Discrimination is a topic that I unfortunately am all too familiar with. A history spanning from the first day of Kindergarten and throughout my years in High School. As painful as the entire experience was, I enjoyed learning and had very many fond memories of school! My thought process was, once my school journey was over, the bullying would be over. The relentless name calling, pointing and laughing would be left behind with the school lockers and classroom doors. I assumed behavior such as this only existed within school. How wrong I was. Yes, bullying indeed came to an end once I left school and there was a wide wide world to explore. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I breathed a sigh of relief. My self esteem began to blossom and my confidence began to shine like the summer sun. However, in 2008 when I was diagnosed with Epilepsy, fear washed over me. That old familiar feeling of fear. Fear of rejection and humiliation. Unsure of how the world would treat me once discovering my diagnosis. Some friends faded away as I had expected them to and some vowed to never leave my side as I prayed they wouldn’t. I gave up working as to give myself time to adjust physically and emotionally to my Epilepsy diagnosis. After a little bit of time, regaining strength physically and emotionally, I felt it right to give working a try once again. I began working for a family owned store having heard so many positive things about this particular workplace. The store, in a family-friendly community, beautiful location and lovely exterior/interior seemed like the perfect place to begin working again! I made the decision not to disclose my Epilepsy diagnosis right away so that I might be given a fair opportunity to be hired in. The workplace started out simply wonderful. Exceptionally friendly co-workers, delightful customers, I began to feel a sense of independence and a renewed sense of confidence. I had excelled as one of the top employees, praised for my positive demeanor and great work. Over the course of time, I felt comfortable enough to reveal to co-workers and management that I have Epilepsy. I had even been excited at the thought of asking for their support during Epilepsy Awareness days and month! The high hopes of acceptance and understanding that I had, slowly over time came tumbling right out of the sky in a downward spiral. It wasn’t long before co-workers and Supervisors began to distance themselves from speaking so much with me. More and more I found myself mostly standing alone. Mostly working alone. Mostly watching the time go by until the end of my shift alone. Eventually, it wasn’t long before certain co-workers found it amusing to craft ways that I was left to pick up their unfinished work giving them ample opportunity to purposely and visibly whisper about the co-worker with Epilepsy. Now when I say ‘mostly’, I am not speaking of everyone. I am blessed to say there were a few co-workers that were wonderful to me even when I disclosed my Epilepsy diagnosis and I am happy to say that we are still great friends to this day. However, for those I am referring to, the treatment I received because of my diagnosis was very difficult to overcome emotionally and even physically. Most nights, I found myself walking out of the doors of work in tears. Waiting on the curb outside of work for my husband to come take me home sobbing, wondering how people could be so cruel. Some nights, I wasn’t even able to make it out of the doors before tears began to pour down my cheeks. Most workplaces will tell you that they have an ‘Open Door Policy’ and that ‘Discrimination will not be tolerated in the workplace’. After two and three attempts to inform management of the treatment I was receiving, only to discover my pleas were falling on deaf ears, I soon realized that in fact it appeared as though the door was closed and discrimination wasn’t given much thought at all. The emotional abuse and discrimination continued at work as my husband and I did our very best to stay afloat above my medical bills. At that point, I gave up trying to ask for help. False promises that it was ‘getting looked into’. Co-workers growing colder and colder. Growing more and more distant and disrespectful. Fearing that if I quit, I would be putting us in financial jeopardy I continued to take the abuse. I continued to take the abuse all in the name of a paycheck. Reverting back to that hurt and saddened little girl bullied all throughout her school years. I wasn’t liking the person I was returning to. My self esteem dented. My confidence dwindling. A day finally came where I had taken enough. So praying for God’s protection, I left the job that I had heard nothing but positive things about. Yet in reality, behind all of the outward beauty, lay discrimination, humiliation and nonacceptance for anyone who might have a medical condition or an outstanding difference. I experienced ill-treatment from co-workers and even customers when they took notice of awareness ribbons and buttons I adorned on my work shirts. Since leaving this work place and taking time to reflect, it has caused me to be even more empowered to speak out about my Epilepsy condition. To be vigilant in standing up when I notice discrimination anywhere. Whether it be in schools, in the workplace or where ever it is happening. If you have Epilepsy or a medical condition and are being treated disrespectfully, don’t be silent. Speak up! If you know someone in your workplace with Epilepsy or a medical condition, don’t be distant. Befriend! If you notice someone disrespecting someone because of their medical condition, do something about it. Stand up for anyone being bullied or treated wrongly. Workplaces say they don’t tolerate discrimination but in reality, it happens every day all around the world. It will continue to happen until enough voices say ENOUGH! Say no to discrimination!
I am a happily-ever-after wife, an Epilepsy Diagnosee, Advocate for Epilepsy Awareness (The Epilepsy Network), life lover & Christ inspired! Life is a journey and I'm loving every moment of it. Even the bumps in the road!