Living With Invisible Illness

I have been diagnosed with Systemic Lupus and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) for almost 3 years now. I have had 4 medical procedures in the past year and a half, I lost my hair, and I have more specialists than I can count.

At only 19, I’ve dealt with more doctors and specialists than many will ever meet. My junior and senior year of high school was spent going to doctors and traveling to UCLA in California for treatment.

One of the hardest parts of living with these invisible illnesses, especially when I was in high school, is the criticism I received from others. I don’t look sick, so it’s hard for others to understand that I am. That’s why I talk about my autoimmune diseases as much as I can and I don’t let people’s opinions weigh me down. I hope that by sharing my story I can help other people going through the same struggles.

After I lost my hair in 2016, many people were skeptical about me modeling and being in a natural beauty pageant with a wig. I had a hard time walking and I was in a lot of pain but I did not let that stop me from competing and winning 6 state and 2 national titles. I used my illnesses as a platform to raise awareness and I shared my experiences on stage.

When I lost my hair, I was a junior in high school. For two weeks, my hair fell out every day in every class. It was very hard for me to deal with, and my friends couldn’t understand what was wrong, so they avoided me. Other kids I didn’t know got jealous because I left class early, wore a hat because my scalp was sensitive, and took the elevator every day (mobility problems). I was constantly picked on. My Make-A-Wish wish to photograph Italy was granted in June of 2017, 3 days after I graduated high school. My family and I spent 9 days exploring Rome, Florence, and Venice. I used this trip as motivation to keep going through high school, and the impact it has had on my life, even today, is amazing. My experience in Italy is something I will never forget and I now sell the photos I took on my Etsy shop, Bright Creations 99. Part of the proceeds goes back to Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada.

It took me a long time to realize it didn’t matter what others said or thought about me. It was an uphill battle for me to realize that the only way to be truly happy with who you are is to block out what negative people say about you. You can’t count on others for your own happiness. Be who you want to be and let go of those who would rather see you fail. I love to model and I plan to model full-time in the future.

I’m currently attending college as well and I am declaring as a pre-business management major soon! My goal is to model around the world, and get paid for it of course!

There are days where I am in so much pain I can hardly move, but I know that I have to keep going. I work my schedule around my body and prepare for days that I know will be long.

I refuse to let my illnesses define me. I am my own person and my autoimmune diseases are only part of who I am, they helped to shape my story, but they are only a chapter in a book that is still being written. I will always have Lupus and MCTD, but they will never stop me from reaching my goals.

More info: Instagram.com

One of my National titles. At that time, I was wearing a wig

Make-A-Wish trip to Italy, 2017. My hair had just started to grow back

Make-A-Wish trip to Italy, 2017

One of the many photos I took while in Italy. This one is printed on metal and available in my Etsy shop, Bright Creations 99

Sharing my experience with Make-A-Wish

First photoshoot with my natural hair after it grew back

Me today

Modeling

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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