Washington Man Bullied As a Teen, Bullied As An Adult

Bullying may seem like it's something that only affects kids, but adults can be a target as well.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jerry Woolard of Washington in Beaufort County is proof of that. He's lost 120 pounds over the last two years - and you can usually find him at the gym working to lose more weight. But as successful as he's been, his story is a painful one.

Jerry says, "There's all these people just calling you name after name, hitting you with names. And you're just like - I don't want to live no more. You look for the cowardly way out. I've been driven to that point so many times."

Woolard says he was picked on as a kid for his weight, but says it got worse as an adult. At 20 years old and nearly 600 pounds, he says he went to the hospital to get help and overheard someone there say he needed to go home and die. Woolard says, "I had my dad's .357 and I was going to do like they said - I was going to go home and die."

Woolard says the only thing that stopped him was his two-year-old brother. "Looking at me like 'you're stupid - I need you. That was the turning point, impact - the turning point. I knew I had to do something,"

Marissa Errickson is a doctoral student at East Carolina University who is studying the impact of bullying on overweight teens. She says, "So mostly, being self-conscious. Those reservations in self-esteem. Feeling like they're not worth as much as other people - which of course is not true. But that's how strong the impact can be."

Errickson says those who are bullies as kids tend to be bullies as adults - and says the impacts of bullying on overweight adults are similar, although it's not an issue we hear as much about.

Woolard has been working out at Fitness Unlimited in Washington for two-years and hasn't looked back since. He now works out at the gym almost every day - doing everything from yoga, to lifting weights to running and walking on the treadmill. Here, he says he doesn't get picked on - he fits in with everyone working towards a healthier life. He now weighs 289 pounds and has dropped 10 pants sizes.

Fitness Unlimited owner Austin Thomas says Woolard is not only changing the way he looks, he's also changing his attitude about life and building self-confidence. "When Jerry first started coming, Jerry didn't talk to anyone. Now Jerry talks to everyone."

That increased self-confidence is what Woolard says helps him deal with bullying, which he says he's still a victim of to this day. He says, "I was running through Washington Park Saturday - a practice run. And somebody drives by and throws a McDonald's bag at me and says run…fat….Run"

Errickson says in an ideal world, we'd be able to stop bullying - but says until then, it's important to teach victims of all ages healthy ways to handle bullying, like responding assertively to negative comments or teasing.

Woolard has his advice: "Go to the gym. It's helped me - saved my life."

Jerry is hoping his story will help save the lives of others dealing with adult bullying, too.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by BullyAlarm.com Location: Greater NYC on Nov 27, 2011 at 03:00 AM
    Jerry - You are so right! Empowering people to deal with bullying is the real key to countering today's bullying culture and keep the effects from following us into adulthood. BullyAlarm.com agrees with you and hopes to ignite a RESPECT REVOLUTION with our bullying awareness campaign for >Education >Empowerment >Empathy. Hope you will LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @bullyalarm_com - YOUR VOICE COUNTS!
  • by Tracey Price Location: Pink Hill on Nov 24, 2011 at 03:17 PM
    Thanks Jerry...you are an inspiration to me. Thank you so much for speaking up about a problem no one wants to talk about,overweight discrimination and bullying. Congratulation on overcoming your weight problem..and thanks for doing this story. JERRY=HERO
  • by Nancy Location: Washington on Nov 20, 2011 at 06:24 AM
    Way to go Jerry,we r all proud of u,I know u would still be here at Wal-Mart if it was'ent for the bullying,we love u.
  • by Deana Location: Washington on Nov 18, 2011 at 08:33 PM
    Jerry has a great heart and people need to look beyond whats on the outside! This young man would do anything in the world for anybody. I have loved and respected him since the first day I met him. I am so happy for you Jerry!! Keep your mind set on your goal and keep pushing the negative side of this cruel world out!! Love you man!!
  • by hero! on Nov 18, 2011 at 05:00 PM
    hey jerry--you are AWESOME! youre a hero for all the bullied people! dont worry about anyone who bullies you! youve obviously got more to contribute to this world than they do. people who bully shouldnt be able to sleep at night! i have both been bullied and bullied other kids. both are hurtful; being a bully to others when you realize youre making someone else feel just like you did when youve been bullied. to this day i wish i could look the people in the eye ive been unkind to and give my heartfelt apologies to them. you keep running--i think what youve done is incredible. use what you know to encourage and inspire others who have been through what youve been through!
  • by B Location: Gville on Nov 18, 2011 at 01:13 PM
    Dear Jerry, I know how you feel. I was bullied as a child by a few kids at school for my weight, but no one was as bad as my brother at home. He still bullies me to this day and we're 50 year old. I don't want to be around him any more. I have learned something over the years.... If someone needs to pick on you to make themselves feel good, the their life must be really pathetic. Keep working for your dreams and don't let some big mouth smuck get you down.
  • by anonymous Location: washington on Nov 18, 2011 at 12:43 PM
    I just wanted to respond to two of the comments (1) vuvzela-true bullying is being picked on and bullied regardless of why. whether the reason is out of their control or not Bullying is wrong. (2)thinkaboutit- sounds like you are a bully trying to make an excuse for what you have done to others. Jerry you are an inspiration to many, keep it up, you look great!
  • by Judi Location: Newport on Nov 18, 2011 at 12:26 PM
    Thank you WITN for such an inspirational story! Nice to hear good news for a change. Way to go Jerry!
  • by concerned nana Location: wayne co on Nov 18, 2011 at 10:31 AM
    Way to go. Its hard living in todays society. But not only is weight an issue with bullying, its clothes/cars etc. I am upset hearing about 2 10 yr old girls, both pretty, one here in NC and one in Illinois that both hung themselves because of bullying. This should not be allowed, teachers don't tell a student to stop tattle tailing, you need to be fired on the spot if you do. Maybe High schools should have a mentoring program for the younger students, churches need to get involved, everyone needs to get involved. Please pray for our kids.
  • by classmate on Nov 18, 2011 at 07:54 AM
    Jerry, I went to school with you and I always remember you having a sheepish smile for me. I am sorry you were in pain and wish I had know how bad it was for you. You have always been one of the kindest guys I have known. You should be so proud of all you have accomplished!
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