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Disability and Self Esteem Issues in Teenagers

It’s hard being different. I can’t count how many times I’ve written about the impact of differences in a kid of mine with nearly every aspect of their lives… a big one being self-esteem and confidence.

Right now we’re plowing through the impact of skin issues and anxiety (that shows itself as trichotillomania). It’s been a long haul for her and the impact of her conditions are likely to be around a while and very likely her entire life. She’s come a long way, the depression has lifted, the rages have all but stopped. The trichotillomania shows itself here and there but she is winning the war currently. In August we saw many moments of the old daughter, the calm and happy one. Peaceful even, as I wrote in a poem…

Thick, thick darkness no light can shine through

Fighting to see the light again

To feel love again

Missing the smile, the laughter

Having help to pull her, a chance to climb

Because she had the tiniest bit of hope

The insecurities because of the skin issues. On every part of her body except her head, her scratching causes sores then the sores turn to scars. She scratches constantly. Reminders like the braces not yet back on her teeth (we’d removed them because she was unable to take care of them in her worst depression cycle) are ever present. Those make her keep to herself, which make her seem off-putting to people in social circles.

We are on Spring Break and at the beach. As a family, we’ve always enjoyed the beach and my daughter has too…until the past few years as my daughter is battling skin issues. The scars have left marks on her body she is unwilling to accept. The regimen to keep her skin without starches and sores is mind-boggling and been going on for at least four years. Three to five different lotions and prescription potions applied daily, some once and some twice daily. Most adults would have difficulty keeping up with the schedule. She resists it, because really, who wants to spend time when they wake up and when they go to sleep and sometimes in the middle of the day to apply liquids to their body? It gets old for her. It’s upsetting. It’s a two to three-time reminder every single day in the face to all she has to endure and all she has, that makes her physically stand out others. Worse. Broken.

“I’m so ugly. My hair and skin and teeth and…” the list goes on.

She doesn’t really have friends outside of the few at school because she is wanting to hide inside and to herself, where she feels safe, protected by her routine and family. We were talking yesterday about how her sometimes inward feelings get the best of her and are projected outwardly, creating a barrier between her and most everyone else. We talked about how being open and relaxed are important ways to draw people in and it’s been hard to communicate what this means in acting with people you come in contact with on a daily basis.

I wish it were as easy as, “Be nice and people will be nice to you,” but it’s not because of the extra layers of insecurities as a result of the impact to my daughter’s body and a disease and its treatments. That is a hard, hard spot to be in as a teenager. You add-on clinical depression and it’s the perfect recipe for anxiety and it’s impact of suicidal ideation, self mutilation and starving yourself, all of which my daughter had suffered and survived in the last two and half years.

She’s learning though. I showed her this picture because I saw happiness. Sure, it might have been the two pounds of crab legs she was about to devour, but she was happy. That is a young woman people would want to be around.

Hair is a mess (a barrette is covering up a new bald spot she has pulled) and unruly. No definable eyebrows. No makeup.

“She is pretty,” she said aloud, like she is unable to express it and believe. “Yes, she is. Her smile and confidence makes her look pretty. That’s a girl you’d want to know. That’s a girl that would draw people in,” I said, gently.

“It is,” she admitted.

Then I showed her a recent picture of her, with her hair and makeup done and asked her to compare it to the crag leg eating picture. What did she think? She thought people would want to be around the smiling girl, no matter if she had eyebrows or neatly fixed hair or makeup on her face.

“Our beauty isn’t what we look like, it’s so much more. Our beauty is in our confidence, in how we carry ourselves and in how we treat others. It’s in how we make people feel when they are around us.”

So, a little at a time we chip away the insecurities in her mind.

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2 Comments
  1. Terry A
    April 3, 2017 | Reply
  2. Joey
    April 3, 2017 | Reply

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