Last week, I opened up and shared my story with you. This week, I wanted to share a little more of my story, but go a bit deeper into a topic that I think many more people (especially young women) will be able to relate to.
You may see me striking poses for Ubwiza Boutique, but I haven’t always been comfortable in front of a camera. Self-confidence and low self-esteem is something I’ve struggled with for many years.
I know many other people struggle with this too, and its no wonder. With our current hyper-connected world, we are constantly bombarded with idealized images and ridiculous criticisms.
As a boutique, we are constantly putting out images. We do our makeup and our hair and we stage our pictures to (hopefully) make our models and our clothes look good.
It’s okay to want to look good. We should want to present ourselves to the world in such a way that people respond to us with respect and interest.
But at the same time, if we obsess about our appearance, its sure to lead us down a destructive path.
Medications and weight gain
Life with a chronic illness is a series of medications. I had a love hate relationship with one medication in particular; prednisone, a steroid that treats conditions and diseases associated with inflammation by reducing the immune system’s response to swelling and allergic-type reactions.
If you take a low dose for a short period of time, you rarely experience negative side effects. However, extended use increases the likelihood of weight gain, puffy face, skin thinning, depression, moodswings, agitation, weakness, an irregular heartbeat and more.
Given my condition, I started on a high dose, the inflammation went down, and I felt better for awhile. To avoid the negative side-effects of the prednisone, the dose was reduced, at which point, the inflammation slowly resurfaced. This became a continuous cycle. I would slightly decline in lung function, then be given a hefty spurt of steroids.
Though I appreciated the boost the steroids gave my lungs, my weight would constantly fluctuate as a result. It often made me gain weight especially in my face and upper to mid body.
Side effects of the side effects
As the years went on my weight became out of control, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. Towards the end of middle school and into high school I was overweight. Being an adolescent, the weight gain had a major impact on how I felt about myself.
I didn’t like the way clothes looked on me. I would often only wear long sleeves or sweaters, even when it was hot, for fear of exposing too much of my body. I became shy and a recluse. I shied away from opportunities I actually wanted to peruse like, solos or performing in school plays. I cringed at the thought of putting myself out there.
The voice in my head told me I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, and that I wasn’t pretty enough. I didn’t feel beautiful. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, so I settled for less.
At this point, I was just about fed up with “my disease”. I hated having to stop for breaks because I couldn’t catch my breath quick enough when the kid in me just wanted to run. I hated what seemed like the never ending cycle of medications. I hated the monthly doctor visits and the regular bronchoscopies and exams.
I hated my lungs and I hated my body.
I hated being different.
All I wanted was to belong in a world that I felt I didn’t belong. To me, belonging meant I needed to be like everyone else. So, just like so many other young people, I pretended like I was just like everyone else.
I pretended like I wasn’t sick and became quite good at it. I even fooled myself. I literally convinced myself I didn’t have a serious disease. I stopped taking my medications. I stopped going to the doctors. I stopped caring. I truly shut that part of my life out. I wanted to forget it ever happened. I surrounded myself with people I shouldn’t have and got into things I shouldn’t have all for the sake of normalcy.
Something has to give
I was in a very bad place mentally and physically, and I was heading in the wrong direction. Something had to change.
I had to do a complete 360 and change my ENTIRE lifestyle.
It required of me to truly look deep within and ask myself, “How much do you want to live? How hard are you willing to fight?”
I let go of everything that was weighing me down. My self-sabotage, unrealistic fears and destructive behavior all had to go. I began to truly nurture my body, mind and soul by eating right, exercising, reading, watching and listening to high vibrational sources. Because of these changes, the conversation in my head became one of substance, positivity and well being.
Feeling beautiful with a chronic illness
Fast forward to the present, I’m realizing how far I’ve actually come and how grateful I am that I never gave up. It hasn’t been an easy journey. It took many dark days, sleepless nights and countless tears. It took prayer. Prayer like I’ve never experienced before which strengthened me, my faith and relationship with God. I had to surrender my weaknesses to Him so that His will could be done in me. I needed to admit the fact that I am nothing without his guidance.
This transformation most definitely did not happen over night. It was an evolution of sorts. There have been times I questioned God’s purpose for me on Earth. Times I doubted if anything beautiful could emerge out of the ugliness. How foolish I was to believe that!
Sometimes I still catch myself thinking in the same negative, unhealthy ways and the voice in my head reminds me I’ll never be good enough. Everyday is a battle. A battle I constantly have to choose to fight. It helps to know I am not fighting it alone.
All that is was always meant to be, a saying I live by.
This path I chose taught me it’s okay to be different because we’re all splendidly unique. It’s taught me to face myself and my fears head on instead of running away from them, because it’s when you let go of your fears and anxieties when the unthinkable happens and everything that is meant for you falls into place.
Although it’s been a bumpy road, I understand now why it had to happen the way it did.
Sometimes your perceived weakness isn’t the pitfall you think it is, but instead a means for unimaginable growth, new strength, courage and wisdom.
The voice in your head is a jerk! So, walk with your head held high in your awesome peculiarity no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, because it’s what makes you you!
A bible verse I turn to for relief from the dreadful feeling of inadequacy is Psalm 139:13-14. It reads
Know that God, the universe or whatever you believe in, designed you in such a way for a rare and epic purpose. A purpose only you can fulfill.