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We Need to Address the Cyberbullying Happening Within the Chronic Illness Community

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There has been a lot of bullying going on within the chronic illness community, a lot of which has been in the gastroparesis community, which is the only one I can really speak on. Furthermore, I cannot speak on behalf of my friends, but I can tell you that I have been cyberbullied to the point where I wanted to leave all social media altogether. I thought that since we are all chronically ill, and we all share the diagnosis of gastroparesis, that we were supposed to be united. Instead, some of the people or groups who are chronically ill seem to find a person to target and make their lives a living nightmare.

We, the chronically ill, face enough adversity from doctors, nurses, family and friends – people who do not understand gastroparesis or think it is “all in our head.” I had this notion that we should be working together to promote understanding and educate those who may not know about our illness. I never, in a million years, thought I would be the target of cyberbullying by the people who were supposed to understand more than anyone, by the people who were supposed to be there to be help to support me, and by the people I thought I could count on. I never thought I would be the victim of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a big deal. There have been cases of people dying by suicide because they were cyberbullied. The first person who comes to mind is Gabriella “Gabbie” Green, who died by suicide in January because of cyberbullying.

I wanted to bring this into the light and talk about this issue because words do hurt, more than people realize, and cyberbullying has become a big problem. I want to bring awareness to this issue because it might help save someone’s life.

There is no excuse for cyberbullying. I was just so shocked to learn that it was happening in the chronic illness community, not just the gastroparesis community. I understand we are all sick and we all have bad days, and that does happen when you have a chronic illness. However, that does not give a person a right to bully someone else. I do not understand the reason behind the cyberbullying or why people need to hurt others like that. With gastroparesis, this kind of stress for days (in my personal experience, I was cyberbullied across all of the social media sites I made an account with) can cause a horrible gastroparesis attack that may land people in the hospital.

People need to understand that words hurt and can do some real damage. You never know what struggles the person on the other end of the computer may be facing. All people see is what is posted online, and that is it. You never really know what is going on in someone else’s life. I guess some people may see those with chronic illness as “easy targets” for cyberbullying because they assume we are “too weak” and “too sick” to stand up for our principles on the matter, but we are not.

I always envisioned all of those with chronic illness, from fibromyalgia to gastroparesis, working together to get information out there and to help others who battle chronic illnesses, especially if they are newly diagnosed. It is not about ganging up on people, controlling groups, pages, who has the most members on Facebook, etc. It is great to have so many options for support, and people can join more groups. Joining groups on Facebook should not be a competition and the person should not be cyberbullied for making a decision on a group that fits them.

It’s about support, pure and simple.

There are so many obstacles we have to go through with gastroparesis; we shouldn’t manufacture more – we should stand united. We need to educate those who may not know about gastroparesis and what it entails. We should rally together to educate, not tear each other down. Divided we fall, united we conquer.

I want to talk about cyberbullying, since I’m experiencing it firsthand, and what it’s doing to the gastroparesis community and other chronic illness communities. I also want to help others who may be going through the same things. It’s hard being bullied, especially if Facebook will not listen and you don’t have any other recourse. I’ll share some things I have learned and some tips from an anti-bullying site that I found. We should be lifting each other up, supporting one another and working together to make a difference. All of this fighting within our community has got stop. While having gastroparesis is hard enough, and I will repeat this again because it’s important, we face enough adversity from doctors, nurses, ER staff, etc. We don’t need it from each other.

So, here’s what you can do to avoid cyberbullying.

1. Do not feed the troll. What I mean by that is, do not give the person fuel for their fire to keep attacking you. As hard as it is, it can help to stay silent. These people crave attention and will try to get it by any means necessary.

2. Block these people. They have no control over your life unless you let them. You are better off without these toxic people in your life. You are important, and you shouldn’t let these people have control over what you do.

3. Write yourself an email. Every time these people hurt you and you want to say something back, write yourself an email and send it to yourself to get your feelings out. That way, you don’t bottle it up and you can get out what you want to say. You don’t need to send it to anyone else, this is just for you.

4. Do not be scared. Don’t be scared to log in to Facebook or wherever these trolls might be lurking. That would be giving them power over you. Don’t let them. Like it or not, these people are going to be everywhere so there is really not a way to avoid them.

5. Do not stop living your life. The thing with bullies is that they will try to interrupt as much of your life as possible. Do not let them. The world spins on. You should keep living your life and do not let them make you deviate from it, because that is their goal.

I would also check with your state and see what laws they may have in place about cyberbullying. If you are currently being cyberbullied, do not give up. I had to block many people on Facebook when I would first log in. You can also report those people, located on a drop down menu on their cover page, before you block them to let Facebook know. You can also look up Facebook’s guidelines and there is an email address they give you to send your difficulties to them. Additionally, there are support groups on Facebook for cyberbullying you can join. I would also recommend talking with a psychiatrist about it, because your mental health is important, especially with gastroparesis, or any chronic illness.

Follow this journey on Emily’s Stomach.

Getty Image by barbaramarini

Originally published: September 17, 2018
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