Adult woman enjoying a peaceful moment sitting outdoors surrounded by people

Loving the Summer Again

I was grateful when for college, I moved to a city that had a very long winter, as opposed to somewhere like Miami, where I would be forced to shed the cocoon of clothing that protected me from my shame. In Chicago, I was able to hide behind thick winter sweaters that not only created some soft padding for my flares, but also concealed any signs of the condition that was slowly (but not so slowly) changing my body.

There's already so much pressure to look a certain way

I’ll start by saying that I was never particularly body confident, but HS flares that caused large lumps and left wide purple marks were a different demon. In a society that already puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way, I was horrified to be diagnosed with something that would only make me stray further from stereotypical notions of western beauty.

Hiding, until I couldn't anymore

So I hid – until I could no longer do so. Even in Chicago, although at times it may not feel like it, winter does end, and so do the days of sweaters. Instead of reflecting on why I felt this way and what I could do to work on not feeling this way, my tactics changed. While I could not avoid t-shirts, I could make sure that the ones that I bought had slightly longer or more narrow sleeves so that no one could see my armpits, and by extension, my flares. If I wore tank tops, I would pair a light cardigan with it – ensuring everyone that I was “just cold.”

I would avoid swimming pools and outdoor events with friends because the extra layers made me sweat more, which only irritated my flares further. As someone who used to love the feeling of the summer sun on my skin as I wore colorful sundresses and jean shorts with cute t-shirts, my new fashion choices were utterly disheartening. My love for summer faded.

Learning to love the summer again

It went on like this for years, not daring to let anyone see my flares in the fear that they would judge me or think that I was ugly or had some sort of contagious disease. Although these tactics worked, I was not experiencing the full extent of what life had to offer. I was so consumed by how others saw me that I lost myself.

I loved the summer, and I loved spending time outside with friends, walking without any destination and exploring the city. I had to remember how to love the summer once more. This time though, it would be in a slightly different and constantly changing body.

Finding confidence

I wish I could say that one day I just realized this and decided that things would be better, and that I was suddenly ready to shed my clothing cocoon. But I wasn’t – the process was slow. At first I started with wearing tank tops around close friends and family and letting them see the bandages and the gauze pads, and not just days where there were no flares. Eventually, I started wearing tank tops or t-shirts to more public outings. Some days, I would come back home and I would feel upset with how I looked, and other days, I would be proud of myself for reclaiming my life.

Despite the ups and downs, it’s important for me to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve found that with time and increased exposure, I have become more comfortable with my body. It’s also made me confident not only in body, but in my sense of self worth too. I deserved to be able to wear what I wanted and go out without fear of what others thought. I deserved to love the summer again.

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