Advice from Someone Who was Bullied

On July 26, I went to the Bullying Conference, sponsored by the Children’s Coalition of Indiana. They talked about the kids in the school and how they are getting bullied in the school, in the cafeteria. I look around me and I know what it is like to be bullied. And it is not fun. The people today talked about just how a person feels  when they are being  bullied. It makes you feel like no one cares at all about being made fun of in school. It is not fun. You can see it on TV and you can hear on the radio about bullying and how much is going on about it. There needs to be something done about it in the school and where we live.  As kids go through life, they can’t be bullied. It is not right.

I was bullied – I was mistreated, talked about, laughed at. Kids were just mean and cruel. They did not understand me as a PERSON. I don’t think people ever really understand a person with a disability. I don’t think I made a friend that I could talk to about being bullied. I felt like I was on my own.

From 4th grade through 12th grade, something was always going on. It didn’t bother me as much Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade. But by 4th grade, I could see more. I had my eye glasses on then, and I understood that kids were just cruel! I got laughed at on the bus…talked about. One day, I knew something was getting ready to happen as we were lining up at the door. The bell rang for us to get on the bus to go home…and everybody just came, and this little girl came and tugged on my bag, and down to the floor I went. It never changed. It never stopped.

Maybe for a kid, when people realize someone is different, they may think, “Her life is already miserable because of that disability. Let’s make it more miserable. It doesn’t matter. Let’s take her milk money. Let’s make fun of her.” And when nobody understands and you feel like you are in the world all alone…what do you do? That’s the way I thought, in a world all by myself. Even with my grandmother, mother and father who cared…I still felt alone.

Now, as I’m older and living life, it doesn’t bother me as much as it did growing up. But I still have times. I still have things I think about, about how a person lives through that. How do they live through being mistreated to tell their story? Feeling like you’re not loved, and that no one cares. Even now, that I’m married, and I have a job…I still feel like that sometimes.

What would I say to a person now? Hold your head up, the best you can. I know it isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for me. If you’ve got somebody that you can talk to, go to that person. The only person I had was my grandmother, and there was only so much that she could tell me. But if you’ve got a close friend or somebody, tell them, “Hey, I’ve got a problem. I don’t want to go to school because this is happening.” All through my senior year, I didn’t want to go to school. I knew, though, that if I wanted to graduate, I had to go to school.

Give people respect. Let them know that no matter what happens, they have your love, support, and respect. Needless to say, I didn’t find what I needed to live my life until I came to Indianapolis. It was a big change for me, and I was around people who faced similar problems like I had. They understood, “This is Melody. She is going to be who she is.” And now, it has gotten better. I’m married. Finding my husband has made me realize that now, somebody understands me. Joe understands. Joe and I spend hours in the evening, after we’re home from work. And we talk about things. I can talk to Joe about things I wouldn’t tell anybody else. He understands me. We laugh, we tease, we have fun.

Everybody in this world needs SOMEBODY to understand them. To know what you’re going through. To sit down at the end of each day and say, “How was your day? Did you work? Did you play?” Try to understand other people. Don’t’ put me down. Don’t say I can’t do it. Give me that chance to show you. If I want to try something, don’t tell me I can’t do it. Encourage me. It isn’t nobody’s business but mine if I can’t.

So many people with disabilities grow up with the word, “No.” I go to sleep sometimes hearing the word, “No.” No, you can’t do that…no, that’s not right. No…No…NO!”

I think these “NOs” need to be changed into “YESs”.

Melody Cooper is President of Self-Advocates of Indiana