Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Shame on all of us for not stopping bullying

By Monica Vest Wheeler

How many headlines does it take for us to fully examine our personal behavior?

How many more children have to kill themselves before we regain our civility as a society?

Saddened, disheartened, heartbroken, angry, downright pissed … that's how my gut rolled when I read the story behind the obituary of an 11-year-old boy … a Peoria boy who committed suicide after relentless bullying.

It was inexcusable. It was devastating. It IS unacceptable.

Eleven years old.

Shame on all of us for not stopping bullying … at all ages.

Shame on all of us for not standing up to kids who bully.

Shame on all of us for not standing up to the parents who let their kids bully.

Shame on all of us for not standing up to adults who bully.

And stop making excuses for people in power who thrive on bullying. They're not leaders. They're bullies and cowards. Every one of them.

Bullies love to show off how big or important they THINK they are.

They aren't big or important. They're weak and spineless.

Parents who don't teach their kids manners and respect are lazy and selfish. Yep, I'm saying it.

I've witnessed it in person. My son was bullied in middle school. It was heartbreaking. But I took it to the parent of the bully, and she was stunned to learn of his behavior. He tried to squirm out of it, but finally admitted he had emotionally and physically attacked my son. I do give her a LOT of credit for taking a stand and demanding her son apologize to my son.

I took a stand. I held someone accountable.

And he never bothered my son again.

Do YOU take a stand when you see something "bad" going on? When was the last time YOU spoke up when you witnessed cruelty? Or were YOU afraid of what people might say?

Is vanity or pride more important than YOUR God-given conscience? Where are YOUR priorities?

I've also witnessed the tragic consequences of apathy and selfishness by looking into the eyes of Holocaust survivors around this nation. They witnessed the murder of family and friends by hateful, cowardly bullies who ruled by fear.

The Nazis targeted a group of people just because they were Jewish. They executed children in front of their parents. They herded and shot them line by line falling into pits on top of each other's bodies. They stripped them naked and forced them into gas chambers where unimaginable panic and terror likely consumed them before the gas finished the job.

Six million Jewish men, women and children murdered. Six million.

Six million. Say that aloud or does it scare you too much? Say it anyway!!

Six million.

I've been to Germany and seen the buildings full of forms documenting murder and sickening habits of daily lice counts and so much more. I've been to the Auschwitz death camp and walked upon the ashes of victims. I've cried with survivors and been forever transformed by the experience.

I've been involved with the Peoria Holocaust Memorial since 2002 and am proud to witness its relocation to the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

I dare YOU to take a stand and be part of its dedication, its rebirth, at 2 p.m. Sunday April 23, in downtown Peoria. I dare YOU to stick around and listen to one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors who will speak afterward in the museum auditorium.

I DARE YOU to look within those glass stars and triangles and remember that every button represents a life brutally ended because someone else didn't speak up and take a stand. Would you have been one of them?

The bigger question is: who are YOU today?

Do you talk badly publicly OR privately about blacks, whites, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans OR any other population that aren't PERFECT like YOU?

If you do, you're a bully. You're a coward. You're weak. You are NOT perfect. And neither is anyone else.

I will NOT tolerate intolerance any more. And I mean it.

You want more reasons why? I've got two presentations I'd love to share with your group or community. Contact me at info@copeandsurvive.com or 877-267-4640.

• For high school and teen audiences: "Tolerance is NOT a Joke": This presentation ties in the lessons of the Holocaust and how the most horrific chapters of human history exploded out of hatred and intolerance. It includes stories that illustrate the message of how tolerance is respect, kindness, an attitude, takes practice and much more. Young people are encouraged to think before they speak, text and post online and how bullying is reportedly leading to more teen suicides. The overriding theme is that each person — no matter their age — has the power to destroy or save the world.

• For general adult audiences: "Look at YOUR Level of Tolerance in the Mirror": Building upon the above program, this goes into more depth with harder-hitting questions about personal behavior and responsibility, the increasing brutality and insensitivity of social media, and the examples we set for our children.

And lastly, I want you to look into each pair of eyes pictured here.

They're lives cut short all because of bullying, intolerance and hatred …

Let me know how you sleep tonight if you didn't speak up today. 

PLEASE SHARE … your experience of being bullied, no matter where or when or by who, and how you were affected physically, emotionally and/or spiritually. Drop me a line at info@copeandsurvive.com because I want to keep educating the world on the impact and danger of bullying. You can share your story anonymously, if you wish. We can only stop it together. Let's collectively turn our empathy into action.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The cure for pain may be close at hand

By Monica Vest Wheeler

Pain is a royal pain, isn't it?

The frustration of not being able to fully convey something only YOU can explain, AND someone else getting "it," is maddening and saddening … especially when it comes to the issue of individual pain … no matter its source.

We're not all created "equal" … in our pain tolerance.

In my countless hours of being with and serving individuals confronted with the deeply personal challenge of REAL pain — whether the cause is visible or unseen bodily discomfort, or the physical ramifications of emotional and/or spiritual aching — I've heard every description and witnessed so many tears of loss and anger. Some people suffer in silence … some proclaim that agony loudly …

No, we're not all created "equal" when it comes to pain.

I tell the following story NOT out of seeking comfort or sympathy, but to share what I've learned about pain recently.

I tumbled on the ice in Indiana, two days after Dad passed away unexpectedly. My left knee took the whole force of the fall. I told myself I had no time to be down. My bonus mom and the rest of the family needed me as much as I needed them to get through the real tragedy … losing Dad, NOT my bad ice walking skills.

I hobbled through the following days emotionally and physically. By mid-February, the knee pain intensified, and I had my doctor check it out. I was referred to a specialist, but the earliest appointment was six weeks away. I got myself a Velcro brace to ease those fearful moments of it giving out, and drove to Las Vegas and Louisiana for my beloved camps serving stroke and traumatic brain injury survivors and caregivers. (Thankfully it wasn't my driving leg!)

When you focus on and care for others, it does take your mind off your own discomfort. One of the best treatments in the world for what ails you! I highly recommend it!!

Then I'd wait for a private moment to cry when the temporary waves of pain were overwhelming … before getting back to work again. And that was okay.

During my visit with the physician last week, he said he didn't see anything other than arthritis and inflammation in the X-rays and MRI. He was very nice but he couldn't understand why I was experiencing so much pain. When he felt around the knee, it hurt like h-e-double hockey sticks. My husband Roger also explained that while I have had an incredible tolerance for the chronic pain of fibromyalgia for nearly 20 years, I also have a very low threshold for sharp pain.

Yep, I passed out once after dropping a book on my foot.

Yep, I passed out once from getting blood drawn after being poked too many times.

Yep, I passed out once trying on contact lens. (Imagine that eye doctor's surprise!)

And there are several other sharp pain moments that sent me to la-la land …

When the doctor administered a numbing injection before the real thing, the pain was very real, prompting several "ow ow ow!" though I tried visualizing being anywhere else. He encouraged me to relax, and my tears then rolled in silence … because I didn't want to be a pain.

No, we're not all created "equal" when it comes to pain … because we're all wired differently.

Some have high tolerance or are great actors to hide it. There are some who say "ouch!" when you look at them "the wrong way."

There's also no clear understanding why some individuals opt for a declaration of pain only to get attention. Or those folks who need some redirection to stop focusing on it, real or imagined.

I remember my dad-in-law complaining about pain as he became somewhat of a hypercondriac in his dementia. I'd try a few things before determining if we really needed to see a doctor. When I redirected him or changed the subject, he forgot his pain mantra 99 percent of the time. Then when I asked how his leg or whatever ailed him earlier was feeling, he said he was fine. I'd touch the area in question or ask him to move it, and he was fine.

There is no one answer or cure for everyone's pain. Our economy now runs on it.

What I remembered too late during my own experience was that the most basic human connections do help ease physical and/or emotional pain. So many times I've offered a hand to hold to a loved one or friend who was in pain or afraid, and I was either comforting or distracting. They'd often thank me later for that gesture.

I didn't think I needed it for myself, but I should have asked Roger to hold my hand. I didn't because I didn't want him to be in the medical staff's way. We know that now and going forward that I need a hand in more ways than one, so they'd better make room.

You have a miracle in those God-given tools … and a responsibility to give and receive these drug-free doses of human compassion.

Yes, the cure for pain may be close at hand.