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Visual impairment and bullying

MyblurredworldMyblurredworld Posts: 9Member Whisperer

My name is Elin, I’m a 20-year-old blogger and Open University student. I write the blog My Blurred World which covers a range of topics from beauty, fashion, lifestyle to life with a disability. I’m passionate about raising awareness of vision impairment and tackling the stigmas that surround it, I hope by writing my blog, I can help others who might be in a similar situation.

I was bullied. This was something I used to be terrified of admitting because I thought it made me seem weak, fragile and defenceless. Little did I know that admitting this was one of the bravest things I could ever do.

By no means did I have the worst bullying experience but no matter how severe the case of bullying might be, it can still affect a person’s confidence and self-esteem and this was the case for me.

elin standing up with hands together in front of autumnal trees

The first vivid memory I have when it comes to being bullied was a summers day at primary school and because of the glare and the brightness of the sun, I had to wear sunglasses due to the sensitivity of my eyes. I had prescription sunglasses and it’s safe to say that they weren’t the most fashionable but there wasn’t anything else on offer at the time. I remember a couple of girls coming up to me on the schoolyard, pointing out the glasses, I explained that I had to have different ones because of my vision impairment to which they took no notice and when they turned away, they said: ‘Doesn’t she look horrible in those?’

That comment stayed with me for a while because it made me feel like I was different and it triggered a feeling within me that I didn’t belong and, in a way, I thought people considered my vision impairment to be something ‘ugly’.

That feeling lingered throughout my time in high-school due to people making comments about me behind my back, spreading rumours, stealing my chair when I walked into class because they knew that I wouldn’t be able to see where another one was and they thought that was hilarious.

Maybe it was harmless fun to them but it affected me in so many ways and it hurt to think that people thought it was acceptable to pick on me because of my disability and because of how shy I was.

All those incessant attempts to trip me up in the corridor, even by people who didn’t know me but they knew I couldn’t see and they played that to their advantage to try to have a laugh. Something I never understood.

Another incident I remember is being sat in class one day and the teacher asked us to write down what we’d want to be different if we could start our lives again. I completed all of my work on a laptop and I always felt wary of what I wrote because people behind me could see the screen.

Because of the way I was being treated, I was very unhappy about my vision impairment at the time and I found it difficult to accept it so as an answer to the question, I wrote that I’d want a life without my disability.

Once I wrote it, I heard a couple of people who were sat behind me say: “Look at what Elin’s written, how pathetic is that?”

What they didn’t realise was that I wanted to change that aspect of my life back then due to the way they were treating me because of it.

Because of all the things which were being said about me, I felt like i didn’t have the right to walk into a room with my head held high so I never did, I never had any confidence in myself and I found it difficult to rise above the rumours and comments.

When I was at sixth form, the line between friends and strangers began to blur. Separate friendships were being created within the group and I was the one being left behind. It triggered all

sorts of questions in my mind about where I belonged and I started wondering if the distance between my friends and me was becoming larger because of my disability. I now know that overall, that wasn’t the case but, at the time, I couldn’t pull myself away from that mindset.

My story with bullying goes much deeper than what I’ve mentioned today but I’ll leave that for another time.

I don’t hold a grudge against those who bullied me or said things about me behind my back. At the end of the day, this was all petty school behaviour which eventually helped me to grow stronger as a person. I guess people saw me as an easy target because of my vision impairment and since I was also really shy, people knew that I wouldn’t say anything back.

Bullying someone because of their disability or for any other reason is not ok and I hope as a result of posts like this, people realise the impact bullying can have on others.

Although it can be extremely difficult to stand up and say something, I can’t stress the importance of it enough. We all have a voice and I think we should use it to raise awareness and make a change.

No one should suffer in silence. Don’t underestimate yourself or the importance of speaking out.

Have you got your own experiences with bullying to share? Although it can be difficult, I think it’s important to share your story with others if you feel comfortable in doing so, it makes you realise that you’re not alone.

Replies

  • SocialanxietySocialanxiety Posts: 6Member Listener
    edited November 2018
    Hi Elin. Very nice blog, and I enjoyed reading it. Bullying is evil. Those people were so mean to you. Still, they will get their karma. All we can do is be nice in life, even with those who are mean to us. I suffered at high school too, though mine was less severe and more subtle than yours was. It was psychological in nature, but it scarred me for years. Thoughts and memories can destroy you.  I had to leave school due to the bullying and my social anxiety, and I went to stay at an adolescant unit at a psychiatric hospital. I recovered in time, but it took years. Buddhism helped me immensely with my psychology, as well as learning about social anxiety and human behaviour patterns. Good luck to you Elin. I mean it. You'll be fine in time. Try to not to take things that have happened to you personally. They're not as real as we think they are. I have a social anxiety website: http://www.ibeatmysocialanxiety.com Thanks, John
  • krissiekrissie Posts: 1Member Listener
    I never told anyone that I had a visual impairment even though apparently I was born with it. It took me 3weeks to tell my own parents as I knew all the family would have to be tested. That was in 1992 and to this day I still feel like the whistle blower. The church were I was youth worker in charge, left me a hand delivered letter saying I wasn't capable of running a youth club so leave. That was the church for you. The young people did what only young people could and walked out until I was reinstated. Bless them. I've found its people older than me who tend to be rude and intolerant. 24hr supermarkets well the management staff are the same, but knowing who to ask for help is beginning to make me I'll and my mental illness is exasperating it. My ocd. Has. Left my house spotless. I'm waiting for a date to attend tribunal I have never been so afraid and I don't know who to turn to. Any ideas?
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,160Member Brian Blessed
    It’s interesting reading this. If asked, I would say I was bullied for a year by someone who (I previously thought) rather bizarrely was a friend and who also wore glasses. I now understand that bullies always pick on someone in order to maintain their social status within a group and it may even be the group you’re in yourself so both things seem less bizarre nowadays. 

    On reading this and reflecting I realise that of one takes into acount all the name calling prior to that about the fact I wore glasses then I was actually bullied for a lot longer. The thing to remember with bullying is that it’s not about disability at all. It’s about any difference which can be located and, as per the first paragraph, the bully maintaining social status within a group to which they desire to belong or to continue to belong. It’s a phenomenon observed in almost all of nature so it’s not even an exclusively human thing. 

    Understanding that from people like Robert Sapolsky helped considerably I’m terms of being able to separate out the fact I was bullied from the fact I have complex genetic visual impairments. The two are largely unrelated. It’s about group power dynamics. If it hadn’t been my NHS “Joe 90” frames it would have been something else and looking for logic in the “what” is a waste of time.

  • MyblurredworldMyblurredworld Posts: 9Member Whisperer
    @Socialanxiety Thank you John, I'm glad you enjoyed reading. I agree, bullying is horrible no matter how severe it is and can affect people in different ways. I'm sorry to hear that you had to go through that but I'm glad that you recovered. I will give your website a read. Thank you so much. Hope you have a lovely day. 
  • MyblurredworldMyblurredworld Posts: 9Member Whisperer
    @krissie I think a lot of people struggle with opening up about their vision impairment, I was one of them so I completely understand how difficult you must have found that. Oh gosh, that's awful, it was lovely of the young people to stand by you though. I think it's lack of understanding a lot of the time and that's why people treat us differently or have a certain attitudes towards us, I really hope that changes in the future. I'm sorry to hear that. I know how horrible it is when your mental health deteriorates. I guess different things help different people but personally, when I'm feeling alone or afraid, I'll talk to others who are in a similar situation because they are the people who can relate and it makes me feel less alone. I've also had sight loss councelling in the past which also helped me and also just getting involved with different charities, reaching out to them to see what they can offer in terms of support. Going to social groups could be a good thing to do as well because it gives you the opportunity to meet others in a similar situation but I guess it depends if those kind of things are of interest to you or not, I know I was quite reluctant to go to things like that for years but they did help when I went along. Reading peopl'e blogs and learning about their experiences can also help in terms of realising you're not alone as well. I hope everything goes ok with your tribunal. Thank you for reading the post. 
  • MyblurredworldMyblurredworld Posts: 9Member Whisperer
    @mikehughescq I completely agree with you, I think that bullying is about social status as well. It's a shame that people think that picking on or making fun of someone else is the way to be 'popular' in a sense. And I definitely think that it's about any kind of difference as well. Thank you for reading, I'm glad you found it interesting. Have a great day. 
  • SocialanxietySocialanxiety Posts: 6Member Listener
    edited November 2018
    Thanks @Myblurredworld. Hope you have a great day too. We're all wonderful, no matter what anyone says. Don't believe them.
  • MyblurredworldMyblurredworld Posts: 9Member Whisperer
    @Socialanxiety Thank you! I couldn't agree more. 
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