What I Would Tell My 13-Year-Old Self After Having Scoliosis Surgery
I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 13. I wanted to hide away in my little turtle shell of a back brace and be invisible. It can be so scary, especially at that age, to be open about anything that makes you different. I felt as stiff emotionally as I did physically. In the beginning, I was a shell of a person. I hid my brace. It was a street fight to get me to wear it (my poor mother!). Some people called me “scoli” or they would knock on my back brace and run away.
Here’s what I’d tell myself, five years on:
Dear 13-Year-Old Self,
Are other kids’ spines shaped like their initials (S for Stephanie)? No. Own it!
So what if kids make fun of you while you put your back brace on in the locker room after gym class? Locker rooms are weird for every middle schooler.
Don’t avoid hugging people or worry about them being weirded out by your back brace. Embrace the brace. Tell people to punch you in the stomach and that you have abs of steel. Don’t worry, guys are super into the damsel-in-distress thing.
The friends you laugh and cry with about body insecurity are the friends you’ll laugh with and cry with forever. Keep them. Don’t fret about being short. You’ll grow 2 inches after puberty when you get back surgery in your 20s.
Don’t do drugs to fit in. You’ll have more than enough stories to tell about hallucinating on your pain meds post-surgery. People spend a lot of money on Spanx and corsets to suck it in. So, I mean, most of yours was covered by insurance. Think of your back brace as a history lesson of 16th century women and fashion.
All joking aside, yes, bullies are awful. You’ll have pain. You’ll ask why. You’ll feel like an alien from outer space and that no one understands you. Don’t let it get under your skin. Most importantly, turn your wounds into wisdom.
A version of this post originally appeared on BoredPanda.