I got diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) at 14 years old, almost during my adolescents’ years. It meant that my spinal column had a slight yet defined abnormal curvature that simple stretching or walking with books on top of my head could not fix.
Yes, I understood how unbelievable it sounded to many. When I mentioned the diagnosis to my friends and their parents, they even said, “Get out of here! You’re just pulling our legs, and we’re not falling for it, sister.” They only believed me when I turned my body back and asked them to trace my spinal curvature. Most of them didn’t know what to say immediately after that, except for one who exclaimed, “Dang, it was like a snake in there!”
Despite that comment, my friends cared for me throughout middle school up to high school. They didn’t treat me like a child which helps in managing stress. Whenever my back and spine hurt from carrying a bag full of books for too long, they took turns holding it for me. They often asked how I was, too, especially when we’re doing exhausting things for P.E. classes. E.g., running, volleyball, basketball, etc.
The Real Problem
Some people thought that my life was still relatively easy, even though I was dealing with scoliosis. After all, I had never been bullied because of it, and everyone wanted to give me moral support. However, because of my scoliosis, I needed to quit cheerleading, which had been a massive part of my life for as long as I could remember.
Being a teenager, it made me question my status and body image at school. I used to be among the cool kids at school because I was poised to become a head cheerleader, you see. People knew my name or the girl who could more flip in the air than you could count. Then, when I left cheerleading, I realized that that’s all I was. I did not join any other club; my grades were only a little above average, too.
It was an identity and self image crisis that I did not have time to prepare for. In truth, I made up a few excuses for months to avoid going to school because of that. I felt like drowning in worries from my mental health after scoliosis diagnosis, and I could hardly come up for air. I didn’t have any emotional support to process my thoughts and feelings.
My mother eventually caught up in my alibis. I thought that she would ground me for life due to how much she scolded me that day, but she ended up hugging and crying with me. She said, “I disagree with your methods, but I understand why you’ve done what you did. I just wish you have told me about it early.”
This revelation did me more good than I could ever imagine. It allowed me to see how I could keep my mental health intact despite having scoliosis.
Stop Thinking Negatively
The first thing I did was recalibrate my brain. Just like other severe cases, the diagnosis caused me to think about everything negatively. For instance, when I was no longer a cheerleader, I assumed that no one would know me or want to get to know me. Whenever my friends offered their help, I thought that they were doing it out of pity.
Instead of thinking like that, I tried to tell myself that I could still be known for other things, such as academics and other sports. I also pushed away the feeling of helplessness that always lurked inside me and welcomed my loved ones’ help. I figured that if it happened to them, I would have done the same because we all loved each other.
Work Around The Illness
When I got diagnosed with scoliosis, I honestly thought that I could never do any physical activity again. As my friend mentioned above, my spine curved like a snake and that has negatively affect on my physical strength, and they were correct. In my mind, it meant that I could not be a part of a human pyramid anymore and that I would have to watch my diet now because exercising was out of the picture.
However, during one of my checkups, the doctor noticed one of physical symptoms such as my weight gain due to stress eating, and he wasn’t happy about the possible development of an eating disorder. The reason was that my spinal curvature might worsen if I had more fats than muscles in my body. Based from numerous studies, he suggested doing core exercises that would not require me to be on my feet.
I must say it was a tough challenge at first, considering I was too scared to feel pain and hurt my back further. Over time, though, I learned how to work around the illness and strengthen my body.
Try Not To Disobey The Doctor’s Orders
It also helped that I talked to the doctor before I tried anything or consider scoliosis surgery. Aside from the conservative treatment of medication for my scoliosis treatment, they gave me an idea of how to live to the max, even if I might need to deal with scoliosis for a long while. They even had previous scoliosis patients willing to talk to new patients like me and practically inform us that the diagnosis won’t alter our lives if we didn’t allow it.
I was in emotional limbo from my mental health problems for six whole months. I regretted having mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, happen to me, but I could only move forward and try to make the most of everything to improve my quality of life.
Hopefully, you, as another member of the general population, find enlightenment during your darkest moments, too. Good luck!