“This is the story of my life and my journey to loving myself. I was born with a rare skin condition called Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (GCMN). It was a day a fighter was born and the day my journey began. My skin condition occurs roughly once in every 500,000 births. It’s basically a very large mole. A lot of smaller moles, called satellites, are also present in most cases. I have what is referred to as ‘Bathing Trunk Nevus,’ which looks as if I’m wearing a pair of swim trunks. My giant nevus starts right above my knees, continues up my back, stops in the middle of my back, and right below my belly button. Almost half of my body is covered in one large birthmark, while the rest is covered in various sized satellites. I would say at least 80 percent of my body is covered in birthmarks.
I grew up in a small town called Richfield where almost everyone was associated with each other. I attended the same school from the time I started pre-kindergarten until I finished my 8th-grade year. For the most part, the other kids I went to school with never had anything to say about my condition because we all grew up together. However, there were a few times I did encounter some issues. I used to play on the basketball team and we would play against other local schools. Other teams used to make comments about how I looked different and some of the players do not want to touch me. We would line up after a game and high-five each other and compliment each other with ‘good game.’ A few girls would remove their hand from the line because they didn’t want to touch my hand.
There was also a time I was riding the school bus home and the kids in the seat in front of me were picking on another kid. I stepped in and said something about them needing to quit and as a result, I was called an ‘ugly spotted dog’ by one of the kids. The school and his parents made him apologize later, but that doesn’t change the hurt I felt at the time.
When I was younger, I never realized or paid much attention to the people around me, but I would always notice my sisters or parents getting upset and saying things to other people. I always remember my mother telling people I had ‘angel kisses.’ For the longest time, I never understood what she was talking about until I began observing the people around me. When I was around 8, I started to notice what people were saying and how they were looking at me. At the time, it didn’t affect me. I just simply noticed what was happening. About 4 years later, it started to mentally affect me and have an impact on my life. The things people would say started to hurt me more and more. The stares I received kept me from enjoying life in a public setting. It caused a lot of anxiety and depression.
I tried to continue my life as if nothing was bothering me, which worked for a few years. As time progressed, the weight from holding my feelings inside began to show. I didn’t enjoy going to new places. I would physically and mentally shut down if I tried to even go into a restaurant I had never been to. I still struggle with this issue today, but it is easier to deal with these days. I never bothered to research my condition until I was in high school. I always just accepted the fact that I had a medical condition and left it at that. I have an annual dermatologist appointment, where once a year all my moles are checked to make sure none are becoming malignant or harmful.
When I was in high school, I had to choose a topic for my graduation project. I chose Neurocutaneous Melanocytosis, which is another condition I have. This is a secondary condition to GCMN, only this one is internal. It is where pigmentation is present on the brain and central nervous system. I had to write a 10-page paper about it and give a presentation on the information. This is what helped me come to love who I was and the way I was born.
It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I truly felt confident in myself and the way that I look. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t times when I get down and out, but who doesn’t? After learning so much about my condition and finding others with the same condition, I began to love myself more. It all started with an Instagram post. I took a picture of myself in a bikini. It was a front and back picture so you could see my entire body. I remember posting it and using a whole bunch of hashtags so I could reach all kinds of people. The purpose of the post was to raise awareness about being different and being able to love yourself for the skin that you’re in. And I did just that.
My self-love journey began with a school project, but I want to be able to show other people who are struggling with self-love that it doesn’t take much to begin your journey. It isn’t something that happens overnight and it isn’t something that is going to be easy to do. It will be a rollercoaster ride, but if you are able to love yourself, then that is one of the greatest gifts you will ever have.
Everyone was born to be different and stand out, but today, everyone thinks they must fit a certain mold to be accepted. True beauty is being able to accept you for the way you were meant to be. I used to often think about the ‘what ifs’ when it came to my appearance, which I still do, but I would question myself, ‘What if I didn’t have this condition and what if I looked normal?’ But what is normal? I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the way I was born.
I was born with a skin condition for a reason. It made me who I am. Everyone has a purpose, everyone has a reason, and everyone should love themselves for who they are. All the trials and battles we face make us who we are. All the hurt and pain I have felt from others has made me who I am. I was born to stand out, I was born to be different, and I was born to speak out about it. Being able to share my journey and love for myself not only helps me grow as a person, but it has also helped other people as well.
The most important piece of advice I can give to anyone is to love yourself for who you are. Love yourself with everything that makes you different. Everyone is born to stand out in their own way. Everyone has insecurities, whether they are visible or not. Be kind to everyone, even if they are mean to you. The best revenge is happiness, so stay strong and happy. Love yourself and everyone around you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ciera Swaringen, 23, from Rockwell, North Carolina. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more inspiring stories about people with skin differences here:
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