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!!