By Rebecca Chitolie

THIS BRAVE man was shocked to discover he would be bullied MORE by adults than the children he went to school with.

Communications Executive Olu Fadipe (28) from London, England has experienced bullying throughout his life over his visible difference caused by being born with a medical condition called Cystic Hygroma.

Due to malformations in his lymphatic system caused by a condition called Cystic hygroma Olu has endured cysts forming where he has lymph nodes in the sides of his neck, under his jaw and chin.

Olu as a child in a bedroom wearing a green outfit.

He has had over 20 medical procedures to help alleviate his suffering.

This condition primarily affects Olu’s face, mouth, and throat, which makes it difficult for him to breathe. Olu then had a tracheostomy to help him breathe.

A tracheostomy is a small hole that is made in the throat, allowing Olu to breathe through a tube inserted into that hole.

Olu was shocked after leaving school to find he experienced bullying more in public space by adults and strangers in the street, than the children he went to school with.

“In public people have called me names, and horrible things”, said Olu.

“It still happens sometimes to this day.

“One of the most recent times, I was at a bus stop and these kids, around 12-14 year olds, were doing the Family Guy Quagmire “Giggity” meme in front of me.”

Olu is also PEG fed, which means that instead of eating regular food by mouth, he receives nutrition through a tube.

“This means that instead of eating regular food by mouth, I receive my nutrition through a tube that goes directly into my stomach”, said Olu.

“I was regularly in and out of hospital for the first 13 years of my life. In the early 2000s, most of my major procedures were to improve my visible difference, and to give me a better quality of life.”

Olu now stood next to a United Kingdom flag.

Olu attended a disabled school in Croydon from the age of 4-16 years old, and says that he was sheltered from ableist comments, until he started going to university.

“Luckily for me I was quite sheltered from it for the most part growing up, since I was at a disabled school in Croydon from the age of 4-16 years old, and then went to a boarding college called Treloars, which is for disabled people, but studied at Alton College while staying there. This was my first time mixing with non-disabled people properly, outside of my family”, said Olu.

“At the time, it was quite scary but also really exciting. I think I was very lucky with how things panned out because I still had the support from Treloar staff and, of course, my friends, who a lot had already gone mainstream previously, and also the fact there was a partnership between the disabled boarding college, Treloars and the mainstream college, Alton College.

“This meant that people who attended Alton were used to disabled people.

“I found it more difficult when I went to university initially, during my first year, because I didn’t have that support group.

“But slowly, as the years went on, I became more confident.

“Now I’m at a point where I’m confident in everyday life, whatever the situation when it comes to meeting or socialising.

“I then went on to go to uni at Solent University in Southampton getting a 2:1 in Web Design and Development.

“I now work for an advertising agency called VaynerMedia.”

Olu shared the ways he copes with mean comments.

“Throughout my life, I had different ways of coping. When I was younger, I struggled a lot, as although I didn’t receive bullying at school, I was still getting called names throughout my life on occasions. But now, I pay it no mind”, said Olu.

Olu as a child wearing a white outfit with stairs in the background.

“I own it now. One of the biggest mentality shifts that helped me get through everything was the rapper Eminem in the film 8 Mile.

“Eminem’s character took the power away from his competitor by mentioning and owning everything his competitor could’ve said about him, which left his competitor with nothing to say. Not only that, he did it in such a way that he had fun with it.

“That’s usually my approach in life, I know I look different, I know my speech is different and so on. But so what? There’s nothing you can do about it, so just have fun with it, and live your life.

“I like going on long walks, any form of exercise is great. Having a supportive family and amazing friends is something else that really helped me too.

Olu shares how his confidence has grown.

“Feeling more confident starts with smaller things, like having a haircut, making yourself feel refreshed and nice. If you believe in yourself you’re confident, then everything else falls into place”, said Olu.

“Of course I’ll always have down days, I am a human being, and that’s fine too. But I don’t let other people, especially people who are irrelevant in my life like strangers, affect me.

“There have been many physical changes throughout my life that I’ve made and continue to make in order to feel more confident in my own body and be happy in life. But I think confidence for anyone comes down to mental changes and good mental health.”

Olu shared the advice he would give to others who have experienced bullying for their visible difference and how support is vital.

“Don’t let other people, especially people who are irrelevant in your life like strangers affect you in a negative way”, said Olu.

“Changing Faces for a year or so, which is a charity which supports people with visible differences. This is a charity that supported me a bit when I was younger, but I always want to give back and help other people however I can.

“I feel better than ever, physically, mentally. But it hasn’t been an easy journey. Now I’m happy with where I am, and I’m excited about what the future holds for me.

“I also co-founded the first-ever disabled Community Resource Group at VaynerMedia, which is not only a safe space for people at the company with any sort of disability to have a safe space but a chance to promote disability within the workspace, because visibility is so important to create more understanding.”