To the Kids Who Bullied Me Because of My Disease
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 17 years ago at the tender age of 11. After my diagnosis, losing a significant amount of weight and missing prolonged periods of school, I never thought for a moment it would become fodder for some fellow classmates to use against me.
After a month-long hospital stay I walked into what would become a five-year nightmare. I was called many cruel names such as ugly and gross, and people said I had an eating disorder. The bullying didn’t just stay at school; it followed me home as well. The one place I was supposed to feel safe was taken away from me. The older we got, the worse it became. I would find food in my mailbox with cruel notes, and I had to disable my email and messenger accounts because there would always be nasty notes left for me.
At around 15 years old, my mom hired a tutor from the school district to homeschool me, and by 16 years old, I tested out of 11th and 12 grades in three months and graduated early.
This is what I want to say to those who bullied me:
I don’t know if you ever think of what you did or said to me. But did you ever realize that while you were calling me names, showing up at my house and leaving me messages to make sure I never missed a thing you said, you were making fun of a young girl who just found out she had an incurable disease? That’s the thing about so many diseases — they are invisible. You can’t see them, so people don’t believe they are there. While you thought I was lying and had an eating disorder (like that makes what you did any better), and I was dealing with your bullying at school, I’d go home and have to spend many hours in the hospital and get IV medications to keep me alive, get blood work done weekly, experience multiple hospitalizations and have more surgeries than any child should ever have to endure.
School was suppose to be my break away from that all, but you took that away from me. You took away what was supposed to be the best years for a teenager. I didn’t get to experience prom because I was afraid of what would be said or done to me. You temporarily took away my self-confidence, and my ability to trust and make friends for awhile — but worst of all, you made me feel gross and ashamed of having a disease I never asked to have.
But what you didn’t take away from me was my strength, and my ability to gain all those things back over time. Through my pain I’ve been able to help countless others with similar stories to mine and mentor young girls to have positive body images. I’m going to talk to the class of my son (who has autism) this year on differences and acceptance, as well as stopping bullying and speaking up for others. Nobody should ever have to feel the way I did for so many years. Crohn’s disease isn’t gross or anything to be ashamed of; it’s a debilitating disease that many people unfortunately have.
I want you to know your words didn’t stop me, and I’ve forgiven you long ago. What your words did in the long run, was make me see how strong I truly am, and to be the best person I can each day for myself and for others, too.
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