Our website primarily features blogs that I have written for one of two categories: Catholic Christian spirituality or mental illness, primarily major depression and anxiety. The spirituality-focused pieces can be found under the title “Your Fellow Pilgrim.” Why that name for those blogs? Click YFP. And those pieces sharing stories or information about mental illness will be listed under “Confronting Depression.” Why? Read on.
What do you do with a bully?
Family therapist Roger S. Gil once opined that people become bullies primarily so they can be “in a position of power over their victims.” Our four of our children made it through school without becoming such a victim — at least not on a consistent basis — and I’m pretty sure none of them ever played the role of bully.
Maybe it’s because I have two young grandsons, but it seems like the topic is more discussed now than it was 20-25 years ago. Curious, I recently glided around the internet looking for advice I could give Colin or Lukas if ever they had to face the situation. At www.kidshealth.org, I found this advice for “Dealing With Bullies.”
If The Bully Says or Does Something to You
- Ignore the bully. If you can, try your best to ignore the bully’s threats.
- Stand up for yourself. Pretend to feel really brave and confident.
- Don’t bully back.
- Don’t show your feelings.
- Tell an adult.
Donna suffered at the actions of a person who mentally and emotionally bullied her for several years. She still struggles with some side-effects similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Difficult to see. And I often feel helpless when the feelings overwhelm her.
I know the feeling; I’m the victim of bullying. The bully is not a person, rather it is a relentless illness, a mental illness.
Please don’t tell me I’m comparing apples and oranges. Please don’t tell me I’m dismissing the serious nature of being bullied, either as a child or adult. I take the subject seriously.
My depression and anxiety are chronic; after 14 years, it’s clear they aren’t going away on their own. Like me when I’m enduring a major depressive episode, someone who is being bullied can have increased feelings of loneliness and sadness, they might not sleep or eat like normal, and they could lose interest in things they used to enjoy. That person might react by isolating herself or himself, and might not want to discuss it for fear of further troubles. Victims of a bully – like victims of mental illness – can turn to self-medication and escape with substance abuse and suicide.
A look at the “Dealing With Bullies” list shows there are differences in appropriate advice and treatment. Like that “ignore the bully” idea. Just try to ignore depression, a bully that doesn’t pay a lick of attention to whether you react or not. The sadness, the tears, the low energy, the lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyable – actually, the more you ignore, the worse it gets.
Don’t show your feelings? Suppressing what the depression is doing to you means the feelings build inside, without acknowledgment or treatment. That only leads to more dangerous territory.
I think the three others on the list show there are similarities between the strategies of battling a “human bully” and of dealing with clinical depression:
- Stand up for yourself. Putting on a brave face isn’t easy, so don’t force that. It’s okay to be concerned, because that means you know it’s a real and serious illness. Acknowledge that it indeed is an illness caused by physical problems. It’s not your fault. “Standing up for yourself” against the bully of depression means three important things: You want to get better, you believe you deserve to get better, and you have hope.
- Don’t bully back. ’t fight fair. Punching back might lead to more problems than you realize. Depression elevates weakness in a person; there likely isn’t enough strength to whip it by sheer will. Recognize that there are some battles that demand you get help, so see your primary care doctor, your psychiatrist, your therapist. Take your medication and follow sensible advice.
- Tell an adult. Or in the case of fighting “bully depression,” tell someone. Anyone. And tell more than one person. Tell your family and close friends. If someone brings up the subject in casual conversation, not knowing you have an illness, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you have a mental illness. If something stays in the darkness, then its stigma lives. Eliminate the stigma; eliminate the bully.
Stand up for yourself, respond by soliciting help, bring it out into the open – in other words, confront the bully, in the form of a human or a mental illness. Addressing the bully, accosting the illness head-on can give the victim a fighting chance.
Eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Erase the disgrace people with depression might feel. Say yes to eradication, no to humiliation.