Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Self-esteem and skin diseases

Bebeyi Abiodun


We don’t live forever, so let’s make those around
us happy.
African Global Pharma (AGP)

When I was a little girl, I looked for angular objects to help me scratch my legs. The itch and disgust encroached on my everyday life. I always wore my socks pulled up even though it meant I did not look like the cool kids at school. In time, I started wearing long clothes because the other children’s eyes would always drift to my legs. I had a very mild case of a rare tropical skin disease called Filariasis, and while there is a cure for it, we were not informed. I would say my family was middle-income, but that would be spraying a lot of polish and shine on the truth. We were low-income and we lived in a house that was not ours until the third child was born.

The only place I felt secure enough to express myself was at home. The disease manifests itself with tiny papules containing pus and after they ruptured, the pus would barely touch another portion of skin and I would have more papules in a day, leaving the ruptured parts to dry up and become flecks of withered skin. When I scratched the healing area, it had a distinctive sound, like sandpaper on rough wood, and it was the bane of my existence. I realize now that my parents struggled with the knowledge that they could not do anything about it. But although I became a recluse because I was disgusted by the sight myself, my parents were not.

When I was five or six, my mum and I traveled a few states over, where she had been told we could get help at a clinic. I had to take a certain injection that had a lot of restrictions and side effects and we were not even sure of what was being given to me. I had high temperatures, causing me to sweat profusely but was not allowed to take a bath until the next day. Seeing me in distress, my mother gave me a brief bath to cool me. I began to drag my feet to clinic. Over the years, I began to rest more on one leg, which caused me to acquire a slight limp. This only added fuel to fire, as younger kids and sometimes even my friends would perceive that I had what they felt was a disability.

When I went away to a boarding high school, some girls would not come near me for fear of contacting the disease through the broken skin. I already looked down on myself because of the limp and covered my body as much as I could to avoid stares and questions. I became even more of a recluse, which would not have happened around my family. It was a shock to move from welcoming accepting arms to those of repulsion and disgust. I would try making friends but, for me, being overly observant and having a tendency to overthink things made it difficult. I could not make friends with people who were shallow, and people who were not shallow scared me with all of the love they had to offer. For me, that was uncharted territory after having been rejected by others.

I stuck to reading novels and second guessing good intentions. I believed that people were just feeling sorry for me when in fact, as I would learn later, I was someone they wanted in their lives. I left a very little piece of my shell behind every time I accepted love in this unfriendly society of small-minded adolescents. I discovered the difference between pity and empathy: Pity makes you feel better than someone else, while empathy puts you in that person’s shoes. I learned that love is not just familial by receiving it from a few people who were not underdogs or outcasts, but just free-givers.

Going back home was always my solace. I could laugh as much as I wanted to, shout-sing however long I wanted, get all the attention I wanted, be angry when I felt it, be sad or moody, be in pain and say it, and, ultimately, be myself. My family created that atmosphere for me. There is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of when everything you get is real.

The place we find ourselves has a great impact on us. In the end, when the roof falls around our ears, home is the place we want to run back to. Parents should know they can make or break a child’s experience, and it would be a great honor to know you had a hand in making something as beautiful as a kid who lives through a lot of roughness and comes out on the other side looking unharmed. I have been free from this disease for eight years now. I would not want to look back but, remembering those who gave of their love freely, I can see how I should give of mine too. There is no perfection except in giving of oneself; it is beautiful and you only truly get love by giving it.



BEBEYI GRACE ABIODUN earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at the University of Jos and is currently working on her Masters in Intelligence and Security Studies with a Specialization in Cyber Crime and Information Security at Novena University, Nigeria. She likes to write, bake, visit her siblings, act on stage, and sing. She currently works as IT Support/Customer Service in Gowans Microfinance Bank in Nigeria.


Spring 2019  |  Sections  |  Personal Narratives

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