Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sticks and stones

I had already planned to write on bullying sometime during November, tonight I realised I missed the SBS program on Bullying. It's been on my mind.

Tonight at Little athletics a 4 yr kid was calling Sam, who wears glasses , glasses boy ! I didn't worry too much and Sam didn't even notice, but I did ! I wanted to cry for him. It's starting. I can't bear the thought that he will be a victim of bullying ...not just because of his glasses.

As a consequence of having NF1 (neurofibromatosis) though I didn't know it was called NF then , I 'suffered' bullying all through my school life.

I learned to live and deal with it. I can't even tell you the names they called me, oh I remember a few of them, I just don't want to tell you.

The birthmarks known as Cafe au lait are flat milky coffee irregular shaped 'spots'.They were the main reason. I had a large one down my left arm and numerous other ones large than 50 c piece and spotty freckling.

In primary school it was mainly name calling and sometimes a little physical abuse, hair pulling, chasing (fearful not playful) and spitting and like Rudolph they never let me play their games. Exclusion from play didn't hurt me but it scarred me emotionally. I was smart and I relished working hard to gain the academic awards to soothe my self esteem.

When I was 10, I had to wear glasses and this gave them another reason to taunt me. I also had a turn in my eye, I was 'cross eyed'.

This was due to an accident at school when I was 8. I suffered a head injury , and a black eye when a bigger child knocked me over. This was an accident I remember it. Part of my retina detached and it wasn't detected.I am technically blind in my right eye with very slight peripheral vision. My eye still has a noticeable turn despite surgery to cosmetically 'straighten' it at 16 & 21.

I had a few friends over my primary years, the one main one lived across the road from school and she went home for lunch every day. We lost touch when we went to different high schools. We were both quite intelligent too.She had the additional trait of being 'bossy' so she had her own dramas with other kids. It wasn't an easy friendship ;).

I was always in the last couple of kids when it came to picking teams and I was just glad I had an excuse not to do school swimming...thank God for ear infections. Crazy but true!

In high school most of the same bullies went there too. The girls were bitches and merciless.So were the boys. I just had a thick 'ugly' skin.Thankfully, by the middle of yr7 I found a group of friends. There were 5 of us in our posse. I am still very good friends with 2 of them today; 30 years of wonderful friendship.

I still decided not to attend my yr 10 formal and my yr12.

My posse of friends all left school in yr10. We were all around 16yrs. It was a very lonely 2 yrs as I finished my HSC (higher school certificate). I was once again excluded and alone. I was laughed at behind my back, and I could tell they didn't like me in their 'group' projects etc. but it wasn't physical by my mid teens. I ignored it.

What else could I do, I was always on the fringes. I went home for lunch, often, though it took me 10 mins to run home, 5 mins to make & scoff a sandwich and then 10 mins to run back. Rather this, than be alone and seen to be alone.

I lived for the weekends when I had my old 'school' friends again and a new friend I made, L. I met L when we were both on our family holidays. We were both 16, she was turning 17 in 2 wks and got her drivers licence. She invited me to try a new church , I became a Christian and I saw things in a new light. I didn't feel so damaged. I made new friends outside school. So school , for me , was a place just for education.

L was my transport everywhere, youth groups, church and social outings. L is still a good friend but sadly she lives 2-3 hrs away and busy with her young family. Once we were housemates for a year and she was my bridesmaid.

L, K & W looked beyond my imperfections and I am so thankful for all my friends they saved from from despair. Still I wasn't diagnosed with neurofibromatosis till I was 22 . I just thought I had terrible excess of birthmarks.

I worry now for Sam and his cafe au lait spots. Will they both get taunted because of me and the way I look ? I have more bumps and lumps coming up everywhere. I hate it. I have always worked harder to fit into groups I still feel the stares.

I worry will Sam be strong enough to deal and cope with bullies ?

I am so thankful his twin will at least be by his side, so he won't be lonely in the playground, so he will have someone to back him up, maybe help him protect himself and to pick him for his team. They have each other. Already I can see Joel has a protective nature and is looking after Sam. I can only hope...

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