(This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from March 1 to March 31, 2018. Follow along!)
Enter the word “bullying” into an online thesaurus, and over 400 synonyms like “browbeating, domineering, persecuting, unmannerly” and – my favorite – “yobbish” arise. (Author’s aside: Wouldn’t it be better if we started calling bullies “yobs”? Yob sounds less intimidating than bully. Besides, ascribing less status to them, by using a word that isn’t derived from a term for macho cattle with fearsome fighting ability (aka: bulls), may have merit. “This school has a zero-yob policy.” “Any yobbish behavior will result in termination.” “Don’t be such a yob!” Kind of has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)
Though their behavior is easy to pinpoint, in other ways yobs blend in to every age, gender, race, religion, career and political affiliation. They can be found in the specialist’s office as easily as in the skate park, at a podium as easily as in a playroom, and leading the garden club as easily as the gang. Anyone who disagrees with a bully, who looks different, or who is different becomes a target. For this reason, it’s especially easy for children with special needs to be perceived as wearing a bullseye (the ‘perfectly healthy’ and ‘genetically endowed’ Aryan race proving this extreme with its genocide against crippled and infirm children in WWII Germany).
After an epilepsy diagnosis, focus is primarily on treatment of seizures, but other concerns immediately follow: the emotional, mental and spiritual fallout. A child with epilepsy is going to become a target for bullying in a way they have never known in their past. A yob’s own insecurities, pride, pains or ignorance will cause them to lash out at the already hurting.
Enter the anti-bully.
While we’ve developed hundreds of words describing a bully’s damaging behavior, search for antonyms in the thesaurus and there are less than fifty. We use less than one quarter the amount of words to describe people who, also found everywhere in every station in society, beautifully counteract the pain, confusion and fear a yob tries to instill. “Healers, motivators, counselors, encouragers, protectors, assistants.” And, my favorite, “friends”.
Our daughter’s diagnosis swung wide an open door for yobbish behavior, but it also exploded opportunity for amazing anti-bullies in her life. Possibly the most beautiful encouragers have been the children. These are youth who reached out with hugs, cards, and inclusive invitations on the heels of hospital stays. The ones who sent crafts, toys, and homemade drawings of kids holding hands under under sunny skies, with uplifting words and verses. Motivators who created banners, sent videos and sweet prayers on difficult days. Friends who embraced play dates, opened seats in the cafeteria, sympathized with accidents, and shrugged off apologies for seizures that were out of our child’s control. These were the children who forgave medicinal curtness, confusion and fatigue quickly. Healers who targeted our daughter for hugs, good mornings, high fives, and the golden soccer ball. Children who gifted their most beloved stuffy to our child because “she needed it more”. These were the adolescent counselors at epilepsy camp, transparent about their own diagnoses, and those at church camp who cried and studied with her and taught her games. They’re the friends who didn’t shrink away in fear, but moved in closer. The ones who asked questions to understand and empathize, not to judge.
Maybe instead of investing so much time describing bullies, protectors deserve our most colorful descriptions and passionate vocabulary. Because maybe what a yob really needs most is to watch us turn away and keep dancing through life, despite our illnesses and deformities.
Seig Heil (Victory, Praise)…to the Healers!