If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I do a lot of races and meet a lot of great people, including some amazing kids with Spina Bifida…who I adore. I love to travel, set new goals and try new things. Some people say I’m the energizer bunny, but I really just love to stay busy and have fun.
You may also know that I was born with Spina Bifida and my L5 was damaged, which led to 28 operations. I’ve woken up in ICU more times than I could count. But what you may not know is that I’ve been through some really hard times and had to overcome some major obstacles in my life - things that no one should ever have to go through.
Outside of physical challenges, I grew up dealing with self-esteem issues, mostly in school. No one ever explained to me and my classmates what Spina Bifida was and that it wasn’t contagious.
What made things even worse, was that I didn’t know anyone else with Spina Bifida. I had no one that I could to relate to, ask questions or look up to. So I didn’t know how to defend myself when kids in my school would say, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you look that way? Why are you so little? Why don’t your legs work?” Most of the time my answer would be “I was born this way.”
71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
What hurt the most was when kids in school would point and say, “Look at that girl.” It was such a horrible feeling. Like most kids, I just was trying to fit in. But because I was different, kids would point, stare and laugh at me when I walked by.
1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
At school we had teams for different sports. Let’s just say I wasn’t the first person picked for teams and I often heard the kids say, “Misty can’t” or “She’s too slow.” No matter how thick your skin is, these comments hurt. Freak, burden, worthless, I’ve literally been called every name in the book. Trust me, I’ve heard it all. This continued even after school and at times I found myself hiding in the closet just to avoid people calling me names.
1 out of 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
However, my life has changed dramatically in the last few years. As a result of discovering racing and some amazing friends who support me, I’ve become self-aware and more confident. I also learned how to respond to the people who judged and bullied me.
I don’t get upset anymore, but I am quick to speak up to educate people on what Spina Bifida is. I will no longer tolerate labels and want to make sure others don’t have to either.
As part of my new #LIVELIFE100 movement to inspire others to overcome challenges and live life to the fullest, I teamed with the amazing photographer Steve Simpson to capture some of the names that I have been called over the years. I did this to illustrate how labels can be hurtful and inspire those that have been bullied to stay strong and #LIVELIFE100.
I now ask for your help to share this photo and spread the word that bullying is not okay.
Lastly, I leave you with a challenge. Say something positive to someone you love...or better yet, someone you don’t even know. Do this in person, on the phone or leave a comment on someone's Facebook. You never know what challenges that person may be struggling with internally. Even the smallest words of encouragement can go a long way to brighten their day.
Have I told you how beautiful you look today?
Thank you for reading my story. If you aren’t following me on social media yet, make sure to add @LilMistyDiaz on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Sign Up for my Newsletter.
Use the hashtag #LIVELIFE100 to inspire others with your story.
Special thanks to the amazing photographer Steve Simpson for helping me share my message.