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Eczema and bullying: tackling a touchy subject

When the story of a teen with eczema being harassed at school went viral, Ashley Wall shared her thoughts on how the internet and social media have escalated bullying into an alarming epidemic.

Eczema and bullying: tackling a touchy subject

Not a minute goes by without the internet inundating us with the latest stories of bullied victims. Sensational headlines draw our hand over the touchpad like a Ouija board, and without hesitation, we found ourselves clicking the link. Our eyes dart back and forth, reading sentence after sentence of some horrendous crime that was committed – an abuse of power in the worst offense.

But you know what? I’d be lying if I said the world would be a better place without bullies.

That’s a very unorthodox statement, but a truthful one. Do I condone bullying? Absolutely not! But I wrote that because I know that a lot of inspirational people – Elon Musk, Christian Bale, Rihanna and Steven Spielberg just to name a few – were once bullied themselves. That being said, bullying is extremely dangerous and disruptive to both the bully and those on the receiving end of the bullying.

What makes bullying different in today’s world? Technology. Sometimes it’s a lifesaving method, as a recorded video, text message, picture, voicemail etc. can serve as physical evidence. But it can also be a hindrance when the evidence goes viral, and the world weighs in on the situation through social media. If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that everyone has an opinion. This can be a blessing or a curse.

Recently, I read an article about a 16-year-old who has eczema and psoriasis on her scalp. Causing bald patches in her hair, this led her to seek solace in wearing wigs. On a $5 bet, a student from her high school walked up behind her, ripped off her wig (that was firmly attached to her hair/scalp) and threw it on the ground.

It didn’t stop there, as the girl ran to the bathroom crying, another student followed behind her and recorded her crying in the bathroom stall while laughing. Within hours, the mother of the victim posted her heartbreaking story on Facebook, and the brief snapchat video went viral for the whole world to see.

What this girl did next was simply brilliant: she shaved her head.

It was one of the most powerful statements I’d ever seen a victim do. In fact, it was almost surreal … except it was real life. It was her life. She took back her power. She didn’t let the bully or her hair define her. She made lemons out of lemonade. Most importantly, she overcame adversity.

I realize that not every case of bullying has this type of recognition or ending. But I thought this was a pretty powerful story to share. However, as someone with eczema, you can imagine how this story really hit home. Living with eczema is hard enough as it is, but to be bullied for it on top of that—it just adds an extra layer of awfulness.

The subject of bullying is a very difficult one to address because every situation is different. Your opinions and advice are subjective to how you view the world and how others view it too. Some kids bully others to appear cool and fit in with the “popular” crowd. Others may bully because they themselves are crying out for help, and this is the only thing that makes them feel powerful.

Bullying is never ok, but it has always been around and will always be around – just in different forms as power dynamics shift. My goal with this piece is to not come across preachy, but to ask you to better educate yourself and others on what to do if your son, daughter, family member or friend are in that situation. Whether you’re the bully or the one being bullied, it’s important to seek help and tackle the problem at hand.

Ashley Wall is a freelance writer, blogger, content creator and self-proclaimed “criminal eczema investigator.” She’s also the voice behind “Itching Since ‘87” a blog about living with eczema, which has gained an international following.

Read more: What to do if your child is being bullied because of their eczema.

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