When she was just five years old Zoe McDonald received a Christmas card that read – “Merry Christmas, wish you were dead”.
For Zoe, that was only the start of a lifetime of bullying and vile abuse where she was singled out because of her physical disabilities as well as her learning difficulties.
The 24-year-old, from Dundee, claims she has been verbally and physically abused for the past 19 years, from schoolmates and even complete strangers.
Zoe claims the bullying became so bad that she had to be moved around several schools, and even considered taking her own life as a teenager.
Against all the odds, Zoe has managed to secure herself a place at college, where she is studying a gateway course.
She still encounters discrimination in her day-to-day life, but is keen to share her story to inspire others who feel like she did when she was younger, and are afraid of speaking out
“My life has been hell, It has been absolutely horrific. I have lived a nightmare for the past 19 years but I’ve decided the time has come to fight back,” she said.
“I’m not going to let the bullies win and I’m determined to lead a happy life while giving a voice to others in the same situation.”
Zoe said the horrific Christmas card was the start of years of bullying at primary school, leading to her being moved around three different schools.
When she went to secondary school the bullying continued, eventually forcing her to leave for a spell in third year and be home taught.
The following year Zoe took the brave decision to return to class in fourth year and attempt to sit exams.
However she admits that, such was her level of learning difficulties, that her exam results were “dreadful”.
She said: “I just found it too hard and my exam results were terrible.”
Zoe spent the next eight years fighting to get into college, working at various volunteering positions along the way to try to prove herself.
She is now at Dundee and Angus College on a gateway to learning course where she is working hard to secure a brighter future for herself.
She said: “I really want to do this because I so want to be able to go to work and earn a living.
“I just want life to get better.”
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Zoe has also been using her own experiences in volunteering roles, where she has worked with disabled children at wheelchair football classes.
She said: “I loved that and I know the coaches really liked me because they kept asking me to come back.
“I would like to think I could find some other kind of role like this where I can use my experiences to help others.
“I know what it’s like to be horrifically bullied and I want to break the cycle.
“If, by speaking out, I make the bullies sit up and think to themselves that what they are doing is wrong then it will all be worthwhile.”