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Letter to Bradley – Age 12 Wednesday September 6, 2017

[To listen to an audio version of this blog, please follow this link:]

Dear Bradley,

Your mother phoned me last night and she is worried. You know she is worried and I know you don't want her to worry, but – let's face it, if you were your mother, you'd be worried too, wouldn't you?

She phoned me because she'd heard that my daughter, your friend from Primary School, has self-harming issues too. She thought I might understand.

I do understand, although not for the reason she thinks.

What I want to say to you, Bradley, is that you're not alone. You may think you are. You may think that you're the only one who feels like this. You may think that something must be wrong with you; that somehow, you're a failure because you can't cope. You might feel weak because you can't shrug off the bullying – or stand up to the bullies.

And because the darkness has overwhelmed you.

So, you cut yourself because the bright pain overcomes the dark for a brief time. And because this is a pain you can control, even if you cannot control the desire for this pain. You cannot control the hurt of the dark, but you can control the bright bloom of pain. It's all that keeps you going sometimes.

You need to know you are not a failure and you are not weak; you have the illness known as depression. Your mother says you call it the sadness. That's as good a name as any. Some of us here call it the black dog, although that's an insult to all dogs everywhere. For me it's a dirty grey monster that swallows me up whole, and cuts me off from everyone. I call my monster Leviathan; it's just a bit easier if it has a name.

I admire you so much for talking to your mother, for explaining to her how things are for you. For many of us that is impossible. We are dumb, and unable to confide in anyone.

I am sorry you are having to cope with the bullies; those monsters who just look human. They exist everywhere and take joy in hurting us; hurting us physically and emotionally – even spiritually. They steal our joy and stamp our energy into the ground. They carry the sadness with them and cast it over us like a net so we cannot escape and then they laugh at us as we struggle.

But I want you to know you are not alone. You are not alone and you are not friendless and there are people out here who understand.

We understand because we live in the darkness, the sadness, too. We know how it is to struggle every day to get out of bed because we dread the day ahead. We know how it is to grasp anything that promises a brief respite or escape from the pain – even if that respite or escape is more pain.

You're not alone in the dark, because we're here too, and we're fighting with you.

Welcome to our band of heroes, Bradley. You're safe here.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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the room above the garage Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:22am

My heart breaks for Bradley and I want to tell him just how ok it can be, that he can and will get out from where he is now. My son is having bullying problems too. I think the worst part is the timing, teenage bullying hurts more than any other time. There is enough harm happening here, do not give your bully power to hurt even more by letting it become your responsibility to handle their insecurity. And they are insecure. We all are but most of us carry it with compassion. You have an army of people in your corner. Talk and we will listen. Love ratg x.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:10am

Through his mother, I have invited "Bradley " to Moodscope. But he needs a "Moodscope" for his own age. My elder daughter also has a friend, whom she loves very much, who has been in and out of hospital for a year with mental health health issues. I want to help, but do not know how. My daughter's compassion for her friend, however, has been forged in the crucible of coping with my bipolar. I am proud of my daughter for being such a good friend, when most of other friends have fallen away.

The Gardener Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 4:26pm

Mary, this may be my age speaking but most of the young people I know are glued to Facebook - where bullying cannot even be monitored. Is it my fancy or do young people have difficulties maintaining relationships unless it is through the theoretical impersonality of a screen? 10 years ago it was coffee bars, I think. One of our sons started depression at 13 - we persuaded him to see a doctor - but the roots were well set in, and the 'black dog' (french Cafard I think) snaps at his heels all the time. Luckily he has responded well to help - but oh, the frustration of coping with the teenager who puts up a shield

Ach UK Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:25am

A horrible place to be. Thank you Mary for the clarity of your post. Extending a hand, telling that one is not alone.
That can make such a difference. XX.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:10am

I hope so

Pennie-Lynn Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:34am

"So, you cut yourself because the bright pain overcomes the dark for a brief time. And because this is a pain you can control, even if you cannot control the desire for this pain."

What a wonderfully accurate description of self harm. I cut, and it is a coping technique that is frequently misunderstood in psychiatric circles. It is frequently labeled as attention seeking and associated with Borderline Personality Disorder alone when it is simply an attempt to cope with a terrible darkness caused by many different illnesses.

It hurts to think of someone so young in such enormous pain that they must resort to so drastic a treatment, but it is good that there is a community who understand.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:14am

I do not know if I understand. But I empathise. Tom's ex-girlfriend Jennie, who I loved very much as a history of cutting, and had two bad episodes when they lived with us last year. Challenging to deal with, but illuminating.

Orangeblossom Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:37am

Thanks Mary for your very informative & enlightening blog. I think that I will need to read it again.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:16am

No. Not if this is not for you. I wrote this at the beginning of Summer. Webe published it now because of the back to school thing. It will not speak to or be relevant to everyone.

LP Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:29am

Hi Mary,
So sad that at such a young age Bradley has these painful things to face. I hope there is counselling or therapy to help him manage. What a contrast to our thoughts yesterday about playfulness and childhood. I'm now thinking that it could be seen as a child protection issue. Is the bullying the only reason for Bradley's depression and self harm? I saw a heartwarming story of a boy who was being bullied being supported by a group of hells angels, gentle caring people who no one would mess with! I hope the school are taking it seriously. I saw another program ( watch a lot of telly!) where a boy in year 7 who was being picked on was buddies up with an older boy who had had similar background and experiences.
It's bad enough that we as adults have these things to contend with, but I feel it's unacceptable for any child to have what is essentially their freedom squashed.
I'm sending lots of love, support and wishes for moments of playful childhood joy to Bradley, ratgs son and All. LPxxx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:24am

Indeed. Bradley no longer goes to the same school as my daughter. She has experienced some bullying on the school bus, and this was dealt with swiftly and effectively. In this case the boys were just having a "bit of fun" but we're firmly shown that their behaviour was not acceptable. I only hope the school Bradley attends is as good.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:25am


LP Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:30am


Hopeful One Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:49am

Hi Mary- a compassionate and loving blog- two things that individuals in Bradley's situation need in bucketfuls. Depression is not of course the only reason for self harm.Anxiety and indeed anything that cause unbearable stress will lead some individuals to self harm- again cutting is only one kind,hair pulling ,burning oneself are others but not all by any means.

The subject is very sombre and I debated whether to have our laugh which could be construed as somehow not appreciating the seriousness of the issue you raise. I can assure all fellow Moodscopers that is not the case at all.

So here goes .....for those Moodscopers needing a mood lift.But I am prepared for brickbats!

Answers to questions in an exam for 12 year olds ( age -pure coincidence)

Q In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

Q What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

LP Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:03am

There is always room for joy HO! Intercontinental!! :)) xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:27am

You are quite right HO. In Brsdley's case i am very sure it is all of ghose things. He is receiving profeesional ppsychiatric help and i only pray he gets through this.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:28am

And - we always need to laugh!

Jane SG Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:22am

Hi Mary I found this blog very moving. Strength and love to Bradley.
Also thank you to your daughter for supporting her friend. X

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:27am

Thank you Jane. One feels so helpless.

Salt Water Mum Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:31am

Oh Mary, my heart is breaking for Bradley. Your post is so strong and poignant. You are right, he is not alone. But he is in pain. I am thinking of him, your daughter's friend and Tom's ex. We had this in our lives too with a little princess aged 11. Hugs, peace and compassion to all, SWM x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:55am

Thank you SWM.

Poppy Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 12:23pm

Child bullies grow up to become adult bullies.

The reason for my last and 9-year-long breakdown was due to workplace bullying. It was extraordinary! I was hospitalized after an incident at work. I was an executive working for a nonprofit. The board had an insidious member with a history of destroying lives. After I returned home to convalesce, 2 board members showed up at my door on a Sunday morning demanding to see me! My husband, a burly, no-nonsense retired cop, gave them Hell.

I mention this because bullying is even bigger than society realizes. Some studies are being done, but very few. The bullies need help and intervention just as urgently as the "victims!" They have clear mental, emotional, and social issues that need to be addressed. They grow up bullying, their victims' behavior is repeatedly rewarding (according to whatever twisted need they have, in the same way as a need is fulfilled with self harm), and the behavior strengthens. Co-workers ignore bullying behavior or even support it out of fear of retribution —being overlooked for promotion, being reprimanded, or even fired.

Think how often you hear stories of rallying to support a bully's target, but the bully is wholly ignored.

Bullies are not just evil that needs to be punished, but a social anathema that needs corrective as well as consequential response, the same way we have come to think of alcohol/drug abuse or family violence.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:55am

Poppy, Of course you are absolutely right. I thought about this when writing the blog, but there is only so much you can do with 500 words; and this was addressing the bullied, not the bully. Going back to my point above with my daughter's experience on the school bus: the boys concerned were treated with respect and with compassion. It was understood in this case that they had acted thoughtlessly and without empathy and this was pointed out to them. Yes, the behaviour must be stopped, but you are right that both sides need a compassionate and understanding response

Poppy Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 3:41pm

I know I was changing the subject a bit, but reading your blog today made me think of the future consequences of today's problems. In a simpler day and time, we could let kids sort things out in the play yard. Educators now have so many responsibilities beyond teaching the Rs. Now we expect them to understand the psychological consequences of the school environment. I didn't mean to suggest you had ignored the other side. (500 words can be a tight squeeze for such complex subjects!)

The Gardener Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 4:40pm

Three women were sitting round my kitchen table - me, and two of my daughters' age. Their fathers and my husband have turned into bullies - Alzheimers figures in all three relationships - but we all three realise that they were already verging on the tyrannical - and ALL the men consider that as they have worked all their lives their wives/daughters are now virtual slaves. All the women were professionals, salaried in their own right and with pensions. My b-in-law, 91 and pretty sick, now treats HIS daughter as a near slave - not considering her private life at all, she's sweet girl, my niece, (girl? 63!) but I had an hour of her troubles last night. All this 'modern' freedom, we are in Victorian times it would seem

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:11pm

Poppy, I totally relate to your comment as they were my thoughts too. I was bullied as a child, won't ever forget it. My sister is now friends with one of my bullies. Sister thinks I should leave the past in the past but this bully conveniently does not remember and on the couple of occasions I have unavoidably been in the same place as her, and tried to say 'hello' she cannot even look me! Totally agree that bullies are insecure too and need their own 'help' but when I remember this, I'm not so understanding! I also went through bullying in the workplace. Along the lines you said, no-one would do anything about it or want to get involved. It was shocking at times, what I have experienced myself and what I have witnessed with others.

Poppy Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:58pm

I was bullied as a child and still have scars. I don't feel particularly charitable to the people who hurt others, especially when they know better. It's hard to admit having such hot anger about things from 50 years ago, but to deny the anger would be worse for me. As with behavior modification with dogs (I am a trainer), some things you can cure and some you just have to manage. I have trouble believing that people would be bullies by choice. Surely something is wrong with them; they wouldn't bully knowing they are being hurtful and but not caring?. Would they? I am being naive? I'm too old for naivete.

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:42pm

No not naive at all. I feel the same way about murderers for instance. There must be something not wired properly in the brain. I try to understand it all to the pointjJ it just is impossible to understand at times but I have always felt that there is no such thing as evil, surely anyone who acts in a certain way, that is not 'normal' are suffering from mental health issues. Many people have them in different shapes and forms but as you say, mostly they are in denial.

Lexi Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 2:53pm

Dear Mary, such a heart wrenching blog. We don't want to think so much pain affects one so young, but it does. I went through it - not the cutting but severe depression - and I watch for it in my own young daughter. We need to be vigilantes for the children, be there for them, help them even when we are not sure what to do or when. A 17 year old high school girl in our community died a few weeks ago. A suicide/accident. An avoidable tragedy but yet how to reach her? How to reach others when they think there is no other way? What will I do/how will I explain to my own daughter if she goes through it, that it will get better, when even I struggle with it? I want to be a safe harbor for her. Being a safe harbor for her, for others, is my own safe harbor. It keeps me going. But the sadness, fear in others, especially children, is heart breaking.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:51pm

We fear for our children most. I too, examine my own children. We cannot help it.

Kelly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 6:11pm

My heart does break for these kids...because I was one and self-harm is something I still struggle with at times. I'm in my mid-thirties. I don't have bullies anymore except for the most awful bully...who speaks to me with my own voice.

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 7:46pm

Good point Kelly. I think I am the same. I beat myself up at every living moment.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:54pm

Yes Kelly, it is we ourselves who are the worst bullies of all. Interestingly enough, I find that, with medication, my internal bully has been silenced. Instead of abusing me for making mistakes or behaving badly, she says forgivingly, "well, we're all human after all." I cannot believe how chemicals can influence my thoughts. I will, of course, blog about this! ;)

Kelly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:47pm

It's gotten a whole lot quieter for me with meds. After years and years of not being able to say I didn't hate myself I was talking to a friend and it dawned on me that I no longer do.

Beth Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:06pm

So eloquently put Mary. I hope Bradley's pain is heard and responded to. Sometimes it seems that the cuts are all that matter and the pain behind can remain unseen. I'm unable to get the help I need because i'm not cutting enough. Yet, when I don't cut, I am bearing the unbearable which is slowly destroying me. I pray that the deep wounds in our souls and minds can be treated and seen as clearly as the cuts on my arms. Of course, I could get help by cutting more...but I won't. I will keep putting one foot in front of the other and being grateful for the one person who hears the pain without needing the evidence on my body. Love to you all.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:56pm

Beth - love back to you. Thank you for commenting. And - I think other Moodscopers have responded to you more eloquently than I can.

Sal Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 9:41am

Oh Beth, bearing the unbearable.... may you find a jewel of strength in yourself that is indestructible! (I trust and believe that it's there). I hope you go on receiving that lovely listening from your one person, and that in future you receive even more the listening and caring that you need and deserve. Such strength you already have, that you keep putting one foot in front of the other. I respect that. Love, Sal

Poppy Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 8:53pm

Beth, you are heard. I care. I know other Moodscopers care.

What I needed to hear in some of my darkest days I will say to you: I will be here caring about you no matter what. There's nothing you can do to make me stop caring. I KNOW that it will get better. I can't promise when, but it will get better. If you can't believe that now, then I will believe it for you. If you can't pray for yourself and hope for yourself, I will pray and hope for you.

Dragonfly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:36pm

This is just the kindest comment Poppy x

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:57pm

Poppy - I think you have just expressed, in the best possible terms, what we would all like to say to Beth. Thank you.

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:21pm

I have never self harmed, but I can't eat, this is no doubt a way of self harming. I will almost create an argument when I'm trying to eat. If anything distracts me, I won't be able to eat. I have no idea where this has come from as I always enjoyed eating. If I manage to put some food in front of me, I then can only eat two mouthfuls. I am really worried about it and I am unsure how I am surviving on so little food. My life is a mess actually, whilst I know all the logical answers, there just aren't any.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:59pm

Molly - I don't have any words for you, just hugs. You are loved and valued here. And - fix yourself those Complan drinks - loads of nutrients in them.

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:26pm

To be honest, if I could go and buy complan drinks and actually drink them, then I would not have a problem eating in the first place. It's one of those logical answers. If I could fix myself, I would !

Anonymous Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 6:28pm

Forgot to say thank you for your kind words.

Salt Water Mum Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:53pm

Please take care Bradley, Molly, Beth, Kelly, Lexi, Poppy, Pennie-Lynn, Mary's young friends, RATG's son, TG's niece, all and everyone in pain or who has been. I suppose no one is a member here who hasn't or doesn't suffer in some way.
Poppy, I found your words very moving. We are so fragile. And teenagers and pre-teens the most fragile of all.
I want to wrap my kids up and protect them and yet they do have to learn to fight their battles I know that and yet....
I wish for Hope, compassion, good sleep and good food (dear Molly, mind yourself) to all here, SWM x

Molly Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:27pm

Thank you SWM

Mary Wednesday Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 9:59pm

Good sleep and good appetite. Bless you all.

Becky Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 10:30pm

My inner child needs this letter. My heart is aching because no one said any of that at the time. I never gave them the chance. I didn't speak because there seemed to be no point in speaking. I tried and gave up by the time I was 6. I am very glad you published this. But it's children now who need to read it. So much.

Poppy Wed, Sep 6th 2017 @ 11:18pm

Unfortunately, I don't think our parents or the adults in our lives knew what to say or do, and they did their best at the time. Also unfortunate is the anger I harbor, especially toward my mother, for not protecting me. "You want to die!" she said to me at age 5 when my father crashed his fist into my face. "You better be careful what you wish for," or "That's nonsense. There are people in this world much worse off than we are." Then she wondered why my psychiatrist wouldn't let her see me when I was last hospitalized. We hear you. There is a point in speaking here. You are heard, and your words and feelings are valid and accepted, you are accepted just for who are now and who you will be.

Molly Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 12:26am

I don't believe reading a letter would have made everything ok. Personally I would not have even understood this letter at 12 years old. I understand the concept of Mary's blog but if the content of the blog is to be taken literally and this is a real life scenario, then I would imagine that the boy would be pretty horrified that his mother had even gone and told other people about what he was suffering after he probably built up his own courage to tell his mother. My mother had a habit of doing this (still does) because she did not trust her own opinions and was too weak to deal with something herself - therefore consulted others, one of the reasons I am paranoid to this day. Especially at a tender age of 12, things should be kept confidential. I am surprised therefore that the boy has been encouraged to look at Moodscope, only to see what has been written about him, causing more vulnerability. He will no doubt think again before he tells anyone anything. Back to square one.

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 5:10am

Dear Molly. "Bradley" is not Bradley of course; details have been changed "to protect the innocent" and in my experience (moderately extensive) nobody ever recognises themselves when I write about them! They do however recognise that there is "someone just like me" out there, no longer feel alone and are comforted.

Anonymous Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 2:37am

I am not sure if this is suited for people that struggle with life, i think it brings out things that people do not want to be reminded with as they have buried it as much as they can and reminders of painful things from the past. people are experiencing their every day lives and we all want to help others but we are trying to take care of ourselves and part of the problem is because we are worrying about others good to do but if we are to help each other then Bradley aged 12 does not help the way i feel and i would like to help but i would like to help starving people and the homeless people on the streets etc. i wonder what the point of this blog is. just picking at peoples old wounds.

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 5:19am

Dear Anonymous. Some people believe, as you do, in repression, bottling it up, stiff upper lip and just getting on with life. That point is perfectly valid. Others believe that, if issues are not brought into the open and dealt with, they can fester and cause more problems. My mother, who does not read this, believes as you do and will never speak of certain things. I, as you might gather, believe powerfully in getting everything out in the open and robbing that pain of its power. We all have wounds. Some choose to hide those wounds, others bear their scars with pride. The people with the scars can sometimes help others more effectively than can they with hidden hurts. You are entitled to your opinion. Go well.

Sal Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 9:53am

Thank you Mary for this profoundly moving blog (I'm catching up a day late). It has brought forth so many deeply touching personal experiences and comments.

I would like to say something on the part of the bullies, who have been understandably condemnned in the comments, but also, by some people, (rightly in my view) seen as also being troubled humans. But now is not a good time for me to say it (maybe I'll blog it in future). In brief, though, the thing that stopped me from bullying was when someone refused to be bullied, but at the same time (instead of rejecting me) stayed connected with me, valuing me and defending my right to just be. I guess the 'right to be' was (is?) one of my deepest issues, and making sure that I was allowed to 'be' took up so much space and energy in my life that the overspill on other people took the form of damage, insensitivity, and what seemed to them to be bullying. It was not done to inflict cruelty (though I guess some bullies do want that), it was unintended. But damaging nonetheless. So, I owe a lot of gratitude to the one who saw through my behaviour to the point of 'hugging a hoodie', and brought me back into connection with the world. Well, I found time after all to say it!

On re-reading, I see the common factor, for bullies and bullied, seems to be the need to feel connected. Thanks again, Moodscope :)... and Moodscopers, you / we are doing a great job!

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 10:16am

Hugging a hoodie! What a wonderful expression. Yesterday, without realising, I did just that. A certain member of our bipolar support group had not been present for the last two meetings. I was so pleased to see him that I asked if I could hug him. After some hesitation, he agreed - and, later on, said it had made his day. He could be seen as intimidating and he does wear a hoodie but inside, he is sensitive and vulnerable. We all are. Those Dementors in human form - I wonder if, inside, their human child is wailing in distress. Thank you, Sal.

Alan Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 2:02pm

Mary, this was a real eye opener. If anyone had ever suggested that I self-harmed I would have laughed out loud. But I do, and I have for years. Not in a way that many people will have considered perhaps but it has all of the hallmarks that you identified. For me it is eating. Even though I am not hungry and a meal might not be far away I will nip into Sainsbury's or M&S and buy a completely unnecessary pastry or two. At worst, a sandwich as well, occasionally a bag of five cookies. The inevitable result is a sugar rush, a bloated feeling and / or nausea, oh and guilt. Lots of guilt. Often I will have to eat dinner soon after making me feel even worse. This sudden realisation may be just what I need.

Mary Wednesday Thu, Sep 7th 2017 @ 4:53pm

There are ma h forms of self-harming, Alan. I was unaware that what I do was self-harming until my therapist alerted me. Now, when happens (it still does from time to time) I try to work out what the trigger-points are: what I am trying to run away from. Sometimes I can't identify them, but at least knowing the overall "why" helps me feel less guilty. And Yes, I can identify with your eating! You may still feel that need to eat, but maybe this realisation is what you need to start your journey of healing. Best wishes to you.

Molly Fri, Sep 8th 2017 @ 2:00am

Alan, this is interesting, as I have the opposite problem. I have never really considered over-eating as a issue but I suppose it is the same kind of thing. Especially if you are trying to diet or lose weight. Strangely enough I have put on weight since I started eating less, I don't know what that is about !! Great that you opened up and shared this. Molly xx

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