About Niggly Little Problems

Hello there. Thanks for visiting my page. My name is Lauren and I am 16 years old. I live in the UK, in outer London. I go to normal school and I am going into year 12 this September (05). I have always done very well in school, and am at the top of the class in several subjects (foreign languages is my strongest). For a lot of reasons that I'll tell you about in my story, I'll be changing schools next month and going to a boarding school in Somerset.

I am not in the worst state of health it has to be said, but I have niggly little problems that are constantly bothering me. Some are well known medical problems, others are a bit different.

I suppose the main one is my asthma. I have occupational asthma, which means that certain chemicals can spark off an asthma attack with no warning, I don't have to be wheezy or anything to start with, the symptoms just appear as soon as I come into contact with one of those chemicals, even a tiny bit can trigger an asthma attack. Aerosol sprays are the worst. The moment somebody sprays something (and for up to an hour afterwards), I become incredibly breathless, which is a pretty scary feeling, and it has landed me in hospital many a time.

I also have a problem with my eyes, as I am colour blind to red, blue and green and any light colour such as yellow if it is near other colour. This leads to great embarrassment in school. If there is a supply teacher writing in a colour I can't see, I don't say anything because many of the teachers are so dismissive of me or they are like 'oh my God you're colour-blind? Really??' in the loudest voice possible. I sit there thinking 'do you mind saying that a bit louder because I think there's someone in Australia who didn't hear?'  It may not seem that bad, but it really is to me.

My friends are good about it generally, my whole class is very protective of me if someone sprays an aerosol, and I appreciate it loads. But with the colour thing, sometimes in Geography if we are colour coding they’ll tease me a bit. We were doing the water cycle and were constantly colouring things in, and after a while I got really fed up of being told my sky was purple. So I asked the teacher if it was or not and he said it was. So I threw away that days work and started again only to be told that in fact it was blue to start with. It’s funny a few times, but day after day gets tiring. And people’s reactions-they look at me like I’m a freak when they find out. It’s not a big deal, but they make it one. I just don’t tell people now, and the number of times it’s affected my school work is ridiculous. I had to label my pencils for the geography exams this year! And then I had to keep asking what colour was this on the key, what colour is this etc in the exam, and the moderators decided I was faking it and ignored me!

I have a lot of other medical problems, like eczema and slightly brittle bones. I have broken many many bones which has excluded me from lots of social activities with my friends. I’ve missed out on a lot of fun because of this condition, and when the kids talk about such and such a time when they all had so much fun I am left out of the conversation. Gradually I have been pushed to the very outer edge of my group of friends, because I never have anything to contribute. My confidence is at absolute zero. I know maybe it is stupid or even by my own doing by not trying to join in things, but I am rarely invited out to places because I am no fun or whatever-I don’t dance etc. I would LOVE to be able to dance with my friends, but I just can’t. I literally cannot get up and dance because I am too shy and have no confidence (and believe me, this is worse than the possibility of my fracturing a bone or two with the activity).

The eczema is a contributing factor to my lack of confidence too. My skin is sometimes so itchy and dry and often peeling that I don’t want to show my face in public. I can’t wear make up like my friends do because my skin just goes crazy on me if I do. I just feel like I am a total outsider. Apart from dealing with the usual teenage stuff I have this extra and I hate it.

Because I don’t go out much I just stay inside with nothing to do. This has led to my putting on a lot of weight. The broken bones don’t help me to exercise it off either. So my confidence dropped even lower when I was being teased all the way through primary school. Then I started secondary school, a girls’ school and I didn’t get teased once. But as I got older boys started to tease me, because the girls’ school is opposite the boys'. I would walk home and get called names and be taunted and so on. I lost weight too, I starved myself because I was so depressed, so now I’m not hugely overweight or anything, but I am bigger than average. I’m different, so I get picked on. Of everything that is wrong with me, that is what hurts most. I can live with being ill and having medical problems that most people can’t see because I keep them secret, but words hurt like hell. OK, so teenage boys aren’t exactly the most pleasant of people at times, but they need to learn to keep their mouths shut. I never bother them, I never tease them because of their appalling acne, but they have to tease me.

I think that maybe if I didn’t have the other medical problems, being big wouldn’t bother me so much, but I do, and it does. There are times when I truly hate myself and it feels pointless being around because I am limited as to what I can do, either from a medical problem or because of my confidence issues arising from the medical problems.

In a month, as I mentioned to you, I am going to a boarding school in Somerset, about 3 hours away from where I live. It is a mixed school, so I am nervous about getting comments from boys like I did here. But I am going there for a change, like a fresh start. I need to get confidence and everyone there was so friendly and welcoming that I think I can get it. I want to go there and start all over, fresh. The medical problems won’t stop me living life properly like they have in the past, because I won’t let them.

I would say to other people though, that you mustn’t underestimate the effects that one seemingly minor medical problem can have on someone’s life. One thing can affect many aspects of life. Please don’t tease people just because they are different, you have no idea how much it hurts to be the odd one out. Just one remark from you which you have forgotten about by that evening can have a lifetime’s effects on the person it was directed to. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s true. Just accept people for who they are.

Today I got my GCSE results, exams that you study for 2 years for, and then have a bzillion and one papers to sit. I worked out that over the two years I have had more than two whole terms off and yet I managed to get 3 A*s, 2 As and the rest Bs over 9 subjects. I'm so happy that everyone who I can possibly tell is going to know about my results!

More about asthma More about brittle bones
More about colour blindness More about eczema

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

Published: August 11, 2005
Last updated, August 26, 2005