“My name is Marika and I am, well, visually different.
Nobody knew about my condition until I was born. My body is endlessly covered in birthmarks. I have what is called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, a pigment disorder that occurs in only 1 in 500,000 babies.
And I am one of them.
Back then, doctors couldn’t really tell me much about my condition, but they suspected that my life would be cut short. So, they informed my parents about a fifty percent chance that I would pass away. They must have been extremely scared, worried, shocked, and confused. And understandably so.
They still don’t like to talk a lot about my first few weeks and months. Being a mom now myself, I can only understand all too well how worried sick you get about your children for each and every little thing. But one year and seven very risky skin grafts later, they knew that I was born to be a fighter!
Up until school, I never felt odd or different. I grew up happy and safe, surrounded by loving and supporting parents, family and friends. Sometimes other children or adults would ask about my skin but only because they were very curious and have never seen anything like it before. Nothing that would make me feel bad or uncomfortable. Even though I never really knew why my skin was sprinkled with thousands of tiny and larger brown dots, I just accepted having them. They were a part of me and I never really thought about them. Nobody really judged. Including me.
But once I started school and children got older, they developed a certain need to fit in I suppose. I think we can all remember that. Somehow, I couldn’t fit in anymore. I was used to making friends easily, being open minded, and always friendly. But when I tried making new friends, joining conversations and generally approaching other kids, they started giving me that weird look we all know from High School movies. The one when the outsider has to talk to the most popular cheerleader in school. Only that it was a first grader looking at me like that, utterly disgusted. It got the message across loud and clear.
Soon after, they began calling me names, picking on me, and keeping a certain distance from me. But even when it hurt, it still didn’t defeat my inner happy and bubbly soul. I kept trying, and failed. Tried again, failed even harder and so on.
Somehow I made it to middle school. New school, new year, new me.
And again, I tried making new friends. And I have to admit, some girls and boys were very funny, seemed interesting and shared some of my interests. You might think, that‘s just the right foundation, a good base for finding the place where you belong.
Actually, it rather all escalated and got out of hand. Before I even could prove myself, they already knew what they thought about me. Judgement straight away. To be honest, nothing feels more discouraging than not even getting a chance.
Over the next few years, I had to face all kinds of physical and emotional violence. Harassment in the hallway, kicks, laughter, names. I couldn’t even go to the toilet without anything happening. It quickly turned into something bigger, something anyone would join in. Students bullying, teachers accepting. I can’t even remember how many times my parents spoke to the headmaster and to other teachers but the only thing they got told was, ‘We don’t care.’ After that, I wouldn’t even tell them about most of the incidents anymore. It wasn’t worth it.
Of all, that has been the worst feeling I’ve ever felt. Alone, not worthy, scared, broken. Yet, I was still pushing through. God knows how. Looking back, I can‘t give you even one reason why I kept going. Maybe because I got used to it. And I was barely 12.
What sounds like a good novel or movie got even more ridiculous. Don’t ask me how all of this could even legally happen without teachers or the police intervening. It just did. They all knew, but didn’t care. The police wouldn’t do anything because we were too young. I don’t know how it would have turned out if it all happened today. Nowadays bullying get’s taken way more seriously. And I’m glad.
But back then it was called ‘non-sense’ or ‘children being children’. It all started with my skin disorder and kids blaming me for it. Then, it soon turned to them finding joy in hurting me in general.Somewhere down the line, the worst situation happened. I got raped by two men on my way back home. One of the school bullies was involved. I won’t get into details but all you need to know is, I kept it a secret for several years. Thank god my parents cut the cord and put me into another school around about a year after. They still didn’t know anything about it. I mentioned it to nobody, but couldn’t help myself from becoming suicidal.
And somehow, I still managed to get through middle school. But I gave up a couple of weeks into high school. That’s when I told my parents about everything. They took me out of school for an entire year so I could focus on myself and my mental health.
You can’t even imagine how needed this year was for me. I learned a lot about bullying and why people hurt others on purpose. It’s a defense mechanism. When someone is extremely insecure and not happy with them self, he/she might want to feel bigger and more important. Seeking security through someone else’s weakness.
Learning about all of that really helped me to understand that there was nothing wrong with me personally. Maybe I could have handled some situations better, the body I was born with was not my fault. Yes, it did offer a high insecurity and therefore bullying potential, but there is nothing wrong with my body in general.
On top of that, I learned how to not get affected by mean comments and judgement. That gave me the strength to go back to school and graduate at the age of 18.
Only two years later, I gave birth to my son. The most amazing thing that ever happened to me. He is the reason that I want to help others self love. The reason I educate others about bullying and show how amazing it is to be different. Today, I am in love with life, myself, and my body.
My life has been a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. But right now, I am on my way to the highest point. I am a professional model (thank you, body).
My son has truly gotten me through the worst. When everyone else left me alone, he always offered a home to my soul.
We are all different in our own ways and are so. damn. valid. Perfect the way we are. We change, we grow. But we don’t have to change for anyone else. You are the artist and your body is your canvas. Do whatever you want with it! Because beauty means diversity, acceptance, and freedom.
I am only 22 and I know my story is not over yet. I can’t wait for the next years to come and for the love, joy, and positivity to grow. I will keep fighting until all of you can feel safe in all of your bodies because that is your right.”
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