Bullying. Its aftermath is rarely less than tragic. Some kids even die. When they do, their stories take over the media. It’s a good money-maker for the industry. Everybody loves to hate bullies. Everybody loves the witch hunt. Young people needlessly dying is a problem that we as human beings can universally join together and be angry about.
But what about the kids who outlive it? What about the kids that have experienced endless torment at the hands of their peers and survived? Are they less than notable? Does it take seeing the blood on one’s hands before we step in and put the same kind of emphasis on these kids as we do their dead counterparts? Must we see caskets being lowered into the ground before we really explore the problem?
The very nature of bullying, unfortunately, makes this the case. The tyranny of the bully keeps his prey silent, usually forever. Many bullied kids are far too terrified to use their own voice, to speak out, or to bring attention to themselves. To use their voice only brings them more trouble. To speak out leaves their aggressors all the more desperate to shut them up. To bring attention to themselves and their problems opens them up as a greater target for more of the same. Ironically, it is only when their own death, or the death of another, becomes their voice, that many of them are ever heard at all.
Nobody wants to be a loser. Nobody wants to be that kid. And when they find themselves in that position, nobody wants to admit that they are. So, they spend their lives as bullied kids burying the truth, shoving the reality of what they’ve been through to forgettable places in the mind. They distance themselves from it as much as they possibly can.
And then, those kids who were broken in their youth, grow up. And they’re still broken. As much as they hope that it will, turning eighteen and graduating high school doesn’t magically erase the past for them. It doesn’t take away the light in which a person sees himself. It doesn’t take away the anger, the hatred, or the resentment. It doesn’t take away the feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred.
And so, just as they did when they were younger, these broken adults continue hiding it. They continue burying it. They convince themselves that it’s gone. They convince themselves that they are no longer that kid from their past. They spend their adult lives wondering why they can’t control their anger. They wonder why they can’t control their eating. They wonder why they’re so drawn to addictive or self-harming behaviors. They wonder why they do things that other people would consider… crazy.
I know this was all certainly the case for me. The kid who others knew only as “Fat Ass”. The adult who was so broken that nothing could remain intact in his life. I was severely bullied and without end, yet I was such a master of hiding it that not even my best friend knew it was happening. Over time, I successfully suppressed all of it, determined to never let it define me. Certain that it had no lasting effect over me. Confident that those years in my past would remain in my past forever.
Until, that is, I started this blog, Single Dad Laughing. Bullying was the last thing on my mind when I posted my first blog entry. I started the blog as a way to keep myself in check as a parent after my second wife left. I started the blog as a way to try and find some pocket of humor in my everyday. I started it to keep from crying about the loss that seemed to always find me, and always surround me. My life kept falling apart, no matter how firmly I tried to keep it together, and I couldn’t understand why.
With time, I began tackling far more tough and taboo subjects. As I wrote about these subjects, the buried demons of my past began to surface one by one. The truths that I wished nobody to ever hear began making their way onto the very public pages of my blog. Some were furtive. Some were blatant. Within a few weeks thousands of daily visitors turned into tens of thousands. A few weeks after that, I was seeing single days with hits in the hundreds of thousands.
In the middle of all of it, a kid died. A gay kid. He killed himself. Somewhere back East, I don’t know where. Somebody had posted pictures of him having sex all over the place, and it was his final and breaking straw. It was the last piece needed to completely break him, and he took his own life. The media flared its giant nostrils. Bullying was once again the big topic that everybody wanted a piece of. I also began receiving emails asking me to write about bullying.
It was a place I didn’t want to go. It was a topic I didn’t want to write about. To admit that I had been bullied was to admit that I was a loser. So, I didn’t. I ignored the emails, I ignored the media, and I kept writing about other things. That was one skeleton that belonged in my closet.
The media coverage of bullying grew. More stories of kids dying began surfacing. People were angry. People were demanding discussion. People were looking for insight and fresh perspective. A handful of emails turned into dozens. Why did these people think I could offer any insight to this? Why did these people think that I had anything pertinent to add to the discussion? I had never written about being bullied, nor had I given any clues that foreshadowed such a truth.
And, perhaps the biggest question I began pondering was, why did so many people care? Why were so many people so incredibly passionate about it? In my own memory, I was among a very small handful of people in my own schools that was ever bullied. Even then, I never really saw anybody else being bullied. And, nobody cared when it was going on back then, so why such an interest now?
As I began thinking more about the topic, and whether or not I wanted to openly discuss it, several profound dots started presenting themselves for my connecting pleasure. What if far more people experienced bullying than I ever imagined? What if I was so lost in my own broken world that I couldn’t see the brokenness that was forever surrounding me? What if some people were desperate for me to give a voice to it because they had never felt able or had always been too scared to use their own?
As strongly as these thoughts came to me, I kept pushing them away. My blog was blowing up. It was unexpectedly rising to the top of the internet world overnight, and it was the most unloserish I’d felt in my entire life. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it.
But what if I had to do it? The truth was, I knew some things about bullying. In fact, I knew a lot of things about bullying that I never seemed to hear many people talking about. What if it was on my shoulders that they were never properly discussed? What if I had something to add to the conversation that might actually make a difference in the way people viewed things? What if one buried voice coming back from the dead could make a difference?
I tested the waters. I placed a very unscientific poll on my blog and asked my readers to “check all statements that apply to you now or in the past.” I let it run for 48 hours, curious to see what the results would be. At the end of two days, more than 22,000 different users participated. It was by far the most involvement I’d ever had in a poll. But far more shocking than the number of participants was the result of the poll.
43% of participants reported they had been bullied “viciously.”
64% of participants reported they had been bullied “minorly.”
27% of participants reported they had been a bully to others.
48% of participants reported they had seen others being bullied and done nothing.
57% of participants reported they had seen others being bullied and stepped in.
And only 0.6% of participants reported that they had never bullied, been bullied, or seen bullying.
The numbers couldn’t be right. Almost half of all people had been viciously bullied? Nearly two thirds had been bullied to a lesser degree? Where was I when all of these people were being bullied around me? And where were they when I was being bullied?
I was in the majority that none of us ever knew existed. No wonder so many people were so passionate about it.
In the light of my new personal discovery, I sat down and wrote a post that I called Memoirs of a Bullied Kid. That was a year ago today. In it, I shared (through my own story) the thoughts that bullied kids think, a small piece of the reality that they go through, and the need for adults to step in far more often. In the end, I also offered my own opinion of what we all might do to combat the ever existent problem.
The aftermath was both incredible, wonderful, and horrifying. The blog post went viral. Within days, hundreds of thousands had read some of my darkest and most self-telling secrets. Thousands of comments and emails poured in, including many from past classmates who shared their own stories about bullying. Radio programs began inviting me onto their shows. Television stations began contacting me. Universities and high schools began soliciting me to come speak.
But, I couldn’t do it. In the end, I turned almost all of them down. I wasn’t ready to so openly become the voice for bullying in this world. I wasn’t ready to have the most painful parts of my past be scrutinized and publicly examined. I had opened Pandora’s box well before I should have.
I was still… broken.
What I had shared with the world was surface-deep. It was such a small piece of a puzzle so big that I had no idea what it even was. I had spent my entire life burying and hiding the rest of the pieces. I had worked hard to forget every event, every bit of abuse, and every moment that I spent fearing what was to come.
With time, the world more or less forgot about bullying, and they forgot about my post with it. I was able to move onto other topics with my writing. I was able to tackle other issues. I was able to live a life once again that didn’t involve the very real truths and darknesses of my past.
Yet, with every deeper post that I wrote, I began seeing just how much the bullying of my past had affected everything in my life. I began realizing just how much harboring and hiding such things was affecting me. I began realizing just how broken I still was and always would be until I dealt with it.
And so, I began writing out my memoirs. The very real events, my very real feelings, and my very real thoughts all along the way. As I put together a detailed general timeline, truths that had long been forgotten began to surface. Complete memories that had been shoved into the back of a mental drawer once again saw the light of day. The puzzle was complex and it spanned twenty years. It didn’t end when junior high did. As much as it involved bullying, it involved the many twisted and broken attempts to distance myself from it as an adult. It involved horrific things that I did both when I was younger and when I was older. Things I’ve tried not to ever share with anybody. Things that would make me seem less than sane.
By the time I connected the last pieces of the puzzle, there was no doubt that I was leaving that part of my past behind me while I did. Somehow, nothing scared me about it anymore. I knew myself, and I knew what had pushed me to where I was today. Instead of exposing me, it freed me. Instead of proving what a loser I was, it proved what a loser I wasn’t. Instead of defining me, it wiped my slate clean. It filled me with possibility. It healed me.
As I thought back to the aftermath of the bullying post on my blog, everything was so easily seen in a different light. People weren’t desperate for menial conversation. They were desperate for a way to understand the burdens they themselves were carrying. They were desperate for somebody to give a voice to the demons of their pasts. They were desperate for a great many things, and my refusal to use my voice, and to continue using my voice, was only adding to the greater bullying problem.
When writing out my memoirs, I wanted to really put my readers into the minds of bullied kids through my own experiences. I wanted my readers to understand where adults often fail to see the needs of bullied kids around them. To accomplish this, I began listing out the times I remembered being bullied.
At first the list was difficult. I had worked so hard to bury that part of my life that many of the memories were fragmented. Then, as I really started to write out the details of what I did remember, further details of separate moments began flooding into my mind. Before long, I had written out 115 outlines for memoirs that would take my readers through my years being bullied and then into the aftermath of that bullying and the quest to learn who I really was.
I only wrote 15 memoirs before I put it all away. Each memoir took me deep into a place that was too difficult to stay for long. I became irritable, moody, and overly depressed. Perhaps, I thought, it was best that these experiences are never told. Best for me, anyway.
And so I stopped writing them. I stashed them, and I purposefully forgot about them.
Until, that is, I received an email from a young high school girl begging me to continue sharing my thoughts on bullying. “Nobody is actually doing anything where I live,” she wrote. “Please, the bullying is out of control and I’m not far from being pushed over the edge.”
And so, perhaps because it would be wrong of me not to, I am going to share those fifteen memoirs with you here on SDL. Today. This girl understood the power of sharing perspective with the masses.
As I share my experience as a bullied kid, I have one underlying goal. To give perspective. There is nothing really happy in these memoirs. They don’t necessarily end in some glorious and triumphant way. But that’s reality. Some kids just get their asses kicked. Again. And again. And again. And then they turn into adults who get their asses kicked, again. And again. And again.
The first memoirs go back to my time as a bullied kid. What do bullied kids think? How do they respond to things? What are the dark ways in which they view the world? The later memoirs will go into the broader journey that I took as an older teenager and as a young adult to move past it and become something else. The feelings of worthlessness. The inability to love or be loved. The desperation. The failures. The eating disorders. And, the unhealthy and warped attempts to understand , escape, and overcome it all. Finally, for those who follow along day to day here at Single Dad Laughing, I share (and will continue to share) the final and very personal moments in the journey that has led and continues to lead to my ability to finally let it all go. To finally rise above it. To finally become something else. I hope you’ll follow along.
My secondary goals of these memoirs are many. First, I hope they will open the door to conversations that few people are willing to have, but most people are desperate to hear. I hope they will give hope to those who do carry around the burden of having been bullied. I hope the rest of this blog will instill confidence in those once bullied that anybody can overcome the darkness of their pasts. I hope that they will be proof that the bullied no longer have to let the bullies of this world define them. I pray these memoirs will help them understand that they’re far from alone. I hope it all will give them tools necessary to understand themselves, and more importantly, to heal themselves.
My second goal is to offer a dynamic perspective of bullying that can be utilized and scrutinized by both the media, and by professionals seeking for additional outlook on the topic. Bullying repeatedly surfaces, and it does so for a reason. It’s always going on. It’s always a problem. And, unfortunately, it always will be.
Third, I hope the memoirs will give a voice to those who have never had one, both to the bullied and to the bullies themselves. As I delve into the memoirs in which I eventually began bullying others, the connection between the bullies and the bullied becomes more easily apparent.
Fourth, I hope they will shine a light on the way that many adults neglect to end bullying when they have the chance. I hope they will give those in a position of authority much needed perspective. I hope they will help them dissect the way small actions and reactions greatly affect those kids who find themselves trapped within the bullying world.
Finally, and most importantly, I hope they will encourage those who read them to use their own voices, and in powerful ways. In the greater effort to reduce the bullying that goes on in our schools, power will be found in numbers. It will be found in the moments that follow when fear no longer has control over us. It will be found when those in the world who have been bullied come to understand that to share one’s experiences does not make him weak. It only makes him powerful.
Sometimes it only takes one strong voice to spur the voices of millions. Imagine what we all can do with our voices working together.
The following memoirs will tell a story. But they will do so much more at the same time for those willing to read between the lines.
I hope they can in some small way, somewhere, make change happen where before such change couldn’t exist.
It is not lost on me that the greatest challenge of these memoirs is making sure that everything in them is true. How does one write memoirs based on memories that have been forced away for so long? As I started the descriptive timeline for the memoirs, I was tempted to give up many times. Events were fuzzy. I wasn’t always sure which bullies were involved in which memory. I wasn’t always sure when exactly things happened or where. I didn’t always remember which thoughts were attached to which chain of events. I can promise you these memoirs are imperfect. Please be understanding.
What I did remember were specific events. I remembered specific people. I remembered specific thoughts. I remembered specific feelings. As everything began coming together, much of what was unclear became vivid. Everything in these memoirs is true. Everything happened. Every thought was a thought that at some point (usually at many points) I actually had. Every person is real (though I’ve changed many of the names). No scene has been made up. No story invented. For a real discussion to be had about bullying, the memoirs must be based on truth. Of that I am convinced.
My name is Dan Pearce. These are my memoirs. This is my voice.
Dan Pearce Single Dad Laughing
Please note: Originally, I had planned to release these memoirs one at a time. After posting two of them, I decided that for a true and purposeful discussion, they all needed to remain intact. So, they are all here, as separate pages on this one post. Take your time reading through them. Take days or weeks if you must. Just please, take the time to get through them.
Due to the nature of these writings, each memoir may allude to other bullying memoirs that I was never able to write. Despite that, my hope is that these memoirs will each stand on their own. I apologize for any holes in the story that were created by the process this imperfect writer used.
And, if you see power in the once dormant voice of a boy severely bullied, I ask you to share this. Please take a moment and share your perspective and your story in the comments. Tweet it. Post it on Facebook. Do what you can to get people talking about the bullying problem. Because while we as a society may forget about it until another kid dies, the bullying is only getting worse.
Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Forgotten Memoir #8 – Buttball
Page 3: Forgotten Memoir #10 – 4-Square
Page 4: Forgotten Memoir #19 – The bathroom incident
Page 5: Forgotten Memoir #33 – Whistling in the gym
Page 6: Forgotten Memoir #38 – The incident with the shirt
Page 7: Forgotten Memoir #51 – The invite
Page 8: Forgotten Memoir #52 – Art Class
Page 9: Forgotten Memoir #53 – The Hot Girl’s Breasts
Page 10: Forgotten Memoir #59 – Becoming the Bully
Page 11: Forgotten Memoir #89 – Extreme Measures
Page 12: Forgotten Memoir #91 – Unlovable
Page 13: Forgotten Memoir #97 – Bullies in Mexico
Page 14: Forgotten Memoir #99 – The Baseball Bat
Page 15: Forgotten Memoir #107 – The Wall
Page 16: Forgotten Memoir #115 – It Was All About Me
Page 17: VIDEO: A Voice for the Bullied