saying he was sorry for anything mean he did to me. I accepted and moved on and about a week later it hit me like a ton of bricks – this was the bully guy. I’m glad I didn’t remember until later so I was able to be gracious as well. High school boys can be assholes.

    Loved this.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Thank you. That’s awesome that he reached out to you like that. Like I said previously, I waited for years for my bully to say he was sorry. I’ve realized it will never happen and instead of carrying around anger for him, I carry pity. I feel sorry for someone so deficient that they can’t even own up to their own shortcomings. I’m glad you were gracious, it lets the healing begin. And yes…ALL high school boys can be assholes SOMETIMES. Even the nice ones. 😀

      Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Please do! And if you know anyone who is being bullied please please send them here. I’ll gladly converse via email to anyone who has questions.

      Reply
  15. Stacey

    You have hit on one of my biggest fears as a mother. I don’t want my children to be bullies or to be bullied. It seems like it’s everywhere, and it terrifies me. I’m so thankful you didn’t take your life that day and so happy you took the time to right a wrong and apologize to the other person. This is one of those times of better late than never.

    Reply
  16. Jennifer

    Thank goodness that guy walked into the bathroom and pulled you away. Are you still in touch with him?

    I’ve seen my daughter get bullied and then give it right back to a smaller kid. We’ve talked on and on about stopping the cycle. It’s really disturbing to witness and painful when your kid is on either end of the spectrum.

    I’m so glad you are here and that you didn’t go through with hurting yourself.

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      Nope. I haven’t seen him since I moved away at the end of my 9th grade year. Good on you for being involved enough to see that your child has the capacity for bully behavior. I truly think all kids can become one, and sometimes it’s the parents denial of that fact that keeps the kids from changing.

      Reply
  17. Susan

    Thank you for sharing this (and with humor, too. nothing wrong with a good 1980’s mullet – I had the female version up until the sixth grade). As the mother of a baby boy I quake when I think about him heading off to school, to a place I can’t control!

    Reply
    • diaper_dad

      One of the problems I find is that no one wants to believe their child is a bully. So when they get confronted with it, there is very little response. I know my mom would never have believed that I could be a bully. My dad probably would have intervened though. I just wish that, at that age, I could have talked to them about it. That might have made a HUGE difference.

      Reply
  18. Beej

    Wow. This is one of the things that is largely screwed up for males being raised in this country – or it least it was when I came up. If you weren’t a bully, you lived in fear (with maybe a secret hope of knocking the bully out just once) – or you *were* a bully. There was no emphasis for most of my male friends of understanding, sharing, or expressing feelings, underlying stressors,etc. I’m really glad your friend came along at about the perfect time, and did something almost unthinkable for most boys of that age -talked about something personal, with substance. We’re so conditioned to do the exact opposite for much of our lives.

    I’m also glad that you took the time to apologize to the kid on the flip side of it. It takes courage, maturity, insight, and humility to get there – and I suspect he appreciated it more than he let on.

    Reply
  19. Sarcasm Goddess

    Wow, Scotty. This is just, wow. First, I am so sorry for what you had to go through. High school can be such a horrible time when people are so mean. Teen suicides have gotten a lot of attention lately and it just breaks my heart. I can relate to the feeling of wanting to die. I was in an abusive relationship in high school. My boyfriend tore me down so much and made me hate myself that three separate times I seriously considered ending my life. I know the feeling of utter hopelessness and despair. Second, I’m so glad you were able to find the person you owed an apology. It is a beautiful thing, what you did. A lot of people would have said, “too much time has passed,” and let it go. We never know how much our actions, big or small, good or bad can affect someone’s life. Thanks for your bravery in sharing this story. I know it will influence others.

    Reply
  20. Kristin

    Thankfully, the world has people who are willing to take the time to drive someone around for two hours on errands. Great post with many sides represented.

    Reply
  21. Jackie

    My husband was basically picked on from first grade throughout high school. Being the largest in the class, he never physically was hurt, however the taunts and names made his time as a student horrible. We often discuss his time bullied, and he thinks that his saving graces were his intellect and his ability to play sports that saved him.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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