Monday, January 11, 2016

From Bullying to Friendship: A Story of Positive Change

Confession Time: I used to hate school. I'd wake up in the morning dreading going to school for the day. It wasn't the work, I love learning. It was bullying that started to make me dread leaving the house. I'd go to school and try to "walk away", "ignore", and all the other things adults tell us that we should do. I'd start each day telling myself that I could be strong, that I could get through it, but 10 minutes into the day, I'd already be feeling broken-down, lonely and sad. I talked to the teachers about it, but it didn't change anything. I'd still be made fun of, I'd still have tears forming in my eyes, I'd still feel really hurt inside. Each comment was attacking who I was, making me feel like I was wrong for just being me, for just being alive. And then my medical problems started. Soon, instead of just being made fun of because of my learning disability, or my giftedness, I was being made fun of because of the extreme weight gain from the steroids. It was difficult being called names, told that I look like a "fat lady", or have nasty comments about my weight and animal sounds being made. Here I was with a brand-new diagnosis that I'll live with for life, something completely out of my control, and being picked on because of it. I'd come home and cry, and the cycle would continue each day.

But then something happened...

Starting in grade 5, my classmates started to understand that I was really VERY sick and they would write me little notes sometimes to let me know they were thinking of me. I started to have a lot more absences until in grade 6 when I basically missed most of the year. I thought for sure my classmates would forget about me since I wasn't there. My teachers have done a really good job at making sure this didn't happen. In fact, now when I go to school I have so many people saying hi to me at once that it's overwhelming. In a good way. I no longer dread going to school, my classmates have become amazing supporters on my journey. They are eager to learn about my medical condition and the medical appliances I have (ostomy, GTube, sometimes a heart monitor), and love hearing what I've been up to when I've been too sick to go to school.

Today something amazing happened. Aside from the fact that I went to school I mean. Today, my teacher handed me a special folder of cards, drawings, activity booklets and messages that my friends have put together as special encouragement for me. As I sat at home looking through all the material, I had tears in my eyes. The good kind of tears that I'm not used to - Happy tears. On a day that I'm struggling just to be out of bed, this made my day so much better. It was such a simple thing that they might not even know made such a huge difference to me, but it did. It made a world of difference to feel remembered, included and important. The only thing I dread now are the days that I can't go to school to be with them all in person.

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