By Ashley Nemeth
It is Pink Shirt Day -
this day brings awareness about bullying and the impact that it has on kids and
teens. As someone who was bullied throughout school, I know how many kids
and teens feel when they are being bullied.
When I was in school, I was an
easy target for many bullies. I had a disability and this made me different. I
was born with a form of Albinism that left me legally blind. I also had a
nystagmus which causes the involuntary movement of your eyes. The constant
movement in my eyes made me turn my head to the side because this was the place
that my eyes shook the least, which in turn made it a little easier to see.
Because of my low vision, I
needed many adaptions in school, like larger text books and work sheets. I needed to sit at the front of the room to
get extra help because I could not see. When I got to high school the adaptions
I used got to be more prominent and made me stick out even more to my
classmates. I had to have very large text books and use paper that had thick
black lines on it. I also had to have teachers read what they were putting on
the board. In grade ten when the work got harder and my vision got worse, I
needed to have a teacher's aid to help me.
I had a hard time with friends
and desperately wanted to fit in with my classmates and just be accepted. Every
day I dreaded going to school. At night, I would lay awake hoping that I would
be sick or there would be any reason for me not to have to go to school. I
ended up pretending to be sick quite a bit just to avoid having to
I went through many years of
depression during this time. I finally tried to reach out to a teacher and tell
them how I was feeling and that I was considering suicide, I never got the help
that I needed. Because of the bullying,
I had no self-esteem or confidence and was very, very depressed.
today, as a 31-year-old, the memories make me cringe.
People always think that bullying
like this happens more in high school, but it can start very
early in elementary school. I can recall instances as early as grade one and two. I had eye surgery when I was seven to try to tighten the
muscles in my eyes to help with my nystagmus. This was a difficult time for me,
because after the surgery, I could not see anything for about four weeks. After returning to school, my eyes were very
red and as a result I was not allowed to go outside for recess. When I would
sit in the hall playing a game for recess many kids walked by me and would kick
the game all over the place and laugh and call me names such as freak, crazy
eyes, vampire (because my eyes were red) and albino. It was when I began to
pretend to be sick so that I did not have to endure this every day.
Things like this happened many,
many times throughout my time in school and only escalated as I got older. Many
kids would make fun of me not being able to see and would ask me how many
fingers they were holding up while moving them and then laugh. Other times I
would be walking down the hallways and they would stick their foot out and trip
me or move something on my desk so I could not find it. This kind of torture
went on day in and day out, and continued for the next
10 years until I finally graduated from high school.
The bullying I experienced
affected me even after I graduated from high school. I decided once I was done school that no one
would ever know that I had a disability and I hid it from many people. I never
told employers. I rarely told new friends. I did whatever it took to hide the
fact that I could not see. I even went so far as to memorize the eye chart so
that my eye doctor would think that my vision had improved. It took losing the
rest of my vision to see that I had value, and I was a great person. I realized
not only was I living a lie but, I was the only one suffering. I was also
sending the message to my kids that it was okay to pretend to be something you
are not. I decided that I needed to prove to myself and my kids that I was a
stronger person and I had many things to offer to this world.
Once I decided to take back
control of my life I was able to get some help with the depression. Talking
about the struggles with my blindness helped me to truly accept and love myself
despite the past bullying. As well, I began to
accept my vision loss.
There is a saying that we tell
kids: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
This is the farthest from the truth. Words hurt. Words can kill. I want people
to realize that words can push someone over the edge, that you are not any
better than anyone else and you don't know what anyone is going through.
Sometimes people bully others not
realizing what they are doing or how they are making people feel. They do this
by saying things like “you know the blind girl” or even “that cripple”, “the
albino at the office”. When anyone makes fun of someone,
they are tearing that person down with every word.
We need to learn from a very
young age that building people up is what we should be doing, not tearing them
Treating everyone as an equal, with
respect and compassion, will take us very far in our lives. If you bully
someone for having a disability or being different, you are telling the world
that it is not okay to be different. When in fact, if we were all the same it
would be a very boring world. Our differences are what make us unique and
If you are being bullied, I
encourage you to reach out for the help you need and keep reaching out until
someone will listen. You are worth it. You are an amazing person and you have
so much to offer the world.
you are a child or an adult, what you say and do is very important. We should
each take a look at how we treat people on a daily basis and ensure that we
think before we speak. Our words do “hurt.” Treat others how you
want to be treated.
Ashley blogs at www.blindmovingon.com