How Changing My Life; Changed My Life
Fighting Your Body for Beauty
Written By: Tristin Halie Fleetwood
I feel like I was put here on this Earth to make an impression. The shock value of a situation has always appealed to me. I believe now more than ever if I can use myself and my story as a "shock value" to the world that I may have a real chance at helping people, and finding the answers I seek. The generation I am in has been so completely messed up by social media, and societal standards for living and beauty. Our daily lives and routines have been skewed so badly that it's no wonder chronic health conditions and obesity are running ramped. My generation’s first daily task is to look good enough to post a picture of themselves online; not to cook something healthy for breakfast and do a little physical activity. After developing this condition; the last 4 years of my life have been flipped upside-down. In some ways for the better and in some ways for the much, much worse. I don't really know what inspired me to make a change and seek out answers; but something did.
I have a chronic health condition, but no doctor has been able to entirely identify what it is. I have a thyroid that is 2.5 times larger than it’s supposed to be, and what doctors refer to as a ‘non-toxic diffuse goiter’. Despite the fact that my thyroid looks like it’s trying to create an apartment complex in my neck, my thyroid levels test completely normal. Doctors tell me that my thyroid is not what is contributing to my constant fatigue, and variety of other health concerns; yet still they placed me on a daily thyroid supplement. I also suffer from migraines known as Hemiplegic Migraines, these ‘headaches’ as some people call them; mimic the symptoms of a stroke. I have these migraines about once a month and they are completely debilitating. I cannot eat, speak, drive or leave my apartment without putting myself in danger. I’ve seen just about every medical specialist that my town, and towns around me have to offer. Yet I still have very few answers. I’m still on my journey to find the answers I deserve. This is a brief part of my story and what I’m going through dealing with the changes in my physical appearance; while battling my body for health and beauty. I hope you enjoy, and I hope this helps each of you to feel a little less alone.
I am currently a licensed Esthetician in Montana, I own a Skin Care & Waxing studio; and I choose to work primarily with Medical Esthetics and treatments. When I began my career in Esthetics (skin care), I encountered a client who was so passionate about her career in photography and photo-therapy. She was so intrigued by the work she knew she was capable of. She told me that photo-therapy was her passion. That it’s what helped to treat her chronic illnesses (Fibromyalgia & Bulimia). When I reached my lowest point, and actively started seeking medical help; I thought back to that conversation and I started to take pictures of myself ‘at my worst’. I was so used to taking pictures of myself when I looked my best. I would share them with the ‘world’ like everyone else in my generation and receive the ‘praise’ that I so genuinely desired. It would define my mood. It would define me. The more praise I received the better that day would be. The thought of photographing myself on my sick days was absurd to me. Why would I want to see a picture of me sick? Why on earth would I show that picture to anyone? It would ruin me, I thought to myself. People think I’m pretty. If they saw me when I was sick they would lose respect for me. If they saw me while I was broken down they would view me as weak. I don’t want to be sick. I pretend not to be sick on a daily basis. I use skin care and cosmetics as a cover to not be ‘sick’. Every single day I ‘put my face on.’ I pull myself together enough to be my version of presentable. My version of beautiful. Sick or not sick, I pride myself on being able to be ‘presentable’ to the rest of the world and more importantly ‘presentable’ to myself. The first few ‘sick’ pictures I took, I didn’t like looking at them. I didn’t like that they existed. I didn’t want physical evidence that I was sick. The doctors kept telling me I wasn’t sick, so how could it be possible that I looked like this? I continued to take pictures weekly on the days I felt my worst. On one of my ‘sickest’ days I found myself crying in the back office of my work. I figured if I feel this awful I must look even worse. I decided to take a picture. After I took the picture, I didn’t want to look at it. I was afraid that I had come to the point where I really couldn’t handle seeing myself this way anymore. When I turned the screen around to take a look, I had no idea that it would be the moment that changed my life. I looked terrible. There were red rings around my eyes, and my ‘goiter’ was inflamed larger then I’d ever seen it before. I then decided it was time to go back through the other images I had taken and see what my body had really done to me. I combined a few of the pictures into one single image; showing how I felt at my absolute worst. After combining the pictures I remember saying out loud, “I need someone to see this”. I needed all the people who told me I looked fine and that this ‘sickness’ was all in my head to really look at these pictures. I'd never stared at something so long and thought, this isn't right. This isn't okay. Something needed to change and it needed to change now. After combining these images, and comparing them to pictures of myself that I would consider ‘normal.’ I began to actively use my skin care background to help battle my anxiety and depression that this condition has caused me to have regarding my physical appearance. I began to research corrective cosmetics in order to help develop a happier me that could bare to live another day. I started to use my face as a canvas; applying ‘corrective’ treatments to help battle to visual side effects my thyroid had created. I learned that the anxiety I had about what my condition had done to my appearance, did not mean that I was crazy; and had come to terms with the fact that I would probably always battle with some form of anxiety from it. The up side is there are things I CAN do to look and feel better. I've learned to share my knowledge about skin treatments and cosmetics, and that it's okay.
After combining those images, I sought out even more help. I sought out a variety of doctors and medical professionals to help 'treat' whatever could possibly be wrong with me. With each medication shift, my mind and body shifted. My skin was brittle, pale and scaly, my hair was falling out in handfuls, and I was lucky if I could get out of bed before noon. I reached a point where I could NOT do another medicated treatment. I realized I needed to do a complete lifestyle change if I was ever going to get any better. I needed to change EVERY SINGLE THING about my days and nights. I quit one of my jobs and began to focus solely on my Esthetics Career and getting healthy. With an endocrinologists’ permission I took myself off of my Synthroid and Levothyronine, changed my diet, and began to exercise daily. I cut out dairy, chocolate, and a variety of other foods known as ‘trigger’ foods; which reduced my migraines and thyroid flare ups significantly. Although I still have days of fatigue and weakness, my body seems to be responding positively to its new routine. I am now seeking some medical care outside of my state to see if there could potentially be other options to treat my ‘non-toxic diffuse goiter’.
In the meantime, while searching for further treatments, I’m continuing to expand my Esthetics career. I try to teach my clients how to use external beauty to boost internal wellness. I’ve found that our idea of perfection isn't going to come and greet us at our doorstep every morning, sometimes we’re going to have to work for it; we have to strive for it. I want to use this industry for good. I want to take the beauty industry and shape it. Even just a little. I want to help people find their beauty, even if they are battling a terrible illness. Even though we tend to be our greatest and most harsh critic when it comes to appearance. I feel that if we change our mind set we can learn to be our best and most important friend. We need to come up with our own ideas of what ‘perfect’ is for our own unique situations. I want to encourage all of you to never stop looking for answers about your chronic health concerns and never stop fighting to find your cure! Fight your body for the health and beauty that you deserve to feel; inside and out!
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