Bullying is probably the hardest thing to deal with besides the surgeries about having a Cleft lip and palate. And that is a debatable statement. It’s very tough to try to explain such a complex condition to a friend in most likely such a short period of time (At lunch, between classes etc.) as well as needing to making sure they fully understand what you’re saying. Plus, usually, whether they mean to or not, people tend to ask about it in fairly rude ways: “What happened?” or “What’s wrong with you?” are the two main ways I am asked. When you know that you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it and there isn’t much you can do about it now, these questions feel offensive. But honestly, after years and years of it, all of the asking, the making fun, the bullying, I don’t blame them. They are seeing something different about someone and are just plain curious. I guess I’m just saying you can’t blame anyone for that. But on that note, you also can tell when people are trying to be nice in the way they ask versus when they are not. The types of bullying I encountered varied so much throughout my childhood. One moment it could be someone making fun of me straight in my face, the next it could be a group of people looking and laughing. Some people even held the condition over me if we’re in conflict, saying “I’m not afraid to go there” as if to threaten that they will verbally attack me about my Cleft lip and palate if I assert myself which has made me feel unable to stand up for myself in most of those situations.
Honestly, I think I could count on my fingers the number of people who have never mentioned my Cleft lip and palate in a negative way. And to those people, I cannot ever thank you enough. You were the ones who helped me feel at least a little “normal” through it all. Having a Cleft lip and palate has really helped me see who my “true” friends are, who treat me with as much respect as any other person. But, the unfortunate truth is, at least with my experience and my life, there aren’t that many people like that. It was very hard for me to find someone let alone a group like that and I spent most of my childhood looking for people like that. I looked so hard because I felt like I needed at least one person to talk to who wouldn’t judge me or make fun of me. Now, yes all of the bullying hurt me, hurt my self-confidence, and just hurt the way I look at myself, probably more than I even realize now. But honestly, with a lot of that behind me, I want to thank all of the people who have hurt me. You made me a better and stronger person. I wouldn’t be the person I am today so thank you. I am CleftProud!