Kiwi bodies: Love your skin
My thoughts on my body
Looking at a photo of my parents, standing in front of their half-finished house, grinning with youthful abandon in short shorts and high hair, it's pretty easy to see how I came to be me.
Dad's olive skin, long limbs and deep, dark eyes; mum's voluminous locks and athletic figure; I am a product of good genes.
Perpetually slim, taller than average, plump lips, big eyes and a wide smile.
I'm no beauty queen blonde, but some might say I'm beautiful. Some do say.
And I crumble, humbly, in a flash of rosy cheeks and coy gratitude.
After all, it wasn't up to me. Aside from styling products and concealer, I can't be held accountable for looking like I do.
It's just genetics. Science. That's what I have to tell myself.
See, there's something else I inherited. And as much as I like to blame myself for doing something wrong as a child; eating too much ice-cream, watching too many scary movies...it wasn't up to me.
I have psoriasis.
At age seven, I started to develop small lesions on my knees and elbows - the first glimpse of my new skin - this new attribute, a new feature I would have to learn to live with.
Psoriasis, if you're unfamiliar (only 2-3 per cent of New Zealanders have it); is an incurable condition that causes red, itchy lesions to appear over the body. My immune system is faulty - it thinks my good skin is bad, and attacks it accordingly; causing my skin cells to turn over in a matter of days, compared to the month long process of a normal person. It's not contagious, and it doesn't always hurt, but it's no walk in the park.
According to the British Skin Foundation, those with a family history of psoriasis are more likely to develop it at some point in their lives. Just like it famously started to appear on Kim Kardashian around her 30th birthday thanks to momager Kris. Ring a bell?
Thankfully, I'm no Kardashian, but even without the paparazzi, it's still pretty stressful living with a chronic skin condition.
Are they looking at it? Can they see it? Are they judging me?
You'll never catch me in a strappy singlet, a low cut dress or a pair of skimpy togs (unless absolutely necessary), and some days, no matter what I do with my outfit, my hair or my makeup, I'll still feel terrible. Because I can't be normal?
The hardest thing about being so very different is that I can never be 'normal'.
But now, as I approach the 20th anniversary of that first spot - different isn't such a dirty word.
My skin condition isn't all of me, but it has shaped who I am. It changed my heart, the way I think, and the way I treat other people. It made me careful, it made me kind and it made me vulnerable. It makes me special. I really, honestly believe that.
My parents gave me my brown eyes, my toothy smile and my lanky limbs, but there was something in the genetic mix they would never have expected to appear in their chubby second child.
But this is the skin I'm in. It's mine and it's me.
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