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"You are fearfully and Wonderfully Made"

"Body Image." These two words send chills down my body because it has been a battle I have struggled with for many years. I have never been the skinniest person in the room. I stressed going on school field trips to the mall because I would always have to look in a different section for clothes. You know the "plus" size. Because God forbid that the "bigger girls" shopped in the same section as the smaller girls, right? This one time, I was too embarrassed to look in a different section so I was just casually looking in the "misses" dresses. All the girls in the 7th grade were trying on spring fling dresses and kept telling me to try something on. I knew that I didn't fit in those sizes, but I nervously grabbed a size 14 dress and tried it on. Everybody was coming out of the dressing room and taking pictures, and there I stood, in my dressing room, stuck in this dress that I KNEW I wouldn't fit in, but I let the pressure get to me and I just thought i could squeeze in to it. I was wrong. The girls kept telling me to come out and I couldn't even get out of it. I remember having a panic attack because I didn't want anybody to have to pull it over my head, but I had no other way. I'm still not 100% how the situation ended because I kind of just try to edit that day out of my memories. That is when my first body image problems began.

In high school, I had finally lost some weight and grew into my body. I started feeling confident again and then BAM. I started losing my hair due to a condition called "alopecia areata." You lose patches of your hair. It's an autoimmune disease. Some people are bald, so I find myself blessed that I only lose patches. I was 16 years old trying to get through high school and now I had to worry about what people would say about my hair. I won't go totally into how bad things got, but let's just say high schoolers are mean and definitely contributed to my lack of self confidence.

Flash forward to sophomore year of college. I had finally accepted my bald spots and stopped trying to hide them. I started having a lot of stomach problems and couldn't hold any food down. I had lost close to 50 pounds from starving and my dr diagnosed me with gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach) and put a feeding tube in. This feeding tube was taped to my face and went down my nose, throat and into my small intestine. So now, I have a tube taped to my face and bald spots. This tube was very hard to adjust to. People pointed it out everywhere I went. Random people would talk to me because they felt bad for me. Others would just stare and ask if I was okay. Little kids were afraid of me. I felt like a walking charity case. I felt like people didn't see me for me, they couldn't see past the tube. It was a nightmare. People literally labeled me as "That girl with the tube taped to her face." It took me a while to realize I was SO MUCH more than that. I didn't want to leave my house. I had the tube for an entire year, got it ripped out for a year and then had it put back in for a year because I had another flare up. I was a cheerleader and I remember having a huge panic attack the first game with the tube. I felt like everyone was staring at the tube. Your mind loves to play tricks on you. I mean, of course people were looking in my direction, we were cheering and isn't that the point, after all? But in my mind, I was this alien who everyone stared at. Eventually, I realized that the tube did not define me and I asked my sister for a photoshoot. She made me feel like a star and even though there were days that I would have liked to wear a paper bag over my face, I started to take control and love myself through it.

When I finally got my self esteem up with my tube, I started being able to eat again. When I had my tube, I couldn't put anything in my mouth. It all went through my tube for a whole year. When I started to realize that I could eat again, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING that I had missed for a whole year. I got the tube out and I started eating A LOT. Why? Many reasons. One of them was the fact that I couldn't even remember what food tasted like so I wanted to try everything again. Another reason was the fact that I never knew when my stomach would go into another flare up and take away my ability to eat again so I wanted to eat everything I could before that happened. Of course, I started gaining all the weight I had lost, back. I felt disgusting. I couldn't fit into my cheer uniform anymore. I had to buy all new clothes and I was so angry. I was just enjoying being able to eat again and I was blowing up. This change played so many mind games with me. I would think things like "I wish I would throw up again. At least I looked better." TERRIBLE THOUGHTS. I cried myself to sleep so many times because of my weight. Something so simple made me hate myself. Society makes us believe that we have to be a certain size to be beautiful. I'm tired of believing that. GIRLS, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT SIZE YOU ARE. DON'T LET THIS WORLD ESTIMATE YOUR WORTH. MY GOD SAYS WE ARE WORTH MORE THAN GOLD AND I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THAT.

Okay, now lets get to 2018. I started losing weight yet again. I had lost 50 pounds, most of it was muscle. My body was so full of acid from my sugar being so high that it was eating itself and I had no idea. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I started out with giving myself shots 5 times a day to getting an insulin pump and sensor. When I got home from the hospital, I had thrown up my feeding tube because in between the weight gain and now, I had a flare up and had to have a feeding tube again. I decided to try to eat small portions and see if I could last without a tube. So I get rid of the tube and add a pump that looks like an old pager, a sensor in my arm, and a wire that attaches to the pump. Again, another "body image" thing to get used to. I will never forget the day that I went into a gas station and the guy at the checkout desk asked "is that your mobile?" and I said "no, it's my insulin pump." I wish the story ended there but I was actually buying a kit kat. The guy looked at the kit kat and said "Oh well, you shouldn't be getting that kit kat then." The anger i felt was extreme. This simple machine that is keeping me alive, is making people feel like they get to tell me what I should and shouldn't be eating. I have hid my pump every time I go back to that gas station, because I am so tired of people judging me by what is connected to my body. Trying to dress with a pump is rough. If you wear a dress, the only place you can put it is at the top of your dress. There is no hiding it. Some days, that is hard for me. Some days, I just want to be Danica. Not "that girl with the pump on her dress." It has taken me a while, but now I wear dresses and don't care about letting my pump show. This pump keeps me alive and I will never be ashamed to show it off.

I wanted to share my battle with body image because I know that many of you are struggling also. Whether it is your weight, height, freckles, hair, ANYTHING. I want you to know that you are "FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE." These words. These powerful words get me through the day. I repeat them multiple times in the mirror when I'm getting ready. They aren't just any words, but they are words said in the best book there is. THE BIBLE. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well." Psalm 139:14. There are going to be days that you don't believe this verse. There will be days when you feel so ugly. But our God says that we are made in HIS image and HIS image is flawless. Genesis 1:27 says "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female, he created them." Please, please don't let the world rate your beauty. Please, Please post pictures on instagram that you feel pretty in. Don't worry about how many likes or comments you get. It's hard. It's incredibly hard to feel beautiful when your friends are getting hundreds of likes and you are only getting 35. But don't change just to get likes. Don't reveal yourself to get likes. Because if God doesn't like the picture, His like is the only one that matters. Loving yourself is a daily battle, but it is a battle YOU CAN WIN. When I get down, I have to remind myself what my body has been through. When I remember that, I realize that I love my body for staying alive after every near death experience.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, STRONG, COURAGEOUS, BRAVE, AND FLAWLESS. If anybody needs this reminder every day, please message me and I will do my very best to lift you up because I don't want anybody to feel less than perfect.

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