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  • Jayci Drew

    That Girl - Bullying and Celiac Disease

    Jayci Drew
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Summer 2013 Issue


    Bully Advance Screening Hosted by First Lady Katie O'Malley. by Jay Baker at Baltimore, Maryland. Image: CC--Maryland GovPics
    Caption: Bully Advance Screening Hosted by First Lady Katie O'Malley. by Jay Baker at Baltimore, Maryland. Image: CC--Maryland GovPics

    Celiac.com 02/08/2017 - "What if the kid you bullied at school, grew up, and turned out to be the only surgeon who could save your life?" --Lynette Mather

    If you ask any high school senior what in their life has changed the most since kindergarten, statistics show that many would answer moving from one school to another. However, the more drastic of changes are seen such as illnesses diagnosed during these critical school ages. In 2009 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and that diagnosis has impacted my life in both positive and negative ways for my past, present, and future time at Indiana Area High School and beyond. Personally I have had to deal with bullying because of my disabilities. Bullying by definition is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. I along with 20% of my peers nationwide in grades 9-12 (The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System) experience bullying in many different forms. Bullying can be teasing, hitting, leaving someone out, whispering behind backs, online harassment, shoving, remarks about race, sexuality, and disabilities. Before my diagnosis I was considered "normal" but as a result of my illness and "strange" dietary needs therefore I have been bullied. However, looking back on my experience I am happy to have dealt with the resistance because it has made me a better, more confident individual.



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    I, like three million fellow Americans nationwide (National Celiac Disease), must deal with the stress of having celiac disease. I was diagnosed in 2009 after having lost my eyesight to a migraine. Celiac Disease is an often under-diagnosed autoimmune disease wherein the person cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, or oats, otherwise known as gluten, because their antibodies will attack their own system leading to other serious health issues such as cancer. Celiac Disease is spread through genes; my entire family, including my father, mother, and sister, has this disease. However, even with the growing awareness of celiac disease, there is also a growing skepticism. "Critics" of my disease claim that the gluten free diet is a fad. Many celebrities have tried to lose weight and failed to stay on this difficult diet. Restaurant chains are coming out with new gluten free menus every day to raise prices and profits, though they refuse to educate their servers about what someone with a gluten "allergy" cannot eat. While some people are sympathetic and know the outstanding facts about celiac disease, most of the population stays in the dark about this ailment. This causes frustration for people with celiac disease, like me, to have to deal with the resulting brick wall of resistance.

    In my small community it is very rare for someone to have such a disease that the public knows little about. This can cause doubt and disbelief, especially at a high school where everyone is just trying to "fit in". When I was diagnosed in 2009, I had just started ninth grade and I had also started playing two high school sports, softball and tennis. For the softball team it was a well-known fact that after every away game the softball boosters would buy each girl a twelve inch sub from a local deli to eat on the way home. Whenever my parents and I contacted the booster president to explain the situation with my disability and that I simply would like to have a salad, we were met with backlash. I did not understand at the time why a parent would refuse to supply another child with food after a physical activity when everyone else was getting a meal. This quickly made me an outcast on the softball team as the "strange girl with the made up disease", causing me to feel stressed and awful about myself over something that I could not control. I would have loved to have been able to "fit in" and eat the subs like my teammates rather than being different, especially after growing up able to eat gluten! It was a hard transition to make. I went from being able to eat the subs, donuts, pizza, and any other fast-food product to a strict dietary regime.

    After my long process through the education system, I finally got the meal I had a right to have. Unfortunately, the boosters' actions, forced us to go through the school system to "prove" I had a legitimate excuse not to eat the subs. I was distanced from other members of the team and, in subsequent years, had to deal with backlash from my teammates. They do not understand that it is not a personal choice to avoid gluten. I have a disability. I simply cannot eat it. Instead, they go back to the first year when I was eating the same foods they ate, and I get blamed for wanting to be "special" and get the more expensive food. I know that I am not alone in my struggle and that people with celiac disease around the world deal with what I deal with everyday - just like others who are bullied for being different.

    The after effects from my being bullied have shown themselves even in everyday situations. I have learned a great deal about myself and respect for other individuals' differences. I believe that if I had not been bullied I would not have the self-confidence, integrity, sense of right and wrong, or leadership skills that I have now. It has allowed me to go above and beyond in tough situations, knowing that I can overcome them. I know that even though the times are tough with my disability, and that while others may never understand mine, I can certainly understand and respect theirs. I respect and do not judge others simply based on what they can or cannot eat. I also know that just because someone does not "look" ill on the outside does not mean they are not dealing with something awful on the inside. This allows me to make friends easily and to understand others more effectively. Being bullied has also allowed me to learn new leadership skills that I use in my volunteer work. I am confident in myself that I can go forward into the world of higher education and succeed because of the values I now hold dear.

    The most drastic change I have encountered in my high school career is the diagnosis of celiac disease in 2009. This diagnosis has impacted my life in both positive and negative ways, in the past, present, and future at Indiana Area High School and beyond. I have had to deal with bullying because of my disabilities. Bullying, by definition. is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. I along with 20% of my peers nationwide in grades 9-12 (The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System) experience bullying in many different forms. After dealing with the effects of my being bullied, I know that it has made me a better person. I can travel the world and make lasting relationships based on acknowledging and respecting differences in every person I encounter.

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    Hi Jayci, I can relate to what you have gone through. I was also in same situation when I was diagnosed with Celiac 1.5 yrs. ago. Awareness about Celiac in Indian society is still a alien thing. As you said, it helps us to be compassionate towards others as we might not knowing what they are going through. Regards, Sami.

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    hi there i a curenntly being bullied and my bullies use perfume and flowers and deodrants to give me asthma attacks and they also mock me about my severe celiac disease 

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    Hi, I also have celiac and was also bullied for it. I was diagnosed in 4th grade which was one of the worst years of my life. I was bullied once my secret accidentally got out after mistakenly giving permission to one of my friends to tell the gossip girl of the class. I still see the look on her face when I think of that mishap. It was only the start of the school year, you can imagine how that played out. Anyway, I was avoided for the rest of 4th grade, everyone thought I was contagious, until I met someone, who eventually became my friend and got me through my depression. I made a presentation about celiac, which was copy-pasting info that had complex words in it that they didn’t know what it exactly meant(I was kinda embarrassed). Sadly, we had a dumb teacher, who LAUGHED at me during my presentation, and when I tried to get the “popular” (but he really really sucks) boy in the class in trouble for... well, it’s a really long story and it’s really sad, but anyway the teacher of course takes HIS side and calls me “overreacting” and “sensitive”. I then visit the school psychiatrist thingy, and she says the same thing and that IT WASNT A BIG DEAL. She pretty much said bullying wasn’t a big deal. Anyway, then school ends and all that jazz, then we start 5th grade. Whoop-dee-doo. So first I break my foot the legit day before the first day of school, which earned me some serious unpopularity points because my teacher asked the people at my table to get my stuff. They usually ignore me and tell me to “get it myself”. No wonder it took 4 months to heal. Then, the worst thing happens. My friend, my only friend, was being kinda annoying and I was really on edge, and we got into a huge fight, which ended up in me giving her the silent treatment. She wanted to make up with me, but I had slipped into depression, and was even suicidal. This continues, until we finally became friends once again so yay, and we are friends to this day. The end. Man, I didn’t even make it to the hell of sixth grade. OMG, I’m sorry this is so long! I got caught up in my rant and just kept going. Sorry.

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  • About Me

    Jayci graduated from Indiana Area High School in June 2013. Her future plans consist of attending Penn State University at University Park and majoring in Petroleum & Natural Gas Engineering. Jayci plans to study abroad this summer doing sustainability research in Jamaica. Her overall GPA was over 3.9+ and was awarded the Presidential Education Awards Certificate, National Honor Society Member, a Scholar Athlete Award, plus the school's Academic Excellence Award as well. Jayci participated in to varsity sports, Girl's Tennis and Girls' Softball, as the captain for both teams her senior year. She loved to volunteer and often gave her time for Breast Cancer Awareness, the Four Diamonds Fund (THON), Wounded Warriors, and many other organizations. She was also a member of Leadership Seminar within her school. As a child Jayci always helped her classmates; she was like their "little teacher" sometimes. She loved and still loves traveling and spending time with her family.


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