Poised Knife: A Poem

I hold the knife poised over my wrist.
Knowing all the while that it is only temporary insanity that has
Taken hold of me.
I brush my skin with the cool blade
Riding this lava flow of self-deceit.
I press in deeper.

Then pause Gaping at indentations in skin.

It pricks And a pearl of red pools near A pulsing vein While I wonder How much will seep
Before an end to pain.


Stop the Cruelty

Why would a 9-year-old child take her own life? What would lead this beautiful being to such a tragic end? Were there signs that the adults could have been on the lookout for? Last week a loving mother walked in to find her baby, Maddie Whittsitt, a fourth-grader from Birmingham, Alabama unresponsive. Ms. Williams attempted CPR and called 911 but tragically the child died three days later in St. Vincent’s East Hospital.

She had recently been the target of bullying.

We must stop the cruelty! How? As a peace consultant and educator, I have worked for many years to give children tools to become more resilient. Recently I asked one of my former friend mediator students, now sixteen, to join me on Dave Congalton Hometown Radio to look at the long-term effects of early intervention. Mikayla Thompson was the same age as this poor child when she volunteered her recesses to stop bullying on our campus. For two years of elementary school, she worked with a core group of students to promote peace on campus. Using scripts I wrote, non-violence techniques, and assertiveness training these kids helped to make our school a better place.

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But I still didn’t know if the prevention and intervention we attempted had long term-term results.

On Monday, November 19th I picked Mikayla up for the ride to the KVEC Studio. What she shared then and during the next two hours blew me away. Not only has she stood up to bullies for these past six years but she also has comforted victims, helped her siblings work out conflicts, and gone on to volunteer for the Make a Wish foundation. She was a resilient child. I was so proud I just about cried.

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During the interview she was poised, thoughtful, and kind as she shared some of her stories. Not only had early intervention made a difference in her life, but Mikayla was paying it forward and helping other teens to cope. For the entire interview, click on the following link:

Interview with Mikayla and Laurie

Tips for parents and educators:

  1. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior. If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or reluctant to attend school, they might be experiencing bullying.
  2. Ask specific questions about how he/she is interacting with others.
  3. Be vigilant with social media. Cyber-bullying is on the rise.
  4. Role-play ways to deal with bullying as in the Peace Card.
  5. Seek help. My website, Artania.net has scores of free lessons and ideas.Copy of card back

The Darkness: What Bullying Did to Me

If I took the knife and cut into the veins
Would blood or tar spew forth?
If I wrapped the noose around my neck
Would breath or sulfuric acid rasp?
If I swallowed one, then two and a hundred
Would dreams or nightmares fill eternity?

These were the sorts of thoughts I had all through my teens.

For some, the teen-aged years are a carefree time of  friends, sports, and parties. Popular with clear skin and long shining hair, they throw their heads back in laughter as they revel in the wonder of youth.

I was not one of them.

Not even close. I was the shy, nervous kid watching from the shadows hoping to God I remained invisible.  Because some of those popular kids reveled in more than youth. They fed on fear, living to torment me.

Every day it was the same. “Dog.  You are so ugly you make me want to vomit. Freak.”

And soon I believed every word. Until times alone were just a replaying of every word. I was an ugly dog, unworthy of love or friendship. Why even keep living if all I felt was pain?

My suicidal ideations increased. By the time I was fourteen I was ready to steal my mother’s sleeping pills.

I remember holding the bottle in my hand imagining release from the torture. Soon I’d escape.

I took a handful, not caring what happened next, and went to the movies. Sitting alone in the dark theater I drifted to sleep.

When the lights came back up, I was alone, and groggy.  I fumbled for my purse and began the long trudge home.

I survived this incident, eventually finding my niche in college. But all too many teens don’t. They never get to learn that beyond the cruel words and pain there is life waiting.

I’d like to invite others to share their stories. Maybe, if we share what life is like in the shadows, a few kids will step out from them.