Many people do not realize I am not “normal”. If you read some of my works or pay close attention when I’m around, you’ll spot it. As much as I have trained to hide my disabilities, it’s easy to see when looking.
[About Cat Hartliebe]
It’s not shame that has me hide behind my many masks. No one is truly normal. Shame only creates heartache. Honesty is important for people who care, notice, or will spend time with you. They’ll notice and you have to be truthful that you are not typical.
The real reason I hide, why I learned to hide, is because of bullying. Pity sucks, but helps in a lot of fashions. I don’t like being pitied, but it wouldn’t be enough to learn this level of masking.
Most of the time it’s innocent bullying. Like when you tell a deaf person to hear something. “Can you hear that?” is something a typical person would say to another. If you didn’t know the person was deaf, you were prodding a wound of theirs, a weakness they can’t fix. But you had no idea and a typical person would respond with yes or no. A deaf person would have to explain they can’t.
Someone who is innocently bullying will stop upon communication. When the deaf person says, “I cannot hear anything” the other person would just apologize and refrain from asking again.
This goes for any disability. My friends joke about my literal answer to everything. In the company of strangers, I’m silent. Because I know I answer “wrong”. I don’t get the mood or the flow of the conversation. It’s my weakness. I can’t fix it. I can try to talk, but it normally ends up with me taking something literal when it was supposed to be a joke. There are many other things that I struggle with. That I fight to look and act normal. And some people notice and question me. The closer we are, the more I’ll explain. It’s easier to just smile and wave at a stranger. Say it was a lapse of judgment or something similar. Or stay silent.
A deaf person could always say, “No, I can’t hear that.” Which is true, but has nothing to do with the question or circumstances. If the deaf person doesn’t explain, the speaker won’t know there is a concern. They won’t know to stop. “No, I cannot hear period. I’ve been reading your lips.”
The problem with innocent bullying is all bullies do it. A good friend would apologize. A good person would apologize. They will try to refrain from making comment or countering you again. You don’t ask a deaf person to hear something. It’s cruel.
When a person tells you to stop. That your words hurt. That your actions are insulting you. And they don’t? That’s a bully. That’s the next step up. Now they are purposely causing you harm or insulting you.
If after the deaf person says, “I am deaf; I cannot hear anything,” you then ask them what their favorite music is, you are a bully. Stop that.
Yes people who know occasionally ask silly things a few times over. I told someone I cannot have dairy, soy, or egg. Straight out said it since we were talking food. So they asked if I could have pizza. I just stared at them like isn’t that an obvious No? They forgot about the cheese. They were so embarrassed because they failed. Then I went on to say there are options, but really the typical pizza is impossible for me. It will always be impossible.
The reason I bring this up, the reason I write about innocent bullying versus real bullying, is my child received innocent bullying from a friend. I had to explain to them, if you don’t communicate the concern, your friend will never know.
In some ways, it could be called real bullying. Although I’m certain the kid was just a bit too excited to realize he was doing it. My child broke down, though. They were hurt because their friend was bullying them not helping them. But they never said anything. They never brought it up.
When bullied you say something. Say you’re hurt. Say this is an insult. Don’t throw a punch. Not yet. Fighting is unlikely to be the answer. And many who are disabled cannot throw a punch. Not to the extent needed to defend themselves from bullyers.
If the person switches from innocent bullying to real bullying, you need to reach out for someone. You need extra help. You need to let others know there is a threat. There is a person willingly insulting you. Gain help. Find someone who can. Back up is imperative. Most bullyers have the law automatically siding with them. So find someone who the law supports more, trusts more.
Now you can confront the bullyer again. You need to. Having your back up is required, but you need to step up. Bring it to everyone’s attention. Explain this isn’t right. What they’re doing is wrong. You will still be bullied if your back up does the work.
If you cannot gain the safety of the area because of various circumstances, you need to leave. Find a place where the bullying can be mitigated. Those places exist. Find friends who support you and will travel with you. They will be your back up.
I hide my disabilities. I will always do so. I won’t wear a tag that labels me one thing or another. Because I know how common bullying is. I know how bad the situations get. Kids are mean. I went through the entirety of elementary school without any friends. And even the one friend I gartered in fifth grade wouldn’t stand up against the bullying I received. It was a secret friendship. Even if my friends in high school were called friends, I would never had relied on them. We weren’t close enough for that. I had no one I was close enough to call a true friend until college.
I had no back up. So I hid. And I hide still. It’s easier for me.
Innocent bullying hurts just as much as real bullying does. Every crack whether on purpose or not hurts. And emotional pain takes a lot longer to heal than physical pain. You have to say something to someone. Start with whoever is making the comment or action. Then move on to those you trust and believe in. Seek protection while also standing tall, front and center.
Bullying is wrong. But sometimes people don’t even realize they did it. Make them realize. Speak up. Say something. It really is important.
Don’t be like me and just hide in the corner hoping they go away. They never do.