Meet Rachel, a 20 year old college student from New York:

Not broken, just bent.” This expression not only describes my emotional self, but quite literally describes me. I am Rachel and I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 13 years old. For those of you who don’t know, scoliosis is the bending and twisting of the spine.

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When I was 14 and entering high school, my doctor told me I would need to wear a back brace for 16 hours a day to make sure my spine didn’t continue to curve. High school is hard enough with trying to fit in, resisting peer pressure, and getting good grades. Now I had this big piece of plastic strapped around my body. I was so ashamed of it that I decided not to wear it to school. I wore it as soon as I got home up until it was time to leave for school the next day. I wanted to keep this a secret from as many people as I could.

I was so excited when a year and a half later my doctor told me I was done growing and didn’t need to wear the brace anymore. Unfortunately, she was wrong. Once I stopped wearing the brace, my curve got worse. At 17 I was having really bad back pain all the time so I went online to try and find some alternative treatment options. I found one and started it as soon as I could. It was this new chiropractic program that required me to commute 2 hours 3 days a week to chiropractor in New York City. On days I wasn’t commuting after school, I was doing 6 hours of the exercises at home. I was excited to hopefully lose some of the back pain and for a while I did. Then it just got to the point where it was so exhausting trying to do the exercises, get homework done, and still try to have a social life. I had to stop, it was hurting me more than it was helping.
From there I decided to get another opinion. This new doctor told me I would have to get surgery to correct my curve. I was absolutely terrified. So there I was back on the computer again and that’s when I found the Curvy Girls. Curvy Girls International is a support group for young girls with scoliosis (the condition is most common in girls) that was started by a Long Island, NY teen. I was about to start college in that area so I decided to send them an email.

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I went to my first meeting in September of 2011 and was amazed at what I found. The living room of this girl’s house was packed with girls who were so open about their condition. They welcomed me with open arms and were genuinely interested to learn about my journey with scoliosis. I immediately felt like I belonged…finally. These girls were so proud to talk about what they had been through and offer advice. It was such an inspiration to me. I continued to go to meetings up until right before my surgery. It was there that I made the decision to not suffer in silence anymore. I wanted everyone to know about scoliosis, that I had it, and that I had a great group of supporters.

I took the news to Facebook, as this was the ultimate social hub for my peers. Once I did this, I was amazed at the words of encouragement they offered me. Then all of the sudden people started telling me about friends they knew that also have scoliosis. I realized that my town needed a Curvy Girls group so I started one with the help of the Long Island group. I started it in May 2012 right before my surgery.

To promote my group I posted flyers, sent out emails to newspapers, and did everything I could to spread the word. We started with 3 members and now a year later we are up to 15 and still growing! Being a part of this group and leading my own chapter of it has helped me to find my voice in a way I never thought I’d be able to do.

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Finding your voice can be scary no matter what your story is; whether it’s physical or emotional. Want my advice? No matter how scary it is, find one person you trust and TALK. I’ve learned the hard way that keeping things in is not good for you. It can be a friend, relative, school counselor, etc. You might be pleasantly surprised at the reactions you get. We all spend too much time worrying about other people and often forget to think about ourselves. Take a moment each day and check in with yourself and say, “What do I need to feel good today?” YOU are the most important person in your life and you can do some pretty incredible things, but only if you are at your best first. TAKE CARE OF YOU.

One last thing…always remember that just because something feels impossible, doesn’t mean it is. With determination and support, you can get through it. I believe we all have a little bundle of strength tucked away inside of us, we just need to find a way to let it out.

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Inspiration, to me, is really important. I like that it drives you to accomplish your goals. It helps to get you out of bed in the morning and it’s what influences your passion. If you have it and if you live it, I think it makes you a really interesting person. It gives you depth.  Seeing young people take action against bullying in their communities is what inspires me.  You guys inspire me, but if you’re unhappy with who you are, it’s going to be harder for you to help others.  It’s kind of like that saying:

I have always resonated with the idea that being a teenager can be really hard, especially when it comes to appreciating who you are and what makes you unique. Not only are you trying to figure out who you are, but you want to fit in and you want to be liked. Then, on top of everything else, you may also be dealing with people telling you to be different than who you are in order for others to like you as a person. I often hear young people focusing on what’s wrong with them and how these insecurities make them feel like they’re not good enough. I want to share this next paragraph with anyone who feels like they can relate:

While you may not have witnessed this for yourself quite yet, insecurities and negative self-talk can affect so many aspects of your life outside of just how you feel momentarily. When I went to college, insecurities that I had built up in high school (this fear of never being good/thin/pretty/smart/competent enough) greatly affected my ability to become comfortable in a new environment, my confidence to perform as well as I always had, and my ability to meet new people and fit in to the college-culture. It truly was not until I stopped the negative self-talk that I was able to begin to reach my potential.  I had to learn to give myself a break.  When I think back to four or five years ago, I feel bad that I wasted all that time being so negative towards myself.  Truth be told, had I not had such incredible role models who shared this wisdom with me, I would be a completely different person from who I am today and this website would definitely not exist.

So, be proud of who you are.  Smile, laugh, be positive, be kind to yourself.  There is nothing wrong with who you are.  It doesn’t matter if you identify as gay, lesbian, straight, trans, unsure, trying to figure things out, black, white, hispanic, asian, bi-racial, artistic, skater, goth, “different” in any way.  It also doesn’t matter if you’re seeing a therapist, if you need extra help at school, or if you’re not as “perfect” as you think you should be.  There is nothing wrong with who you are as a person.  And once you know this and are proud and happy with who you are, you will be able to do the most incredible things for others and most importantly, for yourself.

I’d like to leave you with this video. The storyline is both heartwarming and powerful.  I’m currently obsessed, so I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Beauty Redefined

May 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (1 Comments)

What makes us beautiful? What makes us different?

Could these characteristics be the exact same thing?

While it may a cheesy topic and something I know kids hear alllll the time, I think there’s something to be said for the idea that what makes us different can the exact same thing that makes us beautiful. Crazy concept, right? Because from what I can remember, middle school and early high school consisted of everyone, including myself, working really hard to fit in with everyone else. This might be in the form of dressing similar to a “popular” girl or playing a sport you’re confident others think is cool. It may also make you work harder to be in certain classes or maybe not work as hard to not be in certain classes. It’s funny though, because when you’re an adult, it’s often qualities that make you different or make you stand out that other people really like about you. It gets kind of boring to have all the same types of people around you all the time.

With that said, I do know and remember it being pivotal to fit in when I was younger, and it was also really important to behave in certain ways to fit in. An example of this might be excluding a friend because your other friends don’t think they’re cool, even when you know it’s not the right thing to do. Sometimes, trying to fit in comes at a cost of you not feeling happy with how you behaved/dressed/spoke/etc. You know? For me, I remember feeling that in order to fit in, I had to dress and act like everyone else. I would buy the same shoes that I saw “popular” girls wearing and similar style jeans because I knew, no one could pick on what I was wearing if I wore the same things as the popular kids. Similarly, while many kids were into sports and ballet, tap, and jazz, I was really into Irish step dancing. It was a type of dance that was totally different from what everyone else was doing and as a result, I grew to be a little self-conscious of it. Why was I self-conscious? Well, it was because I thought people would think I was weird. Why didn’t I just take regular dance classes like so many other girls? However, as I got older and more confident and much better and competitive with Irish dance, the fact that I excelled at something completely different than everyone else I went to school with was actually something people thought was cool.

Overall, I guess my point is, don’t be so hard on yourself if you feel like you’re different or you like to do things or wear things that others don’t think are cool. Be proud of who you are, even of those things that make you different, because I promise you that your quirks and things you do differently are qualities that someone really admires or will admire about you.

To go along with this message, I want to share a video with you. It’s called ‘Beauty Redefined’, and it was made by this AMAZING Girl Scout troop, Troop 445, from North Carolina. I saw their video and fell in love with their spirit and attitude. The girls and their troop leader gave me permission to share their video on MKC, and they’re even thinking of making another video geared towards anti-bullying this summer. Thanks so much, Troop 445!

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Hello!
My name is Ashley Alanna Rothschild. I am a 20 year old student who wants to make a difference in the world by sharing my story with you.
All throughout my childhood, all I can remember is the times I came home crying, or the days I pretended to be sick so I would not have to go to school. Throughout Kindergarden to Eighth Grade, I was made fun of almost every single day. I was different then most others, I had a learning disability. All this meant was that I could not learn as fast as others and I had to work twice as hard to get a good grade. I didn’t mind being a little different until my peers starting calling me “stupid, retarded, mentally challenged, an idiot, ugly”.. I have heard most names in the book. Each day I started to hate myself more and more. One year I even cut off about 12 inches of my long hair and turned it in for a chin length hair cut to bring attention to anything else but my disability. I also was made fun of because unlike most of the girls, I didn’t wear any makeup or care about doing my hair perfectly each day, I cared more about enjoying life then being a barbie doll. I liked the idea of being all natural and not trying to impress anyone. Finally, one day in Seventh grade after years of being bullied, I came home crying to my parents. I couldn’t take the hurt anymore so I told them what had been going on in school and about one of the main girls who had been doing most of the bullying. My parents decided to call the girls parents to fill them in on what their daughter had been doing behind their backs. The following next couple days in school, I was extremely nervous because I did not know how this situation was going to go when I saw the girl and her clique of friends. It actually turned out for the best, and most of the bullying stopped after that.
As I got older I realized, its okay to be different. It took me years to admit to people I have a learning disability. Now, I am probably one of the most insecure people you could meet from being bullied in my past, BUT it also taught me that I can rise against it, and TAKE A STAND about it. No one deserves to be bullied in any shape or any form. The main reason why I am doing Miss Long Island is to overcome my insecurities and spread awareness about Bullying. I know that if i believe in myself I can overcome anything in life. I am lucky to have the loving support of my friends and family to help me overcome all the obstacles I face along the way, but in the end it is all worth it because I know I will be helping in the movement to make a Difference. I will not pretend to be to be someone I’m not. My name is Ashley Alanna Rothschild, I have a learning disability, I have been bullied, and I will not be afraid to rise above it all and show the world you can do anything you put your mind to.
If you are being bullied and are afraid to speak up, don’t be. There are more people then you think who have been in your shoes. You are not alone!

Love always,
Ashley Alanna Rothschild

Thank you SO much for sharing your story, Ashley!  So many kids with learning disabilities are bullied on a daily basis and are called names just like the ones you mentioned. While some kids think these names are justified because they’re “just kidding,” name calling is never okay, even when the person being called the names laughs along.

Thanks for all you’re doing to raise awareness for bullying, Ashley. Best of luck in Miss Long Island this summer!! :)

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‘Don’t Forget to Love Yourself’

February 14th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (0 Comments)

Happy Valentine’s Day!! 

Good morning! On a day like today, I don’t want you to forget to share Valentine’s love with yourself.  It’s so easy to give out Valentine’s, share candy, tell your friends and family that you love them, but it’s not always an easy task to love yourself for being who you are.  Please remember to give yourself a little extra slack today, acknowledge positive things about yourself, and appreciate you for YOU.

“Don’t forget to love yourself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

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