Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bullying, Intolerance and ADHD

Bullying, Intolerance and ADHD

I have an extremely vivid imagination. As a child with undiagnosed ADD (ADHD) I used my imagination to escape to somewhere better, somewhere I was special and where I felt appreciated. In my first book One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir, I wrote of how I imagined I was Commander Mart, a superhero who flew through the skies on the back of a beautiful, incredible flying silver horse I named Pegasus! In my imagination I felt good about myself, I felt whole and I felt well.

The thing is though, sometimes my imagination got me into a lot of trouble because I would escape into it whenever I was bored, uninspired or when I was under pressure and scared. I didn’t know it then, but I used my imagination as a survival skill. I felt comfortable in my imagination, I was in control there and nobody could hurt me because I was Commander Mart and I could fly away on Pegasus.

Over the years I have blocked out that I was a frequent target of bullies in grade school. But yesterday I was reminded of one particular bully who started out as my friend. To this so-called friend, I shared what my daydreams were about. I told him the fantastic stories of visiting distant worlds as Commander Mart and flying through the skies on my silver Pegasus. Later, when he became my tormenter he would tell me that I shouldn’t dream of being Commander Mart, that it was a silly dream and that a Pegasus was only a myth and was stupid. Those words stung my young ears and heart. My imaginative escape was being attacked and put down. I felt like an idiot at first for sharing my secret world with him and then for enjoying my adventurous daydreams myself.

Bullies attack where they think a person is most vulnerable in order to feel better themselves about their own insecurities. They try to manipulate situations, control other’s behavior and demean others’ self worth in order to feel good. It’s the ultimate power trip for a bully to think that they have succeeded in bringing you down or in planting that seed of doubt in your mind. Bullies hunger for a sense of self worth, because more than likely someone has bullied them before they ever attack someone. They desire to fill an emotional void in their lives at anyone else’s expense. It would be years before I learned that bullies lack the healthy self esteem that they are so determined to undermine in everyone else. Unfortunately, they feed off of negative attention so confronting them often plays into their hands.

As a kid my bully’s comments made me feel stupid and ashamed about daydreaming that I was flying to beautiful worlds as Commander Mart, one of the coping methods I used unknowingly as someone with undiagnosed ADD. My wonderful, active imagination became a curse for me, because someone else convinced me it was. I was effectively bullied, then.

Now, I respond differently to would be bullies. Recently I received emails from someone who reminded me of that bully from grade school, whom I hadn’t thought about in years. In the emails, the sender writes that I am ridiculous to think positively about my life with ADHD. I’ve heard that one before, but the person goes on to demand how and what I should write in my personal blog, and became quite offensive to the point I simply stopped reading the skewed perception and I started wondering if the person actually had seriously read my blog, or was he simply raging. Well, it was indeed raging and I don’t have time for that nonsense. Bullies think they can dominate by force, or gain influence in some way by spewing obscenities and/or attacking one’s view, but in reality society in general has no use for them and neither do I. I am compassionate for ignorance because people can learn, but I have no use for intolerance.

I am far from the impressionable kid I once was, and am confident in my message of hope and encouragement to my readers. To read my blog is anyone’s choice. That bully would be better served by reading elsewhere, but alas, as bullies are, they are not simply content with going elsewhere because they don’t know how to, so not only are they bullies, but they can also be stalkers. They are lost and seek negative attention. They would be better served seeking help. How dare someone try to control and manipulate what I do, say or believe, or, even, write about. Personal blog 101: It’s what the writer wants it to be; it’s one’s thoughts and opinions.

Funny how an email can remind you of a time you had long forgotten, a time when kids bullied others kids for their lunch money and for playground dominance. It’s a shame that adults can be bullies too. That they seem to have a need to impose their will and control others, or that they think they can, would be amusing to me now if it wasn’t so destructive and dangerous.

I never completely stopped daydreaming about Commander Mart and my silver Pegasus as a kid, in fact I wrote about my imaginative escape in my first book, One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir, which has been read by thousands of people and would have never made it into the book if I had allowed a childhood bully to continue to influence me. I did not let that bully from my past influence me as an adult, just as I do not let them influence me today. I feel sad for them. If they wouldn’t become so dangerous to others it would be almost laughable, but they are extremely destructive and feel the need to attack over and over again, especially when they do not get their way.

One Boy’s Struggle would have been an incomplete story without Commander Mart in it. I am glad a bully didn’t stop me from writing about my experiences. Not everyone is so fortunate.

What do you think of bullies that tell you what you should do, how you should do it and think they can manipulate you through anger, insults and intolerance?

*I feel for people that suffer bullies in their life. The real problem is that bullies can’t seem to just stop. Several emails later from the same person, the insults just pile up and I wonder how they can be helped. I decided not to respond to any of them and instead was reminded of being a kid in grade school, hence this blog post. I am sure the emailer will read it and just continue. Unfortunately, that’s the way bullies tend to be. I feel sorry for their inner agony, because after all, I know it’s not really about me. Bullying is about projection and although I do feel some sympathy, it still cannot be tolerated. I think of Megan Meier, who happened to have ADHD, and cannot find any room for bullies’ behavior to be acceptable.

Megan Taylor Meier (November 6, 1992 – October 17, 2006) was an American teenager from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, who committed suicide by hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. A year later, Meier’s parents prompted an investigation into the matter and her suicide was attributed to cyber-bullying through the social networking website MySpace. Excerpted from: Suicide of Megan Meier – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia