When I celebrated my 18th birthday, I knew for certain that it was to be the best year of my life. I am finally free to do [much more] things I could never have been allowed to do before. I am finally old enough to do things independently. I finally feel like a new, bigger person living a bigger scene in my life. I am in college and I am having the best time of my life.
But the year I turned 18 was also the year I found out I had scoliosis
I was never aware that the entirety of my adolescence was spent with a severely curved spine. I experienced no pain whatsoever nor was I aware that having an unbalanced shoulder was not good. To be frank, I barely know anything about scoliosis, except for few clouded traces of myths slash facts from my 4th grade science class.
A series of visits to doctor was never the best place to spend the first few month of my best year. I should have been out with my friends eating lunch, talking about the weirdest looks from New York Fashion Week. I should have been visiting museums wondering why paintings like the Spoliarium still hang as truth despite the generations of people it has encompassed. Instead, my eyes were always looking towards a photo of a severely curved spine and my ears perpetually letting in words of medical terms, treatments, and gibberish. It was in these times that I lost a sense of security in myself because it was in these times that the understanding that I had no power to conquer my circumstances was about to become a reality. I wanted to escape my condition, yet I couldn’t. Every time I tried to shut my eyes close to relieve myself from the x-ray, tracing my back to the curve meant that it was still there nonetheless.
The first few weeks of trying to cure my scoliosis was met with my utmost dissatisfaction and the biggest blow was when I met my Boston Brace. This contraption was something I had to wear all day everyday until I stopped growing, and it spanned my whole torso (from the chest area down to my hips). I really didn’t mind wearing such a device for the purposes of my treatment but it soon proved as a significant dilemma. I lost the capability to wear all my clothes because nothing could fit me without the brace poking through whatever I wore. The brace was too bulky to accommodate my clothes. And the biggest problem was that I was too sartorially conscious to be considered happy about wearing my brace with the clothes I owned.
I cried over this for the longest time. Call me superficial, shallow, or deranged, but the idea of not being able to fit into your clothes when you know you still could without the contraption hurts beyond words. Being asked to wear the contraption during a time when I haven’t even prepared myself emotionally is really similar to having your face punched by a big, muscly, human being. I can never wear my clothes – the clothes that have been a part of me and my experiences. I had to change all of it to fit me, which in part means, I had to change the person I was building for the last 18 years. I was afraid of immediate change. For a time, I treated my brace not as a contraption that was about to cure me, but one that caged me from ever feeling like I existed as myself.
Living with a cage on my body was never a piece of cake but I am now learning to live with it and love it. It was throughout this experience that I realized how there are no accessible clothing stores that cater to people with the same condition as me. Considering the fact that almost everyone I have confided my condition to has a.) worn a brace before b.) has scoliosis but is not wearing a brace c.) knows someone with scoliosis. So in terms of clothing myself, I realized that my brace should never change my perception of myself and what I chose to wear. I realized that I could still wear whatever I want after all. What matters is how I carry myself around people and how I see myself despite my brace Living with my brace on was my social filter because it helped me find people who wouldn’t mind if I was wearing one. They are usually the people worth talking to and worth spending time and ideas with. Sure, I may have plagued my mind thinking how different of a person I could have been if I did not have scoliosis but I certainly could never have garnered much more strength and assurance in myself. There may be times I stare out into the open staring at people wearing crop tops and skinny high waisted pants wondering when I could ever wear those type of clothes again, but I flip the page and see how good stories don’t always go on the way the reader wants it to go.This is how I’m beginning to see it. My Scoliosis brace was once my cage but it has now become my armor and I just couldn’t wait to continue fighting through my best year in it.
It may also be advisable to shop for clothes wearing your brace so that you won't regret the fit of your purchases at the end.
It may be difficult to find clothes to wear at first, but trust me you will get used to shopping for your body. Everything will get easier eventually!