43 hours without electricity

Chronic illness & bullying

Chronic Illness picbul·ly  |  ˈbo͝olē  |  noun
• a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker

My first run-in
 
In sixth grade, I started at a new school with some, but not all, of my classmates. As part of a program for faster learners, I was moved to the junior high school to merge with other smart kids from a handful of different local elementary schools.
 
My best friend from the neighborhood — I’ll call her Deirdre — was a year ahead of me in school. So this was a new school for her, too. And she was a little surprised and irritated that I was there with her, a year before I was supposed to be there.
 
I was a smarty-pants. She now hated me. And with several of her new friends, she began showing up at recess calling me names, taunting me, and hinting at violence to come.
 
Present day
 
Bullying can happen in any relationship. Add chronic illness to the equation and the level of frustration can be overwhelming. This abuse aims to render physical or psychological harm to another.
 
Although we usually think of domestic violence when we think of abuse, there are other, less obvious forms. Abuse can be verbal, where “cruel, demeaning language is aimed at another person.”
 
It can be neglect, “when a person is deprived of essential care...or opportunities to engage with the outside world.” Or even just handling a person roughly or aggressively while assisting them.
 
Whatever the form, bullying and abuse are not acceptable, and should not be tolerated.
 
Dependence
 
An article by the Mayo Clinic points out that “Bullying was once considered a childhood rite of passage.” But today we realize that it can have like a lifelong effects in someone’s physical health, self-esteem, and emotional well-being.
 
Today, as an adult with chronic illness, I depend on friends and family to do for me. Most of the time I use a wheelchair to get around so I am constantly in situations of “perceived power imbalance.
 
But I also realize that I can be a bully, too. The MS Society cautions that our caregivers “can be abused by a person with MS who uses foul or demeaning language or lashes out with sharp fingernails or a cane or crutch.”
 
We need to remember that life with chronic, unpredictable disease can be challenging not only for us but also those who love and care for us. It helps to occasionally stop and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
 
Conclusion of junior high bullies
 
In junior high, the daily abusive behavior was confusing and upsetting. The power imbalance was clear: three older kids with shrewd awareness against a younger, naive and seemingly impertinent one. 
 
Later that week I cried to my parents about it and together we came up with a plan.
 
I started calling out a hearty greeting to Deirdre by name whenever I first saw her group advancing. This had the effect of dissolving their angry demeanors into teen-girl giggles. Which I suspect embarrassed them.
 
Whatever the case, after several days of this, they lost interest in me and I never heard from them again.
 
What I learned this week
Nothing found here should be considered medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any changes.

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