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To the Classmate Who Called Me ‘Lazy’ Without Understanding What I Went Through

Dear Classmate,

It’s been over two years since we worked together on that project, but I’ve hardly forgotten about it. My stomach still racks with guilt every time I think about what you said to me: that I jeopardized your grade by not pulling my weight. But now another part of me turns around and says a massive “How dare you.”

How dare you call me lazy and lacking effort when I spent blood, sweat and tears each day just getting out of bed to survive and then worked on leading the project.

How dare you accept my first apology and explanation with grace, and then turn around a month later to point a finger of blame at me as if that never happened.

How dare you assume I didn’t care about getting a degree. I did. And all the steps I took towards that goal were like an uphill battle.

How dare you call me unorganized when I planned everything as much as I could. I told you I don’t know what my day is going to be like until I wake up; such is the nature of my illness.

The point is, I tried my d*mn hardest. I worked my socks off for that project. I did everything I was required to do and more. I felt I went above and beyond the requirements despite a great deal of suffering. I even explained, as much as I felt comfortable with, some of the things I was going through so you might have a better understanding. At the end of the day, for you to turn around and say those things to me was a punch in the gut. Nothing gets to me more than someone calling me “lazy,” especially when they don’t understand what is going on with me. I refused to use my illness as an excuse, but now I feel I can use it. As a reason.

girl in cap and gown
Stookie in her cap and gown.

I should have stood up to you and said all of this, but what did I say at the time? “Sorry.” I apologized for being me — something I should never have done, and something I swear I shall never ever do again. But guess what? I walked across that stage on crutches after a full hip replacement to collect my degree and university class medal two years later. And that was greater and more powerful than any “How dare you.”

I hope you open your mind to people suffering from mental illness and chronic disease. I hope you continue to live your life but begin to understand what some of us are facing. I hope that if you are ever put in this position again, you’ll stop before reacting the same way.

Have a good life. I know I will.

– Stookie

My advice to anyone going through something similar right now would be this. Make sure you maintain good communication with your course supervisors, and that the disability department of your school is up to date and aware of your current health situation. They tend to have experience with similar situations. The important thing to do, no matter how hard it seems, is to try not to take comments like this personally. The moment you start blaming yourself, everything becomes harder. As long as you know you’ve done your best, that’s the main thing. And people who judge you or expect/want you to change are quite frankly not worth your time. Don’t let them tell you what you can and can’t be.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.