Writing by Laura Fazzolari // Photograph by Emily Dozois
It gets better. If you had told me at the age of 13 that only 6 years later I would be writing anything with that opening line, I wouldn’t have believed it. As a young adolescent I suppose I had the same issues as any other girl my age– trying to make sense of boys, trying to deal with the nasty girls at school, trying to feel comfortable in my own skin and even just adjusting from primary school to high school. However, just as I was beginning to learn how to deal with becoming a teenager, my life took an unexpected turn. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness– one I had never had even heard of– called Lupus. I went from being on top of things, including a large range of extracurricular activities (dance, gymnastics, soccer, band, nippers, debating, entering speech-writing competitions, academic competitions… you name it and I was doing it) as well as being in the top classes at school to the complete opposite.
Lupus affected my physical health by causing nausea, vomiting, a bright red rash from head to toe, migraines, and arthritis pains. And there were side effects of the medications I had to take, like being unable to be in direct sunlight, weight gain of over 50kg, and many more unpleasant issues. By the 9th grade, I had missed so much of my schooling I had to enrol in Distance Education. I was suddenly in charge of motivating myself as the person responsible for my own education. I also was no longer able to participate in any of my much-enjoyed extracurricular activities. It all took a massive toll on my mental health and me; I was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I had never met anyone who had a chronic illness or mental health issues. I believed I was completely alone. Little did I know, in Australian alone, 1 in 5 young people suffer from some sort of mental health issue. I remember feeling so low, and when my parents or other adults told me that “one day I would be alright,” I thought it was the biggest joke I had ever heard. But now looking at almost 19 years old, I wish I could have believed them. Over the years I have learned how to deal with my lupus and though mental health issues still a minor part of my life, I have learned how to cope with the occasional bad day. I am learning new techniques everyday to deal with any anxiety that comes my way.
Now, as an adult who has made it out of the years of teenage struggle, I think the best piece of advice I can give any girl is to never apologise for being yourself, always fight for your rights as a woman and a proud feminist, and never, ever give up, because you are an amazing, unique person who truly has so much to offer! I am proud to say that regardless of my rocky adolescence, I now hold real estate certificates, I currently am studying a double degree of business and working part time, as well as being an aspiring plus sized model and pin-up girl who goes by the name of Lulu Rose. If I can make it, so can you.
If you are ever in a place of struggle with any kind of mental health issue, please don’t try and go it alone. Australia’s Kid’s Helpline is a great free service and a great start to dealing with any issues you may have: they are available 24/7 at 1800 55 1800.[share]