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Lagattolla: Kaneland grad Clausen helps others deal with bullying

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 8:43 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Kaneland High School graduate Kyle Clausen shares his experience with other youths about bullying. He was bullied to the point of attempting suicide.

Kyle Clausen said he had been pushed to the limit. As a high school freshman, he decided he had been bullied for years, and he was ready to end it all. He was ready to commit suicide.

Were it not for a phone call from his father, Clausen, now a Kaneland graduate, said he would have succeeded. Friends have asked him what he was thinking at that moment.

“Nothing,” he said. “Absolutely nothing … how good it would be if I was gone. When you are that low in your life or that far away from everyone who loves you, the last thing on your mind is anybody else.”

Confronting a bully is no easy task, and Clausen knows his story isn’t unique. He fought for years to break free of the boy he called, “my bully.” It started in fifth grade and ended four years later, when Clausen confronted the bully. He had endured abuse, being picked on, shoved around and mocked. He said his class projects were destroyed. Then, he survived the suicide attempt.

He said he was cutting himself – an act he said many such kids turn to, in which one injures oneself on purpose with a sharp object. He said it’s difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it.

“When I was so angry at myself for being who I was, that’s when I cut myself,” he said. “It was relieving me of me, if that makes any sense. It was a punishment to myself.”

It eventually escalated to a suicide attempt.

“It was the stress of the bullying, the stress of being a teen, just everything coming down,” Clausen said. “What’s worse is everything leading up to it, the cutting, the self-injury, the leaving of relationships, leaving your friends, your family and everything else.

“It diminishes your self-esteem in life, and you get to that point in life where you need a break.”

He said he did all the right things. He said he reported the bullying, but it continued.

He said his bully was talked to, but the behavior endured. He said he would report the incident, but the bully would get more mad that “you’re ratting him out to the teacher.”

But Clausen learned to be strong, and he took control of the situation. He was studying judo. He was gaining self-confidence. Still, there was bullying, but that ended all at once. Clausen said it was a single incident. He called it a shove.

“I confronted my bully,” he said. “I had a bad day, and on top of it, he said something to me. I just told him, you’ve been bullying me for four years. It ends now. I’m done with you. And that’s about it. And after I showed how strong I was and how strong my feelings were about it, I felt like it made an impact on him. I’d see him in the hallways all the time, and he wouldn’t even look at me anymore.”

And from that point, Clausen took a new attitude. He realized the boy who had bothered him no longer was in his way but felt the bully targeted others. Clausen said he was not about to watch others get bullied, and he decided to do something about it. He said he once talked to a group of middle school students, and the reaction was so strong that waves of students sought out their counselors, and they kept in touch with Clausen.

Kaneland High School Assistant Principal Diane McFarlin called Clausen an amazing student. She said he is dynamic and supportive and praised the way he looked out for others.

Clausen said he encourages those who are bullied to study martial arts, where he learned to accept shortcomings as limitations to what he could do, but he could focus, improve and see results. He could see he had worth.

Clausen said he’ll hear bullies don’t always know that they are causing harm, and he said that might be true at first. But then at one point, a decision is made to continue to do it. He said his bully knew the actions were unwelcome. They were addressed several times, and yet they continued.

“Yes, it was deliberate,” he said.

But Clausen believes his bully didn’t really know how deep it went and how harmful his words and actions were. He said bullies sometimes “have the mindset that they are the victims, too.”

“They have no idea what they do to those people,” Clausen said. “If my bully knew what he was doing to me, he would have stopped.”

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at alagattolla@shawmedia.com.

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