I’m starting a blog series with stories about body-image, self-care, and empowerment. I look forward to sharing other people’s experiences through this series and welcome you to invite your friends to submit to SchurConsultations@gmail.com.
Part 1: Where do young girls learn to love their bodies?
This story is dedicated to all those who want to inspire positive self esteem in the world.
I am 12 years-old and have lived a healthy childhood until I am suddenly plagued with mysterious symptoms of a rare and spreading autoimmune disease. I am diagnosed with a connective disorder which causes inflammation, severe mobility constraints, and then over a period of time leaves me with residual joint range of motion limitations and skin discoloration scarring.
I am lying in my favorite hospital gown wanting to be anywhere but here. I stare up at the ceiling, tracing the square tiles with my eyes, as I try to get lost in the maze even for a moment. There is something about the luminosity of this office that makes me feel naked and vulnerable. I await another doctor so I can retell my story of how I came to realize I am different, what I so undeservingly face.
I stand naked in front of the mirror and I don’t like what I see. Each day I lie to the world as I smother my pain beneath my clothes and my smile. Now, my reflection speaks the truth. Whether the lights are on or off does not matter. I know what I am about to see. I stare at the ground and slowly make my way toward my toes. They have dark spots on them though I think they have gotten better after years of being complete vegetables. The dark line across my foot where the toes meet has vanished. The once hard white plaques on the face of my feet have softened. Like visiting a friend I had missed for ages, I feel reunited. I can finally feel my feet: it feels sensational. My eyes travel upward. I notice real skin on my ankle. It is soft, and when I touch it I smile, although I have done nothing to make them better I feel triumphant. I hesitate to acknowledge an improvement, in fear of a backlash.
I open my eyes in utter disbelief as to how much things have changed in the past few years. My eyes view my once athletic legs, which I miss so dearly. There is now a vertical trail of what appears to be bruises or dirt (it depends on the critic). I despise my legs. A year ago they were shiny, like those of a plastic Barbie doll. My precious thighs recall burns in a medical treatment but now look peaceful. Most girls my age flap their leg fat, complaining how jiggly their thighs are. Each time I squeeze my legs I pray to find something to pinch. My arms and legs don’t have fat tissue and so people mistake me for skinny. Yet, my stomach is distorted and on two occasions I was even mistook for pregnant. Even my friends’ favorite flaw seems perfect to me. Sometimes it’s really difficult to listen to my healthy looking friends complain about their imperfect bodies. I am amazed at their softness and mobility of their ankles, the wiggle of their toes. They want to be tanner. I stare at their skin wanting to see the paleness they see, but all I notice is the beautiful solidarity of their complexion.
I love color war at camp. In the midst of playing sports at the utmost level I could paint my entire body red and white. I could slather my arms with paint. It was dirty and gross. But I looked like everyone else, just for that moment. My favorite season is winter. I am neither bruised nor dirty. Under my long sweaters and denim jeans, inside my sneakers is a girl with unusual pigmentation and random hard (tight) skin. My body started to change when I was 12 years old although unlike typical pubescent development. As I stand naked in front of my vanity mirror now, my pupils dilate with scrutiny. I try to accept that the girl I see is I. I shake my head and try to wake up as if I were just having a nightmare. When I close my yes I see someone so different, and I feel that it is only a matter of time before I forget her, She was beautiful, as her pictures testify. She was a star athlete with a promising future. I never thought I would be writing as shallow an essay about the way I look. But here I am a teenage girl trying to make a difference in the world, and I can’t seem to make it past my bedroom mirror.
To Be Continued….Stay tuned for what changed when I turned 22!