Recently, I was accused by another member of our community, who shall remain nameless, that I was a condescending, know it all bully. When I read her message that contained those words, I laughed it off because to be honest, if my tendency to say what I mean and mean what I say means that feelings get hurt and you choose to live life like an ostrich with its head in the sand, then guess what? Your loss.

I laughed it off because I've been the victim of bullying - and the last time I checked, not mixing words or beating around the bush DIDN'T fit that definition.

I just now posted a video of the son of my classmate at Boston University. Russell has been living with alopecia for several years now, and this summer is in a camp at school. This video, which she posted on YouTube this morning, moved me in a way that I find difficult to put into words at the moment. More than anything, I just wanted to hug Russell and cry with him, and hold his hand and walk into that school with him, and tell him that everything will be just fine. Everything will be just fine because HE is just fine. He is not dying, nor is he contagious. He is just simply losing his hair.

Watching that video also reminded me of all the years that I myself grew up with alopecia, from the first time someone laughed at me in the hallways at school because I wore a wig, to all the name calling I endured: baldy, wiggy, cue ball, wiggy long-stocking, chrome dome, avatar - I could go on and on for hours about it. I'll be honest - it hurt my feelings a lot more than I showed my bullies, and there were times when it got to be too much. Even now, as an adult, it hurts me to even recall all the times that someone pulled my wig off in school, or tripped me for a cheap laugh because they knew the wig would come off, or pull off my scarves and toss them around. It hurts me to recall all the times my sisters and brothers would get into fights in the neighborhood because someone decided that they wanted to hurt ME because of my alopecia. However, just as Job did in the Bible, at the end of every day I thanked God for getting me through the day. I thanked him for the trials that He put in front of me, and I thanked Him for the trials I had yet to face. I knew that having alopecia would make me a stronger adult, one far more capable of overcoming obstacles and challenges than I would otherwise be if I hadn't developed alopecia.

Watching that video, and writing this blog also reminded me of just how far I've come as well. I didn't remain a victim of bullying. I fought back. I started telling everyone about alopecia. I learned to defend myself when others felt the need to put their hands on me. And I successfully challenged a school administration that sought to punish me for standing up for myself rather than suffer in silence. And for every accomplishment I garnered, guess what? One by one, those bullies started to fall away. You see, bullies don't like it when you fight back. When you fight back, it reveals the bully's own insecurities and it makes them a victim, just as you were. And they don't like that at all - it's easier to leave you alone after you show the world how weak they really are than it is to find a way to make things worse. It's not easy, but it can be done if you're strong enough to weather it.

I want Russell to know that God - and karma - have a way of dealing with bullies that's far more effective than anything any human can come up with. I hope he understands that one day, someone will come up to him and beg him for forgiveness for the horrible way that they treated him. And I pray not only for healing for both the alopecia and the scars that it inflicts on all that it strikes, young and old, but also that Russell will still have the love and forgiveness in his heart as an adult to forgive everyone who ever mistreated him because of what he experienced as a child. I know that Pam and her husband are great parents and are setting the example for him - and I just want to hug them too. I hope that Pam sees me as an example that she can show Russell that she can use to teach him that yes - it IS possible to continue living in spite of alopecia. Most importantly, I want her to see me as the example that I will NOT stop living because of it.

To close this out, I want to go back to my critics, vocal and silent and challenge YOU: Russell's story is a TRUE example of bullying. I DARE you to respond to this posting; as a matter of fact, I DEMAND that you respond to this blog. If you're too scared to respond, I didn't make you that way, nor will I tolerate being accused of doing so. Being honest, blunt, and treating you as a normal person, rather than an invalid with kid gloves, is NOT bullying. Therefore, take that word out of your vocabulary, or at the very least, get a dictionary and learn to use the word when the situation REALLY deserves such a label.

Hang in there Russell; we're all pulling for you!!

Views: 192

Comment by Diana Carter on July 19, 2011 at 10:47am
Way to put it YoKasta! Often, posts on here request advice or opinions of others. If we ask for advice, and someone gives their honest opinion, doesn't mean we have to jump on that opinion, but rather, respect that this person has offered their advice, and appreciate that they took the time to care! I personally relied very heavily on the support I found here when I was first diagnosed last October, and seeing one of my friends chastised for that well meant advice was very hurtful. We come here for support, advice, and also to give some of that back when we are able. I think you did just that! And, God bless Russell! He is a precious child of God, and deserves to find true friends, and there is no room in my life, nor his, for bullying! Thanks for sharing YoKasta!
Comment by Children's Alopecia Project on July 19, 2011 at 11:16am
Stay true to who you are and strive to be better everyday. Who we are and what we feel is the most important thing in the world. Self-Esteem starts with strength and ends with satisfaction. What satisfaction? The satisfaction of going through a journey, a quest, to become the person you are suppose to be. When you become that person, you will understand why.

One of my favorite sayings is also one of the most simple, "If you take care of your Character your reputation will take care of itself."

Keep moving forward!

Jeff Woytovich
Comment by Bald and Fabulous AKA Terri on July 19, 2011 at 12:31pm
As a child victim ed by bullying, long before hair loss entered the picture. I applaud you Yokasta for coming so far in life and standing up against bullying. I use to hide myself away from the bullies, which also included my little brother. Till I got older and found my voice. I now stand up against bullying when I see an unjust done. Hang in there Russell and know there is those fighting on your behalf everywhere. Thank you again for sharing Yokasta
Comment by Children's Alopecia Project on July 19, 2011 at 1:31pm
When I founded the Children's Alopecia Project I only wanted to do 3 things well. Build Self-Esteem, Provide Support and Raise Awareness. NAAF was upset with me and will not associate themselves with us because I went outside their box, fine. We still believe in NAAF even if they don't believe in CAP. I have had disagreements with many other advocates in and around the alopecia and autoimmune disease community as well but it always comes back to the three basic things CAP tries to do. Build Self-Esteem, Provide Support and raise awareness. Everyone is correct above. Every situation is different but the one thing about alopecia opinions and the disease itself is the same, it is unpredictable. Parents are the first line of defense, other responsible adults in charge of children need to be the second line. If that does not work the Children's Alopecia Project is there to advocate. I have help children in situations where the school or the administrators and teachers are the bullies because it is "just" hair. CAP uses the 1973 Americans with Disabilities Act and 504 plans in these situations because it includes all children that have physical, emotional or psychological differences and problems that prohibit them from learning like everyone else. The real moral to the story is since alopecia is so different in so many different ways so are the many different situations we find ourselves in as parents and alopecians. I wish it was all cookie cutter but it is not and we all need to get together and move forward than be apart. Take care everyone!
Comment by R0BB on July 19, 2011 at 7:16pm
My heart bleeds for that young man. Theres no excuse for that treatment.

While I bite my tongue here , lemme add this .

If I were that little boys parent - there'd be HOLY HELL to pay to the school administrators , the bullies themselves and thier parents.

Years ago , I can remember my mother tearing parents , school kids and school admins a new asshole when needed. AND it was needed .

Everything aside , that little man needs extra hugs everyday.

Comment by kastababy on July 19, 2011 at 7:32pm

My parents did the same thing when I was a child. When I speak of fighting back, I speak from the hard-earned, battle-scarred experience of living that nightmare. In Knoxville, TN a few years ago, a child was actually killed in the cafeteria of his high school because he refused to retaliate against the bully that tormented him. The bully, rather than back down, just went home, got a gun, and shot the boy execution-style in the cafeteria during lunch time. Just like that.

For every teacher, school administrator, and school board that advocates against self-defense on a verbal and physical level (when necessary), I can tell you countless stories where taking that chicken-shit approach ended in disaster for the one on the receiving end of such bullying. Therefore, they have no credibility with me until you can provide a viable alternative.
Comment by Pamela on July 19, 2011 at 10:29pm
We are working with the school board, and the teachers, and there will be meetings with the kids. We know who the ring-leader is, as well as his mom..... AND THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for ALL of your support. We really needed it today !!!
Comment by Johnny Q on July 20, 2011 at 11:31am
Excellent post.
Comment by Tallgirl on July 20, 2011 at 11:54am
NAAF has videos for teaching young people about alopecia. Maybe you can download a link, or create something similar. I also see several videos with boys on this site. Would it help to direct school boards members, teachers, parents and administrators to the lovely NAAF conference slide show, with all those smiling kids with alopecia on it? They may arrive to the meeting with more sensitivity if they view all this, or even part of this, first. Info on alopecia mailed or e-mailed ahead may also least you might get more support at the meeting. Educators love to read new things...
Comment by Tallgirl on July 20, 2011 at 11:57am
(What I just wrote is for Pamela.)

---Teacher Me


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