The Patchwork Doll is a personal endeavour chronicling my real-life experiences battling eczema.
The Patchwork Doll by tsukiiruka
When the Battle's Lost and Won
When you're a kid, you're often blissfully unaware of how ugly the world can be. You smile, laugh, and play without a care, until someone comes to rain on your parade. Then you learn, that maybe you're not as comfortable with yourself as you thought. You learn that people don't just judge you based on your actions or your thoughts, but that they judge you based on how you look, as least in terms of first impressions. When you're a cute kid, people want to take photos with you more often. In the digital age, this preference gnaws on your soul a lot more especially as you're growing up.
A popular thing that people like to do for a laugh every once in a while is to revive their friends oft-forgotten unglam and geeky photos tagged on their Facebook wall, from the deep recesses of their teenage years. So every once in a while, as I'm scrolling through my newsfeed, I guffaw at the amazing transformations that many of my friends have had, from the retro spectacles when they were 15 to the carefully chosen hipster spectacles they sport at 20, from the comfort of their favourite truly ratty tees of their school houses to the stylish and perfectly worn-out looking torn jeans they now look great in on their instagram photos. Often, you will get sucked into this social dance as your friends take no prisoners in this merciless campaign. Then they realise that I don't exactly have many photos like that, that fit the bill.
You know how sometimes, someone says something that triggers a train of thought that spans throughout the years that suddenly connect the many dots that trail your lifespan to form a track that leads you to realise something you might not have thought of before?
That's when I realised that I in fact, don't have many photos of myself from when I was 15. Or 14, or 13, or 12, or 16, or 17, 18. And there are many reasons that I can think of. Maybe it's partly because camera phones weren't all that advanced yet, I said. Could also be because there wasn't that culture of taking selfies back then, I said. Perhaps it's that taking photos was an expensive thing and my family couldn't afford to have a camera and to print photos out, I said.
And you see the cool, cute, geeky, funny, photos of their teenage years that your friends upload, and you think, surely I'd have something.
For a long time, I didn't like taking photos. I'd pose awkwardly, I'd look silly, I'd smile, but that was about it. My arms would be in an uncomfortable position because I couldn't bend my arms properly with my wounds. I couldn't really tiptoe higher or bend my knees to be lower, to suit the number of people in the photo. I'd look out of place in a photo because I'd be wearing a jacket in the sweltering heat while my friends looked comfortably stylish in their shorts and tees, spaghetti strap tops and mini skirts. I'd look dishevelled with my messy hair because I wasn't able to re-tie my hair without being in much more pain than I wanted to be. So I didn't.
And that's kind of one of the reasons why today, I have this habit and enjoy documenting my every outfit, my long hair, my poses that my friend taught me, my bendy elbows, and my
my smile that no longer has to hide the immense pain I'm feeling at that moment.
I used to wear a jacket everywhere I went, from when I was 13 to 19. That was when my eczema was at its worst, that was when my arms and legs were entirely open flesh wounds and it hurt so much even when I was just lying still in bed and trying my hardest not to move. So I wore a jacket, to shield my arms from the stinging breath of the wind, to hide my wounds from the world so that maybe I could pretend they didn't exist. And sometimes, people really didn't notice how bad it was, sometimes, they really treated me like I was just a normal girl with a weird habit of wearing a jacket in the 30 degree Celsius heat.
Now, they treat me like I'm a normal girl with a weird habit of taking photos everywhere I go.
For a long time after I stopped needing to wear a jacket everywhere I went, I still didn't like taking photos. I mean, I liked the idea of taking photos, but I didn't know how to be in a photo. I was perfectly confident in real life (humour and confidence helps in surviving traumatic times), but I wouldn't be very comfortable in photos, though I tried to be.
Then, on a school trip to Indonesia almost 2 years ago, my friends said something to me that I won't ever forget. They told me that I actually look quite nice in photos. And that simple gesture that they probably don't remember, actually gave me the confidence to see myself in a new light. They weren't just saying it because they loved me, they weren't just saying it to be polite, but they were saying it because, they actually saw something that I couldn't see. It felt like I might actually deserve to be in a photo now.
Sometimes, you spend so much time in the shadows that you feel more comfortable there. Sometimes, you spend so much time in the shadows that you don't even notice when the sun has come up behind you. Sometimes, you just need someone to be the light for you that once and you're able to see so many things you couldn't see before.
And that also reminds me of the power of words. As a debater, we learn to put sentences together to cause the greatest damage to our opponents. But we also need to remember that not every battle is a battle that needs to be won against an enemy. Some are battles that need to be fought together with as many allies as possible. Some are battles that you need to win against yourself.
And so it is in chapter 9, that I can finally say:
I look fine.
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