I was on a zoom call at the start of the year, being run by experienced corporate directors and managers. The question was asked, what story have you heard that made an impact on you? They each took turns to answer and then it was time for the only male in the zoom room to speak. The story that impacted him was mine! So, here it is. I was born fighting. Fighting for life, fighting to be heard, fighting to be able to contribute and make a difference to the world. I was born and 4 years later diagnosed with congenital panhypopituiritism. Try saying that mouthful! Congenital panhypopituiritism is part of a pituitary collection of disorders and diseases, ranging from rare to extremely rare. My condition is off the charts rare. In a country of five million, I don't know of another person like me. I was born without the anterior portion of my pituitary gland, for no apparent reason whatsoever. Genetics perhaps or maybe something that just randomly happened in the first 6 weeks of my mother's pregnancy... no one knows. The anterior pituitary is the largest part of what is often known as the master gland in your body. This is the gland that is said to boss all the other glands around by creating hormones, sending them through the information highway (otherwise known as the hypothalamus) and into the areas that are waiting for those messages, to function. Without my anterior pituitary gland, my other glands don't know how to function. I often call this thing I have, a birth defect that nobody can see because it's the closest explanation I have that people might understand. It's all very complex. I don't produce the stress hormone (cortisol), the hormone for thyroid function (thyroxine) and the hormone needed for bone growth (growth hormone) and a few more. I needed medication for my body to literally grow up from child to adult and that medicine would never be enough for me to conceive or bare children. I have no way of keeping my bones strong without medication, but then as great as medication is, it will not be an exact mimic for the real thing.
At the beginning, I was on ACTUAL growth hormone (taken from stillborn cadavers) but then people started dying from a degenerative brain disease having had this medication, so I came off it and waited for them to create a 'close enough' mimic of the real thing. And I've also been on a "can not donate blood or organs" list ever since. The reason why I chose to tell you all of this is not for you to tilt your head to the side and reply with "wow, you brave thing." I have had people react like this often. They may also react as if I make too big a deal about it and it would be better if I stopped talking about this kind of 'stuff.' The problem with that is that is they are then asking me to stop sharing what has essentially been a fundamental part of my very identity. That old cliché of 'you were not born to fit in, but to stand out' might invite some eye-rolling, but it happens to also be true. I am who I am because of the way I've handled life, living with a rare birth defect.
So, it's who I am and I accept it. Having grown up in hospital, test after test after test, guinea pig to experimental drugs and procedures and subject of more than a couple of medical school classes, I have learned how not to just merely survive, but to thrive in my own life. I was short and I had difficulties other kids and adults would take for granted. So naturally, I befriended the tallest girl in my school and I developed a reputation for being the loudest in the school. People were not going to look down at me, even if I was the smallest.. I was such a bossy boots at times, and I pushed boundaries with teachers. I left that hospital, entered school and kept on fighting to be heard, noticed and to feel significant. When the health system let me down (and there have been so so many occasions), I held them to account and to this day I am a champion for my own health and for my whole family too. I became a natural leader in so many aspects of my life and with some serious "polishing" from mentors I am a woman in her own business. I developed a thirst for knowledge and a passion for understanding aspects of business, health and of life. Creativity opportunities were an amazing fit for me, right from when I was in that hospital at the age of four, playing with the toys with my first friend Sarah, who died of a brain tumor while I was in there. Imagination has been a great healer and if not healer, it was a way to escape life for a while. I believe that creativity thrives in a world of restrictions and limitations, so creativity thrived in me. And yet, I was also very aware of how not normal I was. Going from one extreme to another of utter resilience to complete self-hatred. I never considered that I deserved to value myself. I would make a point of internalising what I do and do not deserve. Then at 18, I received for my birthday, a little embroidered box with skincare inside.
I remember the day as if it were yesterday....
The weather was good and I had slept in as usual. I was in Wanaka with my Dad and stepmum, up for a month for some paid work at a restaurant. I remember getting out of the shower and wrapping the towel around me. No one was in the house, so I took my time in the bathroom. And this story went a little something like this...
Right. My teeth are clean, it's time for the skincare. First, cleanser I think. The cleanser smells... expensive. Ok, read what it says to do with these products. Did I need a cleanser? I don't even wear make up! What does a toner do? It sounds like there's just water in there. Okay, okay, focus. Apply the cleanser. No, wait, I was apparently suppose to have wet skin first. I should have read the instructions first and then splashed my face with water. Start again. Ok, water on my face and in my eye, the cleanser went on. Do I clean my eyes? No, that's right, the instructions said to avoid the eye area. That seems a bit dumb but okay. Feels nice. Nice and strange. Okay, wash that off. Ok, should I dry my face? Yes, dry my face. Okay toner. Whatever that means. I'm supposed to swipe gently across the face with a make up remover pad. I don't have any of those but there are cotton balls, that should be okay, right? No, not okay. I've got fluff on my face. Okay, I'll wash that off with, wait, I'll do the cleanser thing again! Okay, wet my face, cleanser, then wash that off. That got rid of the fluff. That was nice. Okay, toner, toner, what will I use. Okay well my hands are clean or I could use a facecloth? That might be a but rough, I'll use my hands. Careful, don't spill any. How much do I need? Oh well, here goes. Oh wow it smells amazing! I might do another layer, like I did with the cleanser. Ok, I think I have too much toner on my face. Far out that smells good. I smell good. Hmmm. I'll fan my face with my hands....ok that's better. Right, moisturiser. I may have taken too much, let's see. Yes a tablespoon is too much, can I use this on my legs? Yes, that was nice too, okay back to the face. This feels good. I like the feeling on my skin, my skin is kinda glowy and really soft! Love this stuff! I can't wait until tonight and I can do it again cos I think I have the hang of it now. Probably won't stay in the bathroom for a whole hour though. Well, maybe. Hmmm, that felt good doing that for my skin. Strange.
I've learned over the years that skincare engages in a number of senses - smell, sight, touch and if you are like me, who put it almost everywhere... taste probably comes into it too! But it's the effect I wasn't expecting that has been the driving force behind my passion to be in a skincare business. Yes, I could see it made my skin all "glowy" and my skin felt soft to touch. But it was the realisation that I was doing something of value for myself. And I was equally as surprised to find out what a revelation that was too. For during that time in the bathroom, applying my skincare, my internal self-hating voice stopped talking. I was showing myself that I mattered and nothing was interrupting me from doing it! And in case you are wondering, that night I spent almost two hours in the bathroom, alone and happy with my skincare. It became my safe and happy place. A place where self-care was the only thing on the agenda. I loved it so much all I wanted to do was tell everyone. And so, my future in skincare began. The most successful moments in my business has not been over sales or growth, rather the occasion when someone has one of those profound moments about self-care. The person who suffers from addiction and her life is in chaos, but her skincare is neatly and proudly displayed in her bathroom and used every day. The person who never thought she could ever run a business or be a leader. The woman who's own depression didn't stop her from escaping to the world of skincare, and then sharing it with everyone she knew, which forced her to find her way out of the darkness. The oh so many women I come across, who appear to have all the confidence in the world, but are a wreck inside and they feel like a fraud. To the women who struggle meeting new people. Story after story, memory after memory of women doing truly amazing things. And it all started with skincare. First we must treat our skin (which makes us value who we are) then we can take on the world. So I learned to make peace with my internal self-hating voice. Oh yes, sometimes she likes to rear her loud annoying voice, especially when I start to doubt myself, but I have learned that she too just needs a bit of self-care. It's as if I want to talk back to her and say "hush love, or I will break out the face masque." My skincare, clearly, means more to me than cleansing, toning and moisturising! I am committed to learning about the anatomy and life-cycle of the skin and I trained to gain an international qualification as an advanced skincare consultant. I have been and still am, a sponge for knowledge. If I can find an even better way to help women care for their skin, I will seek it out. Skincare is life transforming. I think back to all of those occasions in the hospital growing up and how these circumstances created in me, a resolve to keep fighting for health, wellness, and being in this business - self care and self-love. Accepting the fact that even though there is much I would love to change but can't, I CAN do SOME things. I can fight for the health injustices my family might go through (because they are valuable). I can fight to be heard (because what I have to say has merit) and I can fight for every woman who hasn't yet had their a-ha moment about why it's good to self-care. Because they ARE worthy of their own attention and until they realise that, they get my full attention. They are worthy. Just like me.
Photos... from left.. Me, my sisters and the cousins. I'm the little redhead sitting in the middle between my Nana and Grandad. My younger sister Shannon is on the right and my cousin Rohan, who is a couple of years younger than me, pictured on my left. I was about 7-8 years old in this pic.
Middle... My first day at school and my younger sister looking very happy to see me go! Right... My older and younger sister, bending down to kiss me and send me off to school for the first time. It was later on this day, a school assembly was held and I was asked to stand. It was explained to the school who I was and that the special red stools that were made for me, stationed outside the new entrants water fountain and in the new entrants toilets, were for me because I could not reach to use the toilet, wash my hands or use the fountain. So naturally, I had to be loud, bossy and best friends with the tallest girl in school.