Bullying and Chronic Illness

I have been wanting to address bullying for a while. In the past decade, I have experienced way more of it than the rest of my life combined. Not only have I experienced more bullying, but the bullies are much worse and the stakes are higher.

Every time I start writing on this topic, I stop. Part of the reason is that this is huge. There are so many ways that bullying and chronic illness go together. I am more vulnerable. I am an easier target. Dealing with health problems makes it so I don’t always have the exterior I need to deal with people that are ridiculous and immature. Being bullied can also dramatically impact our health. This is just a start from the side of the individual being bullied.

Chronic illness can also make the bully much worse. I imagine that is the case with the person that has been bullying me for the past year. She is dying of cancer. I have overheard her talking about targeting people dealing with physical and mental illnesses in the attempt to break them. It is how she selects her targets. She enjoys it.  Additionally, her attacks seem to be very much related to her treatment pattern. That is another way that her chronic illness plays a role in bullying. There are so many things to delve into.

Right now, I am going to keep this superficial. In discussions with others from my health groups, it is very clear to me that bullying is very common. Illness can seem to bring about bullying, you are not alone. Please hear me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I am still working through this right now so there are so many things that are on my mind. The next most important thing that I have to share is that when you plan out how to deal with the bullying and ways to get out of the situation, be sure to fully take into account how your chronic illness impacts you. Very likely, when things get bad with the bullying, there will be more to deal with illness-wise. For example, each time that I get something special at work or acknowledgement, my supervisor attacks me more. I have been getting a really bad bit of it recently because I reported her again. Usually when I have extra work to do, I feel like I run behind more with my cortisol replacement. Additionally, I have also been really pushing to get another job and move. This would seem to be appropriate for my situation but it isn’t without adjustment. My body tends to do fairly well with emotional stresses. However, if I have physically pushed my body, been running on the low end replacing with hc, and then have an emotional stress, all of those things combined hit me that much more. Rather than having what feels like a dip in my cortisol, I feel like tank…repeatedly. Knowing this, I have to plan ahead.

I know when I am going to be exercising more or outside in the heat. I also know when I am likely to be the target of bullying. I then have control of the situation if I can plan ahead and not get myself into a situation where my cortisol keeps dropping. If I get into that situation while I am being bullied, it will only make me a bigger target to her. Avoiding really bad situations like that is important.

Again, my illness is where I have control. I have control in what I do. I have control in that I can probably figure out when I am more likely to be attacked than the bully attacking me. Please hear me here. There are places that I have control. These are also the areas that appear to be the most vulnerable. I can plan and prepare how to protect myself even when I cannot even communicate rationally with her.

Another thing to think about if you are being bullied is if you are going to report it. Things are really bad where I work. Sometimes reporting it can have negative consequences. It is possible to have your health outed. It can pull attention to you. Additionally, if you have a particularly bad employer(s), they can threaten to fire you if you complain about being bullied or not feeling safe at work. BTW, that is considered a hostile work environment. Experiencing this has amazed and infuriated me. What I am focusing on is learning how to deal with it.

In general, I do a really good job of keeping this at work. I also am a very strong person. I stand up for myself as well as others. As a child, I learned how to handle bullying and managed very well even in college. What bothers me the most about it now is how the bully manipulates my vulnerability. It would appear that this is where I have the least control, but in reality, I have a lot of control. I know my illness and some things I can prepare in advance.

I am not the only target at work. Most of us are the target at one point or another. I have been, however, one of the main targets. Multiple people heard this supervisor rant and talk about how she hated me and wanted to get my fired even before my first day. These same people have also told me that I have inspired them by how I handle it and how brave I have been dealing with it. The experience is very hard and has hurt me but I take tremendous pride in teaching others and giving them hope. More than anything, I want to share this and my vulnerability for others because I have heard stories. I believe that exposing and discussing this is the first step to dealing with it. I believe that sharing my experience, thoughts, and feeling will help others work through their experiences. I believe that we collectively have strength and wisdom that can help each other.



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