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Dublin: 'Weird girl' writes book to purge past, help others

Tumor survivor also seeks understanding for those who are different

The title of Sierra Crislip's book, "Weird Girl with a Tumor," might sound a bit blunt. But the 23-year-old Dublin resident, who had a brain tumor removed when she was 8, wants to call it like she sees it.

"I was bullied," Crislip said. "Because I was a quiet person, everybody thought of me as 'weird.'"

And they didn't hesitate to say that to her face, she said, vividly recalling taunts hurled at her in childhood and her teen years.

"I've had a lot of bumps on the road," Crislip said. "I was able to persevere, and I wanted to put the word out there to help and inspire others who may be going through the same thing."

At a young age, Crislip began to have seizures as well as fly into rages and show aggression in many ways. But at other times, she wrote in her book, she was sweet and compassionate. She would sometimes hallucinate and also had obsessive compulsive disorder, and her mother and two older brothers struggled to deal with her and give her a normal life.

At age 5, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. After three years of medications and hundreds of seizures, she was diagnosed with a hypothalamic hamartoma, which is a tumor-like formation on the hypothalamus, the area at the base of the brain that controls the production and release of hormones by the pituitary gland.

"It was hard to find a brain surgeon but my uncle did the research and found one in Arizona, and when I was 8, it was removed, at the Barrow Institute," Crislip recalled.

The surgery stopped her seizures, but it changed her in other ways, too.

"I had been an outgoing person," Crislip said. "Then after my tumor was removed I had to go to a new school, in the third grade, and I felt terrified and lost and felt more insecure in myself. That was the start of getting bullied. Shortly, I had to go in special education."

She noted that she is both smart and not smart, and she is both a social butterfly and racked with social anxiety.

"After the tumor was removed, I had bad high anxiety, social anxiety," she said. "And I had a bad learning disability."

Finally, in the 11th grade, Crislip was fed up with the bullying.

"I went to a counselor and said, 'What can I do to graduate early?'" she remembered.

She was set up with a home study program, earned good grades and graduated early.

Crislip began to write down her story when she was in high school.

"I was getting bullied in school and I wanted to write it down and share it with others," she said. "It helped me get rid of the past a lot."

She strongly associates her remembrances with the music she listened to during each period of her life, and she has titled the chapters in her book accordingly, beginning with "Blink-182" and ending with "Linkin Park."

"These are songs and bands I've listened to growing up," she explained in a recent appearance on the television program, "Good Day, Sacramento." "Every song has a deep memory."

Crislip's story was first released as an e-book but now it is in print, 71 pages, and available at Amazon for $9.99. She said she has received good feedback, especially from parents of others with a hypothalamic hamartoma.

"A hypothalamic hamartoma is rare," she said. "I am part of a support group online."

Extended family members have responded with respect for her efforts -- and surprise.

"A lot of people said, 'Wow, I had no clue you were going through this,'" Crislip said.

"I love when people say, 'Thank you so much,'" she added. "People I don't know, strangers online. One woman said her son brought it to school on Dr. Seuss Day."

Crislip spent a semester at Ohlone College but realized college was not for her. She also has tried various jobs that didn't work out.

"I went from job to job to job until I found a job coach and support group," she said. "I became a client with the Regional Center of the East Bay and I am trying to look into career training. They are looking for a fit for me."

She knows that customer service is out because she is an introvert.

"I don't know yet what career is right for me," she said, "but I want to be happy and travel the world -- that's one of my dreams. I want to go here and go there, but first I need a career."

She has a message for would-be bullies: "I want others to know that everybody is different -- so be kind, don't judge others, accept that others are different."

And she definitely wants to send a message to the kids who are different: "Don't let your disabilities get in the way of your dreams."

"You are not alone. You can fight. Do not give up," she said.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Hallie
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 2, 2019 at 10:51 am

Way to go, Sierra! Congratulations on your book being published. You are obviously very bright and talented and I admire your perseverance. I predict wonderful things in your future.


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