I don’t know if I can really look back at this objectively, but I’m going to try.
Growing up, I had one parent out of four who really, really didn’t approve of me. I was always too fat. It made him really upset that my hair fell out in perfectly round circles – what was up with that? I must have been doing something to myself, I should just stop it! (But it was my body attacking itself.) He told me that he loved my sister more than me because she was the first born, and my brother more than me because he was the boy he always wanted.
While I was still in elementary school, we moved from a large city to a very tiny town of 300. This was right in the middle of my awkward years when I couldn’t figure out what to wear on my strange new body and my teeth were still crooked like I could eat a carrot through a fence because the dentist wanted to wait a few more years before recommending braces. Fifth grade was brutal. I had almost no friends the entire year because a girl from my class (who was tall, also awkward, with blond frizzy hair and shifty eyes) gave me a horrible nickname and meanly declared that no one could be friends with me or come near me. She got one of the boys in our class to write me love letters as a joke. He then made a big deal of “breaking up” with me, or as much as you can break up with someone after a few badly written letters, and their little group passed around what I wrote to him. (Imagine my surprise when I visited my step-cousin’s cousin’s house and it was HER house a few years later. I thought she was going to shit her pants. I had no idea where my step-aunt was taking us, I was just riding with everyone.)
I also had bullies on my bus. They didn’t just pick on me, my sister was a target too. Our bus ride was a long one, nearly an hour in the mornings and about 40 minutes in the afternoons. The worst of them was the stop immediately before ours but still quite a distance from our house because we’re talking farm country. She was MEAN. ROTTEN. The others were further along the route. One was a girl in my class who has always been very mean spirited. Her whole family has taken on the same persona as her mom; her dad busted his ass, but it seems that her mom was never happy with that and was always focused on appearances and putting her dad down. So that’s what she embraced. So I was an easy target. Fat, awkward, and crooked teeth. There was a scrawny boy, I think he may have been a year younger than me, also part of their little group, that my sister ended up punching because he lifted her skirt. It’s too bad she didn’t break his nose. And then the last regular in that group was another girl, who, again, was spiteful. She was good friends with the girl with the nasty mom and she seemed to thrive on the nastiness herself. (As a side note, I have become friends with some of these people on Facebook to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t.)
I’m just going to skip way ahead here, to the bullies online. First there’s the guys who have dating profiles on the various dating websites. After a few decades of doing online dating between being in relationships, I have decided to not use online dating anymore as a means to find connections, because it can be pretty brutal. In my 20s and into my 30s, there were times when I would take things that were said to me very personally. It was really tough to let stuff go. This was also the time when I was in the process of losing all of my hair, so I was really self-conscious of my appearance and didn’t really know how to initiate the conversation about looking like Mr. Clean to prospective dates (or guys that I had already been out with a bunch of times). But everything nasty that was said to me was excused by the guys as being in the interest of not wanting to waste time. They HAD to say it. They couldn’t wait. They couldn’t filter. I had to take it or they would move on. They had to be shitty. If I couldn’t handle it, then it was my problem and not theirs. How can you reason with that anyway?
Now of course we’re in the era of Facebook. We thought this would be a fad that lasted maybe 5 years, maybe a bit more. But they keep changing the algorithms so we stay hooked. I try to take breaks, but they usually only last 4 of my waking hours. Facebook is filled with all kinds of ills. I belong to some rare disease patient groups because I know it’s likely I will hear something I’m not aware of, and it’s also a good way for me to keep track of doctors and medications. I don’t often comment, though. I will see the same people posting – sometimes daily. I know that some people need to find any reason to connect. It drives me a little batty because sometimes they ask, “Has anyone tried ______?” and of course there was just a long discussion about it the day before. If I have something different and useful to say, I will add to the discussion.
Recently in one of the groups, a guy posted that he was taking hydroxychloroquine for our condition, the same as what “cures the virus.” That really upset me, because first of all, no one takes that medication for our condition. It’s the wrong medication. Second, that medication also does not treat COVID-19. So I posted that along with scientific journal articles, plus the CDC directive stating that that med should not be used because it has caused people to die. Suddenly 4 guys jumped on and said all kinds of personal things about me, including one who said he hoped I didn’t have children – as if that related to me correcting this misinformation that this guy put up in the first place. So a few days later he came back on and said he did indeed put the wrong medicine up, that he was actually given an antibiotic of a completely (not even close) name. No one apologized to me for being shitty to me. Then two days ago from today, a woman jumped on and was shitty to me, telling me I was off topic and I should apologize for that. I wrote back and told her that ignoring all of the other posts and focusing on me for correcting misinformation, misinformation that the original guy admitted he was responsible for, was shitty. Then she just wrote another line saying, “Well, it was off topic.” Yep, it sure was, initiated by the original guy. But I’m going to correct it with science every time if someone else is going to put the wrong info out there.
Just yesterday, I was in another patient group for another rare disease. It’s a little more difficult for me to describe everything that happened or is happening with my brain and cerebrospinal fluid in a short enough paragraph that will make sense. Part of that is conveying this understanding that my symptoms are unusual and disarming to the doctors, to say the least. A fellow patient basically called me a liar. My fuse is pretty short these days, so I tend to stomp and snort once as warning, and that’s all you get. After that I will cut a bitch. I explained how many doctors I had encountered (over 100 in 10 years) and being banned from the Mayo in writing, and added that Barrow had just told me to go to a “neighborhood neurologist” because they didn’t know who to send me to in their own organization. This other patient continued on her crusade to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and there was no way I could guess that doctors hadn’t seen my symptoms before. So I told her congratulations on deciding to be a bully to a fellow patient. In fact, all of the doctors were stumped by my symptoms, their words.
Also not too long ago was the issue with my cousin who lives on the east coast. He told me to get off my lazy ass when I became disabled after the ten failed brain surgeries (but before the issues with my vertebrae and the bones in my hands starting to fuse together). I did mention this before, but I didn’t hesitate to tell him to eat a bag of dicks. He is a drunk bully, and I just kind of feel sorry for his wife and daughters.
I’m 46 years of age now. There’s certain things you stop caring about, I suppose, but I think my thing is bullies. I mean, really, I think I’ve experienced them all. My feelings just aren’t getting hurt anymore. After the most recent exchanges, I did a temperature check and I felt nothing. That parental bullying is gone. My cousin hasn’t ever really been in my life. Elementary school is long done. I haven’t ridden a school bus since 10th grade. I’m definitely not doing online dating anymore, I think I gave that the old college try and then some. And those patient groups…well, now I can just scroll past them. Sometimes I get random comments online because of articles that have been posted that I respond to. Those are usually the lowest of the low. I think I remember one lady telling me to “get that thing in the middle of your forehead fixed.” I still have no idea what she was trying to say. It seems no one else did either because she didn’t get any responses or reactions.
I think one of the truest tests was after an exchange with complete strangers in a comment section, a stranger sent me a message that said, “Have you been drinking? You must be lol” and I was thinking, wow, he came all the way over here just to say that. No imagination. He’s the laziest bully ever.
I don’t know if I can really look back at this objectively, but I’m going to try.