The ugly duckling

Everyone knows the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’. There is one duckling that is shunned by the other ducklings, he is teased and made to feel inadequate, because he is ugly.

The story is supposed to show how determination to reach your potential can lead to acceptance. The duckling has to search to find out where he fits in.

That feeling of being the odd one out, not feeling like you belong. This is what I have taken from it. This is how I have felt ever since having encephalitis. The effects of the illness have lead to me feeling ugly both inside and out. When I look at myself in the mirror, it is not me looking back; it is someone covered in ugly scars, with an ugly steroid-induced moon face, moreover with ugly thoughts about how unfair life has been.

Dissimilarly to the story, my siblings have never teased me for my ugliness. Last week, however, we had a family photograph, and to say that I felt like the ugly duckling would be the understatement of the year. I just so happen to come from a family of outstanding beauty, but even that doesn’t help me in my latest predicament. When we went through the photos it became apparent that not only do I now have a double chin, but the water retention has also lead to something I didn’t even realise was possible, a double cheek. You heard right, a double (perhaps even triple) cheek. Once I had been cropped out, the photo was delightful, if only it was that easy in life.

It is not only in the familial situation that I feel like the odd one out, there are also the times when I am around friends. I sit there with others my own age that have ordinary lives and normal sized faces I think about how much easier life would be if I had not had encephalitis. Even the people that I pass in the street, I feel like screaming, this is not me, I do not want to look like this; this is my illness.

Then I came to realise, surely I should be grateful that I can walk down the street, surely I should be pleased that I have friends, surely I should be thankful that I am able to be part of my family photograph. There was a time when many thought this would not have even been a possibility.

Everyone also knows how the ugly duckling story ends. After a long winter the ugly duckling grows into a beautiful swan, and finally becomes accepted.

But how will my story end? Will I be the ugly duckling for the rest of my life?

As this year comes to an end, and the days grow longer as the winter diminishes, perhaps the only way to reach my own potential and to become the beautiful swan is to accept the path that I have been given.


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