Kelly: Turning shame of past bullying into positive actionWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
I’ve shared a lot about my life on the air, and a little more while writing this column. One thing I’ve yet to write about is bullying.
I’ve held back because it’s been in the news a lot, and many people use it as a buzzword. I finally realized I need to tell my story because it may help someone reading.
As host of “The Morning Rush,” I’ve gone to schools and spoken about bullying and how it’s impacted my life. My story was very difficult and embarrassing to tell when I first started to share it. Now I see it as a vehicle to help others.
I have a lot of experience with bullying. My oldest brother was a victim. He was picked on by a large group of kids at his bus stop when he was 13. I never knew anything was going on until I came home from school and my parents told me that he had been taken to a mental hospital. That night will forever stick in my mind, when I learned how powerful bullying can be.
My brother was being physically and mentally bullied at school so often that he decided to try and take his own life. He did not succeed, and I thank God for that every time I tell this story.
When I went to the hospital to see my brother, I was turned away by his doctor. Apparently my brother told them I was partially to blame for his condition. Really? I was 8. How could I be responsible for making someone want to kill himself? I got the answer later when I took part in sessions with my brother’s doctors and my family.
The house I grew up in was physical. I was the youngest of three boys, and I got picked on all the time for being little. I would lash out and try to prove to everyone how big I was. I would hit my brothers and friends. I would call them names and do whatever I could to make sure they knew I wasn’t the weak one.
The damage here is no one ever stopped me. Not my parents — who definitely heard and saw me behave this way. Teachers never said anything, and my friends never told an adult. My behavior continued until I realized it could have cost my brother his life.
One of the first stories I covered at KISS FM was about a kid from Australia who stood up to a bully by picking him up and body-slamming him. He got suspended for it, and it really upset me. I remember saying on air that if someone would have stood up to me, I would have never done the things to the people I had the chance to hurt.
I decided to take that message and team up with anyone who would help. That’s when I was introduced to Dr. Lisa Kovach from the University of Toledo. We have spoken to students about bullying and its effects on young kids and adults. When I tell my story to kids, I always see a look of shock on their faces when I tell them I used to be a bully. That look used to embarrass me because I was ashamed at what I had done, not only to my brother but to the kids I considered my friends.
It’s taken some time, but I’ve turned something I’m not proud of into something I’m more than happy to share. I’ve taken that embarrassment and shame and turned it into a positive by teaching others to take a stand against the bully. You don’t have to meet violence with violence; you just have to have enough courage to tell someone. Hopefully, with my help and the help of others like Kovach, the person you’re telling will know what to do and how to get you help.
This is what I’m encouraging everyone to do. Find something in your life you’ve done wrong and figure out how to right it. It could be as easy — or as hard — as an apology. As long as you take steps to correct mistakes you’ve made, I think you’ll be OK with them.
Sid Kelly is host of “The Morning Rush,” weekday mornings on 92.5 KISS FM.
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