“My Desk Was a Prison Cell”
A 20-year-old budding actress with ADHD won’t ever forget what it was like to be bullied.
She looks normal on the outside. All you see is a pretty girl walk up to her friend and start a conversation. As she talks, nobody notices she has trouble focusing on her friend’s words or her finger tapping. Only she can feel the motor that won’t turn off, also known as severe ADHD.
The girl struggles to keep her brain trained on the conversation. It is tough for her to stay focused on the words for more than a few minutes. Her habit is to float from friend to friend, until she loses attention and interest. She likes to call herself a social butterfly. That girl is me.
Beneath my bubbly exterior are scars from being bullied about my severe ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s. In junior high, my peers and teachers were the bullies. The teacher told the students to avoid me. For seven hours a day, my desk was a prison cell, and my finger-tapping was the only sound I heard. Nobody talked to me, unless it was to insult or taunt me. Imagine going a day without anyone talking to you. It is horrible and very lonely.
It took six years on different medications to reduce my symptoms, but it also took a lot of self-acceptance. My mom was my biggest advocate, always treating me like a normal kid. Because of my mom’s support, I was able to accept my disabilities — and me.
After I stopped fighting the fact that I suffer from ADHD, OCD, and Tourette’s, my symptoms lessened and the medication seemed to work better. I made friends. I began a club in high school to help animals and I discovered my passion for acting. With my newfound self-confidence, and my participation in eight high school plays, I knew I could find happiness.
Now that I found myself in a better place, I decided to help other kids who are being bullied. I told my story at school assemblies. My hope was that I could prevent kids from suffering because of their differences.
Suddenly, as everything was going great, my life took another downturn. At 17, I lost my best friend — my dad. At that point, I could have either drowned in my sorrows or taken stock and appreciated all the blessings in my life. I chose the latter.
After spending a year studying theater at The University of La Verne, I decided to leave and follow my dream of acting. In August 2013, at age 20, I went out on auditions. By the end of the year I had shot seven commercials, appeared on CSI: Las Vegas, Hollywood Hillbillies, was a guest star on the Lifetime Original Series Killer Kids, appeared in a Hallmark movie and was a celebrity taste tester on Cupcake Wars.
I was happy, but happiness can’t erase the scars that came from being bullied. I can’t forget the things people said or did to me, but I can forgive the people who said them. Many people told me, “Hayley, you will never work in Hollywood.” I proved those bullies wrong.
I still speak about bullying at schools. I give motivational speeches and mentor kids when I am not on set. This past February, I hosted a red-carpet anti-bullying event called The First Annual “No Bull” Music Showcase. We raised money for an anti-bullying nonprofit called The Great American “No Bull” Challenge helping teens stand up to bullying. Many young celebrities came out to show their support. I also created anti-bullying PSAs with artists who performed at the event.
I have overcome many obstacles in my 20 years, and, along the way, I never asked for pity. I share my story to inspire and to give hope to others. Instead of saying, “It can’t get worse,” I say, “It can get better.”
Updated on October 5, 2017