I’ve been bullied, on a regular basis, most of my life. It started in preschool, and from a young age I just presumed it came with the package when you’re barely 4 ft tall, missing a finger and in clothing designed to accommodate catheter bags and other lovely attachments.
As a kid, the bullying was sporadic, but it never went away. Ever.
At first, I tried to turn the kids ago made me feel like garbage into the teacher, like I was told to do. It actually made it worse, so I stopped.
By high school, I was pretty much silent on the subject. A few things got reported – one by a teacher who witnessed an altercation – but for the most part, it rarely was spoken about.
I would like to note that I was bullied for more reasons than just my health. I was a quirky kid who loved I Love Lucy reruns, George Jones music and I didn’t give a damn about much of what people in my class thought as “great.”
When I was maybe 10 years old a kid a few years younger called me a handful of lovely names. I reported it. Later, his mom drove him to my house to defend him. I sat there and listened. Shortly after this I was given an extra bonus – thanks to a marriage in my family, I’m now technically related to him.
It was one of the last things I ever reported.
I kept my mouth shut when I was 13 and had a minor bladder event (it had been custom made for me a few months earlier and I was still breaking it in) and a group of “friends” made fun of me the moment they found out what happened. (I would love to name names, but I was raised better than that. Also, lawsuits.)
I know someone who was bullied for her physical disabilities who tried to overdose when we were in high school. Thankfully, someone found her and saved her. When I told my dad about what happened, he asked me if I ever felt like doing the same thing. I said no, which was the truth at the time. Several months later I did, for a fleeting moment, consider it. Then I remembered that death is permanent, and being treated like crap is just temporary. With that said, I can absolutely see why some people would see this as an option for them, especially teens. They’re trapped. They’re done. They don’t see a way out of their educational system, dysfunctional families or what they would call an awful home life.
I’ve been watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix and it’s pulling at my (defective yet perfectly functioning) heart. Although I never went down the path Hannah does, I totally understand her and her actions. I know she’s a fictional character, but I identify with her, especially at the end. The school system failed her.
The school system failed me as well. To them, I was a number, a statistic. Yes, I had plenty of medical policies, like an IEP, but except for a handful of teachers (two who were a family friends), it was up to me. I may be a wisecracking broad now, but back then I let a lot of things go that I probably shouldn’t have.
Example: In high school, there were two separate indicents of two different people taking medication from my bag. One person got the good stuff given to me after a recent major surgery, but that other idiot got my bladder relaxers, which I hope constipated them both. I saw it happening both times and both times I let it go. It was easier to stay silent than to raise hell.
I’m aware that Hannah isn’t real and that this is a cliche, but I want to tell girls like her that it gets better. Being different isn’t wrong.
I’m 30 years old now. Been married nearly six years, I get to do my dream job and my health is (mostly) in check. It got better for me, and I’m happy. If I would have gone through with that fleeting idea, I wouldn’t have the life I have now.
Just hold on, girls of tomorrow.