Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m incredibly self-conscious of my disabled body.
I’m much more of a behind-the-scenes presence, and I hate being photographed!
My insecurities have deepened over the years, as my condition (Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy) has progressed.
My spine is curved significantly in a ‘S’ shape, shortening my torso and causing asymmetry. I am underweight with muscle degeneration, and contractures in all of my joints.
Oh, and I am a ghostly shade of pale!
Being so very slight of stature and a non-ambulatory powered wheelchair-user, clothes are ill-fitting, often uncomfortable and don’t drape well. Most of the time I feel like a bag of crap.
As a kid, though aware of the physical differences between myself and my peers, I really didn’t care. I was generally happy with a good group of friends.
But, of course, kids (and adults) can be blunt and sometimes cruel with their words and observations. And, as time went on, I was subjected more and more to stares, pointing, judgement and exclusion.
I became a full-time wheelchair-user at the age of 10. Back then, it was very much a case of ‘suck it up and get on with it, these are the cards you’ve been dealt’. Looking back, I guess it affected me more than I realised.
My teens were hard – I became increasingly withdrawn, conscious of what I consider my flaws, and constantly compared myself to other girls, wishing I looked like them.
Then came the dating years…
Comments such as, “you’re no one’s type” and “no one’s going to want you” massively impacted my self-perception and relationships.
Somewhere along the way, I lost myself and my sense of identity.
Now aged 33, I appear more child-like than womanly. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt sexy, or even attractive, in my entire life!
I’m not body-confident, and I don’t think I ever will be. I still compare myself to others and shy away from people, places and opportunities.
But, I am really trying to accept the fact that there is nothing I can do about my body. It is what it is – unique. I need to make the best of what I do have.
If others don’t like it, that’s absolutely fine, but they can kindly fuck off!
In an attempt to push myself out of hermit mode, I recently ‘dressed up’, took some sour-faced selfies, and posted them on Instagram…
…Excuse the Listerine!
The response was positive, complimentary and sincere. It gave me the confidence to write this post and ‘put myself out there’.
Why? Because I am what I am. I’m not “normal”. But what is “normal”, anyway?