Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Discovering My Beauty Through Writing

With so many inspirational, uplifting, and awe-inspiring posts that have been written to celebrate August McLauglin’s “Beauty of a Woman” blogfest, I am excited and humbled to be able to add my voice to the mix.

Be sure to visit her blog on Friday, February 10th to check out all of the entries. I promise, you will laugh, cry, and feel inspired by the extraordinary stories that have been told.

As an extra-added bonus, you also have a chance to win some awesome prizes, including a $99 Amazon gift card or a Kindle Touch.

-oOo-

Growing up, my favorite movies were the ones that fall into the “makeover” genre. You know the ones I’m talking about — the films where the painfully awkward, shy, chubby/ugly/completely unstylish brainy girl is transformed into a ravishing beauty through the efforts of some form of fairy godmother. Not only does she become gorgeous, she also manages to snag Prince Charming and live happily ever after.

These films resonated with me because I was that awkward, chubby, bespectacled smart kid. I was the one that went through life as the butt of everyone else’s jokes, who avoided the popular kids and the cute guys so I wouldn’t have to endure their taunting, and who, in occasional moments of weakness, politely asked god (okay, demanded) whether it it might be better if I could exchange my brains for beauty.

The teasing wasn’t so terrible when I was in elementary school, partly because I was too lost in my own little world of novels and schoolwork to know any better. But by the time junior high rolled around, things became hellish.

Puberty hits most people hard, but Mother Nature saw fit to give me an extra-special “present”: a hormonal disorder known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It’s estimated to affect anywhere between 10% and 20% of women, and it manifests itself during adolescence. There’s much more research around these days dealing with its origins, and ways to treat it, but back in the late 1990s, my doctors could only tell me that there was something up with my ovaries, and that my body was producing abnormal levels of androgen and testosterone — not the sort of thing that a 12 year old girl wants to hear.

What mattered to me more than anything were the secondary effects of PCOS: the acne that just kept coming, the extra weight I gained, the way my voice deepened, and even worse, the dark hair that sprouted on my legs, my arms, and my face.

I was “lucky” in the fact that the kids at school didn’t tease me about my weight (although my extended family did call me the “fat kid,” asked when I was going to diet, then balked if I didn’t eat seconds at parties — “What’s wrong, are you on a diet? Eat more!”), but they did notice the hair… and they were cruel.

Starting in 5th grade, they threw every name in the book at me. I became the girl with the “hairy fungus legs,” the one with the “man moustache.”  It was so much worse than anything that I had ever been called before, worse than if they had just called me plain ugly. It was like being told that I was only part girl, that I was some creepy, bizarre freak. I lived in fear that I would suddenly start sprouting a full beard like the “werewolf children” that had been profiled on the Discovery Channel, that I would have to live my life as some sort of crazy bearded lady in a circus.

My parents didn’t quite understand my plight, though in their defense, I never told them the magnitude of the bullying until years later. Mom wouldn’t let me shave my legs, which meant that I had to walk around in my skirt (pants weren’t part of the school uniform for girls) without any way to cover up. When it came to my face, my mom told me not to worry about it — I was beautiful “just the way I was.”

I eventually won the right to the razor and the depilatory creams, seized hold of tweezers and acne medication, but the damage to my psyche was complete. It’s probably little wonder that I was a festering mess of rage and anguish during those years. I lashed out at my family, sparked countless fights with my mom, and pushed away my little sister, all the while spiraling down a rabbit hole of depression.

The mirror told me how ugly I was, and the little demons in my head whispered of my worthlessness. They told me tales of how I would be unloved and friendless, how my intelligence would never be enough to make up for the physical beauty that I lacked.

And yet, it’s sometimes in the midst of destruction and trauma that we find our strength. Like the phoenix rising from its ashes, turmoil can transform us, bring us closer to beauty than smooth roads and easy paths.

Because I had no fairy godmother who would wave her magic wand and transform me from my trollish state into an exquisitely-formed princess, I turned inward. There, beyond the taunting of those tenacious demons, I found something else, something I hadn’t quite expected: a flickering flame that refused to be doused, a voice that refused to be silent, an inner strength that demanded I fight back.

I couldn’t speak out against my tormentors; I was too afraid of the backlash that might result. Instead, it was my journal that became my refuge. I filled its pages with my frustration and sadness, with the anger that I kept locked inside. Poetry came welling out my pen, raw and unpolished, and ever so slowly, I found a way to leech away the poison that had been corroding my soul.

Writing gave me a power unlike any other, the chance to tell my own story. I discovered that there was beauty inside of me, an amazing wealth of talents, passions, interests, and strengths. It became my form of prayer, my way of connecting with a god that I loved more than anything else, a god that I believed had shaped me, formed me, called me by name and made me his.

It was this therapy that gave me the will to live. Through poetry and prose, I could paint myself with as many shades of beautiful as I desired. I became a goddess, a force of nature, wielding words like weapons, or maybe a magic wand, the kind that could bring universes into being and create worlds that existed only in my imagination.

The beauty I uncovered was one that couldn’t be purchased, and as much as I love fashion and cosmetics these days, those material goods could never have the same transformative power. This was a beauty forged in the pit of despair, tempered by prayer and faith, and it gave me the freedom to accept every inch of myself, inside and out.

-oOo-

It’s been more than a decade since that turbulent period in my youth, and the lessons that I’ve learned still hold true. Granted, my demons still exist, and they continue to whisper and hiss in my ear. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully silence them, but I have the power that I need to speak against them.

I want to leave you all with a poem that I return to whenever I find myself faltering. It’s “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, and it expresses everything that I want other women to know: that even when people try to push us down and destroy our spirits, we can and will rise, stronger, brighter, and more beautiful than ever.

[Full text found here]

 

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34 Comments

  1. If we could only delete those painful years from our memory. Ah, Lena, how I feel your pain. And yet the woman I’ve gotten to know online is truly wonderous. Kind and generous and smart. Thanks for sharing your story.

    And thank you for sharing such a beautiful poem, told by such a beautiful woman. 🙂
    Sheila Seabrook recently posted..The Beauty WithinMy Profile

    • Sheila, thank you so much for your kind words. It’s funny — for a long time, I wanted to erase all those memories, but I’m starting to think that it’s my scars that, at least in part, make me who I am. 😀

      I’m so glad you loved the poem! When I was drafting this piece, I kept hearing Maya Angelou’s words, and I knew I had to share it here.

  2. Lena, I hate that you suffered so when you were younger. I understand to an extend some of those feelings. I was always the “new” kid, constantly moving and know how cruel kids can be to someone different or new. Your words are beautiful, you are beautiful. Thank you for sharing:)
    Kara recently posted..Conflicted Chef- Healthy Chili MacMy Profile

    • Isn’t it crazy how mean kids can be? It really never fails to astound me.

      I think it’s a testament to our resilience how we can bounce back after so many things have happened that can keep us down. *hugs* Thank you so much for stopping by, Kara!

  3. Lena, the cruelty of our fellow human beings always leaves me speechless and angry. I wish I could erase those hurtful things from your ears, your memory, your psyche. I hope you can hear and feel the wonderful story of transformation you have shared with us today, because that poem of Maya’s is you. You Rise! No, you SOAR!
    Lynette M Burrows recently posted..A Blogfest You Can’t Miss!My Profile

    • Oh, Lynette, thank you so much. And I love this idea of soaring! I have to say, telling the story so many years later is like its own form of therapy. It makes me see exactly how far I’ve come.

      I really appreciate all of your kind words!

  4. Such a heart-wrenching post, Lena. I never would have imagined that the strong, talented, beautiful woman you’ve become endured such turmoil. You’re an inspiration! And your story’s been added to the post. Thanks so much for participating. 🙂
    August McLaughlin recently posted..Beauty of a Woman BlogFestMy Profile

    • August, thank YOU for coming up with such an amazing blogfest! I have been so moved by all of the stories that have been told, and I’ve come away from this feeling like I can conquer the world. Definitely amazing! 😀

  5. Lena that is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. Kids can definitely be cruel. I’m so glad you’ve accepted your beauty and are able to express your emotions through your writing.

    The beautyfest just keeps going and going!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. Lean, I am so sorry you had to go through all this pain. but I am incredibly grateful you are brave enough to post your experience strength and hope. Thank you so much. I would never imagine this is your past – you are such a sensitive beautiful, caring woman. But I am glad to know you overcame the bullies and found yourself.

    well done.
    Louise Behiel recently posted..Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2012My Profile

    • Louise, I appreciate your words so much. It’s funny — telling this story helps in so many ways. I didn’t expect it to be this therapeutic, but it feels like I can put this chapter of my life away now and move forward.

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  7. Thank you for your candid post, Lena. I, too, endured teasing from a certain group at school. My taunters called names, ‘sand-n…..’, kike, and the likes. I always think to the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding….’I was the only 8 year old on the block with sideburns’…ha! Now I can laugh about it, but it wasn’t so easy when I was young. Luckily, I moved in the eighth grade to a new school where most kids were friendly and kind.
    Nadja Notariani recently posted..The The One That Got Away….My Profile

    • Oh gosh, Nadja, I hate hearing that others have been bullied, but I do think that it makes us stronger in the long run. And I’ve just got to laugh about that quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding! I didn’t even realize that I had sideburns till a couple of years back when I went in to get a full face wax, and the esthetician asked me if I wanted them removed, lol.

      I have to say, high school was definitely a refuge for me — no mean boys, and enough ambitious, smarty pants girls for me to hang out with and feel somewhat normal for once. I’m so grateful that I had that experience, because it definitely helped me to heal up.

      Thanks for swinging by, my friend!

      • So true, Lena, it does make us stronger. I found out through introspection that I liked myself, that my family – with all our quirks, odd humor, loud family gatherings, and downright obnoxious, nosy, bossy selves were the perfect fit for me. Maybe not splitting the atom – but a huge discovery for me at the time. Ha!
        Nadja Notariani recently posted..A Strong BeginningMy Profile

  8. Honest writing is one of the most beautiful gifts. Your post today is a wonderful expression of that gift — even as you wrote of such a heartbreaking time. I so appreciate your willingness to be honest.

    • Beth, thank you. It’s so funny — one of my goals for this post was that it come across as authentic and honest, and I can’t count the number of times that I rewrote it so I could get the right tone. I had tried to make it more light-hearted, and it just wasn’t happening. I’m glad I went with my gut and just let the story flow.

  9. Lena, this is one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read. What a strong, beautiful woman you are. You’re one of those people who not only overcomes those awful things you had to deal with in your youth, but you made something good come from it. I bet your writing has touched many lives. Thanks for sharing your story. There are lots of things in here that I can relate to.
    Lynn Kelley recently posted..Fun Fibs – Parenting Plights & DelightsMy Profile

  10. I love that you participated in the BOAW blogfest. I knew you had some beautiful words to contribute and I was not wrong. I read this:

    Poetry came welling out my pen, raw and unpolished, and ever so slowly, I found a way to leech away the poison that had been corroding my soul.

    And….I wanted to hug you. I still do. I can relate so completely with a dark and soul-destroying period of my life.

    You have emerge a ravishing Peackock (smile), proud, as you should be, for the amazing woman that you are!!!
    Ginger Calem recently posted..Dear thighs … we need to talk.My Profile

  11. It is incredible what the written word can do not only for our readers, but also for ourselves as writers. I imagine reliving those moments is never the most enjoyable activity – but what hope they give to others.

    I especially enjoyed (perhaps because I was such a scared kid!) your worries about being a werewolf child… I had fears of dying because I somehow decided the Bible was translated wrong because Cinderella was translated wrong and if that was true, well… when I died I would be eaten by bugs and that was that. Worse though, was that I was so petrified I never told my parents. I didn’t tell anyone until I was 15 and that – my first spiritual crisis at age 8 – had abated.

    You are a beautiful woman in so many ways, Lena. Thank you for writing!
    Julie Jordan Scott recently posted..You are Beautiful ~ from The Beauty of a Woman BlogfestMy Profile

  12. What painful experiences you had, but how wonderful you’ve come through wiser on the other side. Thank you for sharing them.
    Serena Dracis recently posted..Beauty of a Woman BlogfestMy Profile

  13. This was beautiful writing – thank you for sharing and I’m sorry you had to go through that as a child. Sometimes it’s only in our darkest moments we discover what we are capable of, as I discovered. Writing is the most wonderful therapeutic tool I have and love.

  14. Raw. Authentic. Painful. Beautiful. I’m wiping tears as I reply to you , Lena. What a fine writer you are. I hope that this post is read by many and forwarded by all to many, many more. Really, this should be published for masses of people to be moved by it, to learn from it, and to absolutely gain insight as well as an understanding of feelings they may or may not have experienced. You are truly beautiful.

  15. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story, Lena. and thank you for sharing the Maya Angelou reading.
    sharon k owen recently posted..THE BEAUTY OF A WOMANMy Profile

  16. Lena, I am so overwhelmed with sadness for how people treated you when you were younger. Why do people have to be so mean? And why is so much of it based on how we look, which should be the least important thing about a person?

    Nonetheless, I’m glad and grateful that you found your own inner strength and beauty as a result, and at such a young age. It takes many of us (myself included) many more years to discover what you already know.

    Beautiful post.
    Julie Hedlund recently posted..Perfect Picture Book Friday: Each Breath a SmileMy Profile

  17. I sometimes wonder if all of us writers were tormented at school. Thank you for posting this, Lena. I’m so glad you found your writing, I only wish there would have been an easier way for you to discover it.
    Sarah Pearson recently posted..Musical Stories 29: Children’s LiteratureMy Profile

  18. Aw, sweet Lena! I read this last night on the iPad while the family watched ‘Tron’ and they kept asking me why I was crying. I wasn’t supposed to be on the iPad, oops.

    It was hard for me to imagine the girl you wrote about being the same vibrant, beautiful woman I see in your picture, but one thing I’ve learned in life is that we never know what goes on behind a woman’s smile.

    Everything that happened to you made you a stronger woman today. You didn’t give up or quit, you found your voice through writing. What an amazing gift that you discovered! I know you’ll never fully be able to quiet those voices that torment you, but I hope someday you’ll be able to acknowledge they are there and pay them no more heed. You are gorgeous, both inside and out. Never forget that.
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..All You Beautiful Women and Men, Flaunt It!My Profile

  19. I can’t understand why kids bully others, I was bullied in grade school by a girl whose parents were getting divorced and she for some reason took it out on me, I think. Oddly I had been in a similar situation and would have sympathized with her. Also had those demons whisper that I’m worthless and so stupid that I should drop out of school so the teacher could focus on someone smarter. That was of course untrue, but nothing less than the highest score was good then.

    Based on your picture you’re beautiful on the outside and based on your blog you’re beautiful on the inside as well.

    I also agree that the scars do in part make people who they are. Those who’ve never had hardship might have a harder time empathizing with those who have.
    Reminds me of a quote by Märta Tikkanen a Finnish Swede author who wrote about tough issues, she said she’d “rather have an interesting life than a happy one.”

  20. What I love about writing, is that it allows us to turn the darkest periods in our lives (and the most joyful) into pure power. That’s entirely evident in your writing, which is wonderful – and your blog posts, which touch so many people.
    Margaret recently posted..#DearValentine: La Belle Part 2My Profile

  21. You are indeed a one very amazing peacock!! Kids can be cruel but I’m glad you didn’t sulk for the rest of your life. It’s amazing how you overcome the experienced you have been thru, and am proud of you.
    Jer Marie recently posted..how to become a security guardMy Profile

  22. You have fabulous goals! Congrats!!! It makes such a difference to put our goals out there so the whole world can see ‘em. Really helps keep us accountable. Plus, there’s all the wonderful support from the community here. 🙂
    Charloth recently posted..programs for weight lossMy Profile

  23. It is just amazing isn’t it Lena. It is impossible to describe in prose a day like today. Perhaps that is all we can do in the face of our shared history. Share our humanity. Shaky world, Shaky feet carrying us through, Memories, Cracked bone, Crumpled sheets, A breath between, Life And the next. 🙂
    Rudz recently posted..Anti-aging Facial ProductsMy Profile

  24. This page seems to get a great deal of visitors. How do you advertise it? It offers a nice individual twist on things. I guess having something real or substantial to give info on is the most important factor…
    Cynel recently posted..losing weightMy Profile

  25. Glad you overcome that experience you had, Lena. That’s great and keep on being a beautiful person for the others who as well experienced bullying to be their inspiration.
    Michelle recently posted..armed security guardMy Profile

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