Different things were stacked against me as a kid – I was left-handed, not fluent in my language, and I had issues with my skin among other things. The skin problem was particularly disturbing. It was so bad that I had to wear long-sleeved clothes all the time.
I recall my mom dropping me off at Children’s church and eavesdropping to hear if I’d be accepted. That day I had insisted on going to church because I was tired of staying at home. As usual, I wore a long-sleeved shirt, but my hands were exposed, so other children could see that something was wrong. The sleeves of the shirt were stained with fluid from the skin irritations. When the teacher told me to sit on the bench, the other children stood up. For a long time, that bench was mine.
This problem was on and off till my early twenties. At times it would stay for four months. No matter how hot the weather was, I had to wear long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers. I even used to wear them to the bathroom because I lived in a shared apartment and had to walk to and from the bathroom.
It affected my confidence and made me unable to speak up for myself. I would watch quietly as my mates would talk about things. Even when I knew they were wrong, I couldn’t talk in front of them. With my siblings, I could tell they weren’t comfortable sharing things with me but they could share with themselves.
I can’t tell how the skin problem stopped. I just know God stepped in and the things I used began to work.
After that, I had to deal with the way the whole experience made me feel. I’d want to dress up but a voice in my head would tell me that looking good was pointless because everyone knows my story.
In 2010, I decided to attend a different church and while they were welcoming guests, I took the bold step to stand. It may seem like a little thing, but it meant so much to me. It was the beginning of my journey to accepting myself and building my confidence. Now I know that I also deserve to be heard. It has taken a while to get here, to be confident, and it all began with a simple “welcome to church”.