Looking back at teenage life before my EDS diagnosis
Things make more sense when viewed through the lens of EDS
It’s hard to believe that I head back to work soon as a college counselor and history teacher in high school. I enjoy my job, so while it’s great to have time off to recharge over the summer, it’s also fun to go back to school. It reminds me of when I was a student, and how much more sense my teenage life makes now that I know I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I’ve always struggled with whether to cover my EDS bruising or simply wear what I want. Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth on the matter. The bruises I used to get from playing soccer prior to my diagnosis were often extreme, and there was no way to hide them other than with pants. As a teenager, managing that was hard because teenagers want to fit in and wear what they like, but I’d often be self-conscious about how my legs looked. Most of the time, I just gave in, wore what I wanted, and sported my bruises like battle scars.
I enjoyed school, as I love to learn, but I was never particularly confident in my friendships. My friends were kind and generous, but I didn’t live near any of them, which made getting together outside of school difficult. They often did things without me because they could all easily gather and I couldn’t. Looking back, I wonder how much of the stress I felt about those situations was normal teenage emotions and how much was due to anxiety.
Like so many others with EDS, I have anxiety, but wasn’t diagnosed until later in life. I understand now that I’ve had it my entire life but had learned to self-manage it to an extent. (Or at least I thought I had.) Sometimes, though, life can get overwhelming, which prompts anxiety to flare. (It was during one of those incidents that I was diagnosed.) I realize now that I wasn’t actually managing my anxiety when I was younger, but rather just plowing through it because I didn’t know any better.
Now that I have the proper tools to handle it, including tips and tricks I learned, as well as a low dose of medication, it’s incredible how much better things are. While it’s easy to look back and wonder how high school might have been different if I had known that I had EDS, being a teenager is tough even without a chronic condition. I hope that my experiences growing up with EDS makes me more understanding as an educator.
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