When most people think of bullying, the first thing that usually comes to mind is bullying in the school – as in students picking on other students. But, sadly, bullying happens everywhere, and no-one is immune.
Author Karen Tyrrell is the perfect example of this. Her first book Me & Her: a Memoir of Madness is based on her own experience as a teacher who suffered at the hands of some parents in her school at the time. Born in Sydney of poorly educated parents, Karen decided at the age of eight that she wanted to be a teacher, and she achieved this prior to becoming an author. She mentions that writing and speaking about mental health for both adults and kids became her driving force.
With three books under her belt: Me & Her: a Memoir of Madness, Me & Him: a Guide to Recovery, and a children’s book: Bailey Beats the BLAH, the media has taken interest. Today Tonight and ABC Radio interviewed her about violence in schools. She also writes for the South City Bulletin and Healthline USA magazines, and as if all that wasn’t enough, she also presents talks at libraries, schools and festivals. She even teaches in the corporate world with creative writing workshops and resilience training. Storytelling sessions and pantomimes for children are also in there and, to top the lot off, she was the co-coordinator of the Logan Writers collective.
As mentioned earlier, Karen has also been a bullying victim but with a twist. This experience inspired her first book: As a teacher she was bullied on a daily basis by the parents of some of her students. This took form as verbal, written and psychological abuse. They stood outside her classroom while she was inside and taunted her, yelling out. They stalked her, even to the local supermarket, following her up and down the aisles and then standing right next to her at the deli counter. Karen did report this to the school authorities. They kept an eye out for her and encouraged her to ring a counselor. Unfortunately, Karen fell into the same trap that so many victims before her (and since) have - she felt she was OK and didn’t need counselling. And when it became a legal case, she was actually told not to talk about it anymore.
When asked whether she felt that the schools and governments are doing enough to combat this ongoing problem, Karen simply said that bullying is a HUGE problem, both in our schools and in the workplace, and it is increasing at an alarming rate. She adds that she feels teachers and kids need to be taught anti-bullying strategies to protect themselves and each other. Also, an anti-bullying specialist needs to be enlisted at every school to offer counselling, training, support and advice.
Karen’s second book: Me & Him: a Guide to Recovery is actually two books in one. Described as: “A mental health self-help manual sharing wellness strategies. PLUS a memoir from the carer’s perspective.” She has also done some promotional tours with her books at the local level. She has also toured the USA. Shown is a photo taken of her holding Bailey Beats the BLAH at different locations.
Writing has only recently become Karen’s occupation; her previous focus was to purely be the best teacher she could be. But in 2006, she joined a local writers’ group where she signed up for long term writing courses, thereby learning everything about the craft of writing. And in her leisure time, she writes, of course, spreading the news about recovery and empowerment. But she does start her days with a brisk walk and some meditation. And on Sundays, it’s the rain forest – she loves tramping beneath the lush ferns and palms, breathing in all that wonderful oxygenated air.
Karen’s biggest tower of strength, partner, Steve, has been an amazing support to her throughout her illness and recovery. She simply says that she would not have recovered from the parent-teacher bullying, PTSD and bipolar disorder without his immense love and guidance. And her inspirations? In her own words: “I’m drawn to inspiring people who speak out on social issues, people who lead others despite the opposition they face.”
Her aspirations for the future are very simple: To keep writing thought provoking books for both adults and kids. “The universe will let me know which direction I am to follow next.” Karen is currently working on several sequels to Bailey Beats the BLAH, along with a chapter book with a strong anti-bullying message.
And in parting, a final message to the world: “You can recover from bullying and empower yourself to live the happiest, most fulfilling life again.”Story Source: Karen Tyrrell – translated by Lannah Sawers-Diggins Links: Website FaceBook Goodreads