End Bullying

Freak. Burden. Worthless…At times I found myself hiding in the closet just to avoid people calling me these names.

Misty Diaz

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?

Misty Diaz
Thank you for reading my story. If you aren’t following me on social media yet, make sure to add @LilMistyDiaz on FacebookInstagram, 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.

Just Because Someone Might Not Look Disabled, Doesn't Mean They're Not.

handicap parking

When I moved to Los Angles, I ended up getting two parking tickets because I had forgotten to hang up my handicap plaque, go figure. A girlfriend of mine suggested that I get permanent handicap plates on my car. I shrugged it off a few times because I thought it would be too much of a hassle to get. Well a few weeks later, I ended up getting my permanent plates on my car and it wasn’t a hassle. Little did I know the hassle would come when I least expected it.

A few months back an older woman was staring at me awhile I gathered my things from the inside of my car. I really didn’t understand why she kept looking at me, I was sitting inside my car so she couldn’t see my disability until I had stepped foot outside. As I gathered my things I slowly opened the door and this woman comes up to my car door and says very loudly “You do know you parked in the handicap parking spot, don’t you?” I was completely caught off guard.

I said, “I sure do, thanks for letting me know.” She replied back, “Well you need a disability plaque and clearly I can see you don’t have one displayed.“  So I slowly got out of the car grabbed my crutches and stared right back at her. I said to her, “I have them displayed on the front and back of my car.” The look on her face and how big her eyes got, priceless. Not once did she apologize.

It’s honestly bad enough people stare already, but to have someone loudly voice how they think I’m doing something wrong is completely none of their business and hurtful. Because she didn’t see my handicap plaque displayed in my window, she assumed I didn’t have a disability and thought it would be okay to attack me. I let the issue go and continued on with my day.

Some people just assume that when I’m sitting in my car, I can’t possibly have a disability. They can’t see me from the waist down or they think, how can a person who has a disability be driving? It’s time to stop stereotyping people and realize that those who have a disability are living active wonderful independent lives.

I was honestly hoping that would be the last time I had to deal with a complete stranger getting mad at me for parking in the handicap parking spot. Little did I know it would get worse a few months later. 

I’ll never forget it, I was having such a great day. I was in Culver City, the sun was shining and I had just gotten some fruit from the fruit stand. My dog Lola was with me and we were on our way to the bank.

There was no parking anywhere accept cross the street.  The one spot empty was disabled parking, so I pulled in and parked. I gathered my things began to get out, that’s when it got really ugly, really fast.

An older couple came up to my window on the passenger side and started yelling loudly and cussing me out. I had no idea what was going on until the woman said, “How dare you park in a handicap spot with no hanging plaque, you’re a disgrace to those who are disabled! I could have used this spot, but I had to park 5 cars away so you could illegally park here. You horrible person!”

Her husband was saying something as well, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying because they were both yelling at me at the same time. Lola was barking and the couple wouldn’t stop.

There was a man who I will never forget. I don’t know his name, but I saw him looking at me while he was watching the couple yell and tear me down so badly. He was tall and had a ton, and I mean a ton of tattoos all over his face neck and arms.

So he’s watching this unfold. He walks inside the bank. I get out of my car as am crying so badly then the couple came around to the driver’s side and without even thinking or processing what is going on, I yell back, "Is this disabled enough for you!"

I only had time to get one crutch out of my car because I was so mad, but I walked fast towards them yelling and crying. The look on their faces was again priceless. They just looked me up and down and said very little to me.

“Oh we didn’t see your hanging handicap plate.” My reply, “Since you’re playing parking monitor why didn’t you check my front and back of my license plate?” They said nothing else, but then ran inside the bank. I just stood there crying over the fact at all the horrible and mean things they said to me and they just walked away no apology nothing. 

About 5 minutes later the man with all the tattoos came outside and walked up to me as I was still crying and said I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can’t believe they said those things to you. Please don’t let what happened ruin your day and don’t stop smiling, I saw you before when you pulled up into the spot and you looked so happy. Please don’t cry, shake it off there just ignorant people.

In that moment I was more reassured to not judge a book by its cover. This complete stranger with tattoos all over came up to me to let me know everything was going to be okay.

Out of all that happened, what I’ve learned is a lot of people are curious and they have a lot of questions. Education is key and whenever possible, I do my best to share my story with people.

Compassion and understanding is the ultimate goal when faced with a difficult situation as this. When someone is yelling at you like that, the first thing that you want to do is shut down.

My suggestion when times like this happen is, stay calm, say thank you and kindly walk away especially if they’re yelling. But if you can educate them about your disability, ask them if they have any questions. You’ll be surprised what response you will get.

Don’t allow this to discourage you, remember those who judge like this don’t know a thing about your or your disability. We have to good of a life to be stressing over people who jump to conclusions and assume. After all that had happened that day, I went about my day and continue to have a great day even after some crying. Let’s educate!