Standing Out

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With a condition that sets her apart from her peers and a sudden illness that crushes her social life, Mya Anderson struggles to find herself. Mya Anderson, who is nine years old at the time of the novel, takes time to reflect on her experiences at school. She is an outcast from the other children her age because she has trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder, and tic disorders in which she has sudden, uncontrollable urges to vocalize or gesticulate. Mya’s sister, Jeanne, plays a comedic role in which she drags Mya into her drama at school with her on-off romance with a boy named Jack and her distaste of Brianna, who has feelings for Jack. All the while, Jessabelle, who is the stereotypical “popular” girl, incessantly bullies her. Mya finds solace in Cindy, who serves as her greatest proponent. Cindy’s other friend, Sara, however, dislikes Mya and is bitter that Mya is essentially taking her friend from her. After several months, Mya becomes feverish and is later rushed to the hospital with periorbital cellulitis. As she recovers, she muses on how she has been treated and who the people are that truly care about her. Apparently, while she was hospitalized, Sara moved away due to Mya’s treatment of her and Mya is incredibly confused. Cindy is heartbroken that her best friend has left her and blames it on Mya, claiming

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Have you ever had a “true friend” turn you down? I sure have. No one wants to be around me because I’m “different.” I’ve also found that when a classmate of mine does want to be my friend, it has to be “in secret” so that their reputation isn’t ruined. Day after day I sit down moodily on the swing, pull my hair out violently, do a few “strange” motions, and wait for that glorious whistle to blow. And once we are lined up to go to the cafeteria, I am more than eager to sit alone at the Peanut-Free table that has become the “Weirdo Deposit Area.”

I get it. Most people truly despise me because I’m not able to meet their invisible set of standards, but like everyone else, I have a genuine story to tell to anyone willing to listen.

My name is Mya Anderson and I am nine years old. I have a parrot named Sylvia and a cat named Opal. Along with my two loving parents, I also have a sister, Jeanne, who is 14 years old. I will admit that I don’t make friends too well, though. I suffer from trichotillomania, which is a condition in which the person with it has an uncontrollable desire to pull out their hair. I also have tics, which can be motor or vocal. Mine are mainly motor tics, so I get hung up on a particular motion and have to do it a certain amount of times. Some of the odd things that I do are vocal, though.

A month or so ago, we went out to get ice cream and I heard people whispering about the bald spots on my head from my condition. Ever since then, I have had sudden desires to mutter rapidly under my breath, which is commonly mistaken for gossiping, especially at school. Just yesterday I got sent to the principal for whispering under my breath because my teacher thought that I was back-talking her. I tried to explain that it was a habit, but Mr. Johnson wasn’t in the mood for irrational excuses. He laughed ill-temperedly and later called my parents. When I got home, all they had in their eyes was helpless sympathy.

The worst part about having my conditions is that no one seems to know what to do. I am incessantly sent to counselors and doctors to receive some treatment that would fail miserably the next week, depressing both me and my parents. Recently, I was given Vaseline to put on the areas I was picking, which included my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. The doctor suggested that I wear gloves to make it harder to pick, and my counselor, bewildered Mrs. Petunia, perplexedly prescribed positive thinking and stress balls. Well, that didn’t work. My crafty hands found a way to maneuver past the defiant Vaseline, even in my gloves. It was hard, but totally worth that sensation of a hair being removed.

My distressed parents had given up so much money for me, and yet, I couldn’t seem to follow through on any of the treatments. Nothing I did could ever lift that ominous cloud hanging malevolently over their heads.

As for my sister, Jeanne, she didn’t ever seem to care about me. I was always too “young and annoying” to be in her room or with her friends. She viewed me as the epitome of imperfection; my one lazy eye made her sick, the missing spots in my blonde hair were the part in which she most abhorred, my fashion is “so last Saturday,” and she just simply doesn’t like my personality. I think she doesn’t want me around her because I might ruin her status at school. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t want to hang out with me if I were her. I can’t help but feel saddened and guilty, though. Maybe if I were more “normal,” my sister would love me. And just maybe, with a little luck, I wouldn’t stand out anymore.

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