Learning to Accept My Stretch Marks: A Journey of Self-Love

My first seizure was on Christmas morning when I was 9 years old. The weeks that followed were a blur of hospital visits and new doctors. Laying on cold examination tables, even colder gel from EEG tests, wires getting lost in my curls while the nurse repeatedly told me to stay still. At the time I really had no idea what it all meant but at that age I could gather this:

  • I had 4 seizures in the last few weeks.
  • The doctors weren’t entirely sure why.
  • I would be on new medicine.
  • I had no recollection of what happens during my seizures and had to rely solely on the experiences of the people around me to know what happened

The last two realizations would end up being the most difficult parts to deal with up until I stopped having my seizures 8 years later.

Everyone asks what happens when I have a seizure, but the honest answer is that I just don’t know. From my perspective, there is a definitive last moment that I remember and then the next thing I know I’m in an ambulance or groggily walking up the steps to my front door. From the perspective of my close family and friends they tell me I leave my body. I slump to a lifeless form, arms heavy at my side and then I start to shake, my eyes roll to the back of my head. I try to make words but they never make much sense and the best they could do was let me ride it out and make sure I was “safe.”

This is what I was told. For a few minutes I lost my body, my mind and all control. Thinking back to my 9 year old self, it was terrifying.

Then the medication came.

As a kid I would boast how up until this point, I had never broken a bone because of all the milk I drank. Never got the chicken pox, always a healthy and (somewhat) active kid. It could’ve been my child eyes but I still swear that the pills I was taking twice daily looked as big as watermelons. I’m sure they weren’t that big in reality but having to get those down morning and night were the worst parts of my day, then the side effects kicked in.

I gained a lot of weight as an effect of the medication. I had always been a little thicker around the edges, which I always attested to my Portuguese upbringing. I never thought twice about it. But when this weight came, it came with stretch marks.

These jagged, discolored, dark lines that ran like vines over my stomach. I remember looking at those long lines thinking “what is happening to my skin?” I was too young to really know what they were or how to take care of them. Yet it was most certainly the first time I started judging the way my body looked. My body grew larger and larger and the stretch marks were taking over. I would wake up and they would appear on my arms and when I got older, on my chest.

They were everywhere.

My body couldn’t escape them and I had no idea how to make it stop.

I felt angry because I couldn’t even recall my seizures in the first place and now, this medicine was ruining the way my body looked. I would pretend to take those pills, hide them under my tongue in front of my mom and spit them out shortly after. I would get away with it for a little while and then I’d get caught, or even worse, have another seizure.

All I wanted was for the stretch marks to stop growing and my body go back to normal. I would try every cream imaginable, look up stretch mark removal procedures on my family computer, try to eat differently. I thought that if I could lose weight that they would magically disappear. My stomach would look perfect, without any lines, my skin would be perfect like all of those girls in the magazines.

I could wear bikinis like all my friends.

Voyaging Vagabond
Proud to show my stretch marks now. Rhode Island, August 2018

That was the answer for my young mind. I thought I needed to be skinny and once I was skinny enough, the stretch marks disappear. The logic seemed airtight, without argument.

The next 10 years were the darkest times for me. I spent such a large amount of time hating the way my body looked and it was because of those stretch marks. I was convinced that they made me hideous, I was hideous. I felt ashamed of the skin I was in. I couldn’t be loved, I couldn’t feel loved and my body was ruined because of those lines. I cursed them down to my core and I would just dream for the day they would go away.

My last seizure was when I was 17. From the beginning, doctors were never entirely sure why I had seizures. I was never diagnosed as epileptic, never found a reason why I would sporadically have them. It remained undiagnosed and when I had my last one, the doctor told me that I had potentially, “just grown out of them.” At least now, the medication could stop but it was already too late. I was, in my mind always, going to be heavy now and always going to be covered in stretch marks.

When I was about 19 I lost nearly 70 pounds.

Looking back it was the skinniest I had ever been in my life, but even then, I convinced myself that my body was ugly. Over and over again, despite fitting into a single digit pair of pants for the first time ever. I thought my body wasn’t beautiful because those stretch marks were still there. I would go to the gym 2, sometimes 3 times a day, 6 days a week and wonder why I still saw those grotesque lines riddling my stomach.

Despite being skinny, they weren’t disappearing. There’s no use, there’s no hope.

Everything I knew came crashing down. All of those years of self hate and convincing myself that weight loss would make the marks vanish. When they didn’t I quickly realized something…

The stretch marks are never going to disappear…….

At first this realization was devastating. Then I reached a point where I thought,

“I can either sit here and hate my body like I spent a good chunk of my life already doing OR I could come to terms with my body and the way it looks and let myself be the fabulous women I feel like I am destined to be deep down inside.”

I can say that I chose the latter of the two. This realization was the beginning of my journey to self love. The way my body looked stopped being on the forefront of my mind and I let life happen instead. I learned to live more, the times of feeling held back because of my size was out the window. The more I adopted this freedom from self hate I found myself taking risks and living unapologetically.

I started to see myself as strong, sexy, as being someone who was worthy for love as someone who was confident, and vibrant, because shit, that’s who I always was. Once I repeatedly told myself this all of the worries I kept about what other people thought about me started to fade. My hatred for my stretch marks started to fade. quickly realized that my opinion on myself was most important and frankly, there were no others that mattered.

This newfound confidence helped me find love, rather unexpectedly. Which whirled me even deeper into my self love journey. For the first time ever someone loved me wholeheartedly. The kind of love I desperately hoped for when I was a teenager. A nervous teenager who thought the only reason boys talked to me was to fulfill some part of a cruel, practical joke. Dreaming for a love that felt strong and true. The love I found worshiped each part of me that I deemed as an imperfection and often reminded me the beauty in them. She had a way of reminding me that if these “imperfections” were a part of me, then there was no way they could be ugly because I was beautiful both inside and out.

She made me feel flawless stretch marks and all.

Having come so far on my own journey at this point, realizing my passion took me even farther. In high school I felt destined to bounce all over the world. I would suggest moving overseas with my friends. I would fill notebooks with places I wanted to go. I figured that once I was skinny I’d make this a reality. But whose got time for that?! The time had come to start filling my passport and living wild adventures that I could recount in my older age. It’s the thing I felt like I always wanted so why was I going to wait any longer to make it happen?

When I pushed myself into remarkable journeys and dived deeper past those negative emotions I fell so strongly in love with myself. I would thank my body for getting me to new destinations.

My legs for helping me to reach tops of mountains.

My arms for being able to embrace new friends.

My brain for helping me sort through difficult situations.

My hips for nights when I danced until the morning.

In comparison to what I was doing, there was no way I could let something like the fear to love myself hold me back when I was already taking risks even bigger than that.

My time in different time zones, remote lands and postcard worthy places were too good not to share. So I took a chance and wrote about what I knew best, traveling as a plus size woman. I can recall a moment when it felt like someone turned the gas up on the little spark in me because it became a raging fire.

That is passion. Speaking openly as a plus size traveler is my passion. Helping others reinvent those thoughts they hear in the mirror and taking that chance to start living is all I’ve wanted. It felt like I had the wind of a thousand windmills behind me. I felt so many new, impressive thoughts about myself and I couldn’t keep how I started to hear them all to myself.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping people make their way to the other side because I knew first hand how green that grass was.

The lines on my stomach couldn’t take that away from me. They couldn’t shame me anymore. I was confident of who I was becoming. A new confidence that couldn’t be robbed from me because my body is decorated with stretch marks.

They are a part of me, a part of my journey, without which I could never be here. As awful as those times were I needed to live through them to know how beautiful and empowering self love can feel.

I don’t try to hide them anymore. I don’t walk by beachgoers anymore and wonder if they’re laughing at me in my bathing suit. I don’t wear clothing that will cover them. I don’t let my stretch marks rule me anymore.

Related: Why My Lack of Confidence Keeps Me Vacationing in The Same Places

Life is too short for that kind of self loathing. I stopped worrying about what others thought of my body because if I loved it so damn much then whose opinion weighs in heavier than my own? Hating myself took up too much time and I don’t have a second to waste anymore. I want to spend more of these moments living this life I’ve created.

It would be ill advised to sit here and say that my self love journey is entirely over. I don’t think anyone’s journey ever truly ends. Some days are better than others and it’s easier to push those negative thoughts in and fill them in with a whole lot of positivity. But they don’t feel like mountains anymore and the journey feels sunny most days.

Don’t waste another day hating yourself. Please. The time we’re each granted in this world is short and none of us ever really know when that last sand in the hourglass will pass. Take each of those moments and fill them with love. Fill them with acceptance, fill them with empowerment, and most importantly, fill them with happiness.

Also, TBH, everybody has stretch marks. Don’t forget that.

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