"I wanted these people to know they were not going to intimidate me," says Melissa Blake
Instead, the endless comments that poured in were not about the president — but rather her looks.
Blake has Freeman Sheldon syndrome, a bone and muscular disorder that primarily affects the face, hands and feet, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
“People were talking about my appearance in really derogatory, nasty ways,” Blake, of Dekalb, Illinois, tells PEOPLE. “It was all just how she is fat, she’s ugly. And one of them said that I can be banned from posting pictures of myself on social media.”
Instead of ignoring the comments, she decided to use it as an opportunity to show people that “I do have a right to be seen as someone with a disability.”
Blake then posted on Sept. 7 three selfies “to do the opposite of what they want me to do,” sharing them with her then-7,500 followers.
People immediately started liking and retweeting it. Her following since grown to over 65,000.
“I wanted these people to know they were not going to intimidate me,” says Blake, who has been blogging since 2008. “I think a lot of women deal with that too, not just women with disabilities. It can be a really toxic place and there can be so much negativity.”
After she saw the huge response from her tweet to “all of those trolls,” social media has since become a joy for her.
“It just really made me see the good in people again,” she says. “Things have changed.”
Over her lifetime, Blake has had 26 surgeries to straighten her joints and bones, and has managed to stay positive despite being bullied throughout her life.
“I feel the support of so many people around the world that I never even met,” she says. “It’s been overwhelming in the best way possible. The negativity often overshadows a lot of the good people, but it’s nice to see the other side of it for once.”