Hello! My name is Jamie Nash. I'm 16 years old, and I consider myself to be a pretty typical teenager.  I like  animals, nature, camping, my friends, and going to movies. Pretty typical.  But there is something that isn't so "typical" about me.  It's a nameless "wonder" that has caused some rather large bumps in my road of life.

As a little girl I had always been a bit "chunky", and didn't have many friends. I wanted so much to fit it, that when one chilly March morning in 1995 I awoke with strange red, rashy marks on my upper shoulders, I did my best to hide them. This worked until summer, when I could no longer endure the hot rays under baggy sweatshirts.  When kids at school would point and ask what happened, I would tell them I was attacked my mosquitos, and that was that.  When the rash didn't go away, they called me "chicken pox girl", and "lots of dots".  I would cry myself to sleep every night. 

My parents were shocked to see the rash under my clothes.  My arms were covered with scabs, and I did look like I had severe chicken-pox.  On chilly nights (and there were some that first summer), my skin woud turn blue and purple and those hideous bumps would protrude even more.  The rash spread and soon covered everything on my body except my face, my palms, and my feet.  The scabs wouldn't heal, but would instead flake off on everything...including my clothes! Naturally this situation made me ripe for infection, and I acquired a number of bad ones. It was obvious that I needed to see a dermatologist, but I was scared to go. I was 10 years old, and the entire 200 mile trip to the skin doctor was filled with dread! 

That was six years ago, and I still don't know what it is that irritates my skin. Nor do I know what motivates thoughtless stares and rude remarks. What I do know now is that my skin condition is NOT who I am, but merely what I have. I no longer cry myself to sleep.  When I used to be teased at school,  I would try to hide how my classmates' sharp words cut me. When I wasn't able to hide my pain, I would cry and run home to my parents. They were great, and decided, (with much wisdom), to buy me a dog. The BEST thing that ever happened to me; I had never known such love.  Sundown, my sheltie, became a star in 4-h and in a therapy dog program. She sure was MY best therapy. From her unconditional love, I grew to appreciate who I was. She didn't give a dang about the red splotches covering my arms, she loved me just as I was.  I wish I could get to a point where the comments and stares that I'm usually able to laugh off wouldn't hurt so much inside. 

Here's what I mean. About 3 months ago a classmate told me that he no longer wanted to be my friend because, as he said it, I was dirty and never took showers...and therefore I had acquired this skin disease, a disease that he did not want to catch.  Well, I did not want to catch his negative vibes, so that was an easy "friendship" to dissolve.  That is what frustrates me most about my skin problem, that teenagers are so afraid they will "catch it" that it scares them.

I have been "diagnosed" with a dozen or more diseases, but every time I get a new label it is proven wrong.  One time I had a naturopath tell me that my right leg was longer than my left, and that that was what was causing my skin disease!! HAHA. Get this...I went to a dermatology convention and about 16 doctors examined me. All of them were baffled, so the plan now is to send me to some sort of national convention in Seattle, where I guess I will once again be the topic of conversation.  We shall see...I'll let you know if some Sherlock Holmes figures it out. Until then, I'm told that my disease seems to most closely resemble psoriasis.

Back to the teasing. At first I dealt with it by looking at the negative points of other people. None of us are perfect, right? Let me tell you, that is not a good idea. Now I just think of my positve points instead, those things about me  that "make-up" for what I still consider to be a hideous flaw.  I mean the true gift is under all that flimsy wrapping, right?

I have made tons of great friends over the years, and have been awarded many honors, like being selected class president and youth leader.  Amazing, isn't it? Once I hadn't a friend in the world and now I have a number of really good ones. I'm involved in many sports and have lost a lot of weight as a result of all the exercise, too. 

I wish that all little children were taught that each of us is unique and beautiful.  And that the differences we have make the world a wonderful place. After all, wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? I wish that everyone would acquire the gift to be able to see the world through the eyes of an other.  Ahh, if only we all did that... wouldn't life be bliss?

I believe that teachers should reflect the very best in people. They should teach children about the beauty of diversity.  The worst year of my life was 6th grade! How I disliked my phys. ed. teacher. Earlier that school year, he made a comment in front of class about my being very chunky.  I was devastated.  And one day when I was brave enough to take off my sweatshirt, this same man started laughing and calling me "rash Nash" (because of my last name). Well of course all the kids started laughing, too, and that nickname followed me for almost 3 years.  Teachers should respect everyone, and do their best to make young, impressionable children feel special, instead of crushing what little love they have for themselves.  And that's all I have to say about that.....

One of my favorite subjects involves the study of other cultures. I get to be an exchange student to Botswana, soon, so I'll really learn about how differences make the world go round! When I grow up, I want to be blissfully happy and become either a dermatologist (I have such a great one!) or a journalist.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about my life!

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.,N.
 Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
         Bronx, New York 10468

        Last updated: November 14, 2004