I was always a little unsure of myself growing up, The CP was a a sore issue and a cause of some of my uncertainness. When I was younger I lacked the confidence in myself and I lacked the tools in which to gain that confidence in order to accept my CP. Because of this I often questioned myself or put myself down. I told myself I was not good at something or that I couldn’t do something, or even worse, that I was a burden. The only thing worse than this inner mental battling, was when others said the same things I thought in my head, to my face.
Before I was around 8 or 9 years old I can’t remember experiencing much in the way of intentional bullying, that started in the middle of elementary school and continued until the middle of high school, with middle school being the worst period as I can remember it.
In kindergarten and early elementary schools my classmates and other kids were more curious than anything about why I walked differently, so they asked me questions in the beginning, and those who were to shy to ask, just looked on with curiosity. Although the staring was uncomfortable, because it reminded me of my own fear of being different, it was something I learned to live with, and the quick fix was just to stare back sometimes. In fact, I still experience this sort of behavior today, even from adults, although I hope for their sake they are simply not aware of how weird they look by staring at me like that.
Reinforcing my own Negative Self Image
In the middle of Elementary School, and especially the beginning of Middle School, things took a turn for the worse unfortunately. It started with little comments here and there like “I don’t want a handicapped person like you on my team, we will lose” (When we were playing soccer), or “I am sure your have to ride a tricycle still” etc. But some were worse and more abusive like “Look, there is the limp retard”, which they often times said while trying to trip me or making me fall. Naturally hearing those things hurt me, but the impact was multiplied because I had started thinking and believing some of the same things myself growing up, and hearing these things only reinforced in my mind that I was correct in thinking those thoughts.
I told myself I was not good at something or that I couldn’t do something, or even worse, that I was a burden. The only thing worse than this inner mental battling, was when others said the same things I thought in my head, to my face.
Most of it were verbal abuse, but there were also occasions were things got physical, with people pushing me, or trying to beat me up. Luckily though, I had some really good friends, and I always tried to make sure I was around them when going out during recess etc. The bullies understood this obviously and therefore they tried to get in situations where they had me alone, and where I was far more vulnerable. Even though the teachers would intervene if they saw something concrete, very little actually happened to those doing the bullying, and it was difficult to prove anything, as they simply denied it if asked by the teachers. And I knew that if they know I had reported them, the payback would get even worse.
I will say however that the little comments were far more hurtful than being pushed to the ground. Since they reinforced my own negative thoughts, they could leads to bouts of depression, anger and sadness in general, making life pretty dark at times. There were several times where I faked illness or simply told my parents I did not want to go to school, because I couldn’t take it anymore.
Luckily as I grew older, the bullying stopped, mostly because those who bullied had left or matured, but my low self esteem remained, and took me years to shake off, and it took a year long depression and turning that around until I finally started accepting myself and the CP as a part of me, and not something to hate or distance myself from. If you want to read more about my tips on how to do that, have a gander at my “Live in Harmony with your CP” and “The Mental Challenges of SD” posts.
Looking back at this now here is a few things I’ve learned about Bullying and Cerebral Palsy, that I hope may benefit others:
1. If you or your child is going through some of the same things now, its important to remember that it is the bully who has a problem, not you. People who prey on others like this, usually have some problems themselves, since they feel the need to pick on other people to assert themselves in someway. Whilst I understand that is of no direct use to you in such a situation, it is in an important aspect of it all to remember.
2. If you have some good friends, or other people around you like family who you find strength and support in, try to talk to them about it, and try to see the value in having those people in your life who care about you, rather than the bullies.
3. If the bullying goes on in school, try to seek out those people who can do something about the situation, like teachers etc.
4. Know that you are not alone. When you’re being bullied you can feel pretty lonely and abandoned, but you are not. There is nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with their behavior.
5 .Work on accepting yourself. Whilst that is harder when you are being bullied, it is absolutely crucial in my opinion that you always work towards acceptance of yourself and the CP fully. The CP is not your enemy, use it to your benefit, learn from it and grow as a person.
As usual I would greatly appreciate if you pressed the “Share” button below and shared (and also liked this article( if you found it helpful! Thanks so much! 🙂 Be sure to comment and share your experiences as well!
Cover photo courtesy of mikdam @ iStockPhoto.com