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The Toll Raynaud's Phenomenon Has Taken on My Confidence About My Body

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As a child, school swimming lessons were the bane of my existence. I was not a bad swimmer at all, in fact, I enjoyed the “swimming” part. What I hated most were the moments directly before and after. The moments I would be standing at the edge of the pool, eagerly hoping no one would notice the strange blue splotches spreading from my toes up to my thighs. I couldn’t wait to for the water to conceal my body – or better yet – to just put my clothes back on because I didn’t want anyone to see my body’s physical reaction to the cold.

I was first diagnosed with Raynaud’s phenomenon when I was 8 years old. Those who have it lose circulation in their extremities. It’s generally triggered by cold weather and coming into contact with cold objects. But stress and anxiety can be factors too.

Raynaud’s can be painful. It can make my hands turn strange colors and, with particularly bad attacks, it can cause my joints to swell up. Because of this, I have always been deeply self-conscious of my body, especially the areas most affected by my Raynaud’s. Even as I write this, I’m too nervous to show you any pictures of my hands at their worst.

I remember one snowy January morning, I found my self-confidence reaching a new low after suffering a very bad Raynaud’s attack. I had been waiting at a bus stop for 40 minutes, only for my hands to turn bright red and my knuckles severely swell to the point where I could no longer do basic tasks like holding my bus pass. At the time, I considered myself lucky that the winter season provided me with an excuse to wear gloves so I could hide the physical effects of my Raynaud’s attack. But wearing gloves is something I’m quite wary of doing in the summer months, even when I really ought to. So much so that I have developed a habit of sitting on my hands a lot and hiding them under tables. In my constant efforts to try and conceal my Raynaud’s, I’ve realized it’s not always for the sake of keeping warm. My daily routine of covering up “just in case” has become an excuse to hide parts of my body.

Though Raynaud’s may be common, it can take its toll on a person. By writing this article, I wanted to highlight the many invisible struggles of living with a chronic condition such as Raynaud’s.

And I know that these blue hands of mine are, in a way, keeping the rest of my body circulated with blood.

I’m still trying to respect that.

It’s been 15 years since I stood at the edge of that swimming pool. Even though this is something I am plagued with every day, I’m still figuring out the difference between covering up to keep warm and covering up to hide my body.

I hope I’ll learn the difference.

Originally published: September 14, 2019
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