We interviewed YouTuber and online personality Eugenia Cooney about her experiences with bullying

DtL: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Eugenia: Hi, my name is Eugenia Cooney and I’m a YouTuber and online entertainer. A lot of the videos I create are makeup and fashion oriented, both are passions of mine. I’m originally from Connecticut and have been living in Los Angeles for about 5 months now. I love shopping, traveling, anime, Jack Skellington, and my dog Buzz.

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying?
Eugenia: Yes. Unfortunately bullying is a terrible problem in most middle and high schools (from my experience). Bullying can leave a terrible impression on kids, and I do believe it can drastically decrease if kids would stick up for the ones they see being targeted. Sometimes I feel like it can be really hard for people to stick up for themselves and others, which is why I think bullying is still a major problem. For me personally, I was always afraid to speak my mind, so kids would pick on me quite a bit. Because of this my grades also began to suffer. Fortunately, I was able to be home schooled which worked out really well for me. That’s actually when I started YouTube!

“Sometimes I feel like it can be really hard for people to stick up for themselves and others”

 

DtL: What advice would you give to those that are being bullied?
Eugenia: I feel for anyone who’s going through any form of bullying. I would tell them to try ignore the people that are bullying and to surround yourself with those who love and care about you unconditionally. I feel like by just surrounding yourself with family, friends and other likeminded people that enjoy the same hobbies and things that you do, helps to maintain a healthy mental frame of mind during tough times.

DtL: Why do you think people bully?
Eugenia: I think people who feel the need to bully others are probably not very happy with their own lives. I think they probably don’t understand how to deal with their own problems and take their issues out on the people around them. Sometimes it seems like one person will thrive on grouping people up on perceivably “weaker” people who might be afraid to fight back or speak up. It’s fun for them to somehow feel like they are dominating the situation. A lot of people say it’s jealousy, but I think it’s more of a way for people to feel like they’re in control and have that power and attention.

“I think people who feel the need to bully others are probably not very happy with their own lives”

 

DtL: What are the best and worst things about being a YouTube sensation?
Eugenia: The best thing about being a YouTuber is the fanfare. They’re awesome! I can have a bad day and see someone tweet me something super nice and it makes me feel so much better about everything. Some fans even take time to send me letters and gifts and I find that so amazing. I love my fans!
The worst thing is the haters. They can be super distracting. I do my best not let it get to me, but it can definitely be hard sometimes. I wish people could treat each other more respectfully in real life and online.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?
Eugenia: If I could go back in time I would have told myself to not let bullying affect me so much. Concentrate on your own goals and ignore negative people.

“I wish people could treat each other more respectfully in real life and online”

 

DtL: What motto do you live by?
Eugenia: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I feel like if more people followed this motto the world would be a much more positive, inviting place.

DtL: What does the future hold for Eugenia?
Eugenia: The future for me includes continuing to build my Youtube career and presence online. In the future I would really like to have a small fashion line on the side, I think that would be really fun.

DtL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Eugenia: I just want to say I honestly believe that there are so many kind and wonderful people out there. Don’t let the negative ones bring you down. Stay positive and remember you are so important no matter what anyone says. Believe in yourself and life will get better!

We interviewed YouTuber Riyadh Khalaf about his experiences with bullying, his new TV series and what it was like coming out to his parents

DtL: Hi Riyadh! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Riyadh: Hey, I’m Riyadh. I’m an Irish guy who moved to London earlier this year to focus on my career and personal growth. I’m a YouTube content creator and Documentary filmmaker with BBC.

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying?
Riyadh: As a kid, I experienced a lot of bullying, both on and offline. The first experiences of this were on the school playground where I was called a whole list of cruel names and it made feel like an outcast.

The trolling online began when I decided to set up my YouTube channel at the age of 16. I was making videos for about nine months when I began receiving daily death threats and multiple abusive comments about my mannerisms, voice and appearance. I went to the police to make a statement but they just told me to stop making videos and the comments would stop. I went offline for seven years and then decided about 18 months ago to make a return to the site that I loved so much.

“I began receiving daily death threats and multiple abusive comments”

 

Since my return, I have seen an unbelievable wave of love and support that overshadows any trolling I get. The reason I came back to YouTube is because with age and wisdom through my teenage years I grew a tough skin and the ability to not care anymore. The most important thing to me is my happiness and if I am not creating content then I am not happy. I began to flip the negative comments into a positive by using them for funny ‘Reading Mean Comments’ videos which my viewers love. I take the cruel and uncalled for hate and make fun of it, I troll the troll or make frivolous remarks about the comment which in turn takes the power and sting away from the hateful words. I do it for fun but also to empower others to see that these words can be dangerous and incredibly hurtful but if you have the right believe in yourself and self-loving attitude, then you can tackle them.

“I take the cruel and uncalled for hate and make fun of it”

 

In school, I just battled through my bullying on my own. I had little or no support from friends or teachers when it was at its worst. I didn’t realise just how anxious, sad and lost I was at the time because those feelings just became my new normal. I found happiness and a safe space in my own home with my parents who became my best friends.

DtL: What advice would you give to those that are being bullied?
Riyadh: Speak up if you’re being harassed or bullied. Ask the person why they are doing it, tell them the effect it is having on you and if they still don’t stop then seek help from a person in power – A teacher, parent, someone who you trust. Suffering in silence and just ‘putting up’ with it as I did is never a good thing. It will eventually make you afraid of the world and worried about every person you speak to.

What you need to realise is that there are millions of people in this country and all over the world who are silently supporting you and on your side. You are never alone. It’s just about reaching out and finding one of those people who can help you take some steps to stopping the bullying.

Sometimes all it takes is a dose of reality for those that bully to understand the impact of their actions and therefore stop. Some cannot be spoken to and that’s just a reality of life but once again, this is not a battle you have to fight alone or should feel embarrassed asking for help in. Teachers and elders are there to assist you but they can’t help unless they know what is going on.

DtL: Do you have a coming out story? If so can you share it with us?
Riyadh: My coming out story began with me coming out to myself and being comfortable with my sexuality.

It took me about four years to build up the courage to begin telling friends and family. My mother was great about it and supported me. She was mainly upset that I had been holding it in for so long.

I came out to my dad nine months after my mother and initially he was fine but the following days he broke down and was incredibly upset. He is Iraqi and although not a practicing Muslim he had a lot of worries about what other people would think. He was having a lot of difficulties coming to terms with it. My dad recently admitted that he was considering suicide the night after I came out. It was heartbreaking to hear as you can imagine.

“My dad recently admitted that he was considering suicide the night after I came out. It was heartbreaking to hear as you can imagine”

 

In the months following this household drama my father began to relax and take time to learn what being gay means. We worked hard as a family to repair the broken relationships and learn to love again. My dad came with me to Pride and I can vividly remember seeing him have an ‘ah ha!’ moment. He saw how beautiful, open and loving our community was and he felt proud that his son was part of it. He embraced me and told me he loved me. Since then both my parents have been to multiple Pride events, have marched in marriage equality rallies and have appeared in multiple TV documentaries about the LGBTQ+ community. I am incredibly lucky to have them!

DtL: What are the best and worst things about being a YouTube sensation?
Riyadh: Hahaha I would use the term sensation lightly!

I love being my own boss and having 100% creative freedom in all that I do. I don’t have to run any ideas or concepts past anyone – I can just make it! I get the joy of travelling the world for work and making friends in every new location I land. I really couldn’t ask for a better job.

On the downside, it can have an impact on your mental health and anxiety as you worry about the performance of your channel and videos wondering if it is dying and if you need to change things constantly. This is why I make sure to step away from the computer and phone a lot and give myself some digital breathing space.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?
Riyadh: “Riyadh, it’s all going to be ok in the end” or “Work hard, love hard, surround yourself with great people and never let anyone tell you something is impossible”.

DtL: What has been your proudest moment so far?
Riyadh: My proudest moment was getting the chance to publicly campaign for equal marriage in Ireland. I was one of the faces of young Ireland and the ‘Yes’ vote. I worked for months campaigning on national and international media including BBC, CNN and MSNBC then standing with thousands of Irish LGBT’s at Dublin Castle as the result was read out. It was the most amazing experience of my life.

Riyadh on sexuality: “You are not sick, you are not shameful, you are just human”

 

DtL: What does the future hold for Riyadh?
Riyadh: I’m working on a BBC Three documentary series about LGBTQ culture and issues in the UK including homelessness, racism, body image, femme shaming, porn and more. It’s a dream come true to be making documentaries with BBC and something I’ve wanted to do for countless years.

Beyond this I hope to continue growing my channel, begin working more in entertainment TV and eventually, one day have my own talk show! I have hope! 🙂

DtL: What advice would you give to those who may be struggling to come to terms with their sexuality?
Riyadh: Look into yourself and take away all of the societal, media and family ‘norms’ and expectations. When you have removed all of those external pressures, what do you feel? Who are you drawn to? What is your heart saying?

You are not sick, you are not shameful, you are just human. Go online and find others like you. Speak to like-minded people and begin to truly love yourself and your identity. Then and only then should you consider telling the people around you in my opinion. Your future is bright but it is brighter when you are free!

Living with OCD

Laura Ivy blogs about living with OCD

I remember sitting in a psychology lesson when I was fifteen, flicking through my textbook and writing down the definitions of keywords in the glossary. One of those keywords was ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. Upon reading the definition I was shocked at how strongly I could relate to it.

Since the age of eleven I had been having intrusive thoughts. Having developed an irrational fear that my intrusive thoughts would come true, I began doing what my mum called ‘rituals’ which I imagined would stop my intrusive thoughts from coming true. I had never once considered that I might have OCD because, as many of us are, I was under the impression that OCD meant you liked things to be clean, or that you liked things to be in a certain order – I was unaware that there was more to it until I realised I had it. A while after that psychology lesson, I watched a television program about people who had OCD, which is where I first began to understand that there were many different types of OCD and started to realise there was more to the disorder than I first thought. After a bit of internet research I built up the courage to confide in my mum, who is a mental health professional, and hear her thoughts and opinions on me possibly having it. After having a discussion with her she agreed that it was possible I was suffering from the disorder.

“Before realising I had OCD, I – like most people – didn’t really take it very seriously”

 

I struggle the most with the intrusive thoughts that come with OCD, which have affected me more than I can even verbalise. Before realising I had OCD, I – like most people – didn’t really take it very seriously and considered it a mild inconvenience rather than the harmful disorder I now know it to be. Having OCD has made me feel constantly anxious and impacted my self-esteem, making me feel somewhat incapable of making decisions and being a functioning human being as I feel like I can’t do anything without having an intrusive thought. I have too many intrusive thoughts to count, completely irrational ones too.

The main focus of my thoughts is my parents and my constant anxiety that something bad will happen to them, which I believe spawns from A) The fact that I am an only child and am very close to my parents, and B) My mum has a chronic illness that has impacted her health drastically. Typically I will have an intrusive thought when I’m crossing through a doorway or touching something. If I’m crossing through a doorway to a different room and I have an intrusive thought I’ll have to leave the room and re-enter, thinking of a ‘good’ thought to counteract the ‘bad’ one. And similarly, if I’m touching something and I have an intrusive thought I remove my hand from the object and have to touch it again with a good thought, as many times as it takes until I feel like the bad thought’s gone. Rationally, I know that this sounds ridiculous and that simply thinking of something can’t make it come true. But in practice, it’s hard not to pander to intrusive thoughts when every single fibre of your being is telling you that you need to.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/image-8.jpg”]

 

Trying not to react to my intrusive thoughts is the best way I have found to overcome OCD. This is much harder than it sounds, but also so helpful. It’s important to rationalise and remember that it is completely safe to ignore intrusive thoughts. This is something I still struggle with, denying intrusive thoughts is extremely stressful but I have found from experience that not trying your best to not acknowledge them has reduced them by a large amount. There are times when it gets worse and there are times when it gets better – the biggest piece of advice I can give for the bad times is to not be too hard on yourself about it. Recovery does not look like a straight line ascending upwards, it looks like a giant messy squiggle that goes up and down constantly. There is no shame in admitting you’re going through a rough patch and need a bit of help to get through.

“I will often hear people making offhand comments about how they’re “a bit OCD” and not realise how harmful saying things like that can be”

 

Luckily I have not experienced bullying due to having OCD. The only people from my real life who know I have OCD are my mum and my best friend, who found out after I uploaded a video about my experiences with OCD to my YouTube channel, and all the people who watched that video. I have been teased occasionally for the traits I exhibit as a result of OCD, such as my compulsions, however thankfully this hasn’t grown into bullying. When I was in school I mainly kept to myself and didn’t really talk to anyone outside of my small circle of friends, so no one else was really around me long enough to realise I had OCD and mock me for it.

The main piece of advice I would give to others with this condition is don’t be ashamed. OCD is something that’s not often taken seriously, a lot of jokes are made about OCD and many people really don’t understand how hard living with it is. I used to be, and unfortunately sometimes still am, ashamed of admitting I have OCD as it is a disorder that has a lot of misunderstanding and stigma attached to it. I will often hear people making offhand comments about how they’re “a bit OCD” and not realise how harmful saying things like that can be to someone who does actually suffer from the disorder. Secondly, remember that there is always help available. Even if you’re not in the position to receive professional help, there are still endless amounts of resources and incredible communities of people who have OCD online. The mental health community on YouTube has been extremely helpful for me in understanding and feeling less afraid of having the disorder.

Ultimately, recovery is very possible. It may feel isolating and suffocating at times but it won’t always be. Help is available readily and your struggles and the battles you fight are completely valid. To anyone else struggling with OCD, your are not alone in this fight, there are other people all around the world fighting the same battle as you and people who have won- you can too.

Written by Laura Ivy

Follow Laura on YouTube

 

12-year-old YouTuber Nikki Lilly on positivity, bullying and life with AVM

DtL: Hi Nikki! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Nikki: I was diagnosed with a condition called AVM (a rare condition that’s characterised by an abnormal connection between arteries and veins) when I was six years old. It isolated me for a while, as I felt like a misfit and lacked in confidence but I realised I couldn’t let my myself live that way anymore. So, I took up new hobbies such as art, baking, makeup artistry and singing.

DtL: What inspired you to set up your own YouTube channel?

Nikki: I think being at home a lot more often got me feeling quite bored, and so my dad gave me the idea of starting a channel. It’s a great place to combine all of my hobbies.

DtL: What is it like to be so young with such a successful YouTube channel?

Nikki: It feels overwhelming and amazing at the same time! Four years ago I never in a million years thought I would get this far sharing my happiness and positivity with my viewers aka best friends.

DtL: Who taught you to do your makeup?

Nikki: I taught myself to apply makeup – I idolise the makeup artists on YouTube who have taught me more advanced makeup tips and tricks.

DtL: What are your most prominent challenges living with AVM, and how do you overcome them?

Nikki: To be honest, from a young age I have faced quite a lot of challenges, but the hardest and most isolating have been my life-threatening nose bleeds that can start any time, any place and just ruin my whole day. Just having AVM brings such intense, nauseating pain to my forehead and right eye/face. But, I always try and see the positives every day and try my best to take my mind off of my challenges by doing things such as yoga, baking and painting.

DtL: What advice would you give to others living with AVM? 

Nikki: Just know, although our condition is rare, there is someone facing the same challenges, and feeling the same feelings as you out there; it will get better – just try to remain positive and be the best version of yourself you can be, letting your beauty shine out of the inside.

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying/trolling/cyberbullying? If so how did you deal with the experience?

Nikki: Yes I have been bullied – not physically, but verbally in person as well as online. The cons of having a YouTube channel is the hate and negativity projected towards any human being who isn’t deemed ‘perfect’. I get called ugly, chubby and some people tell me to stop making videos and to fix my face! But the funny thing is, these things used to get to me but now I just feel sorry for these haters because they have nothing better to do than to try and make others feel worthless. Really they are the ones with the actual insecurities.

DtL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying/trolling/cyberbullying?

Nikki: The people attacking you are actually really insecure and are not happy in their own life – they pick you apart to make themselves feel better, but they will soon realise that this behaviour won’t change the way they feel inside. You are beautiful inside and out, and the most powerful beauty you have is your inner beauty, so let it shine!

DtL: What has been your proudest moment so far?

Nikki: My proudest moments so far include winning a Diana Award for fundraising for a charity that my parents and I set up when I was seven to raise money and awareness for people living with AVM, and hopefully one day find a cure! Also, winning a WellChild Award in 2013 for being the most inspirational child in Britain – it was given to me by Prince Harry! And last but not least, getting through every day and trying my very best no matter what big bumps I might encounter along the way.

DtL: Is there anything you would like to add?

Nikki: Lastly take each day as it comes and don’t let negative people drag you down, do more of what makes you happy so you can be the best, kindest and most positive version of yourself!

 

Check out Nikki Lilly on her YouTube channel!