My sister, Brenda Stackhouse Gard had periods of intense suffering in her life that started with the murder of our mother. Over the course of her life, people traumatized Brenda at her weakest moments, at home, on the job, in relationships. Bullies are made at home and we all know victims of bullying. Bullies imprint their lack of feeling on their victims and Brenda spoke frequently with me about hating how she felt and the shame in her struggle to rise above the numbness. Brenda’s journey through her own brand of darkness is the engine that drives this movement. Brenda’s pain will become known at a national level and her pain will become the catalyst for change for all those silent victims.
We read about bullying’s victims all the time, especially the ones that end their own lives or the lives of others. The victims of bullying typically choose one of two paths: they either internalize it and take it out on themselves as Brenda did, or they externalize it and take it out on others, such as with Columbine. We all know bullies. They live in our neighborhoods; we work with them; live with them, love them and even ride mass transit with them. Bullying may be verbal; it may be physical, and the psychological consequences can be devastating.
The one overriding commonality among all bullies is that the behavior is learned…Bullies are homegrown. “Experts said that up to 54 percent of children and adolescents internationally are affected by bullying. Many kids have parents who are that way," said Dr. Alison Hill, a clinical psychologist with Berks Counseling Associates, Wyomissing. "These parents are strong-minded and stubborn and the homes can have a punitive atmosphere that may include physical punishment.” (www.readingeagle.com)
Victims suffer degradation and a deep sense of shame. Victims feel alone and incapable of stopping their tormenter and sometimes would rather commit suicide than face the continual bullying or deep psychological stress it creates. Bullying is a deliberate act aimed at another and it must be stopped!
“In recent studies, nearly 50% of those surveyed revealed they had thought about committing suicide as a result of bullying. It is devastating to report that this group converts thoughts to actions at a much higher rate than those that have not been bullied. Bullying victims are also much more prone to suffer depression.” (What Are the Effects of Bullying on the Victim?)
“What is a bully? It is someone who takes advantage of another individual that he or she perceives as more vulnerable. The goal is to gain control over the victim or to gain control over a social group. This type of behavior occurs in all ages, sexes and social groups.” (Carol Watkins, 2008)
Dr. Watkins has identified a number of bully types: the sadistic bully, the narcissistic bully, the imitative bully, the impulsive bully, and the accidental bully. Each type of bully has a similar impact on its victim.
I am gaining so much awareness about the level of bullying that goes on in this country and I am appalled and frightened. I am angry that bullying has reached near epidemic proportions and scared what this might mean for our society. Why have we been so tolerant of something so capable of creating a lifetime of damage? I suppose we tend to turn a deaf ear, develop the mindset that bullying happens only in childhood and children “outgrow” it. The facts support a truth opposite of that belief.
Brenda and I talked frequently about her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how she was diagnosed due to workplace bullying at the Tulalip Casino. The Bullies Not Allowed campaign is a campaign that encompasses all levels and types of bullying, yet Brenda’s story is central to its purpose as it was borne because of her. I will continue to push forward with Brenda’s cause and as I do I will educate and inform anyone and everyone about the whys behind it.
Brenda struggled in so many ways to beat back the demons of her depression and to embrace the woman she was before her employment at the casino, while trying to heal the broken down human being she was when she left their employ.
Brenda experienced bullying in a number of ways and was the recipient of hurtful words and actions. Unless you have a total grasp about what PTSD is you cannot comprehend Brenda’s pain. PTSD is not a mental illness. It is a debilitating anxiety disorder brought about by traumatic events and symptoms typically start within three months of the event.
On September 23, 2010 at 10:57 a.m. Brenda posted on the website for the Bullying Institute in Washington State. Brenda wrote: “It's been almost 2 years since I lost my job to bullying. I had nails put in my tire. My time card was edited twice by the manager to get me in trouble. That was proven to be false due to my badge proxy opening the door to the lounge & computer sales showing I was on the job. My file was padded with negative letters from co-workers, without me being told. I was constantly humiliated, chastised & iced out in front of customers, yelled at for no reason, all because of my strong work ethic, popularity with customers & quick wit. I have documentation for everything & there's nothing I can do.”
Brenda’s depression and anxiety were by-products of her PTSD and there were a number of factors that pre-disposed Brenda to developing PTSD from the bullying she was subjected to at the Tulalip casino. Brenda was female; had experienced previous trauma and had been abused and neglected as a child. None of that in any way excuses or mitigates the casino’s role in Brenda’s PTSD.
When I think about how words have the ability to heal or harm, I have to wonder at the depths some people will go to create pain, chaos or to be right. Words that cut to the bone, injure the heart and inflict far greater damage that bruises and broken bones. Bullying is psychological torture and if we can’t maintain control over what we speak, then maybe we shouldn’t speak at all. Intentional infliction of pain is unconscionable.
Ultimately, Brenda's being bullied on the job led to Brenda being diagnosed with acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We all suffered from PTSD after we lost our mom so horrifically. Brenda struggled for two years, her anxiety and depression becoming insurmountable.
A year ago, on Sunday, September 25, 2011, Brenda took her own life. Brenda had reached a place of not being able to feel; of not being the person she had once been. Brenda fought for the little girl she had been and the grown woman she had become and continuous acts of bullying rent the fabric of who Brenda was to tatters. Brenda’s story will be painful and you may hear and read things that you find offensive. I am about exposing the bullies in our midst and protecting and speaking up for those victims incapable of doing so for themselves. We all know bullies…I encourage you to help their victims so another loved one doesn’t become lost in a valley of torment so vast that we cannot find them and help them heal.
Help us in this cause! Bullies Not Allowed... Bullying is a national epidemic and we need to increase not only awareness of the issues surrounding bullying, but its cost, both in terms of human suffering and loss of life.
All Works Cited
(n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2011, from www.readingeagle.com: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=160573
Carol Watkins, M. (2008, November 15). Types of Bullies and Victims of Bullies. Retrieved November 4, 2011, from http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/bullies/types-of-bullies-victims-of-bullying/menu-id-172/
What Are the Effects of Bullying on the Victim? (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2011, from ezinearticles.com: What-Are-the-Effects-of-Bullying-on-the-Victim?&id=4114674Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/4114674
November 4, 2011